Can be Amazon Reviews a Serious Barrier for Entering this Business?


Hello, Amazon sellers!

I hope that you understand that social proof has paramount importance for generating sales. It may seem strange to beginners, but those who have worked on Amazon already, may know this fact from their own experience.

If you remember the Amazon 'gold rush' in 13-14s, you may recall how simple selling was. The chances were high, as well as revenue. But it isn't so easy any more. Competition increased and so did the Amazon's regulation. What was like the Wild West at the start, has established to the order and law now.

A plenty of things has changed till this year. However, reviews still leave the main problem for beginners. Essentially, you need them for succeeding on Amazon. It means that listings with no social proof can't start generating many sales at the start. And we don't need to go far to find the evidence for this fact.

For example, there are 8 listings with less than one hundred reviews. On the picture below, you can see the amount of reviews, BSRs, estimated volume and sales:

rating bsr

It's just an instance of one keyword from just one category, but it shows us overall picture of the situation on Amazon. Some listings perform perfectly, some of them do it poorly, but the majority is somewhere in the middle.


Are Reviews the Thing Experts Talk About?

Does it prove something? I mean what's up with other listings that have hundreds of reviews? Aren't they better? Why aren't they on the first page yet? It happens so, because they are dominated by large brands with great sales level. Visit the second page and see lots of products with more than 100 reviews there. Some of them can have even more that 1000 reviews, but the final result will be the same.

This situation can tell us that reviews may not be something all 'experts' talk about and they claim they mean. They often say that the more reviews you have, the more sales you'll get. They also insist that products with more positive reviews have higher positions in search list.

Such 'gurus' claim that you have to get the same number of reviews that your competitors have in order to achieve success on Amazon. Let's imagine that a listing with 150 reviews would perform better than one with 140 reviews. It would mean that the first page would be dominated by products with the same reviews quantity. But it's not true! So, we see clearly that reviews affect the overall sales and ranking, but not the way people usually describe.


Where is the Truth?

Brad Moss, a former employee of Amazon was interviewed on Danny McMillan's channel on YouTube, in February 2017.

He told the listeners that Amazon made a special internal test to find out the impact of reviews on purchases.

This test has shown that customers cares just about the whole number of reviews and the star rating.

This was fair for all types of products of all categories, and of all price ranges. They cared about 'up to 21 reviews' social proof. I know that the number is very low, it's a smaller target than a number 'the same to your competitors'.

So, why if Amazon itself has provided such data, they continue to repeat the same idea? It happens so, cause many sellers have the lack of experience and they don't understand how the algorithm works.

This claim is based on surface observations. People think that if social proof influences consumer behavior, more of such proof will drive much more behavior as well. They equal reviews to purchases what would mean 'more reviews = more purchases'.

Of course, after looking at high volume Amazon sellers, this observation get a real proof. But it happens not because it is some special rule, but because the fact that those sellers are wholesaling brands.


The Terms of Service Change

Amazon was surrounded by negative media releases regarding fake reviews in June 2016. This made Amazon making their ToS more strict in October.

Everyone thought that it would harm sales, but the statistics has shown that they grew! If net sales for the first quarter of 2016 were $513 mln, in the same quarter of 2017 they became $724 mln! Nearly 50% increase - sounds nice, ha?


The Buyer's Psychology

The strongest argument for getting reviews is the social proof which may tell your potential buyers that your product is good, before your brand is not well-known.

Still, many people prefer to buy items basing on the brand loyalty. They continue buying things from brands they recognize basing of familiarity. Many customers switch brands after negative experience.

However, there are a lot of people who write that reviews are crucial and they influence buyers' decisions, publishing polls that state that clients pay attention to reviews the most. Still, people need 21 reviews to make a decision of buying something.

You may also keep in mind that people rarely leave their reviews before they have some negative experience. However, we don't hear the news about someone's crashed because of reviews business.

The fact is that people usually read just a couple of them and don't trust all positive ones, if there are no critical reviews on a product page. They tend to mix positive and negative feedback.

That's why saying: 'more reviews = more sales' is wrong.

customers already have some decisions in their minds before they read reviews and they search for its validation there. They search for what problems they may face during using the product that have already chosen.


How it's All Applicable to Your Amazon Business

It means that you have to do a great work except gathering reviews. Optimization can be still a key to success. And your presentation as a brand is the key factor for the buyer's decision. Surely, high quality is the must have thing for every Amazon seller. In this case, you will get your positive reviews anyway.

The way to success can be more complicated, but the principles of Amazon business are the same as for any other business: quality+marketing = sales. Let's say, on Amazon it looks like: ranking+reviews+conversion = sales.

Reviews are still critical for achieving success, but you should take them into account, cause the business system will work only with all its parts set correctly.

I hope that your Amazon business will grow and prosper, and your items will receive positive reviews!

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