In early October 2016, Amazon announced the ban on incentivized reviews. However, sellers can still utilize the Amazon Vine Program to acquire more product reviews. Some sellers may not be familiar with the Amazon Vine Program, so we will take a close look at what the program is, how it works, and how to participate.
What is the Amazon Vine Program?
Amazon launched the Vine Program in 2007, with the intention of inviting trusted reviewers to share opinions that will ultimately help other consumers make purchase decisions. Vine Voice reviewers were selected by Amazon as buyers who have credible track record of writing honest, unbiased, and quality reviews. These reviewers are provided products for free or at a discount from vendors participating in the program.
How does the Vine Program work?
Amazon sends out regular newsletters informing reviewers of products in the Vine Program. Vine reviewers could apply for products (including books, electronic goods, and even food items) they were interested in. After receiving the products, reviewers should write honest reviews within 30 days. Reviewers are instructed to dispose of the products or return them to Amazon if they do not wish to keep them afterwards. They are prohibited to sell or give away the products after they’ve written the reviews. Amazon also reserves the right to take back the product at any time.
The reviews written by Vine reviewers will have a VINE VOICE badge displayed next to the reviews. Vine reviewers must comply with Amazon guidelines and neither Amazon nor vendors will be able to influence VINE VOICE reviews.
How do I join the Vine Program?
For sellers looking to join the Vine Program, they must first become an Amazon Vendor and use Vendor Central. Additionally, there are costs involved to take part in the Vine Program, which start at US$2,500 for each product and vary depending on the product category. Since reviews help boost rankings and generate sales, the Vine Program is an excellent way for new brands to build product credibility and brand reputation. Therefore, though the price to participate in the program is quite high, many vendors still think the Vine Program is worth the cost and makes a difference for their businesses.
Being a vendor to Amazon has its advantages and disadvantages. While it’s convenient to have Amazon manage inventory, logistics, and customer service for you, the downside about becoming a vendor to Amazon is that you will give up all rights to pricing and marketing. However, sellers are able to maintain their third-party status at the same time as being a first-party vendor. Sellers should note that the Vine Program is open to vendors only,
Amazon does not clearly define the qualifications for becoming a Vine member, but it has stated that they invite reviewers based on their rank. A reviewer’s rank is determined by the overall helpfulness of all their reviews, factoring in the number of reviews they have written and how recent the reviews are. Thus, buyers who wish to be qualified for the Vine Program should aim to write detailed and unbiased reviews on products that they have purchased. Thorough and honest reviews will oftentimes get ‘helpful’ votes from readers looking to purchase the item, and the number of ‘helpful’ votes affects a reviewer’s ranking on Amazon.
Amazon encourages buyers to share their opinions on products on the platform and recognizes dedicated reviewers for their effort by issuing badges. Vine reviewers get a VINE VOICE badge when they write reviews, showing that these are trusted reviews written by Vine members. Highly ranked reviewers may also be featured in the Hall of Fame and receive a Hall of Fame badge in the reviews they write. These are all helpful to readers to identify which reviews were written by more reputable reviewers.
At the end of the day, the purpose of Amazon’s product review system is to help consumers learn more about the products and get insight from others who have purchased and used the products. What’s written in the reviews may make or break the deal for some customers as well as impact the sellers’ reputation and sales, so it is critical for reviewers to write genuine reviews. For reviewers who are interested in joining the Vine Program, their goal should be to write helpful reviews to get noticed by other consumers and Amazon, and may someday be invited to join. For sellers, while the Vine Program is helpful to increase product reviews, it comes at a cost. Sellers looking to join this program should always carefully consider all the pros and cons first. Sellers that aren’t eligible for the Vine Program or are looking for a other options to obtain reviews can consider alternatives such as Feedback Central for emailing customers as well as Review Central for managing reviews.