What is the Amazon Early Reviewer Program?

The Early Reviewer Program helps sellers to get reviews for new products that have few or no reviews. Without reviews, customers do not have all of the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision. But while product reviews help to drive sales, sales are what make product reviews possible, so many sellers are left with a chicken and egg situation; they need sales to obtain product reviews, but need product reviews to get sales. With the Early Reviewer Program, Amazon reaches out to customers who have already purchased a product to offer a small reward of a $1–$3 Amazon.com gift card in exchange for their honest feedback in the form of a product review, whether the review results in a 1-star rating or a 5-star rating.

Why Did Amazon Start this Program?

In October 2016 Amazon changed their Terms of Service and banned incentivized reviews, which included offering a customer a product for free or at a reduced price in exchange for a product review. Previous to the TOS change, it was common practice for sellers who were launching private label products to use incentivized reviews to quickly obtain a significant number of reviews for their new products, and position their product as a legitimate competitor in the Amazon marketplace. This practice was considered within Amazon’s TOS as long as the reviewer disclosed that they received the product at a discount or for free in exchange for their review. But as this strategy became increasingly popular, Amazon started to get a reputation for having skewed reviews on their site since often incentivized reviews were generally positive. So in order to protect the integrity of their review system, Amazon made the choice to do away with incentivized reviews. Since this TOS change, Amazon sellers have struggled to launch new products since product reviews are such a huge element of having a successful product, and without them it is difficult to drive sales.

How is the Early Reviewer Program Different from Incentivized Reviews?

While there are some similarities between incentivized reviews of old and Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program, there are a few important differences. These differences have allowed Amazon to launch this program and still feel confident that the integrity of product reviews will be maintained.

First and foremost, a seller’s participation in the Early Reviewer Program is not visible to the customer when they are making their purchase, so the allure of a reward cannot sway a customer to purchase any particular product. Customers are only notified of the option for a reward in exchange for a review after they purchase the product. Also, Amazon is in control of the program, and since the seller has no direct contact with the customer related to the product review, there is no risk of a seller swaying a customer to encourage higher review ratings.

How Reviewers are Selected

Because Amazon seeks authentic and honest reviews, they choose at random from the customers who have purchased a specific product to offer an Early Reviewer reward in exchange for a product review. The only time Amazon would intentionally exclude a customer from receiving an Early Reviewer offer is if that customer has a history of abusive or dishonest reviews. Also, Amazon employees, the seller, and the seller’s friends and family are not eligible to participate in the program.

When a Customer Participates

After receiving an Early Reviewer Program reward offer from Amazon, if a customer chooses to leave a product review (of any rating, from 1-star to 5-stars) within the offer period, they will receive the corresponding offer reward of $1–$3 on an Amazon gift card. Amazon displays when reviews are part of the Early Reviewer Rewards program by displaying the text above the review content:

How the Program Works for Sellers

Sellers who want to participate in the Early Reviewer Program must be brand registered. So, if you haven’t completed brand registry yet, you’ll need to start with that step. There is also a $60 fee per product for program enrollment. If a product has variations, submitting the parent product will ensure all variations are included in the program. Program participation ends once 5 product reviews have been obtained through the Early Reviewer program, or at the end of one year, whichever happens first. You will not be charged the $60 fee until your first Early Reviewer product review is successfully obtained. Products must have a customer price of at least $15.00 to qualify for the program, and must have fewer than 5 reviews at the time of enrollment.

How to Enroll in the Program

Once you have enrolled your brand in the Amazon Brand Registry, you can begin the process of enrolling your products in the Early Reviewer Program. Keep in mind it may take 5–7 days after enrolling in the brand registry to be able to access the Early Reviewer Program Portal. When you obtain access to the Early Reviewer Portal, you can then submit your products by SKU. Submitting your products into the program indicates that you agree to the program Terms and Conditions, which includes agreeing to pay the program fee and agreeing that you will not advertise that your products are participating in the Early Reviewer program.

Is it Enough?

While the Early Reviewer Program offers a helpful way to get your first few product reviews, rarely are 5 product reviews enough to give you the competitive edge it takes for your product to be successful. Since the program doesn’t really work unless you are actually selling your product, it is clear that this program is not a cure-all or a standalone solution for launching a new product successfully. Also, Amazon only includes a random selection of customers in the Early Reviewer Program, so there are still potentially customers who are purchasing your product but not being approached about providing a product review.

This is where Salesbacker comes in. With Salesbacker you can set up email campaigns to automatically contact each and every customer who purchases your product to introduce your brand, offer additional customer service, and to ask for their feedback on your product via a customer review. Plus, when you sign up you get a free 30-day trial of Salesbacker. So whether or not you choose to participate in the Early Reviewer Program, using Salesbacker should definitely be part of your strategy for both launching new products and maintaining your competitive edge over time.