Each week I share the top news that impacts brands and merchants who sell on Amazon. My digest for this week includes what 100 million Prime members means to merchants and how fake product reviews continue to proliferate on Amazon despite a ban since 2016. Also, Amazon will now deliver packages to the trunk of your car, and the company finally reveals criteria for "Amazon’s Choice"...then takes it away.
What 100 million Prime members means to merchants
With an estimated 40-60% of U.S. households already having Prime membership, Amazon needs to look to new segments for growth in the program. Thus, Amazon has taken steps in recent years to appeal to low-income customers, according to Recode.
Amazon also started targeting teens within Prime households late last year, allowing them to shop on Amazon with their own login.
What does this mean for brands selling on Amazon? As Amazon targets these new demographic segments with smaller wallets, merchants who can offer lower-priced products will benefit. Amazon recently launched a “$10 and under” storefront, and also reduced the selling fees on products priced under $7, to make selling these products more profitable. Prime-eligible products are still the most successful on the platform, so brands on the Seller Central platform should also consider enrolling low-priced products in the FBA "Small and Light" program.
Fake reviews continue to plague Amazon
Despite Amazon suspending the accounts of hundreds of customers over the past month on the basis of review fraud or suspicious activity, Amazon still has a big review problem, according to The Washington Post. “The vision Bezos popularized, of a review and ratings system that serves as a guide for consumers to make smarter choices, has given way to a system in which some consumers are manipulated and misled,” the article says.
The Washington Post cites research from Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group of technology researchers dedicated to promoting integrity online, which went undercover in Facebook groups where merchants offer to pay Amazon customers to write reviews of their products. Amazon banned incentivized reviews in late 2016, but the practice still proliferates as a grey-hat marketing technique.
The Washington Post also tells the story of an Amazon seller, Atgoin, which began ranking #1 for bluetooth headphones. In November, the product had zero reviews, but gained 300 reviews within a five-day period during December. Analysis from the online review monitoring app ReviewMeta found more than 90% of the product reviews to be suspicious. Amazon removed Atgoin as a seller after The Washington Post made inquiries.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Many brands complain not only that competitors are using underhanded techniques to obtain reviews, but that competitors are initiating fake negative reviews on their own product pages.
Amazon delivers packages to the trunk of your car
Amazon today launched a new program for Prime members called Amazon Key In-Car. Amazon delivery drivers bring the package to the car, unlock the vehicle and then stow the package inside, and then re-lock the car.
The program is currently available in 37 cities in the U.S., and works with most 2015 model year or newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Volvo vehicles with an active connected car service plan.
“We were really happy with the response to in-home delivery,” Peter Larsen, vice president of delivery technology at Amazon, told The Verge. “What we wanted to do — and it was part of the plan all along — is how we take that beyond the home.”
Amazon published a video today that features the first customers of the service. The customers cited ease of use, and being useful to families who want to receive their orders quietly or privately.
What does this mean for brands and retailers selling on Amazon? This new program is part of Amazon’s mission to target new customer segments and rolling out features to attract and retain Prime members. Following the launch of the in-home ‘Key’ secure delivery product, Amazon is looking for more ways to make online shopping convenient for customers. With package theft rates rising, and some employers banning online shopping deliveries to their offices, Amazon needs new ways to get products into the hands, or trunks, of consumers.
Amazon finally reveals criteria for ‘Amazon’s Choice’
... then takes it away
A couple of weeks ago Amazon started publishing the criteria for the coveted "Amazon’s Choice” badge. On product detail pages within the mobile app, three reasons were provided for why a particular product has been awarded the badge for a given search term. For the first time, it shed light into Amazon’s criteria for awarding these badges.
Geekwire first reported on this change on April 15. However, in looking at the same product pages this week, the reasons for the badge are no longer displaying. It’s unclear why Amazon would remove this feature, but A/B testing has always been part of Amazon’s DNA.
During the time when Amazon published the criteria for the badge, the reasons cited centered around average customer ratings of at least 4 stars, low return rates compared to similar products, popularity in Amazon search results, and eligibility for Amazon Prime delivery.
The "Amazon’s Choice" badge is important to brands for several reasons. It lends credibility to a given product, since Amazon has bestowed a literal badge on the product. It also means the product is the default item chosen in voice search with Amazon Alexa. As more customers turn to their voice assistant for shopping and re-ordering, the default #1 rank will become an important factor in a product’s success.