What is the Amazon Vine Program?
Unlike the woody vines of the Tarzan franchise, Amazon Vine isn’t for navigating across the eCommerce jungle—it’s for climbing up.
Over the past decade, Amazon has become the primary starting point for online shoppers. More than 44% of Americans say that their buying journey begins (and often ends) with the mega e-tailer.1 But much like the jungle of Tarzan’s youth, it’s becoming increasingly overgrown.
How do shoppers navigate through the dense underbrush?
The vast majority (90%) rely on online reviews to help them make their purchase.2
To help sellers find the right buyers and vice versa, Amazon created the Vine Program—a more refined review page that’s limited to trusted reviewers. And now this powerful marketing tool is available to you. By enrolling and mastering Amazon Marketing with Amazon Vine and other Amazon features like Amazon Listing Optimization, you can rise from the jungle floor to above the canopy by driving sales and promoting brand awareness.
This guide will cover everything you need to know to do that.
Amazon Vine: The Basics
In essence, Amazon Vine is a curated review site. But it was designed much more carefully than your standard Yelp or IMDb rating sites, which are vulnerable to biased, spite reviews from every internet user with a personal vendetta or corporate interest.
Amazon sought to filter out the white noise (and less-than-helpful rantings and ravings) by limiting customer review capabilities to a select group of reviewers—enter: Vine Voices. The eCommerce platform invited certain trusted reviewers to provide unbiased educational product reviews and feedback to help other shoppers make informed decisions.
But how are these reviewers selected? Is there really such a thing as a truly “objective” opinion? According to Amazon, reviewers are invited based on the following characteristics:3
- Overall review helpfulness and accuracy, based on feedback from other users
- Their total number of the reviews, with greater weight given to recent reviews
- Interest in and familiarity with a product similar to those enrolled in the Vine Program
Those who are invited then receive a free product from participating brands and sellers, which they’ll review. Companies have no say in who receives their product and no ability to manipulate or cajole the Vine Voice into providing a favorable review, which maintains the program’s integrity. Their feedback will be prominently displayed at the top of the product’s review section with a Vine Voice badge beside it.
How Does this Benefit Vendors and Sellers?
Put simply, if you have a good product, Vine Voice reviewers are bound to write a positive review, thereby boosting your brand’s value.
For brands just getting started, this is a fantastic way to build visibility and start driving those make-or-break early reviews. Otherwise, you could find yourself stuck in the age-old catch-22: you need good reviews to make sales, but you have to make sales to earn good reviews.
Enrolling in Amazon Vine eliminates one key side of this unfortunate feedback loop, guaranteeing reputable reviews even before you’ve established a solid customer base. This builds brand awareness quickly. Amazon’s algorithm also places more weight on highly-ranked reviewers. So, if a prominent Vine Voice likes your product, that favorable rating increases the likelihood that others will see it.
If you believe in the quality of your product, Vine is the ideal way to increase conversions.
What’s the Price of Enrolling in Vine?
When the program first launched, Amazon charged vendors an enrollment fee of around $2,500 per product. After its relaunch in December 2019, amazon vendor enrollment became free for sellers on Amazon Seller Central and Vendor Central.
If you’re already on either of those platforms, you’ll only be responsible for paying FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) fees involved with stocking and shipping your products to Vine Voices.
Am I Eligible to Enroll?
In the same way that not everyone can become a Vine Voice, approved sellers also have to meet certain requirements:4
- You’re a professional product seller or vendor
- You have 30 or fewer reviews on products you wish to enroll
- You’re enrolled in the Amazon Brand Registry
- You have buyable FBA stock in “New” condition
- You have a large enough inventory
- You’ll launch the product when you enroll
- You have an image, title, and description attached to the product’s listing
Not every product is eligible for Vine. Amazon restricts certain products such as alcohol, cosmetics, animal-related gear, jewelry, and “adult” products so check the entire list before proceeding. Additionally, Amazon will restrict products if they:5
- Require Amazon to bundle multiple products for delivery and review
- Require reviewers to separately order another product in order to conduct a review
- Do not correspond to the exact product listed on the FBA offer
When creating a brand strategy, keep in mind that you can only have five active Vine products at a time. Once that product reaches 30 reviews, you can phase it out in place of another product to continue growing your Amazon Store bit by bit.
How Do I Enroll?
To get started, log in through your Amazon Seller Central account, then follow these steps:
- Hover over the Advertising tab at the top of the page.
- Once the scroll-down menu appears, click on Vine. This will take you to your Vine Dashboard.
- To begin enrolling products, enter their Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs).
- After the ASIN is enrolled, make sure to update the product page with a picture, description, and title.
If you’re unable to access the Vine Dashboard, you may need to check your permissions. For that, go to the Seller Central main page, click on Settings, and then User Permissions. Scroll down to the Advertising Section and modify permissions for both Vine and the account.
COVID and Amazon Vine
In April of 2020, Amazon postponed Vine enrollments and shipment creation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between the supply chain disruptions and changes in purchasing behavior, it’s understandable why Amazon temporarily suspended the program. Doing so allowed Amazon to shift its shipping and stocking focus to essential products and items that customers needed during the crisis. According to Seller Central:6
“We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers.”
Additional Channels to Pursue in the Meantime
Nearly nine months later, Amazon has yet to announce a resumption of the Vine Program. Fortunately, there are alternative ways to drive visibility on your products and increase your reviews, including:
- Amazon Early Reviewer Program – For $60, Amazon allows a seller to submit a stock-keeping unit (SKU). Amazon will then encourage users who have bought the product to provide reviews. You won’t be charged until after you’ve received at least one review.
- Affiliate marketing – You can either use Amazon Associates or your own affiliate marketing program to reach new customers and increase traffic to your new product pages. This a low-cost method for driving reviews, especially since Amazon lowered the commission rates from 8% to 3% for certain products.7
- Amazon posts – Want a free option for driving traffic to your product pages? Create posts on your new or current products to more easily highlight your items and provide customers with an easy way to see everything you have available.
- New product launch lists – Allow your customers to opt-in to receive the latest updates on new product releases. After a product launch, you can send an email with a link to the product page and request that they leave a review if they purchase it.
- Google and Facebook ads – Both ad campaigns provide an easy way to direct highly relevant traffic from these pages to your Amazon dashboard. This channel allows you to tag incoming traffic sources, which makes it possible to track your KPIs and product performance.
- Ad package inserts – This can only happen during the manufacturing stage, but putting package inserts within the product box is an easy way to encourage customers to leave reviews (positive or negative, but hopefully positive).
- Third-party review sites – There are several third-party review sites that you could leverage to drive the conversation around your products. Popular sites include Vipon, Snagshout, and LootHoot.
- Post-purchase emails – You can automate the process by sending post-purchase emails after order confirmation, delivery, and as a follow-up. These can increase brand engagement and encourage users to leave a review.
Selling on Amazon
Amazon Vine is a unique way to ensure that the voices of trusted reviewers are heard. It removes biases from the process and is built to help customers make more informed decisions about their purchases.
Unfortunately, new enrollment in the Vine program is still suspended. That said, you have time to prepare for its return, while also capitalizing on other channels to drive brand awareness and encourage customer reviews, such as the Early Reviewer Program, Ads, and affiliate marketing.
Once you rise above the jungle’s canopy, enjoy the clear skies and gorgeous views.
- NPR. What Americans Told Us About Online Shopping Says A Lot About Amazon. https://www.npr.org/2018/06/06/615137239/what-americans-told-us-about-online-shopping-says-a-lot-about-amazon
- Invespcro. The Importance Of Online Customer Reviews [Infographic] https://www.invespcro.com/blog/the-importance-of-online-customer-reviews-infographic/
- Amazon Seller Central. About Amazon Vine. https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/help.html?itemID=92T8UV339NZ98TN&ld=SDUSSOADirect
- Amazon Seller Central. Temporarily prioritizing products coming into our fulfillment centers. https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/t/temporarily-prioritizing-products-coming-into-our-fulfillment-centers/592213
- CNBC. Amazon slashes commission rates for program that gives publishers a cut of sales. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/14/amazon-slashes-commission-rates-for-affiliate-program.html