“Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.” - Soul Asylum, “Black Gold”
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a standing ovation for something you weren’t even paying attention to?
Maybe you were at your little brother’s high school graduation. Maybe the skinny, awkward 17-year old valedictorian was 27 minutes into a rambling speech about taking over the world. You don’t know. You zoned out 22 minutes ago.
Then, within a matter of seconds, you find yourself standing and clapping. You don’t know why, because you weren’t even paying attention. But everyone else is doing it. And you definitely don’t want to be the only clown sitting down while everyone else is cheering some mind-blowing speech.
Well, you are now a victim of social proof.
Social proof (or social influence) is basically when people mirror the actions of other people around them because they assume that those other people are acting appropriately for the situation. I hate long sentences. Think of it as “herd behavior” or “pack mentality.” I’m sure you’ve heard those phrases before.
When we don’t have all the facts, a lot of times we just default to what everyone else is doing. Everyone else is doing it, so it must be good or right. Everyone else is standing and clapping, so he must have said something profound. So I need to stand and clap like everyone else! And the scary part is that we have almost ZERO control over this. And even scarier: it may not be good or right!
Wait. How is this relevant to selling products on Amazon?
I’m glad you asked.
Think about your shopping experience on Amazon. If you’re like me, you go to the search bar and type in what you’re looking for. When the results pop up, your brain quickly starts deciding which products to look at. My eyes seem to always gravitate to the products that have the most number of positive reviews. Funny how that works, right?
Shopping for a product in an endless sea of options (read: Amazon) can be overwhelming. So I think our brains are just wired to start filtering out the noise based on the information that’s easily available. And it’s really easy to see which products are the most popular within a few seconds. They’re the ones with 1,200 reviews! I don’t really feel like reading through 20 different product listings to figure out which one I want. So instead I just click on the 2 or 3 that have the highest number of positive reviews. And then I buy the one that seems like the best fit.
And that is social proof at work on Amazon. All these other people thought this was the best version of that product. I’m just going to go with the crowd!
Now think about how this applies to you. If you sell private label products on Amazon, there’s a good chance you have a few competitors selling the same thing. How does a buyer decide between 6 options that all look similar? Positive reviews.
Getting a large number of positive reviews is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP in launching a product on Amazon. This is my opinion, of course. But if you want your listing to stand out from the crowd, you need that social proof. You can’t just list your product and hope it gets found.
Get as many reviews as possible. As fast as possible.
Get your friends and family to buy your product and leave reviews. Start a Facebook group and build up a following from your network and some Facebook ads. Then promote your product to the group. Follow up with any and all customers through Amazon’s communication portal, asking for feedback and reviews. However you do it, just make this your top priority! I can’t stress this enough. [Update from 10/3/2016: You probably want to avoid review groups/communities/software. Amazon just announced that the practice of discounting products in exchange for reviews is no longer allowed. Read here.]
When you do this, Amazon will notice that you are selling products. I don’t know that it matters how much the sale was for, because they still get their FBA fees. These still count as conversions, which means someone is buying what you’re selling. And that’s a reason for Amazon to boost your rankings.
Another effect is once you have enough reviews, then Amazon Promotions (PPC ads) will start to convert. Do you need to have a decent number of reviews before you run PPC ads? Absolutely. Why? Because social proof.
You can run all the PPC ads in the world. But when people click on your promotion and see 3 customer reviews, there’s a good chance they’re going to keep looking. Why? Because they’ve already seen a dozen other similar items with 400 reviews. And then the next thing you know you get a $700 charge from Amazon for PPC ads when they only generated 4 sales. I can tell you from experience: that sucks.
How many reviews should you get before you start running PPC campaigns? That really depends on the competition. If you’re selling the same thing as 30 other people, then you’ll need a lot. I’ve heard some people say you need 25. I had a better experience after getting 50 reviews. You just have to see what the competition is like and shoot for a number that won’t be embarrassingly low. Sorry for the not-so-exact answer.
But what happens when you have a good number of reviews is that your PPC ads start converting into sales. And when you are generating more sales, you start getting more reviews. And when you get more reviews and more sales, Amazon thinks your product is right for what people are searching for. So they rank you higher, and you become easier to find.
It really is a snowball effect. And it all starts with social proof.
And yes, I did open this article with a song lyric from ‘90s legends Soul Asylum. Because it’s true: a crowd attracts a crowd. As much as we think we can control our actions, humans are wired to respond to psychological triggers. When people see other people buying your product - and liking it enough to leave positive reviews - they assume all the previous customers have done all the dirty work. That many people like this product, so it must be good. I’m tired of wasting mental energy making a decision. I’ll just buy this one!
But don’t forget: it works both ways. If you sell a junk product and get crappy reviews, customers will run away just as fast.
Now go cause a commotion!