Why Amazon reviewers are the next big influencers

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By Bella Bui, senior PPC manager at specialist Amazon e-commerce agency Melody, part of smp

Social media influencers have become an increasingly key part of the marketing mix, thanks largely to online retail. Now though, a new breed of influencers are picking up the baton – Amazon reviewers.

With Amazon still capturing a huge share of e-commerce revenue, reviewers on the platform are becoming more important to brands than ‘traditional’ YouTube and Instagram influencers when it comes to commanding the attention of consumers making purchase decisions.

There’s no rocket science behind the rise of the Amazon reviewer: unlike celebrity influencers who use aspiration to drive purchase interest, Amazon reviewers are seen as ‘people just like you and me’ – because that’s exactly who they are. And as retailers of all types know, there’s no more powerful endorsement than that of your target market’s peers.

Reviewers have become the modernised version of ‘word of mouth’ and 90% of online consumers say positive reviews impact purchase decisions.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon itself has noted the importance of reviews, and advises potential sellers on the value of feedback with 3.5-star rating or higher in its ‘Retail Readiness’ playbook. And for those brands new to the site, Amazon’s Vine programme goes as far as to provide starter reviews from its most trusted contributors.

Trust matters

There’s no question that trust and credibility are core to consumers – research has shown how little people now trust most online influencers, in no small part due to the furore around influencers buying fake likes. This is where Amazon has developed a leg up on its peers with a strict verification process, to the extent that a review highlighting a product as fake or faulty can lead to Amazon hitting pause on brands advertising campaigns until the problem is solved.

With trust and transparency starting to be addressed, the reach of Amazon reviewers is starting to extend beyond the online marketplace, becoming a resourceful shopping tool for consumers. Shoppers are not only using the e-commerce giant for their product needs but also as a research tool. Latest studies suggest 55% of shoppers use Amazon reviews to research products, including those shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores or with other brands.

A rising number of customers search by quality of review on the platform and won’t even look at anything that ranks too low, so that 3.5-star rating is swiftly becoming the Holy Grail for brands not just in this wider scenario, but also on Amazon itself. Products that score lower than that will see significantly reduced revenue and can be affected by changes in Amazon’s promotional algorithms.

Why is 3.5 the magic number? Simply because scoring too high can also be an issue, as some consumers still think a product with no negative reviews must be riding the wave of fake recommendations.

Reviews create market insight

It’s not just consumers being helped by reviewers on Amazon: reviewers’ comments are starting to be incorporated into not just how brands sell, but what they sell and how they engage. Reviewer feedback can drive anything from new product development right through to a brand’s approach to customer service.

What the future holds

And as Amazon grows bigger and more powerful, its reviewers’ reach is growing as well. With the arrival of Alexa, for example, a number of brands are looking at the best way to deliver reviews to potential customers who are using voice search to find the product they want.

With influencers on social platforms coming under increasing pressure and feeling the lack of trust from the wider public, it’s clear that everyday reviewers like you and I on Amazon have a very real opportunity to take up the slack as a primary driver of purchase intent.

Insta-influencers still hold sway when it comes to beauty and personal care products, but in categories like consumer technology, it’s fair to suggest that Amazon reviewers are superseding other online influencers as a primary source of information and recommendation. It’s a great power, it’s still growing – and with it comes with a great responsibility.