Consumer reviews are a very important factor that decides the performance of listing in e-commerce, and Amazon is no exception. However, unlike Korean e-commerce sites where reviews can be created by providing points or from consumer experience groups, there is no way for Amazon to directly ask consumers to write reviews. But the distrust of consumers on products without a review still exists just like in Korea. Therefore, if there are no reviews in the listing, there is a negative influence on the click conversion rate and purchase conversion rate even if through PPC (Pay Per Click) advertisement exposure. Amazon is also aware of this, so it is running a program called “Vine” where reviews can be created.
1. Vine Program and Reviewer Vine is an experience group program that Amazon directly operates. If a seller registers a product in the Vine program, the Vine reviewers receive their desired products, write reviews on them, and upload them. In the past, an ERP (Early Reviewer Program) co-existed with Vine that helps customers write their first review. However, as the ERP was eliminated in 2021, only Vine operates. In addition, as Vine started to be charged starting from the second half of 2021, a charge of $200 began to get imposed on the program.
Unlike reviews from regular consumers, reviews written via Vine has the message “Vine Voice” displayed on the top as shown in the image below. If consumers click the profile image of the comment reviewer, they can view the profile of the reviewer. In the case of a high-ranked reviewer, a ‘Reviewer Ranking’ is shown. If those letters are clicked, a list of the top 10,000 reviewers active on Amazon can be viewed. Vine reviewers are outstanding reviewers directly selected by Amazon. They are selected comprehensively by multiple factors such as ‘review frequency,’ whether the product is a verified purchase on Amazon, and the number of helpfuls. The Vine reviewers do not mandatorily have to write reviews after receiving products, however, if they do not write them repeatedly, they are disqualified. In addition, sellers cannot be involved in the stars of the product and the content of the review written by Vine reviewers.
[Example of a Vine Review and Profile] (Source : Amazon)
2. Vine Requirements and Method of Application The seller requirements for using Vine are as follows. The sellers should meet the product requirements such as requirements of the account side such as a professional seller, brand registry, Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) use, etc, product condition, and the number of reviews of applied listing. However, there are no strict conditions except for the brand registry, so the barrier to entry is not that high.
[Vine Requirements] (Source : Seller Central Advice)
The application for the Vine program is available when clicking ‘Seller Central’ > ‘Advertising’ > ‘Vine’ When accessing the Vine page, the following window appears.
[Vine – Desired ASIN Input Page] (Source : Amazon Seller Central VINE Page)
On the screen, when entering the ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) of the product to be registered on Vine (above image), the screen appears for entering the details (below image). The application is complete when selecting the number of products (maximum 30) to be provided to reviewers as well as options to be included and clicking ‘Enroll’ afterwards. Generally, $200 is charged on Vine, but the charge is $100 during the Vine 50% promotion period (- Oct 30, 2022).
[Vine – Input Page of Detailed Information] (Source : Seller Central Vine Page)
After the application is complete, the progress can be known as below when accessing the Vine page. Here, the number under ‘Available’ is the stock number of the product’s ‘Manage Inventory.’ ‘Enrolled’ refers to the number of products the seller wishes to register on Vine and provide to reviewers for free. ‘Claimed’ is the number of products the reviewers received, and ‘Vine reviewers’ refers to the number of reviews the reviewers wrote.
[Vine Application Status and Progress View Page] (Source : Seller Central VINE Page)
3. Advantages/Disadvantages of Vine and Considerations The Vine program has substantial meaning in that it is a program where reviews are relatively easily earned in Amazon, a marketplace with high difficulty in review accumulation through pure sales. Even though consumers can recognize a Vine review as the ‘Vine Voice’ badge is shown, it is not applied in the listing exposure stage where the click conversion occurs. Therefore, it gives a positive influence on the click conversion rate. In addition, since Vine reviewers are reviewers selected based on their review-writing performances, they tend to write detailed reviews compared to regular consumers, giving ample information to consumers who are considering buying the products.
[Vine Review] (Source : Amazon)
The Vine program is very useful in that it can create up to 30 reviews, but there are some matters to take into consideration. The biggest matter is that the Vine program is not a program that guarantees a review of more than 4 stars. The Vine reviewers freely receive products, but if the product quality is low, they mercilessly write 1- to 2-star reviews.
[A Case of a Negative Vine Review] (Source : Amazon)
Therefore, registering on the program should be taken very considerably if sellers do not have confidence in their product quality. This is because they might receive negative reviews even after they pay $200 for the registration and provide free products. In the case of negative reviews created by Vine, the reviews cannot be deleted blaming Amazon or using methods such as contacting consumers and apologizing. In addition, there are many cases where the reviewers leave negative reviews with concrete evidence, so they might be more dangerous than regular negative reviews.
Moreover, there is a problem where the burden on sellers aggravates the higher the product unit is since they have to provide the products regardless of their prices. In the case of unpopular products or products that do not receive the attention of Vine reviewers, there are times when those products do not get taken by anyone even if they are registered on Vine. (In this case, a $200 registration fee is not charged.)
Like this, Vine has risks, but it is a program with many advantages rather than disadvantages. Therefore, it is recommended that sellers who are confident of their product quality actively use Vine.