Amazon has launched a social media influencer beta program enabling people with “large followings and a high frequency of posts with shoppable content” to generate referral fees on purchases they drive through their social platforms and activities.
The effort differs from the “Amazon Associates” program, launched in 1996, which allows web developers and Amazon sellers to make money by advertising products from Amazon.com and its subsidiaries: Social influencers must follow an exclusive, invitation-only application process, and once approved, Amazon provides them with a unique URL.
Amazon will evaluate influencer applications based on factors like number of followers on various social media platforms, their engagement on posts, quality of content and level of relevancy. “There is no set cut-off and influencers across all tiers and categories are represented in the program,” Amazon said.
While this new opportunity seems like an extension of Amazon's existing Associates initiative, it’s also a way to amp up reviews on its site. Reviews are especially important for Amazon, which has few physical stores for customers to try on clothes or test out a product before buying: Ensuring that reviews on its site (even the negative ones) are real and helpful is key to building customer trust and loyalty, virtues that have been hallmarks for the retail giant.
Plus, many shoppers use online reviews when evaluating a purchase, with 95% saying they have consulted shopper feedback in the past, according to research from PowerReviews. Reviews fall second to price as the most important consideration when a customer is contemplating a purchase, above free shipping, product brand and even recommendations from friends and family.
Amazon has moved to improve the quality of its reviews, including deleting incentivized reviews (even older ones), according to research last year from ReviewMeta, which develops filters that allow users to screen out incentivized or misleading reviews. ReviewMeta in a previous analysis of more than 18 million reviews found that reviews with an incentive disclaimer (For example: "I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review") are much more likely to be positive than reviewers who did not receive a discount.
Amazon has also cracked down on reviewers deemed fake, going as far as suing sellers using fake reviews and entities that provide such reviews. In October Amazon banned reviews from sellers providing free products to reviewers.
The integrity of reviews is critical, according to user-generated content solutions firm Bazaarvoice. The firm’s research shows larger numbers of reviews lead to improved search results and conversation rates. That’s why so many companies are using this content, and why there’s so much enthusiasm on the part of bad actors generating inauthentic positive reviews, Bazaarvoice has told Retail Dive.
The tight parameters that allow bloggers to become Amazon Influencers would lend greater authority to recommendations on various products and help spread trustworthy voices well beyond the Amazon site. That will help Amazon further solidify its presence in many consumers’ minds as Wal-Mart’s Jet continues to be aggressive about using its new owner’s reach, through a newly expanded assortment from not just Wal-Mart’s own huge merchandise mix but also from its recent acquisitions, including online shoe retailer ShoeBuy, outdoor apparel retailer Moosejaw and women’s apparel site ModCloth.