In the conversations we have every day with brands surrounding their pain points on Amazon and where they’re looking to improve, there’s a wide array of issues we hear.

It seems, though, regardless of a company’s maturity on Amazon – whether they’re earning hundreds or millions of dollars per month – inevitably the subject of review acquisition comes up.

“How can I get more quality reviews?” is simply a question just about every Amazon merchant has on their mind.

As its policy, Amazon prohibits any solicitation that asks for a positive review, or offers any compensation for one — and also doesn’t permit requests to customers by brands or merchants to modify or change reviews.

Historically there have been ways to go about review acquisition without violating these rules (or perhaps simply by bending them), but Amazon has taken steps over the past couple years to limit these efforts.

For example, Amazon has targeted several unscrupulous websites and service providers that offer ‘fake’ reviews, and also made it far more difficult for customers  to receive free or discounted products in exchange for reviews (that is, of course, unless it’s through Amazon’s own Vine program.)

They’ve even gone as far as to remove reviews from (and the accounts of) ‘power reviewers’ whom Amazon suspected were submitting reviews in exchange for discounted or free items.

This leaves many merchants in a catch 22: It’s difficult to sell product without a good collection of reviews, but reviews can’t be earned without sales.

There is no easy solution for review acquisition, but let’s take a look at a few strategies being employed and some considerations surrounding them:

Amazon Vine

If it’s reviews you’re after, Vine will do the job. However, it’s not cheap nor is it a guaranteed win. On top of the inventory a company must pledge to give away, there are considerable fees involved with running the program. Meanwhile, many ‘Vine Voices’ (registered power users who receive the product in exchange for the review) take their role seriously and won’t hesitate to submit a less-than-stellar review if they feel it’s warranted by their experience with the product.

Third Party Services

There are several third-party websites that, for a much lesser cost, will essentially offer the same procedure as Vine. However, these once-booming services are now losing momentum thanks to several new policies created specifically by Amazon to stunt the review acquisition marketplace.

Since Amazon no longer allows discounting a product explicitly in exchange for a review, these services have had to rebrand themselves as ‘sales velocity boosters,’ simply offering discounted products to consumers in order to increase listing performance. With this, there’s an implied request for a review, but it’s by no means guaranteed.

Seller Central’s Email Service

Unlike Vendors, Amazon Sellers have the ability to email customers directly through the platform’s messaging system. This is a frequently used path by many Sellers to follow-up with a sale, ensure customer satisfaction, and attempt to procure a review. There are even third-party systems that will integrate with the platform and deliver an automatic cadence of messages scheduled by days following the sale.

Using this for review acquisition, however, has its limitations. For one, Sellers need to be precise in working the message in a way that won’t violate Amazon’s guidelines as far as review requests. Secondly, with many Amazon Sellers having abused this functionality within Seller Central — loading up Amazon customers’ inboxes with spammy emails — Amazon now offers its users the ability to opt out of receiving any post-sale follow-up messaging from Sellers.

Product Packaging

If your organization has the agility, another potential way to drive reviews is to include messaging on or within the product packaging encouraging a customer to ‘Tell us how we’re doing.’ On top of the logistical considerations, again the issue here – like the email service — is needing to be very precise about verbiage as to not violate Amazon policies.

In closing, there are many paths being pursued by brands to acquire reviews, but none are without their significant limitations.

At the end of the day, the only truly reliable way to drive more reviews is to concentrate your efforts on an overall strategy to increase your Amazon presence. By doing so, you’ll earn more sales, and in turn, more organic reviews.