Update: The Vine program now is open again! after a long period of being shut down due to Covid-19
Update 2: As of March 10, 2021, Amazon is no longer accepting new product enrollments in the Early Reviewer Program, and it will be shut down on April 24, 021.
Ever wondered what the difference between the Amazon Vine program and the Early Reviewer program is? Both programs help you gather reviews for new products, but they vary wildly in how they work.
In the article below I will outline the major features of the Amazon Vine program vs. the Early Reviewer program, along with a detailed comparison of the two, so you can understand the pros and cons of each program and use them to help grow your sales.
Acquiring reviews for newly-launched products on Amazon has always been a challenge.
Mainly because It’s the classic chicken & egg problem – the only way to get reviews is from people who buy your product. Yet, without reviews, hardly anyone will buy it.
In the past, giving free products in exchange for reviews was the way to go. However, since Amazon banned that practice in 2016, sellers were struggling without an Amazon-approved method for gaining reviews quickly.
To fix this problem, Amazon launched the Early Reviewer program in 2017.
The idea is simple – sellers pay amazon a fee; currently, $60 per product. In exchange, Amazon incentivizes customers who already purchased the product with a small ($1-$3) gift card to write a review.
And while this program does generate reviews for new products, it only helps AFTER you make sales – which brings us back to the original problem. Most buyers will not buy a product that has no reviews. So those initial sales are hard to come by.
Luckily, this is where the Amazon Vine program comes in to try and solve this problem.
The Amazon Vine program for vendors Launched in 2007, as an Amazon sanctioned “review club”. Brands & vendors provide a select group of shoppers in amazon vine with free products in exchange for a review. Generally, amazon charges a sizable fee to facilitate the process.
Recently, Amazon expanded the vine program, making it available to 3rd party sellers with brand registry. as a bonus, it’s currently FREE for sellers to participate in the vine program
I put together a summary comparison chart with the main features of each program.
Below the chart, there is a more comprehensive breakdown of the Amazon Vine program VS the Early Reviewer program:
|Feature/Program||Amazon Vine||Early Reviewer|
|Program Requirments||Brand-Registred Products Only. Must be in FBA||None|
|Program Fees||Free + value of the upfront free products (seller’s choice how many to offer)||$60 flat fee. charged once the first review is posted|
|Review Incentive||Free product upfront – sponsored by seller||Small reward (e.g., $3 Amazon Gift Card) – sponsored by Amazon after review posted|
|Guarantee||None. Vine Voices are not required to leave a review on the free products* (but they usually do)||Yes. you only pay once you get your at least one review through the program|
|Reviewer Selection||Select Amazon Vine reviewers (Vine Voices), the program is Invite–Only||Chosen at random from all customers who have purchased the product|
|Reviews Timeframe||25% of reviews received occur within five days of the order, while 99% of reviews received occur within 35 days of the order**||Based on order velocity. “Amazon will continue to request customer reviews for up to one year, or until the enrollment has received five reviews through the program”|
|Typical Review||5 or 4 Stars. Long & detailed, with pictures||5 Stars, short one sentence|
|Review Badge||“Amazon Vine Review of a Free Product”||“Early Reviewer Rewards”|
|Review Examples||Example 1|
|Limitations||1. SKUs with fewer than 30 reviews. When it reaches 30 reviews (regardless of review source), enrollment will conclude |
2. Max 5 concurrent active enrolments
|1. SKUs with fewer than five reviews only. However, once enrolled, it will remain in the program until it received five reviews through the program.|
2. price above $9.00
|Maximum Program Reviews||30||Approx 5-10|
Featured Download: Download this chart as an easy to read PDF, and use it for future refrence (Click here to download)
*Amazon says “Vine Voices are not required to leave a review on the product, but we update our pool of reviewers often to ensure only the most active, helpful reviewers are part of Vine”
** Based on Vine’s worldwide reviewer population as of April 2018
Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of the features for Amazon Vine VS the Early Reviewer program:
Vine – Only products of brands enrolled in the brand registry are eligible, and inventory must be in FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)
ER – Any product can be enrolled, can be sold via FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant)
Winner: Early Reviewer
Vine – Free (for now), plus the value of the upfront free products, although you can choose how many to offer
ER – $60 flat fee, charged once the first review is posted, regardless of how many reviews received
Winner: Tie (will vary based on product cost and number of reviews needed)
Vine – Reviewers are offered a free product upfront, sponsored by the seller (you), and are asked in exchange to post a review
ER – Customers who already purchased your product at full price are offered a mall reward (e.g., $3 Amazon Gift Card) – sponsored by Amazon in exchange for posting a review
Winner: Tie (as long as Vine is free, the cost of free products can be comparable to the $60 price of early reviewer)
Vine – There is no guarantee you will get any reviews, as vine voices are not required to leave a review on the free products. However, they usually do post reviews. Amazon says they monitor the active participation of reviewers in the program, and they may be removed from Vine if they do not meet the participation criteria
ER – Yes. You only pay once you get your at least one review through the program, so at minimum, your cost would be $60 for one review. However, typically you will get anywhere from 5-10 reviews, so the cost per review is low
Winner: Early Reviewer
Reviewer Selection & Review Type
Vine – Select Amazon Vine reviewers (Vine Voices). The Vine program is Invite–Only, and most Vine members are professional reviewers with thousands of helpful votes. Hence their reviews tend to be very long and detailed, often with pictures or videos. Based on an analysis of 30 million reviews done in 2016, less than half of the reviews by Vine members were five stars. So you should expect only about half of the reviews you get through Vine to be 5-star reviews
ER – Reviewers are chosen at random from all customers who purchased the product, so their reviews tend to be short and without much detail. From my observation, they are generally five stars, unless the product is horrible. Still, I haven’t seen any data on it
Vine – There isn’t an official deadline for Vine members to post their review. However, Amazon says that of all vine reviews received as of April 2018, 25% occurred within five days of the order, while 99% occurred within 35 days of the order. So you can expect to get a review within 35 days of the vine order.
ER – It will vary based on your sales, as the more orders you have, the more buyers will get an offer from amazon to review in exchange for a small reward. Amazon says they will continue to request customer reviews for up to one year of your program enrollment, or until the product has received five reviews through the program.
Vine – “Amazon Vine Review of a Free Product”
ER – “Early Reviewer Rewards”
Vine – You can only enroll SKUs with fewer than 30 reviews. When the product reaches 30 reviews (regardless of the review source), enrollment will conclude, and it will not be offered through the Vine program anymore. currently, you can run a Max of 5 concurrent active vine enrolments
ER – You can only enroll SKUs with fewer than five reviews. However, once enrolled, the product will remain in the program until it received five reviews through the program, so reviews received through other means will NOT be counted toward this. Also, you can only enroll product priced above $9.00
Overall, each program has its strengths and weaknesses. However, as long as Vine is free for sellers, you should be using both programs on every new product you launch. Once Amazon starts charging for Vine, it will likely be pricy (Vendors pay $2,500+ per ASIN), which will make it a more difficult decision.