Ecommerce Business: The Times Are A’Changing; What’s Your Plan?

graphic of buy now buttton to accompany blog post about ecommerce businessAmazon is on a mission to obliterate incentivized reviews and the Federal Trade Commission issued native advertising guidelines, which arguably render the practice less profitable. To borrow a line from Nobel laureate Bob Dylan: The (online marketing) times are a’changing.

So, let’s examine two recent ecommerce business changes and discuss ways to weather the disturbance.

Amazon Bans Incentivized Reviews

In the not too distant past, Amazon sellers regularly offered discounts in exchange for reviews. But no longer, because Team Bezos dropped a policy bomb: Except for ebooks, retailers can no longer offer customers free or discounted products in exchange for “fair” reviews.

Shocked but undeterred by the news, the online business world flexed its resilience muscle. Within days, promotional experts had developed consumer feedback mechanisms that fit within Amazon’s new rules.

Tip: If you work with a review facilitation firm, touch base to ensure they’re aware of the new change, and have made the necessary compliance updates. If not, your account could land on Amazon’s chopping block.

Adjusting To Amazon’s Ban On Incentivized Reviews

Amazon’s ban on discount-for-review programs unexpectedly shifted the goal post. But remember: everyone is in the same boat.

Moreover, Amazon didn’t eliminate discounts. You can still offer deals and send follow-up emails politely asking for reviews.  Amazon didn’t gag marketers from saying, “We appreciate feedback.” You just can’t engage in binding, quid pro quo product-for-review exchanges. (The exception: ebooks.)

Further Reading On Amazon’s Incentivized Review Policy Change

Amazon’s New Review Policy: Big Changes

Ebook Business Update: Discount-For-Review Exemptions and Pricing Wars

Amazon Sues Over Fake Reviews: FBA News

Federal Trade Commission Cracks Down On Native Advertising

For years, those “Around the Web” advertising blocks (a.k.a., “native advertising”), which seamlessly blend into the bottom of web pages, dutifully served as reliable revenue streams for all types of websites. But over the years, native advertising has increasingly raised the collective eyebrow of consumer watchdogs. To wit, Changeadvertising.org once found that 26% of native ads, on four out of the country’s five most-trafficked news sites, led to questionable content.

Convinced of the potential for consumer deception, earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission released native advertising guidelines. A typical FTC effort, the document delineates the dos-and-don’ts for implementing native advertising plugins. The gist is this: Make sure consumers can differentiate between native advertising and regular content; oh, and don’t use vague and misleading headlines to demarcate advertising sections.

Is Native Advertising Tacky?

The online intellectual literati is also waging its own war against Native advertising. Sites like Newyorker.com are choosing élan over loot and eschewing the popular promotional plugins, citing increasingly sensationalistic content that erodes credibility. Slate.com’s president weighed in on the issue, explaining: “It is not the right look if you’re trying to say you’re a high-quality, upper-tier website — if you have [click-bait-y native advertising] on it — and I think it’s time for us to be honest about that.”

Adjusting To Native Advertising Changes

How are websites recovering lost native advertising revenues? Most are adopting curated content promotions — programs where brands write engaging, useful — (albeit tendentious) — articles that websites post alongside content, but label as advertising.

Content recommendation tools are also gaining steam. Unlike standard native advertising platforms, content recommendation engines consider users’ searches and serve up individualized options.

Further Reading On Native Advertising Rule Changes

Native Advertising Rules Are Now In Effect (And The FTC Is On The Hunt)!

Summary of FTC’s Native Advertising Guidelines

Native Advertising Law: The Consequences of Small Print “Sponsored”

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