One thing brands can always count on when engaging with Amazon is that the platform is continually changing. A recent change impacting first-party brands happens to be with their sampling and review generation program, Amazon Vine. Vine is the only authorized, approved platform for seeding Amazon review with product sampling.

Amazon Vine is used to generate customer reviews on new products and is available for both first-party and third-party brands on Amazon. The most recent change impacts first-party brands that sell through Vendor Central. As it sits today, third-party brands use their available Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) inventory to fulfill Vine samples, and this process brings both sides closer together operationally.

I first observed the change in late July. Brands no longer send in inventory dedicated just for Vine samples. Samples are sent out of existing on hand inventory at Amazon Fulfillment Centers (FC).

Historically, Vine samples were shipped in by brands, with their own tracking labels, to specific Amazon FCs. This was beneficial as Vine samples could be sent in once the ASIN existed, before the product was made available for sale. Many brands receive an early limited quantity shipment and could pull from those units to enroll and ship to Vine. This approach would help get reviews collected and staged ahead of the products launch date on Amazon.

The new process requires Amazon to have inventory on hand, through either a standard Purchase Order (PO), or a Born to Run (BTR) PO, also known as Vendor Initiated Purchase Order.

Instead of asking you to send Vine units to a Vine fulfillment center at the time of enrollment, we use the inventory we already have on hand and you fund Vine-enrolled units. No more Vine labeling, units lost, delays in transit, or unclaimed units destroyed.

This new method also benefits the Vine Voices (those Amazon users who get to review Vine products), to select a sample of their preferred variation. This ensures Vine Voices have access to items in the right size or color, resulting in more insightful reviews and higher conversion. This is especially useful for categories like apparel and footwear.

The new process also results in lower enrollment costs, as Amazon only bills you for each parent ASIN enrolled, regardless of the number of variations included. The previous way would cost for each ASIN, even if they were in the same variation family. There is also a mention that the enrollment fee across all categories per enrolled parent ASIN is being normalized.

One aspect that seems to have gone away in the new process, is the audience targeting when enrolling a product. Before, users could select specific criteria to target who might be a better fit to review the product.

The last aspect that is changing is a limit to the number of items actively enrolled in Vine at once. By default, most brands will see a cap for active concurrent enrollments at five parent ASINs. Some brands may have exceptions made by their Amazon Vendor Manager to allow for higher counts. The same item-eligibility requirements still exist—less than 30 ratings, not be an adult product, and have available inventory, etc.

With these changes to Vine, we believe new product launches will take more time to ramp up, given the fact they won’t be able to get the advanced head start they used to have on collecting reviews.

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