Manage Expectations, Minimize Negative Reviews: Tips for Selling on Amazon and Building Consumer Confidence

It’s great to know how to handle negative Amazon reviews, but what if you could avoid most of them altogether? How? With expectation management! By approaching your Amazon listing optimization with a bit of foresight, you can help customers make better buying decisions for themselves, which eliminates surprises and poor outcomes. Remember that your listing converts the shopper into a buyer, but these purchases result in a return if the customer gets the product and reality doesn’t match their expectations (how you presented the product). 

How do you avoid this mismatch and prevent negative Amazon reviews? By putting on your customer service hat and anticipating needs. Try to put yourself in a beginner’s mindset. Anything and everything about your product can be a mystery to your shoppers. This includes:

  1. Physical dimensions and weight
  2. Instructions for care
  3. Product materials
  4. And more!

You don’t need to make the customer read a full technical brochure about your product, but you do need to have all that information on hand. 

Define Your Product’s Physical Details

person doing a math problem as if trying to figure out how to successfully sell on amazon

Here’s a checklist of physical characteristics you need to have on hand. Note that not all of these will apply directly to every product, and not all of these are relevant to every buying decision. Nevertheless, you must be the expert on your product, ready to answer any questions that your listing didn’t answer. Putting together a list like this also makes the other steps in this blog a lot simpler and will help you really set your product and brand apart from your Amazon competitors.


    • This includes both exterior dimensions, as well as interior dimensions.


    • Think of this in terms of both the actual and relative weight. For example, will people with arthritis have a difficult time using your product?

    Power source

    • If it’s a wall-powered device, find out the ratings on the power supply. If it’s battery-powered, find out exactly what kind of battery is required. Even AA batteries are made in variations suited to different tasks.

    Product materials (all of them).

    If you don’t have these on hand, there’s a high likelihood your manufacturer has the information. 

    • You might not need to tell the customer every single thing, but you, as the seller, have a responsibility to have this information in your back pocket. 
    • Metal? Is it pure metal or alloy? 
    • Plastic? What kind? Is it BPA-free? Is it recyclable?
    • Wood? What species? Is it sustainably harvested? Is it carved, veneer, or ply? Is it true wood or something that people call wood, such as bamboo? 

    Product ratings. This includes:

    • GSM for paper products
    • Denier for textile products
    • Weather/dirt/waterproofing ratings, including things like IP65
    • Tensile strength
    • Volume capacity
    • Weight capacity
    • Power input and output
    • Safe temperature range for operation
    • Cycle rating (for mechanical things such as automatic door closer arms)

    Instructions for care:

    • Assume the customer doesn’t know anything about the product and speak as an expert in a way they can digest. 
    • Be up front. Don’t cut corners to try to sell the idea of convenience. Bamboo products are common offenders. Bamboo can be put in a dishwasher without harming the customer directly, but it is very prone to warping, delamination, and splintering. It’s not a benefit if it takes years off the life of the product.

    Explain How Your Product Works

    dice spelling out the word teach

    Write up annoyingly detailed instructions for your product and keep them on hand to pull out as needed. Your product might be so simple that you don’t even include instructions in the listing or with the product, such as a blanket or a mug. But you better believe that someone will ask you a question about the operation of the product, and you’ll want to have a detailed and kindly worded response ready to go (this helps you create a halo effect in the reviews). If nothing else, you’ll be able to see it all on paper and make objective decisions about which details to include in the listing copy, and which can be kept in your notes.

    Not sure how to start? Grab your product, still in the box. Start with unboxing as your first step. As you unbox, set up, and use it, make sure every action you take is in your overly detailed instruction list. When you have the list done, trim it down as needed to fit various spaces.

    List Your Product’s Features in Complete Terms

    person looking peaceful as they listing to music in headphone

    Imagine you're trying to explain the product to someone who has no frame of reference. They need a clear summary of what their senses would tell them if they had the product in their hands. Using the characteristic list and detailed instructions you made a moment ago, answer the following questions:

    1. What does it look like?
    2. What does it feel like?
    3. What does it sound like?
    4. What does it taste like?
    5. What does it smell like?

    Note that these are tactile, tangible things devoid of emotional content. You’ll define the emotional stuff in the next step.

    Relay the Benefits

    person throwing papers in the air

    Now for the fun part—managing emotional expectations! You have to tap into the customer’s imagination and help them envision a future with your product. What is the actual emotional or mental end result?

    Ask yourself if any of these verbs can be applied to your product. These verbs (and many others) can be used to describe a product adding or taking something away from a person’s experience, which is the root of the benefit:


      • Example: Alleviate back pain with this full-coverage neoprene back brace.


      • Example: Enhance your home’s appeal with naturally scented soy wax candles.


      • Example: Eliminate desk clutter with your 3-tier aluminum office organizer.


      • Example: Facilitate a summer of fun for your children with your 5-piece kid’s t-ball set. 

      In each of these rough examples, we start with a customer-involving imperative verb that expresses a change for the customer. Then we follow up with some supporting features that contextualize the emotional claim. Excite, then explain.

      Be Extremely Careful About Medical Claims

      cute dog dressed as a doctor

      Now that you have your benefits listed out, take a moment to decide if there’s anything that should be left out. For some products, this can be a challenging exercise in semantics, but it’s worth making the effort to be in line with all relevant laws and regulations. And it helps shoppers make well-informed buying decisions for themselves, which is, quite simply, the nice thing to do.

      The most commonly problematic kind of product would be anything of medical consequence. That can include something as basic as a bandaid or as complex as a 20-ingredient supplement product. Ask yourself: “Am I licensed to offer medical advice for this particular medical category?”

      Example: You’re doing the Lord’s work, selling UTI supplements at reasonable prices. It’s made of FDA-approved stuff that has some limited trials with small sample sizes to back it. You believe in your product, and maybe you’ve even gotten some doctors interested. So you might be wanting to tell shoppers that your product “treats UTIs,” but you can’t. Why not?

      1. You’re not a doctor (unless you are, but then shouldn’t you know this stuff already?). “Treats UTIs” constitutes a strong medical claim that you (and your copywriters) are not legally permitted to make.
      2. Your ingredients are on a list of FDA-approved substances but the FDA didn’t personally evaluate your formula (including for interactions between ingredients), product, or facilities. Your product isn’t FDA-approved just because the FDA says your ingredients are okay in isolation.
      3. Your product isn’t clinically proven, and there’s no wiggle room for technicalities here. There’s an extremely rigorous, years-long process to get from a prototype to clinical proof. You might not like the gatekeeping, but it’s a necessary mechanism to protect the general public (including you and your family) from bad business. 

      What could you do instead? Defer licensed medical professionals' wisdom with a softer claim. Example: “Your UTI supplement may help guard against new infections and assist in recovery.” And then either immediately after or somewhere else in the listing, you could say: “Ask your doctor if this supplement is right for you.” 

      See the difference? 

      1. The potential benefit is communicated.
      2. The claim is soft enough to fall within regulations.
      3. We’ve further protected against liability and bad customer outcomes by advising the customer to talk to their doctor.

      You might think the soft approach would lead to fewer sales, but this isn’t the case. Putting on an infomercial-style show to get reviews for Amazon products typically backfires. You can’t sell anything if your listing gets suspended, and if your review section turns sour because your product didn’t live up to a strong claim, your sales will be hurt badly. Lastly, it’s good for consumer confidence to show that you aren’t afraid of what your shoppers’ doctors are going to say about the product. Good sellers play the long game.

      Decide What to Actually Include in Your Listing

      person playing a game of chess

      Up to this point, you’ve been developing what some would call a Product Knowledge (PK) document. A good PK document has all the information you could need to answer customer questions and negative reviews, manage expectations, and ensure good outcomes (which of course minimizes product returns). It’s a great thing to have in general, but PK docs aren’t intended for public consumption. 

      Your task now is to reduce things and pick out the key info that’s directly relevant to a buying decision. Prioritize your list, so that if you run out of room, your most important stuff still gets included in your listing.

      Example 1: You’re selling a microwavable plastic dish of some kind. If it’s BPA-free, you should include that info, because it’s a food-contact item. You need to manage the expectation that your product shouldn’t accelerate mortality.

      Example 2: You’re selling a skateboarding helmet. The plastic is BPA-free. BPA-free is a catchword, but the helmet isn’t a food-contact item. List this feature as low-priority and include it if you have the space. 

      Example 3: You sell notebooks. Some of your products are standard college-ruled spiral notebooks. Others are fancier journaling notebooks, with hardcovers and thicker pages. You have the GSM rating for both types of paper, but shoppers will care about that rating a lot more for the journal. That’s because the expectation for a regular spiral notebook is that waterier inks will bleed. With the journal you have to manage the expectation that that bleed shouldn’t happen, which you can do with a GSM rating.

      Bonus Amazon Seller Tip: Learn from your opponent’s mistakes

      Take a look at some reviews with low-star ratings on competing products. What do people complain about the most? Manage those expectations!

      Check your work:

      1. Do you have every product detail written down?
      2. Do you have a foolproof explanation of how your product works?
      3. Does your features list answer the questions of all the senses (what does it look/feel/sound like)?
      4. Do your benefits adequately convey some sort of change for the customer’s experience?
      5. Did you avoid saying anything that requires a professional license (that you don’t have) to legally say?
      6. As you cut details to pare things down for your listing, did you ask yourself if that detail is relevant to the buying decision? Be creative and inclusive here. Don’t scoff at things just because they seem silly to you. Keep in mind that this might be the first time the customer has encountered your product.

      scientist working in a lab using a dropper

      We hope that by completing these exercises, you feel like you know your product better than ever before. If not, you’ve built a lovely Product Knowledge document that you can give to employees, send to copywriters (like us!), and refer to when answering customer questions or negative reviews.

      As you write your listings, you’ll have a complete guide that you can use to craft emotionally compelling copy that answers all the right questions. That leads to more buyer satisfaction and fewer product returns, which in turn increases your reputation as a seller. With time, if you maintain a high level of expectation management, your name just might precede you!

      Let Us Help You Write Copy That Sells  

      Unsure if your Amazon listing effectively manages expectations? Reach out for a free listing analysis, and we can take a look! Mention this blog and we’ll zero in on expectation management specifically. 

      If you decide you need or want help, let’s chat about doing a full listing optimization. We dig deep into products to ensure we know everything we can about the product, the market you want to sell to, and the desired emotional result—in other words, your product’s benefits.

      Sean Levine


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