Should I do an "giving away free product in exchange for reviews"?
I have literally just launched a new Amazon business and feel like I have some savviness with advertising and marketing etc. But nowadays getting your first sales and reviews seems next to impossible if you don't already have reviews on Amazon. It's like a chicken and egg problem. Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated!
Keep your prices low, but reasonably low. Maybe 25% off from where you hope to eventually end up. It takes time to do it organically. You can also use Amazon PPC to help drive traffic. If your product is genuinely a good value at the slightly discounted price then additional traffic should be all you need to get sales and then boosted in the algorithm. You are correct that it is a "chicken and egg" problem--sales beget sales. There is no magic bullet, unfortunately. One other option is to start selling the product directly to Amazon so that you get the "boost" that they give to all the products they offer directly. It is easier than you think to set that up.
If your product is too expensive to give away free for reviews, then you could instead lend it to people for reviews. Unfortunately nobody is going to want to go through the trouble of mailing anything back to you after a week of use, so I think the best option would be to go local:
Start by lending your product to local friends and family and arrange to go to their house to pick it back up within a week or so. Then have them ask around for anyone else that might be interested in trying it out for a week. Also post on local physical and web-based message boards. Talk to your local newspaper / news about potentially making a mention of your program and how it will be helping a local business.
You could give all of these testers a 15% discount on your product if they end up deciding to buy one to keep, or come up with another more local-centric incentive. Like give them a gift certificate to a popular local restaurant, or send some some locally made taffy or something (i.e. anything that's a lot cheaper than giving them a full product for free)
best of luck,
Due to Amazon's recent changed of policy, sellers are prohibited from asking for incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. Read more here: https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/abpto3jt7fhb5oc
However, there are a few strategies you could run to get more reviews in. Hosting an Amazon giveaway will increase exposure and sales velocity for your product. I suggest giving an irresistible offer (i.e. 50%) for customers. You can still send an email to buyers asking for feedback provided they did not opt out of messages.
Here's the link on Amazon giveaways: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201723220
Hope that helps.