Are You Playing by Amazon’s New Communication Rules?
Have you ever been playing a game with someone who seems like they are making up the rules as they go along? No matter how well you think you are doing, something is always changing, and a new rule is being introduced?
Being an Amazon seller is sometimes like this. Things can be going along great in your business and then WHAM! New rule. Each time Amazon makes an update that affects sellers, there is a struggle getting everyone first to understand, and secondly to comply. This time around will be no different – except that Amazon has given sellers time to adjust to the new policy first.
On September 8, 2020, the company announced some changes in the way sellers are allowed to communicate with buyers. The good news is they gave us until November 3, 2020, to adjust to the policy, make any needed changes, and be in full compliance. So what are the changes, how do they affect your business, and what are the consequences of not playing by the new rules? Let’s dive in.
The New Rules
The good news is that, in the past, Amazon has made it very clear that sellers are allowed to ask for product reviews and/or feedback. However, this may only be done once per purchase, and cannot use what Amazon calls ‘manipulative language,’ including incentivizing sellers for leaving feedback, asking them to only review the product if they had a positive experience, or asking for removals or updates to an already existing review.
Keep in mind, even though requesting honest feedback is allowed, using the “Request a Review” feature and requesting a review in the body of an email is against Amazon’s Terms of Service. All of this also applies to package inserts.
You read that right. No offering free or discounted products, refunds, reimbursements, or any other kind of incentive for people leaving a review – even if it is in your packaging. This will have more of an impact on some sellers than others, but these guidelines are things all sellers should be aware of before moving forward with the following new rules.
In an effort to limit buyer-seller communication, the following types of messages are no longer allowed:
- Order or shipping confirmations
- Emails simply stating ‘thank you for your purchase’ or that your customer service team is available to help resolve any issues
- Promotional messaging including coupons or referrals to other products in your catalog or third-party promos
What IS Permitted?
Amazon has divided permitted messages into two groups: necessary proactive, and necessary permitted messages. Proactive messages are initiated by the seller and are not in response to a question posed by the buyer. These messages will only be used to:
- Resolve fulfillment issues, or ask questions for returns
- Request extra information needed to complete an order – including verifying a custom order
- Schedule home services appointments or delivery for bulky items
- Send an invoice
- Request product review or seller feedback
Permitted messages are deemed necessary to complete an order or respond to a buyer’s inquiry. These messages are order specific and must be sent via seller central. They include:
- Return-related messages: Sellers may communicate with buyers about returns only when more information is needed to complete the return process.
- Order Issues: If you have a product that is not available to be shipped, this must be communicated to the buyer
A few stipulations on permitted messages include that they may only be sent to buyers who contacted you first, or who have already purchased an item from your store, they must be dated within 30 days of the order, sent in the buyer’s preferred language, and include the order number.
What’s NOT Permitted?
With this round of updates, Amazon was very specific regarding the language that cannot be included in your messages. Even if you are sending one of the messages deemed permitted, the company prohibits you from using language that incentivizes customers for leaving positive reviews, requests the removal or update of negative reviews or seller feedback, or that requests reviews only if they are positive.
Using the tag [important] in the subject line when the email is not necessary to complete an order will also not be tolerated. These items are considered to be ‘manipulative language’ and can get you suspended from Amazon messaging.
Furthermore, external links not needed for order completion – including links in your logo to your website – may no longer be used. Attachments are also limited – if they are not product instructions, warranty information, or invoices, they are not allowed.
Messages must not contain images of a sensitive nature, images of the product purchases, or images that do not relate to your brand or company and cannot contain email addresses, telephone numbers, or tracking pixels.
But, the new rules don’t stop there. Amazon is also placing limits on the styling elements used in permitted messages. The following may NOT be used in communicating with your buyers:
- Margins over 20% maximum width
- Graphics larger than 80% maximum width
- Font families or colors that override Amazon’s default settings, or having more than 3 font sizes in one message
- Centering the body of your message to override default alignment settings
- More than two line-breaks in a row
- Unsecure images
The company also reserves the right to modify message subject lines as needed to protect its buyer experience.
What About the Rule Breakers?
Because of the nature of these changes, Amazon knew sellers would need time to implement them and be in full compliance. For this reason, they are granting sellers a grace period until November 3, to fix anything they may need to. For those of you who don’t like to play by the rules, Amazon may limit your messaging capabilities to only being able to use their templates, or possibly even suspend your selling privileges altogether. A first offense will result in a 30 day suspension. A second offense will net you a lifetime ban. Amazon also reserves the right to block messages at its discretion.
Like in any game, the best way to play is to know the rules and follow them so that nobody is left feeling cheated in the end.