Amazon Messaging Update Sep 2020
Amazon made its most comprehensive and arguably most informative change to its customer messaging rules on Sep 8, 2020.
This follows on from months of uncertainty as many Seller’s had their message rights suspended for 30-days for apparent breaches of their policy.
As usual, Amazon made it impossible to find out exactly what was wrong so a Seller could not address the underlying issue that saw them lose their message rights. This update is a positive step forward so all Sellers can better understand the boundaries.
It is important to note that these changes become effective on Nov 3, 2020, just in time for the peak Holiday Season sales. As a result, they have issued their new Guidelines in a PDF form as these are not actually in force until Nov 3. This means if you go into your Seller Central account now to review their guidelines you will not see this update as it is not yet in force.
Here’s the link to their PDF:
Amazon has created two types of messages – Permitted Messages and Proactive Permitted Messages. Before we get into the detail, it’s important to step back and look at their intent.
Amazon is determined that Seller’s should not be able to create a database of customers from their sales activity for any reason at all.
So, if you think you’ve found a way to gain access to “your” customer’s details, then you are probably outside TOS! It’s their platform and they assert they are their customers.
There are three key rules applicable to all messages:
They must be sent within 30 days of the order
The 17-digit Order ID must be included
The message must be in the buyer’s preferred language
Of course, if a customer initiates communication with you beyond 30 days of their order, you most certainly should respond!
There is a long list of “Do-Nots” which provide great insight into how to keep within TOS.
1.Do not send order or shipping confirmations
2.Messages that say only “Thank you” or that you are here to help if buyers have any problems
3.Marketing or promotional messaging, including coupons
4.Language that either incentivizes or persuades the buyer to submit positive product reviews or seller feedback, including by offering compensation, money, gift cards, free or discounted products, refunds, rebates or reimbursements, or future benefits
5.Language that requests removal or an update of an existing product review
6.Language that requests a product review only if they have had a positive experience with the product
7.Do not send a repeat request (per order) for a product review or seller feedback
8.No external links unless they are secure working links (https, not http) necessary for order completion or links to Amazon
9.No attachments except for product instructions, warranty information, or invoices
10.Logos must not contain or display a link to your website
12.No link to opt-out of messaging
12.No sensitive content in images or text (e.g. bare skin, violence/gore, adult/offensive language)
13.Do not use tracking pixels or images
14.Do not include email addresses or telephone numbers
15.No images of purchased products as Amazon includes those on your behalf
16.No images that do not relate to your brand or company
Amazon even goes as far as defining acceptable formatting.
It’s very clear that they do not want any Seller to stand out in particular and seek a degree of uniformity in Seller messages.
1.Accessibility issues as specified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative
4.Message margins over 20% max width
5.Image or graphic sizes larger than 80% max width
6.Overrides of Amazon’s default line height, font family, or font color
7.Fonts in more than three sizes
8.Message bodies that are centered or that otherwise override default text alignment settings
9.More than two line-breaks (spacing between paragraphs) in a row
10.Unsecure images (http instead of https)
11.Spelling errors or grammar issues
So let’s look at the two types of messages they refer to in this update.
Permitted Messages cover communicating with customers and prospective customers about a product.
They define Permitted Messages as those communications necessary to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry.
Proactive Permitted Messages cover all outbound message activity.
Amazon provides further detail on this which again is very helpful to understand how to remain compliant:
1.Resolving an issue with order fulfillment
2.Requesting additional information required to complete the order
3.Asking a return-related question
4.Sending an invoice
5.Requesting product review and/or seller feedback
6.Scheduling the delivery of a heavy or bulky item
7.Scheduling a Home Services appointment
8.Verifying a custom design, or any other reason where the contact is required for the buyer to receive their purchase.
Of course, Sellers are always looking for an angle to address customer issues surrounding lowstar reviews. Amazon makes it very clear that you may not discuss reviews with customers in any shape or form.
If you resolve a customer issue and then want to ask the customer to update their review, you are immediately outside TOS.
It may be seen as naieve of Amazon to expect sellers to sit and do nothing if they are struggling with a lowstar review. However, they know if this is permitted, Sellers will take advantage of this! So, if you find yourself in this predicament, be very careful that you do not use any word eg update, review, etc that could trigger a bot.
For the avoidance of any doubt, make sure you only ever ask for a product review once.
We have found the Request A Review option that Amazon brought in almost a year ago is very effective in comparison to asking for reviews through Buyer-Seller Messages.
Customers trust Amazon much more than a Seller, so you should leverage this relationship!
Many software programs make this easier for you by providing you with a Chrome Extension that semi-automates this. The downside is that you have to sit and wait for the requests to process. However, there is an increasing number of service providers who have developed a solution within their software that also enables you to set additional filters before activating the Request A Review.
This is a real win as the filters available through the Chrome Extension solution are only what Amazon provides ie skipping refunded orders. Now you can filter out lowstar reviews, repeat orders and blacklisted addresses.
We work with a large number of software providers so reach out to us if you would like some help working out the best fit for your product niche and budget.
So what does all of this mean for you?
1. Use your one Proactive Permitted Message to say thank you, and include some sort of value to ensure the customer feels it was worthwhile opening your message.
Don’t take this lightly – customers are more and more sophisticated these days. Take time to really think about how to add value and to initiate some sort of engagement with them.
Yes, you can send an attachment but make very sure there is nothing in here that breaks TOS. Their bots are increasingly smart so don’t try to be clever. Your attachment must add value to your customer relationship and you need to be prepared to defend this should Amazon take exception to the content.
2.Use Amazon’s Request A Review option the ask for Product Reviews and Seller Feedback.
You cannot edit the Amazon Request A Review template so make the best use of a software program to filter your requests as much as possible.
Sure, you can ask for this through your Proactive Permitted Message if you prefer. However, understand that you cannot then use their Request A Review option as this would mean you ask for a review twice – not permitted!
3.Make sure any reply to a customer inquiry is within TOS.
This is where you are most at risk. If you are outsourcing your Customer Care, make sure your VA or service provider is very clear on what is permitted.
We see this update as providing a huge benefit to understanding just where the TOS line is regarding customer messages. It is well worth your time to sit back and consider how you manage your customer relationships overall. Make sure that you leverage every possible touchpoint to engage with “your”customers!
If you haven’t already, this is yet another wakeup call for you to start building your brand off Amazon. This will 10x the value of your business over time, so create some time to focus on this before another year goes by!
As always, ask us anything. If we don’t know the answer we’ll know someone who does! Back to Blog
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