Amazon quietly updated their TOS during October 2018. They seldom make any announcement, particularly around sensitive topics ie reviews and who “owns” the customer.
For the avoidance of any doubt on the latter, Amazon asserts that they own the customer in case you have missed this!
The section of particular interest is titled “Indirect Communication.” We think this is brilliant as it addresses the whole issue of what you can and cannot say to the customer in very plain English.
Go here and make sure you are very familiar with this content – yes it will be tweaked over time so check this link anytime you happen to read this article for the very latest wording:
Amazon Communication Guidelines (login to your Seller Central Account required).
Here’s the specific section we want to highlight:
“…Note: In any communication you have with buyers (including shipping box inserts), you cannot ask them to leave a positive customer review for your product. It is also prohibited to offer them any compensation for a review, including money or gift cards, free or discounted products, refunds or reimbursements, or any other future benefits.
In general, you may contact a buyer who has purchased from you on Amazon only for the purposes listed above or to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry. You may not contact buyers in any way for marketing or promotional purposes, via email, physical mail, telephone, or otherwise.
If you send a permitted email to a buyer, your email may not include any of the following:
Links to any website, unless necessary to fulfill an order. For example, links to track packages are allowed.
Links to opt-out of unsolicited messages from sellers.
Logos, if they contain or display a link to your website.
Any marketing or promotional messaging.
Any promotion for additional products or referral to third-party products or promotions
Be sure to include the Amazon order ID in your communications to buyers and on the shipment packing slips…”
Product Inserts have long been used to entice the customer into a direct relationship. We have previously suggested using a simple offer to sign up for a Tester Program which has served clients well for a very long time.
However, other Seller’s have used very overt calls to action to “find our brand on the web and we’ll give you an extra good deal.” Little wonder the Amazon axe has finally fallen. They now clearly state that you may NOT include…
“…any compensation for a review, including money or gift cards, free or discounted products, refunds or reimbursements, or any other future benefits.
In addition, they mention:
“Links to any website, unless necessary to fulfill an order. For example, links to track packages are allowed.”
We find it of particular interest that Amazon now specifically EXCLUDE…
“Any promotion for additional products or referral to third-party products or promotions.”
Some of our clients have used Amazon coupons which has certainly helped them drive additional sales in their business. Our thought is that they could not be seen to “allow” Amazon only coupon promotions as this may be deemed an anti-competitive issue. For whatever reason, this is now a very clear NO!
They have chosen not to address the use of a Warranty Card….
Some Seller’s have gone out with Warranty signups for products that clearly have zero need eg kitchen spatula’s with a lifetime warranty “if” you signup! Quite where this leaves electrical goods, for example, is unclear. You can be very sure it is a deliberate omission as many Global Brands are sold on Amazon where (genuine) warranty signups are necessary.
There is no mention of what can and cannot be on packaging which is arguably a method of Indirect Communication.
In summary, if you have any external link or any type of promotion in your insert you should take this out on your next production run. No need to panic as they surely know there are millions of products already in their warehouses with such encouragements. However, you should not ignore their very clear wording that this is now against their TOS.
So, what’s our take on all of this.
1. Building your Brand just got even more important.
Customers are not stupid (mostly!) so if they want to find you, make it easy! You need an appealing presence on the web where you can easily be contacted and you can offer anything you like!
2. Developing your own e-commerce site is imperative.
Don’t go it alone. Shopify sites, for example, are very easy to get up and running in a day. The rider on this is to ensure you direct all your sales to Amazon to help drive your BSR and leverage the massive trust consumers have in Amazon i.e. buy it here and you’re “safe.”
There are plenty of ways to grab their details before you send them off (but you will lose people along the way) so get super smart about this.
3. Become a Social Media Guru…it’s with us to stay so get with the play!
You simply cannot afford to develop a great product and put it on Amazon and leave it at that. You must understand FB, Insta, Pins and all that “stuff” and give it the same if not more focus than your actual product. You can’t do one well without the other if that makes sense!
All of the above (except the text in italics copied from Amazon) is written IOHO…IN OUR HUMBLE OPINION…!!!
We are not affiliated with Amazon in any shape or form nor claim to have inside knowledge or connections to give deeper insight into their intentions with this update. However, we do know that every Seller must come to their own conclusions and chart their course according to their personal risk profile in this simple but very complex area.
As always, ask us anything. If we don’t know, we’ll know someone who does!
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