A lot of you have been getting in touch with regards to Amazon’s changes in policy that they announced back in September and which come into effect November 6th (assuming the world hasn’t ended by then!)
With every rule change from Amazon, sellers struggle to understand and comply with the new information. What’s okay to do? What’s not okay? What could lead to suspension?
First things to know: the update clarifies two things:
- Amazon has made it clear that you can ask buyers for reviews. We’ve always understood this to be true, but the latest update explicitly says it. Once again: YES, YOU CAN ASK A BUYER FOR A REVIEW.
- Amazon has made it clear that you can use ZonMaster, to communicate with buyers. The new rules state that you can use an approved third-party application listed in the Marketplace Appstore. ZonMaster is absolutely approved (and listed in the Marketplace Appstore)
- You can continue to use ZonMaster’s UNIQUE Auto Review Request Tool to automatically use Amazon’s ‘Request a Review’ feature. This means you do NOT need to ask for a review in an email.
Other things to note (before we get into the specifics):
- The Amazon customer communications policy, including Buyer-Seller Messaging, changed on September 8, 2020. Sellers have until November 6, 2020, to adopt the policy changes.
- The changes primarily affect the language and formatting of customer communications.
- The changes are fairly small and in keeping with both common sense and good customer service.
- Yes, Amazon sellers can still ask for product reviews and seller feedback! But the new policy makes it clear that you may ask a buyer for a product review or seller feedback ONCE per purchase.
- Yes, you can still use third-party software such as ZonMaster in order to help you best comply with the new guidelines while garnering more feedback and reviews and cultivating positive relationships with buyers.
What ZonMaster does for you, and what you need to check.
At ZonMaster we will cover all aspects of the new policies that we can. That means our emails automatically include the order number, do not have margins or multiple line breaks and images are properly sized.
But content within the email is your responsibility.
- DO NOT use emojis or GIFs.
- Do not use a crazy number of fonts and sizes.
- Do not use language that could be interpreted as asking only for positive reviews (eg ‘If you’re happy, leave a review’)
- Do not include an email address or phone number.
Compliance with the New Amazon Communications Policy
What will enforcement look like? According to the new policy, beginning on Friday, November 6, 2020, Amazon will begin applying temporary restrictions, followed by permanent restrictions from sending free-form proactive messages, to sellers in violation of the new communication policies.
Purpose of the Policy Updates
The introduced changes aim to:
- Limit proactive messages to those concerning order completion.
- Improve both the quality and content of the proactive messages that sellers send to buyers.
- Protect buyers from fraud and abuse, and to protect sellers from unscrupulous actions from competitors. Raising the bar for all communications to buyers benefits all our selling partners, resulting in a stronger Marketplace.
The Updated Amazon Messaging Policy: What IS NOT Allowed
Non-Permitted Messages: Do not send the following messages as standalone messages or as included in other messages:
- Order or shipping confirmations
- Messages that say only “Thank you” or that you are here to help if buyers have any problems
- Marketing or promotional messaging, including coupons
- A repeat request (per order) for a product review or seller feedback
- Any promotion for additional products or references to third-party products or promotions.
The Updated Amazon Messaging Policy: What IS Allowed
Amazon divides these into two types: Necessary Permitted Messages and Proactive Permitted Messages. Here’s what you need to know about both and where they overlap and differ.
Necessary Permitted Messages
Proactive Permitted Messages
|What are Necessary Permitted Messages?|
Amazon defines Permitted Messages as those communications necessary to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry.
|What are Proactive Permitted Messages?|
Proactive Permitted Messages are messages you initiate that are not responses to a buyer’s question.
|How are they sent?|
Necessary Permitted Messages are order specific and thus can only be sent via your seller account in Amazon’s Seller Central.
|How are they sent?|
Proactive Permitted Messages can be sent using Amazon’s templates via the Contact Buyer or Request a Review page in Seller Central or by using third-party applications in the Applications Store or the API.
|Messages deemed Necessary Permitted:|
- Problem with Order messages: Sellers must communicate with buyers if a product ordered is not available to be shipped. Sellers should adjust the full order amount using the Manage Orders feature in Seller Central followed using the “Problem with Order” option to communicate with the buyer about the inability to fulfil the order.
- Return-related messages: Sellers must process refunds for the order amount (minus any charges) using the Manage Orders feature in Seller Central. Sellers may communicate with buyers about their returns only when sellers need additional information to complete the return or offer a partial refund.
|Messages deemed Proactive Permitted:|
- Resolving an issue with order fulfilment
- Requesting additional information required to complete the order
- Asking a return-related question
- Sending an invoice
- Requesting product review and/or seller feedback
- Scheduling delivery for a heavy or bulky item
- Scheduling a Home Services appointment
- Verifying a custom design
- Any other reason where the contact is required for the buyer to receive the purchase.
|To whom can a seller send Necessary Permitted Messages and Proactive Permitted Messages?|
You may only send Necessary Permitted Messages and Proactive Permitted Messages to customers who have contacted you about purchasing a product or who have already purchased a product from you on the Amazon store.
|Necessary Permitted Messages and Proactive Permitted Messages Must: |
- Be sent within 30 days of order
- Include the 17-digit order ID and be in the buyer’s language of preference
Major Amazon Communications Policy Update: Amazon Has Now Explicitly Stated What Is Not Okay and What Violates Messaging Rules
Within All Permitted Messages, Necessary and Proactive, DO NOT Include the Following Content:
- 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
- Language that requests removal or an update of an existing product review
- Language that requests a product review only if they have had a positive experience with the product
- External links unless they are secure working links (https, not http) necessary for order completion or links to Amazon
- Attachments except for product instructions, warranty information, or invoices
- Logos, if they contain or display a link to your website
- Link to opt-out of messaging
- Sensitive content in images or text (e.g. bare skin, violence/gore, adult/offensive language)
- Tracking pixels or images
- Email addresses or telephone numbers
- Images of purchased product(s) as Amazon includes those on your behalf
- Images that do not relate to your brand or company
- Spelling errors or grammar issues
Within All Permitted Messages DO NOT Include Any of These Styling Elements:
- Known accessibility issues as specified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative
- Emojis ?
- Message margins over 20% maximum width
- Image or graphic sizes larger than 80% maximum width
- Overrides of Amazon’s default line height, font family, or font color
- Fonts in more than three sizes
- Message bodies that are centered or otherwise override default text alignment settings
- More than two line-breaks (spacing between paragraphs) in a row
- Unsecure images (http instead of https)
What Happens If You Break the New Amazon Messaging Rules?
Failure to comply with these Communication Guidelines may result in Amazon limiting Permitted Messages to Amazon’s templates or a suspension of selling privileges in Amazon stores. Amazon has the authority to block any message at its discretion.
September 2020 Update to Amazon Messaging Policy: More Items of Interest
- Direct Communication is defined as emails sent to buyers.
- Indirect Communication is defined as order-related information to buyers through their “Your Account” updates.
Amazon has the authority to modify message subject lines in order to protect the buyer experience.
Where Do Critical Messages Fall in the New Amazon Communications Policy?
The following messages are considered critical to complete a buyer’s order:
- Product customization questions
- Delivery scheduling
- Issues with a shipping address
The following messages are not critical to complete an order:
- Requests for seller feedback or buyer reviews
- Order, shipment, delivery, or refund confirmations. Amazon already sends these emails
- Proactive customer service, for example: product manuals, tips for using the product, answers to frequently asked questions, suggestions if something goes wrong
- Out-of-stock or delay notifications, or offers of alternative products (please cancel the order instead).
Sending Critical Messages
- If you send a critical message via Seller Central, you will not be able to edit the subject line of the emails sent from Seller Central. Amazon will deliver the messages related to completing an order.
- If you send a critical message using your own email client, include the word [Important], with brackets as shown, anywhere in the subject line. The email will not be blocked and you won’t receive a bounceback message.
Compliance Reminder (Some Things Never Change)
In any communication you have with buyers (including shipping box inserts), you cannot ask them to leave a positive customer review for your product, or to leave a review only if they had a positive experience with your product. Similarly, you cannot ask only customers who had a positive experience with your product to leave a review. 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.
How to Make Your Communications with Buyers Compliant and Effective
The best ways to ensure that you are reaching buyers in keeping with Amazon’s guidelines (and not risking messaging suspension or account suspension) are simple:
- Know the rules and stay up to date with policy changes. Buyer-Seller Messaging is not a set-it-and-forget-it process, you need to review your messages.
- Follow those rules whether you use Amazon’s Buyer-Seller Messaging service or third-party software. Amazon has made it clear that you, Amazon sellers, are responsible for your actions even when using third-party software.
- Work with a trusted third-party software provider who is constantly updating software and services to be in keeping with Amazon’s ever-changing rules and requirements.
- Remember that Amazon calls the shots and that if Amazon restricts your messaging capabilities for an infraction, you’re not likely to have that overturned. Don’t give Amazon any reason to restrict your messaging privileges.
- If you’re worried about Buyer-Seller Messaging compliance, find peace of mind by using ZonMaster’s Auto Review Request tool.
You should have all received an email from Amazon detailing this, but, just in case, here is a link to Amazon’s Official Document about the changes.