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Zonmaster Planned Maintenance/Downtime: The Purge!

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve done a lot of changes in Zonmaster recently! We’ve updated the:

So now we are going to update our backend infrastructure! Unfortunately, to do this requires some downtime.

Downtime Scheduled for Monday June 14, 2021

During the downtime the site will be unavailable. We thank you for your patience and understanding!

The Purge

Zonmaster has been around for a long time! We are one of the oldest (and best, we like to think) 3rd Party Tools for Amazon Sellers. But, because of our age (we are 7 years old!) we have a lot of baggage in the storage area.

Please Note: If you are a current member of Zonmaster – either paid or still in your free trial – you have NOTHING to read about here. Your account will be unchanged, regardless of how much data we have of yours.

Accounts dormant for 6 months or more will be archived

This means that your data (customers, orders, products, etc) will be completely removed from our system.

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News

Amazon’s New FBA Re-Stock Limits Explained

In July 2020, Amazon announced ASIN-level quantity limits for products stored in their fulfilment network. Amazon made this change to ensure that they could receive and store products for all sellers who use FBA. During the pandemic limits were even more restricted but now Amazon are replacing ASIN-level FBA quantity limits with FBA restock limits.

Restock limits are set per stock type based on your past and projected sales, so you can spread these limits across your ASINs. This gives you more flexibility because you’re not limited to quantity for a single product, but it still makes sense to only send inventory to FBA that will be sold in the near future – both because it limits your FBA replenishment limits for ASINs that sell faster and because you may incur long-term inventory fees.

Amazon Storage Types

Amazon Storage limits are applicable for four storage main types:

  • Standard-size
  • Oversize
  • Clothing
  • Footwear

Adjustments to the limits for the storage of dangerous goods (flammable goods and aerosols) are treated separately from other types of storage.

FBA Storage Limits

Storage limits are calculated using several factors including:

  • Your sales volume (including your sales’ seasonality periods)
  • Your historical IPI scores
  • Available fulfilment centre capacity

Sellers with consistently higher IPI scores will receive higher storage limits, adjusted for sales volume and available capacity. When setting limits for an upcoming quarter, Amazon considers both your recent sales volume and seasonal volume from the last year.

You can see which storage types your products are categorized as and how much cubic feet they occupy using the FBA Inventory Age page and the Inventory Age report. Utilisation includes your current inventory at Amazon and all incoming shipments, including your shipments in Working, In Transit and Receiving status.

What’s the difference between FBA restock limits and storage limits?

It is important to note that both FBA storage limits and FBA replenishment limits may apply to your account. Storage limits are based on volume, measured in cubic feet, and determine the capacity of the fill center you can use. Replenishment limits are based on units and determine how much inventory you can send to replenishment centers. Replenishment limits apply regardless of your IPI score.

For some products, your limiting factor may be storage limits, especially if you have one of more ASINs which are relatively bulky. For smaller products where storage limits aren’t an issue restock limits may be more important.

Don’t forget that you can see your current stock levels inside of Zonmaster on your product’s details page. Also, when we release our new monitoring and alerts feature in May, 2021, you’ll be able to get warnings about low stock levels.

Start your Zonmaster Free Trial today!

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News

Let’s Talk About Fake Reviews

Amazon is facing a constant battle to deal with fake reviews on the marketplace. In an amazing piece of investigative journalism, the UK’s consumer champion, Which? – a not-for-profit organization based that is 100% independent and focuses on revealing online (and offline) scams – has released it’s finding.

The Size of the Problem

Which? easily found 10 sites that offer Amazon reviews for money. These companies have over 1 million(!!!) people offering reviews. Reviews can cost as low as $7 (£5). Sellers can sign up for the services and choose from a range of packages and services.

Which? signed up with several of these sites and posed as sellers. They also discovered Rebate sites (get a product for free if you write a review) offer similar services.

For Buyers: Spotting Fake Reviews

Check the Location – Amazon now posts on reviews where the buyer who left the review was from.

Beware Unknown Brands with lots of positive reviews

Check the Language – watch for weird spellings and punctuation.

Check the content – sometimes listings are hijacked so see if the reviews actually mention anything about the product

Watch for lots of images – fake review sites (ironically) often request that reviewers post an image. But real reviewers rarely do this. Watch out for listings with an unusually high number of images in the reviews.

What You As A Seller Should Know

Obviously, buying reviews or doing anything to stimulate positive reviews in exchange for something is against Amazon’s Terms of Service. If discovered your account will be closed.

Things not to do:

The 7 most common transgressions

  1. Using your account or that of a competitor or customer to post, edit, or retract a review. 
  2. Offering compensation of any kind to facilitate reviews.
  3. Requesting a positive review, rather than any kind of review, either directly or through packaging and box inserts.
  4. Engaging with fake reviewers, even if the need for a review is never mentioned but rather implied (closed social media groups, review websites and clubs, etc.).
  5. Contacting a negative reviewer to offer compensation, even if there’s no mention of retracting the review in return.
  6. Asking buyers to contact you before posting a negative review, but encouraging positive reviews to be posted.
  7. Creating product variations to accumulate reviews from existing products.

Repercussions

Amazon is fighting a battle over fake reviews and here are some of the things that can happen to you as a seller if you are caught doing it.

  1. Suspension – your account will be frozen and if you have inventory in FBA that will be destroyed
  2. Legal Action – Amazon has taken legal action against sellers based in the EU and the US caught review tampering
  3. FTC legal action – in serious cases the US Federal Trade Commission also takes separate legal action against the seller.
  4. Buyer Legal Action – several cases of Consumer action have been brought before the courts

Getting Legitimate Reviews

There are legitimate ways to get reviews of course. The best way is to use the Request Review Feature.

Using Zonmaster you can automate Amazon’s own ‘Request Review’ feature. This will automatically ask your buyers to leave a review at the right time.

Start your free trial today!

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News

Breaking News! Main Canada/Toronto Fulfillment Center Closes!

This just in from Amazon! This is a closure notice for the main fulfillment center in Canada. Presumably this is about Covid 19.

Amazon Notice

On Friday, March 12, Amazon Canada received an order from the local government in Peel Region requiring us to temporarily close our YYZ4 fulfilment centre located at 8050 Heritage Road in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, effective March 13 at 12:01 a.m. ET. It is anticipated that YYZ4 will reopen on Sunday, March 28.

We are working urgently to minimize any potential disruption to our selling partners and customers.

Please note, our other fulfilment centres throughout Canada continue to operate as usual. Our customers will continue to be able to find and order the products they need most on Amazon.ca, through Amazon’s flexible operations and seller-fulfilled network.

YYZ4 is also where Amazon did tours of their centers. Photo by Zonmaster!

For more information and the latest updates, check the Temporary closure of YYZ4 fulfilment centre (Brampton, Canada) help page, here: https://sellercentral.amazon.ca/gp/help/GRJBZ626U87TZ3V7. Selling Partner Support does not have additional information at this time.   

Please be assured that as we adapt to challenging circumstances, our focus and absolute priority continues to be the health and safety of our employees, selling partners, and customers.

Amazon teams in Canada will continue to be relentlessly engaged on your behalf to find the operational solutions best suited to your specific needs and provide you with the support you need through this critical time. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate this unprecedented situation.

Update (March 29, 2021)

This Fulfilment center has reopened. This from Amazon:


We’re pleased to confirm that our YYZ4 fulfilment centre, located at 8050 Heritage Road in Brampton, Ontario, reopened on March 28.

Your FBA offers remain available on Amazon, and no action is required from you. If you converted any offers to seller fulfilled, we recommend that you convert them back to FBA as soon as possible.

For more information, including partnered carrier updates, go to our YYZ4 Help page:
https://sellercentral.amazon.ca/gp/help/external/GRJBZ626U87TZ3V7


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News

Amazon AI Identifies Non-Compliant Emails

Just a quick announcement. In various marketplaces Amazon is rolling out new updates to ensure that emails sent comply with their new guidelines. You can read about those guidelines here.

We are trying our best to update our compliance checker, but we may not find more complex issues.

Email Styling Rules

Do not include any of the following display material:

  • Emojis. 
  • GIFs.
  • 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).

Email Content Rules

Do not include or do any of the following in your emails:

  • Order confirmations and product images.
  • Shipping confirmations.
  • Thank You messages.
  • Contact us if you have a problem messages.
  • Promotional messages including coupons.
  • Promotions for additional products.
  • Referrals to any 3rd party products.
  • Repeat requests for product reviews.
  • External links (unless necessary for order completion).
  • Attachments (except for instructions, invoices, or warranty information).
  • Logos displaying your web address.
  • Email addresses and telephone numbers.
  • Sensitive content (violence, bare skin, gore, adult, and offensive language).
  • Language that incentivizes buyers to leave a review (a free gift, discount, compensation).
  • Links to opt-out of messaging.
  • Tracking pixels and images.
  • Provide instructions or guidelines when requesting reviews.
  • As per the previous change in guidelines, you can’t use the word [Important] in the subject of the message unless it’s a critical one to complete the order (personalization required etc…)

As of March 1st, 2021 Amazon is now scanning emails for content and styling violations and not delivering those messages.

Yes, there may be instances where an email gets through, but you have been warned! Historically, the next step Amazon will take – typically a few months after stopping delivery – is to issue you with warnings and then suspensions.

The Good News

Here is what we do know for sure:

  • You can still send emails
  • 3rd Party tools are ok to use with Amazon.

Auto Review Requests

The absolute best way to ask for reviews is to use Amazon’s own Review Request tool. Inside of Zonmaster we have a simple switch that lets us send out these review requests automatically. No need to keep on top of orders. The really good thing about Auto Review Requests is that Amazon will send them out in the preferred language of the customer! You don’t need to do anything.

Auto Review Requests are available on ALL Zonmaster plans, even the one starting at $6.99 a month.

Categories
News

[Amazon Australia] Tracking Numbers Required For MFN

This update just in from Amazon Australia. They will be requiring Tracking IDs for most MFN shipments.

A very similar rule came into effect in Europe on February 8, 2021.

Please note that what Amazon does in one marketplace may or may not make its way to other marketplaces, but best to be aware of it!

[Action Required] Providing Tracking ID for seller fulfilled orders to be mandatory

Upcoming changes to seller fulfilled order requirements.

Effective April 15, 2021, all seller fulfilled orders will require a valid tracking ID and carrier name when confirming shipment on Seller Central. You will not be able to ship confirm your order without providing tracking information. This change will help improve the delivery experience of seller fulfilled orders for our customers, so that they can see detailed shipment tracking information wherever possible. Tracking also reduces customer contacts, order-related defects, and lost-shipment costs, while improving seller feedback ratings.

This requirement will apply across all three ship confirmation methods:

  • Single and Bulk order processing on ‘Manage Orders’ page;
  • bulk confirmation using ‘Shipping Confirmation file upload’; and
  • API feeds.

However, you are not required to provide tracking details in the following circumstances:

  • Orders that cost less than $30 (including shipping) and are shipped using Australia Post Regular Letter Service; and
  • Orders that cost less than $50 (including shipping) and are shipped from outside of Australia using non-integrated carriers.

For more information visit Mandatory input of carrier and tracking ID FAQ.

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News

New Marketplace! Here Comes Poland!

Just a quick head’s up!

We see that Amazon has quietly slipped Poland (amazon.pl) into orders and reports. We will be opening up that marketplace as a target for emails and review requests and also sales rank tracking etc this week.

Slowly Amazon is covering the world!

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News

New Marketplaces Added

Just a quick update to let you know that we have added full support for Amazon Sweden and Amazon Turkey to Zonmaster!

Our Supported Marketplaces

Categories
News Updates

Staying Compliant with Buyer-Seller Messaging – Zonmaster Releases ‘Compliance Checker’ Tool!

On September 8, 2020, Amazon posted an announcement in Seller Central that they would be making changes to the Buyer-Seller Messaging Guidelines, effective November 3, 2020. Failure to become or remain compliant with these new guidelines could result in a 30-day or lifetime restriction of your ability to send Buyer-Seller Messages.

For more information on these changes, be sure to check out Amazon Communications Policy Updates.

What is Zonmaster doing?

Zonmaster has ALWAYS automatically included the Order ID in emails – so you don’t need to worry about that new requirement from Amazon.

Compliance Checker

We’ve just released our new tool that will AUTOMATICALLY check the compliance of your emails in several areas:

  • Product Images
  • Emojis
  • Non-secure URLs
  • Email addresses in the body
  • Images that are not secure
  • Use of the word “coupon” or “promotion”

This tool should be live NOW in your account on Zonmaster.

You will see notifications about potentially non-compliant email templates in a few places.

On Your Dashboard

If any emails are failing the compliance checker you’ll see something like this at the top of your dashboard

On The Email Template Listing Page

A small warning will show up underneath the trigger details

On The Email Template Details Page

A warning block will display near the top of the page, underneath the sending chart.

An Important Note

While we have taken measures to help you remain compliant in your Buyer-Seller Messages, there are certain things for which we cannot screen, such as:

  • Intent of a message
  • Grammar or spelling errors
  • Logos with URLs
  • Content and style of attachments

In a nutshell, while we will keep Zonmaster compliant and do our best to keep your messages compliant, you are still in control of and responsible for the content of your messages.

Categories
News

Amazon Communication Policy Updates

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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: 

  1. Limit proactive messages to those concerning order completion.
  2. Improve both the quality and content of the proactive messages that sellers send to buyers.
  3. 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

Permitted Messages

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 ?
  • GIFs
  • 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

Communication Types

  • Direct Communication is defined as emails sent to buyers.
  • Indirect Communication is defined as order-related information to buyers through their “Your Account” updates.

Subject Lines

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.