This is a red-letter day in Cynthia’s diary – Amazon has given sellers a glimmer of clear guidance on the emails we send to buyers. I hope you are sitting down.
Being Amazon, the “clear direction” is hidden inside a buyer’s order details, but it is still exciting. After years of vaguely worded policies full of gray area, Amazon has created templates in its buyer-seller email platform that state exactly what it allows us to ask buyers. While these templates will be mostly used by MF sellers, FBA sellers can learn from them, too.
Many of us use automated email services like Feedback Genius* to send follow up emails and review requests to buyers, so this is the right time to review your current templates for compliance. Feedback Genius and other programs are great tools, but they can be abused by sellers who don’t follow Amazon’s guidelines on how to ask for product reviews, or who use it to run marketing campaigns inside of the buyer-seller messages platform – mistakes we see often in our practice.
This new beta program is a set of templates for buyer communications. When you are looking at an order, simply click on “Contact Buyer” next to the buyer’s name.
You will see four contact reasons. The one that surprised me was, “Request to update negative feedback.”
While some sellers won’t like the austerity of the message (no begging or threats allowed), it is fully compliant. For sellers who have been taken down for the content of their emails in general or for inappropriately asking buyers to update their negative product reviews, this is a huge help.
“If we have resolved your problem to your satisfaction and you would like to update your feedback, click the link below.”
This is awesome for sellers because TOS clearly forbids us to ask buyers to change their product reviews: but we are allowed to ask indirectly. For me, it was also validation that the advice we’ve been giving to sellers for years about how to ask for a buyer to change their review was correct. It must be a neutral ask and Amazon will only allow you to ask once. It is also making clear here that the seller needs to resolve the buyer’s problem before making the ask. That seems like an obvious thing, but you’d be surprised how many sellers resort to pressure tactics like phone calls, threatening emails and harassment to get negative feedback removed and don’t fix the problem with the buyer first.
The “Confirm order details” and “Coordinate large or heavy item shipping” give merchant-fulfilled sellers a text box where they can enter pertinent details. Under “Other,” you can send a feedback request, submit order information, talk about returns and refunds, or send an email under, “Additional information required.”
These last templates are currently mostly text boxes, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon further flesh out the “Feedback Request” template in the future. By the way, you WON’T see these templates inside of buyer-seller messaging, only through individual orders.
You can add attachments to your emails and the same rules apply from before – no outside links, Amazon keeps copies of everything, and the use of these templates to send unrelated messages to buyers is strictly prohibited.
WHY DO SELLERS STILL GET EMAILS WRONG?
This is the $100,000 Pyramid question. Every week we see sellers whose emails have gotten them suspended. Many of them are shocked and surprised. They think they are being compliant, but they aren’t. Sometimes it is because their email provider makes non-compliant email templates available to them, so they think it’s OK. Sometimes it is because their templates are old, and they didn’t update them when Amazon changed the rules or sometimes – and this one drives me the craziest – they get their email language from Facebook groups and gurus who are either “envelope pushers” or just don’t know what they are talking about.
For those of you who are wondering if your emails are compliant, here are the mistakes we see the most:
- Put the review “ask” in the same email as the “contact us if you are unhappy/need an exchange/refund” message. You can’t do that. Send two separate emails. The review ask must be BY ITSELF.
- Ask for a positive review. Yep. That still happens. This is absolutely forbidden.
- Imply a positive review by saying stuff like, “…if you are satisfied” or “…if you are happy” leave us a review. Try to remove the word “if” from your review ask email. It will make you safer.
- Providing choices like “Happy,” “Not Happy” and then the hyperlink beneath that choice goes to either “leave a review” or to your customer service. This is not allowed.
- Send email attachments with review asks and links in them that are non-compliant. For example, a seller might provide bonus recipes to go with the kitchen appliance you just bought. In addition to the recipes, there’s a strong positive review ask. Amazon sees that stuff, sorry. This is just as wrong as adding a link to your website in that attachment.
- Offering incentives to leave a review. Still happens. Crazy. This includes discount coupons and codes for future purchases. Not allowed in any way. Doing it on Facebook or your company website will still get you suspended.
- Asking unhappy buyers to edit or remove their negative feedback.
It’s not all bad news, though. I’ve seen some wonderfully creative and fun emails that were perfectly compliant and that converted at higher rates than other emails. Here’s how some sellers get it right when asking buyers for a review:
- Tell a story.
- Make them smile.
- Appeal to their desire to help.
- Make them feel important.
- Surprise them.
- Don’t insult their intelligence.
- Focus on THEM, not you.
- Focus on feedback vs. a review.
We talk about “buyers” a lot, so it’s a good time to be reminded that they are people, not just revenue providers. Most people won’t respond to a review ask unless there is something in it for them. Because money, discounts and gifts are not allowed, the payoff has to be emotional. You are asking them for a favor, so think about how you can make them feel better about themselves if they do it.
Some of us are not good at funny stories, so stay true to yourself here – or get a professional marketer to help you. Cringe-worthy jokes or puns will turn some buyers off. You want them to read your email and act on it so make it interesting.
A lot of sellers use the “help a small business out” approach. I personally don’t like this one because 1) All the emails I get from Amazon sellers when I buy stuff say the same thing. Boring. Repetitive. 2) It is appealing to my pity. I would rather be entertained. That’s my 2 cents. Regardless of your approach, I suggest you test it – Feedback Genius allows for A/B testing – and check it for compliance.
Make sure you know the rules inside and out. Refresh your memory here (you’ll need to log in to your Seller Central account to see this information). Amazon updates and adds to their review policies often, so keep an eye out.
HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
We are known for helping suspended sellers get reinstated, but our goal is to keep sellers from being suspended in the first place. We have more than 25 team members passionately working 7 days a week to protect Amazon sellers like you.
Contact us for specific advice on your situation:
- Next speaking engagement – IRCE in June: Come meet Cynthia Stine in Chicago this summer: IRCE 2019 (June 25-28, McCormick Place, Chicago. Register)
- Upcoming speaking engagement – Relentless Women Virtual Conference, from June 18-20. Relentless Woman is a 3-day virtual event with over 20 female e-commerce experts, including Cynthia Stine, and online business professionals sharing their experiences with you and teaching you how to launch, grow, manage, and protect your own online business. Learn more about the event and register here.
- Future speaking engagement — ecom Chicago. Cynthia returns to Chicago in October (October 16-18, Elk Grove Village, IL).
- Starting on June 10th, inventory that is stranded for an extended period will be classified as unsellable and MUST be removed from Amazon fulfillment centers. Keep an eye on your stranded inventory!
- eGrowthPartners and Online Merchants Group have the opportunity to work together now and then, and I thought I’d share a video OMG produced about online selling and sales tax on their Facebook page. Like their page as well – they fight for sellers!
- Attn: apparel brands! This month Amazon is removing its generic size charts from all listings and making each brand create their own. This is designed to reduce size-related returns so take this seriously.
Our new Facebook Group Amazon Seller Advocates just passed 525 members! Join us for discussions of all things affecting Amazon sellers. Understand the context behind news announcements, changes to TOS and more! JOIN US!
*This is not an affiliate link. I recommend Feedback Genius because I’m confident that they do everything in their power to keep sellers from being suspended, including changing their templates when Amazon changes the rules on us. I’ve used their service for years on my own account. Please do not write asking me to review your product, etc., that’s not what I do. My blog is about compliance. I rarely endorse any product or service.