Amazon has just rolled out fresh new buying messaging policies. Many of these policies are affirmations of existing policies rather than new policies per se, but there are also some brand policies that risk getting either your messaging privileges suspended, or your entire account suspended. In this article, we'll review what exactly is allowed and not allowed with your messaging.
Highlights of Amazon's New Messaging Policy
Here are the quick highlights of Amazon's new policy changes:
- Amazon no longer permits the sending of pro-active messages offering customer service (i.e. “Thank you” messages)
- Amazon now makes a clear distinction between permitted necessary messages, non-permitted messages, and pro-active messages
- Amazon has removed the ability to send any marketing related messages, whether on Amazon or off
- Amazon has changed the styling elements on how to communicate with buyers (i.e. emojis, GIFs not allowed)
Sending Necessary Permitted Messages
Sellers must communicate with buyers to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry. Necessary Permitted Messages can be sent via your Seller Account. Reasons to communicate with customers:
- Problems with orders
You May Only Send Pro-Active Messages in a Few Cases
Pro-active Permitted Messages are those that you initiate that aren't responses to a customer's question. You may send Pro-active Permitted Messages for the following reasons:
- requesting product review and/or seller feedback
- resolving an issue with order fulfillment
- requesting additional information required to complete the order
- asking a return-related question, sending an invoice
- scheduling the delivery of a heavy or bulky item, scheduling a Home Services appointment
- verifying a custom design, or any other reason where the contact is required for the buyer to receive their purchase.
The messages can only be sent using Amazon's template via the Contact Buyer or Request a Review page in Seller Central or by using third-party applications.
Necessary Permitted Messages
- Problem with Order messages: Sellers must communicate with buyers if the product ordered is not available to be shipped. Sellers have to adjust the full order amount using the Manage Orders feature in Seller Central and select the “Problem with Order” option to communicate with the buyer about your inability to fulfill the order.
- Return-related messages: Sellers must process refunds for the order amount (minus any charges) using Manage Orders feature or Order Adjustment feed. You can communicate with the buyer only when you need additional information to complete the return or offer a partial refund.
Pro-active Permitted Messages
- Resolving an issue with order fulfillment
- Requesting additional information required to complete the order
- Asking a return-related question
- Sending an invoice
- Requesting product review and/or seller feedback
- Scheduling the delivery of a heavy or bulky item
- Scheduling a Home Services appointment
- Verifying a custom design
- Or any other reason where the contact is required for the buyer to receive their purchase
You are allowed to send Necessary Permitted Messages or Pro-active Permitted Messages whenever a customer has contacted you about purchasing a product or has already purchased a product from you. As a seller, you must respond to the message within 30 days of order and you must also include the 17-digit order ID.
As per above, you may still request a product review, but only once per order. This is existing policy.
It is unclear whether sending product-use information, i.e. product instructions and Frequently Asked Questions, is permitted ‘pro-active messages' or not.
Making Sure Your Messages Get Delivered
Amazon may block certain seller messages. To get around this, you can use the word [Important] in your subject line and Amazon will not block it. This should only be used for information that is necessary to complete an order, i.e. don't use it to request a review. Misusing this silver bullet to get messages delivered is a big no-no.
You May Not Send the Following Types of Messages
- Marketing or promotional messaging, including coupons
- Order or shipping confirmations (See Indirect communication below)
- Messages that say only “Thank you” or that you are here to help if buyers have any problems
- 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
- A repeat request (per order) for a product review or seller feedback
How About Marketing Messaging in Instructions/Product Use Attachments?
Amazon doesn't want you to send marketing related materials in your emails or attachments but it does allow you to send product instruction manuals as attachments. This leads to a question: can you include marketing related information at the end of product instruction manuals? For example, can you include an instruction manual on how to use the pressure cooker they just bought along with some recipes? Or a “Thank you” message included at the start of an instruction manual?
The answer is probably that this is not in the spirit of Amazon's policy but it is not explicitly forbidden, which also likely means that sellers will start to abuse this grey area and start embedding a lot of these types of messages in product manuals (to be fair though, this has been fairly standard practice in product retail long before Amazon).
When Do You Need to Comply with These New Policies By?
You need to comply with these new messaging policies by November 3, 2020.
What are the Consequences if You Don't Comply?
If you do not comply with Amazon's messaging policy, you will be warned.
Upon the second infraction, you will have your message sending abilities suspended for 30 days.
Upon the third infraction, you will have your message sending abilities permanently removed.
Does this mean that emails requesting reviews cannot be sent? So that it’s now only acceptable to do this through the seller central request review button?
You’re still allowed to request it one time.
Very informative and thorough article, Dave. Thank-you. Did Amazon mention any specifics about product inserts?