We are all used to Amazon making changes to its policies and guidelines. Generally, it is pretty good at communicating those changes to its loyal buyers and sellers in good time. The problems occur when, despite being in possession of information relating to new rules, Amazon sellers struggle to comply!
It’s only fair that Amazon buyers and sellers have time to digest any new information that comes into play and are in a position to act on it without issue.
In its latest move, changes to the Amazon Communication Policy are underway, including revisions to Buyer-Seller Messaging across all its Amazon marketplaces.
The policy changed on September 8th, 2020; however, sellers have until November 3rd, 2020, to adopt the policy changes, which is when Amazon will enforce the new guidelines.
As this latest policy change related to communication, it would be ironic if there was a communication breakdown regarding this change! So, to make it easy for you, everything you need to know about the upcoming Amazon Communications Policy Changes & Buyer-Seller Messaging Updates is right here.
What is the Purpose of the Amazon Buyer-Seller Messaging Changes?
The changes primarily apply to customer communications between sellers and buyers. Communicating directly with buyers is all part of selling on Amazon. Still, of course, Amazon must protect its buyers from fraud and abuse and its sellers from potentially unscrupulous actions from competitors! So, guidelines must be put in place. Although the policies may appear complicated, the changes are mostly small, but require some common sense.
The Amazon Communications Policy changes coming into effect on November 3rd, 2020 aim to create a healthier marketplace by:
- Limiting proactive messages to those concerning order completion
- Protecting buyers from fraud and abuse
- Protecting sellers from unscrupulous competitors
In a nutshell: Amazon wants to ensure that all communications between sellers and buyers are necessary and are kept within its platform. This means they will not allow any marketing or promotional messaging, no ‘spamming’ of customers and no ‘off-Amazon’ links.
What is Allowed?
You will be allowed to send messages that fall into two categories:
- Necessary Permitted Messages
- Proactive Permitted Messages
Necessary Permitted Messages
This is communication necessary for you to complete an order with a customer, or to respond to an enquiry. For example, if there is a problem with a shipment, a return request or a partial refund. This communication must be sent through your Amazon Seller Central Account.
Proactive Permitted Messages
These are messages sent by the seller which are generally not responses to an enquiry or question. For example, resolving an issue with an order, returns related questions, invoice requests, review requests, scheduling delivery for a heavy item and the requirement for any other additional information to complete an order, such as custom designs. This communication must be sent using Amazon’s templates in the ‘Contact Buyer’ section within Seller Central.
In each of these cases, you may only send messages to customers who have contacted you or who have purchased from you. A time limit of 30 days applies, and your 17-digit order number must be included.
What’s Not Allowed?
It’s easy to fall foul of Amazon’s rules, so although what’s allowed might appear straightforward, it’s easy to get it wrong!
Suppose you are a conscientious and proactive seller. In that case, you’ll likely send little messages to your buyers throughout their purchasing journey, including thankyou notes, order updates and incentive coupons for money off future purchases so that you gain repeat business.
If this is you, you will need to give your messages a complete overhaul as from November 3rd, 2020 you won’t be permitted to send standalone messages or include the following in other messages:
- 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 incentivises buyers to leave a review (a free gift, discount, compensation)
- Links to opt-out of messaging
- Tracking pixels and images
That’s quite a list, and at first glance, looks pretty intimidating. View it more closely though, and you’ll realise that much of it requires common sense on your part.
Don’t forget that indirect communication happens continuously to your customers through Amazon itself. Amazon sends order-related messages as soon as you update the status of an order in your Seller Central account. That’s why you must update all aspects of an order promptly – that includes confirmed shipment and refund processing too.
So, some of Amazon’s ‘not allowed’ points are simply because the messages have the potential to be duplicates of its standard formula already being sent out automatically.
But that’s not all.
You will still potentially be violating the Amazon’s Communications Policy rules if you include any of the following elements in your messages:
- Emoji’s 👎
- Spelling mistakes
- Grammatical errors
- Images or graphics larger than 80% maximum width
- Margins over 20% maximum width
- Overrides of Amazon’s default settings for fonts, sizing and colours, height and text alignment
- In excess of two line breaks in a row
- Images with http instead of https links
You’d be forgiven for thinking this is rather excessive! After all, emoji’s can make your messages stand out in a sea of boring text and while you already understand that spell-checking is crucial, unfortunate mistakes can happen on occasion.
One would hope that Amazon would not suspend your account due to a misspelling, but potentially, if you do violate Amazon’s new guidelines, you may find restrictions on your account.
What Happens If You Don’t Comply With the Amazon Communications Policy Changes?
Amazon sellers have been given plenty of notice to comply following the announcement on September 8th, 2020 and the new regulations do not take effect until November 3rd, 2020.
After that date, Amazon will begin applying messaging restrictions to accounts belonging to sellers who violate the rules. These will be temporary at first but will become permanent if sellers persist. They will also block messages that don’t comply, and this could result in the suspension of selling privileges. Of course, all of these processes will be at Amazon’s discretion.
As an Amazon seller, there is no excuse – you are responsible for staying within the new Amazon Communications Policy guidelines – even if you use third-party software to send your messages.
Ensure your Amazon messages stay compliant and don’t attempt to manipulate the messaging system! The most crucial point is to ensure you keep up with Amazon’s policy changes.
Knowing the rules is vital, so make sure you review your messages regularly so that you don’t give Amazon any reason to restrict or remove your messaging privileges.