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Ep. 024 Keyword Podcast: Buyer Seller Messaging Changes

March 30, 2017
Ep. 024 Keyword Podcast- BREAKING NEWS Buyer Seller Messaging Changes

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Buyer seller messaging email opt out reply

Buyer seller messaging email opt out reply

This is a breaking news episode. Amazon has made changes to buyer seller messages and now shoppers can opt out of receiving messages from sellers. We’ve reached out to Amazon and haven’t heard from them yet so we don’t when this update was rolled out. Sellers started telling me about it on Tuesday, March 28th.

Peter Kearns from eGrowth Partners is this week's Amazon insider. 






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Show Notes:

Ep. 024 Keyword Podcast: Buyer Seller Messaging Changes

This is a breaking news episode. Amazon has made changes to buyer seller messages and now shoppers can opt out of receiving messages from sellers. We’ve reached out to Amazon and haven’t heard from them yet so we don’t when this update was rolled out. Sellers started telling me about it on Tuesday, March 28th.
Sellers also sent me the messages they received from Amazon. It says buyers that un-subscribe, can no longer be contacted for things that aren’t critical to the order. The following list are things Amazon views as not-critical:

  • Requests for feedback or reviews
  • Order, shipment or delivery confirmations
  • Proactive customer service and
  • Out of stock or delay notifications.  

We’ve talked about customer service as being something sellers need to focus on in 2017. Now Amazon has released an update that could dramatically impact the ability to even communicate with buyers. So we reached out to one of our Amazon Insiders, Peter Kearns, to help us make sense of this update.
“From an Amazon perspective and the way that Amazon runs it’s business they’re all about the customer. They’re so customer obsessed,” Peter says.
Peter worked at Amazon for four years. He primarily focused on finding gaps in the Amazon catalogue then finding sellers to fill it. Now Peter runs a company consulting third party sellers called e-Growth Partners. They can be found at www.egrowthpartners.Com
Peter also started hearing about the buyer seller messaging changes .
First off, you need to know that figuring out how to unsubscribe from seller messages isn’t easy. It took us a while walking through our own shopping account to figure out how to even do it. Then we walked through it with Peter starting on the Amazon home page.
Kate: If you hover over where it says “Hello peter, Accounts and Lists” – click on “Your Account.”
Peter: Yes I’m following along.
Kate: Then scroll down to where it says “Message Center.”
Peter: Yep.
Kate: It’s about the fourth box down.
Peter: I’m on it.
Kate: On the right hand side, the third column over, it says “Notification Settings” and click on “Communication Preferences.”
Peter: Ok, great.
Kate: You probably have to sign in, if you aren’t already.
Peter: I’m logged in
Kate: I’m doing that right now. Ok, it opens up a couple things. Do you see email preferences?
Peter: I do.
Kate: Do you see a thing that says “You’re receiving emails from such numbers departments?”
Peter: Yes.
Kate: Hit the arrow on the far right, it goes down.
Peter: Got it.
Kate: And then it’s all in alphabetical order and you’re going to be looking for “Seller Communications” and “Seller Feedback.”
Peter: Wow, there it is, “Seller Communication” and “Seller Feedback.”
One of the sellers I spoke with sent out 466 emails on Wednesday and he got 17 messages back from Amazon saying that 17 shoppers had unsubscribed from Seller Communications.
That means those 17 people will no longer receive Buyer/Seller Messages from any Amazon sellers. That’s about 3-percent. So, it’s a low number and given that it’s hard for customers to figure out how to unsubscribe, the numbers might stay low. So, this may not be an issue that Sellers should be super worried about. It’s still an important thing to discuss because Buyer/Seller Messages is the only way Sellers can request reviews and feedback.
Peter: I would suspect that last fall when the changes in the terms of service came about for reviews that sellers started to get concerned about how they were going to generate reviews for their products and in doing so they turned to the Buyer/Seller Messaging and I think the last few months there’s probably been an uptick in Sellers that have been a bit more aggressive with request reviews. The language that they’re using in that Buyer/Seller Messaging and all of that resulted in customers complaining or I’m suspecting that it resulted in customers complaining and so because of Amazon’s obsessive nature over the customer experience they give them an option to opt out so that they don’t have to receive these emails that say “Hey, did you like our product?” “Give us a five-star review,” “Give me a review,” “Give me a review.”
I know as a customer I receive multiple correspondents from the same seller over a period of time, “We see the order’s been delivered, how do you like it?” “It’s been a few days, how do you like it?” and I embrace my delete key and so in those cases, I just delete it. I think that’s just what Amazon is doing is saying “Hey, instead of having to use your delete key, we’ll give you the option to opt out of these sorts of communications” that are being, I don’t know that I would say they’re being abused by sellers but definitely seeing an increase in tactic to try to drive reviews because reviews is a really big part of selling your product on Amazon
Kate: Right. Now this didn’t come out like the review policy change did last October, this is much quieter, looks just like a simple update that Amazon. Do you think it could be as damaging as the change in review policy?
Peter: I don’t. I think the review problem had become just that, a really big problem. I was actually speaking at a conference last summer about, to sellers and talking to them and one person in the room was not an Amazon seller, she was an Amazon customer and they were talking about reviews and she stood up and said, “Why are you guys doing this? I’m a customer and I think all of your reviews are BS,” and then she looked at me and said, “When is Amazon going to do something about this? I have to wade through all these horrible reviews to find out which ones are actually real and how do I know which ones are real and they’re not just getting the product for free.” So you saw that and then you saw some data coming out and so I think that Amazon had a big problem on their hands with regards to protecting the customer experience and reviews are really important for customers to be able to get real information about how a product performs, how it’s gonna solve the customer’s problem, are they gonna be happy with it. So, I don’t think that this is that sort of thing. I think this is just a another way that Amazon can protect the experience but I don’t think that by any means has gotten to the point to where the review situation had gotten last fall.
Kate: If sellers have received this email and I’m just gonna pull up one of the emails that one of my sellers sent me so it’s this email that you get from Amazon that says: “Your message to a buyer could not be delivered.” I mean, reading through it, it’s kind of concerning. Like, you’re no longer able to request for feedback or customer review, you can’t send them any critical info. So how do you move forward as a seller, how do you adapt and change if you get this email?
Peter: It’s an interesting question and I’m going to go back to when I actually worked at Amazon and I would be having a meeting with high profile retail level brand and they would be asking about the customer data – well how do we get email addresses, how do we get this and I would quickly remind them that these are not your customers – they’re amazon’s customers and Amazon’s giving you the privilege to sell to their customers through their marketplace. With regards to this, I don’t think it’s an issue because you don’t get the email address. I’m sure that there’s dark-net tactics that sellers have figured out to capture or log email addresses or whatever. I don’t get anywhere near any of that stuff but the reality of is it’s Amazon’s customer, they don’t provide information about them. They give you what you need to know to fulfill the order but not necessarily to go and market to them. So it’s not as if you have this email list of two million customers that you’re relying upon to drive business and that’s suddenly been taken away from you that’s not the case. All they’re doing is saying you can’t email them and ask them to review the product or give feedback.
Kate: Would you, what would you say is the right way to email customers and use buyer/seller messaging to request reviews, feedback. That sort of information. Is there a number of times you should email or not email?
Peter: That’s a good question, I don’t have data on it. I’m sure there’s industry experts out there that tell you once is not enough, twice is ok, three times is too many. At this point, the customer base understands that online shopping that none of this is new, that there’s automated responses that go out and people want to get feedback. People are asking for feedback on everything. I think that it’s important to recognize the inundation that occurs with this request for customer data is overwhelming at times. For me, once or twice is the most that I would be comfortable doing it because as a consumer, I usually look at it once. I often will go into feedback and provide feedback and if it’s at all challenging, if I have to think about it other than what I want to write, I just stop and abort the process. I don’t want to think about where I have to click next or that sort of thing.
With regards to Amazon, it’s a very simple process, here’s the feedback opportunity either give it or don’t and so I think the problem with Amazon that we’re seeing a lot things, not just this sort of buyer/seller messaging is just the sheer volume of the number of sellers that are on the platform. There’s millions of them and there’s hundreds of thousands of professional sellers and a lot of them don’t subscribe to Amazon’s customer obsession type of philosophy. So you get a lot of, you get a high number of bad actors if you will that are making it even more difficult for the good ones.
So, in terms of how many? I don’t really know, I would suspect less is better than more. And the language that you use in it needs to be very benign. I’ve talked with sellers who have been warned by Amazon for buyer/seller messaging abuse by offering types of language in there that suggests if they leave a five star review and my counter to that is why don’t they suggest they leave a one-star review. I mean if it was a bad experience why wouldn’t you say, feel free to leave us a one-star review because that’s what you should deserve.
So you have to be really critical about what you’re saying. It’s also important to recognize that Amazon uses data to monitor these channels and so words will trigger reviews. So if I say, feel free to leave a product review it could be interpreted as me saying you know, leave a product review and get something for free because there’s certain words that are going to trigger that type of thing.
So I think that less is more and you’ve got to be really careful about the language that you’re using in there as well so that you don’t get in trouble.
Kate: When you talk with your sellers about communicating with buyers, what suggestions, what advice do you give them?
Peter: What I just talked about right there, make sure that what you’re talking to them about is pertinent to the order. Remember that they’re Amazon’s customer so you need to be sensitive to that. It’s not your customer. Reverse the role, how would you feel if Amazon was going out and talking to your customer through your own website, probably kind of unhappy about that.  Remember Amazon’s leadership principals and what they are really all about which is providing an amazing customer experience so you want to be sitting there and asking yourself, am I providing a great customer experience. Is the language I’m using in these emails gonna be perceived as a negative experience, is there anything in there that could be damaging or could be annoying to the customer? And if it is, you gotta change it.
Peter: I don’t think it’s as damaging or has the kind of impact that the review process, changes to the review process did last fall. I think that if there are sellers that are very concerned about it, then I would wonder what they were doing with buyer/seller messaging that is so detrimental to their business. I just don’t see how it has the impact on reviews like, paying somebody to get a review. So anybody that’s really concerned about it, I would be saying, why are you so concerned about this?
First of all, it’s not very easy to go in and opt out as you and I both experience. It’s not like they’re saying here’s the button, click to opt out.
Second of all, you still have the ability to communicate to the seller when it’s pertinent information to the order. I think that that language can be sent back to the third party seller when there is a buyer that opted out it tells them that if it’s specific to custom products or something like that, you can still communicate with them. What they’re basically saying is I don’t want you to solicit me for feedback or reviews and the customer can still go leave feedback, the customer can still go leave the review. It’s just that you’re not asking them anymore.
So unless you’re doing something in there that’s probably violating Amazon’s Terms of Service, as a seller I wouldn’t be too concerned about. Sure it might cause some challenges, you might see a decrease in a little bit of feedback but on average, you’re only getting feedback on one and a half, two percent of your orders. So it’s not all of the sudden your feedback is going to be completely wiped out.
I think as a third party seller you gotta be constantly asking yourself why is Amazon making these sorts of changes and remember it’s always about protecting the customer experience and doing things to enhance trust and you just want to make sure that you’re playing within their terms of service. There’s a lot of kind of what if i do this? Or what if do that? Is this ok? Is that ok? And I think that if you’re asking yourself those sorts of questions it’s probably not, so just remember that that’s what Amazon is trying to do here. They’re super customer obsessed and it’s how they got to 3 million customers worldwide. It’s how they’re the most trusted brand in America according Forbes and some other publications. It’s why you as a third party seller can come on, launch a product and for relatively low amount of investment start generating significant revenue. So be sensitive to what they’re trying to achieve and protect.
Kate: And sensitive to to the fact that they’re allowing you to be a part of it.
Peter: Absolutely. If you get any warnings you’ll notice the policy warnings, they usually end with failure to fix this or that will remove you will result with the removal of your Seller privileges. So it’s definitely a privilege to be selling on the Amazon Marketplace.
Alright, so a quick review. First, remember it’s not easy for shoppers to figure out how to turn off seller communications. Second, only one and a half to two percent of those messages end up resulting in reviews or feedback. This update won’t wipe out your ability to get reviews. Third and final, these aren’t your customers, they’re Amazon’s. Remember that and when you’re writing messages keep that as your focus.
When we hear from Amazon, we’ll update you on what they’re saying about these changes.

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