Changes to Amazon Messaging Policy for Buyers & Sellers

With every rule change to Amazon messaging, sellers struggle to understand updates. What’s okay to do? What’s not okay? What could lead to suspension?

At Seller Labs, we understand the confusion. We’re here to make Amazon messaging as clear as possible. We’re really excited about the update for two reasons!

  1. You can ask for reviews in buyer messages. We’ve always understood this to be true, but the latest update explicitly says it.
  2. You can use third-party apps for seller communication. The approved third-party applications are listed in the Amazon Marketplace Appstore, and Seller Labs PRO is absolutely approved.

TL;DR

1. You can ask a buyer for a review
2. You can use Seller Labs PRO to ask buyers for reviews

CHAPTER I Updates to Amazon Messaging

Now let’s get into the messaging policy and what you need to know from the September 2020 Amazon Communication Guidelines update.

  • 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.
  • Amazon sellers may ask a buyer for a product review or seller feedback ONLY ONCE per purchase.
  • Yes, you can still use third-party software such as Seller Labs PRO.
  • Seller Labs has made policy-related updates within Seller Labs PRO. The message center is updated.
  • If you’re worried about breaking the new rules, simply use the automated Request A Review feature within Seller Labs PRO.

The introduced changes aim to:

  1. Limit marketing or promotional messages.
  2. Improve the quality of messages that sellers send to buyers. 
  3. Protect buyers from fraud and abuse, and to protect sellers from unscrupulous actions from competitors.

What didn’t change?

In any communication you have with buyers (including shipping box inserts), you cannot ask them to leave a positive review. 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.

CHAPTER II Compliance with the New Amazon Messaging Policy

Effective Tuesday, September 8, 2020, Amazon began rolling out policy changes to its Communication Guidelines.  What will enforcement look like? Here’s some do’s and don’ts:

DODO NOT

Send messages within 30 days of order

Send order or shipping confirmations

Send messages to customers who have contacted you about purchasing a product or who have already purchased a product from you on the Amazon store.

Send messages that say only “Thank you” or “I’m here to help if you have problems”

Include the 17-digit order ID

Send marketing material, including coupons, or promotions for additional products

Send messages in buyer’s language of preference

Send a request for a product review or seller feedback several times on one order

What are Permitted Messages?

Amazon divides permitted messages into two types: Necessary Permitted Messages and Proactive Permitted Messages. Here’s what you need to know about both:

Necessary Permitted MessagesProactive Permitted Messages
What are they?Amazon defines Permitted Messages as those communications necessary to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry.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.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.
Which messages are 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 fulfill 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.
– 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 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.

Whether 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
  • Encrypted 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) 

Where Do Critical Messages Fall in the New Amazon Messaging Policy?

If you send a critical message in your Seller Central account, you will not be able to edit the subject line. 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 bounce-back message.

The following messages ARE critical to complete a buyer’s order:The following messages are NOT critical to complete an order:

Any message that will prevent the product from successful delivery

Requests for seller feedback or buyer reviews

Delivery scheduling

Order, shipment, delivery, or refund confirmations. Amazon already sends these emails

Issues with a shipping address

Proactive customer service, for example: product manuals, tips for using the product, answers to frequently asked questions, suggestions if something goes wrong

Questions about product customization

Out-of-stock or delay notifications, or offers of alternative products (please cancel the order instead).

CHAPTER III 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. Seller Labs is a founding member of the Amazon Developer Council and is in consistent contact with Amazon, which is to say that we are all over news and updates.
  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 Request a Review within Seller Labs Pro, or contact our customer success team to help you review your messages.
  6. Read the following posts about compliantly maximizing your messaging and test to see what works best for you

To fully understand the updates to the Amazon communications policy, please watch our full webinar.

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