- Cory Checketts
- On November 7, 2018
Amazon sellers cannot influence a buyer’s actions—no matter how subtle.
For as long as I can remember, Amazon sellers were able to direct happy and unhappy buyers with a simple and clever messaging tactic. I call it “directing intent.,” which means Amazon sellers were influencing a buyer’s actions in follow-up emails with a messaging template that went something like this:
If you are happy with your widget, go here to share your opinion. And if you’re not happy with your widget, please contact us so we can make it right.
This template is now against Amazon’s Terms of Service. And if you use a template like this you could land in hot water.
What does Amazon’s Terms of Service say?
To view the Terms of Service, you must be logged in to Seller Central. Alternatively, you can locate this section of the ToS via the breadcrumb menu at the top of Seller Central: Help > Account settings > Reference > Policies and agreements > Customer product review policy.
The second bulleted section on the Customer product review policy page starts with: Violations to Customer Reviews policies include, but are not limited to, these actions. The seventh point states:
“A seller diverts negative reviews to be sent to them or to a different feedback mechanism while positive reviews are sent to Amazon.”
Simply put, if a seller tries to divert a negative review, they are violating Amazon’s ToS.
Amazon wants the integrity of a review to reflect what’s happening in the marketplace. And if a product is getting nothing but positive reviews, it’s not an honest representation of what the market believes.
Besides, who doesn’t appreciate a thoughtful negative review when they’re shopping? Negative reviews can tell you more about a product than the positive ones. However, you don’t want an overwhelming number of negative reviews but there naturally should be neutral and negative reviews for every product.
With that being said…
One-third of Amazon sellers wouldn’t know if they were breaking Amazon’s seller Terms of Service
We conducted a survey in October 2018, where we surveyed 326 random Amazon sellers. The survey was designed to represent an assumed number of Amazon sellers totaling 500,000.
We needed a mandatory confidence interval of 95% with a 5% margin of error in order to be statistically significant. With that being said, we needed a sample size of at least 269 Amazon sellers to give as an accurate representation of the selling population. With 328 survey respondents, we’re confident that our data represents the selling population.
Here’s one of the seven questions we asked:
This statement is against Amazon’s ToS: If you are happy with your purchase, please leave us a review. If you are unhappy in any way, please contact us so we can make it right. True or False?
Of the 326 who answered, 201 (62%) answered with true, meaning, yes, it is against Amazon’s ToS. While 125 (38%) sellers answered false, meaning, no, it is not against Amazon’s ToS.
This tells us that a little more than one-third of Amazon sellers don’t know that directing shopper intent is against the ToS. But this finding doesn’t necessarily say that one-third of Amazon sellers are breaking the ToS. It tells us that a large portion of Amazon sellers don’t understand the ToS.
Read more statistical analyses from our ToS survey
- Nearly Half of Amazon Sellers Still Believe Sending Multiple Emails Per Order Is Best Practice
- Half of Amazon Sellers Believe It Is OK to Ask Buyers to Change a Product Review
- 83% of Amazon Sellers Don’t Know They Can’t Link From an Email to a Detail Page
- 50% of Amazon Sellers Believe It’s OK to Email Coupons for Future Purchases—But They’re Mistaken
- 50% of Amazon Sellers Don’t Realize They Can Ask Buyers to Leave a Product Review
- Amazon Terms of Service made simple
So what are we doing about it?
We understand that Amazon’s Terms of Service is confusing. The ToS is not a static document. Instead, it is a living document, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to understand and abide by it.
We at Seller Labs feel it is our duty to keep our customers—and the community at large—aware of what’s going on with Amazon’s Terms of Service. However, we are not Terms of Service police, nor can we enforce sanctions against violators. Feedback Genius will change features and options based on ToS updates, and we will notify our customer of changes.
We can only comply with Amazon through continued education (like this blog post) and updating our software tools whenever a change affects us. This is abundantly clear at the bottom of the ToS page I referenced above, where Amazon states (and emphasized in yellow):
References to “seller” here include all the seller’s employees and 3rd party partners.
We’re all in this together.
Actions you can take to remain compliant with Amazon’s Terms of Service
Like I stated earlier, it is everyone’s responsibility to maintain ToS compliance. Seller Labs won’t force any seller to change what they’re doing—we can only make suggestions. We recommend that you check your Buyer-Seller emails immediately to check for language and links that divert a buyer’s intent. If you find any such language, just remove it and rewrite your message. And remember, you can ask the buyer to leave you a product review. Just don’t use deceptive language tactics to accomplish your goal.
Remember: Amazon has a zero-tolerance policy toward review violations!
Amazon believes that reviews are still beneficial to both customers and sellers. But if a seller violates the company’s review policies—and gets caught—then they will likely face one or all of these penalties, which are:
- Immediate and permanent withdrawal of the seller’s selling privileges on Amazon and withholding of funds.
- The removal of all the product’s reviews and preventing the product from receiving future reviews or ratings.
- Permanent delisting of the product from Amazon.
- Legal action against the seller, including lawsuits and referral to civil and criminal enforcement authorities.
- Disclosing the seller’s name and other related information publicly.
As the old saying goes, “You get out what you put in,” this is especially true when it comes to selling on Amazon. Sellers who take the time to create a remarkable customer experience will be rewarded with better sales, search ranking and returning customers.
Fix what needs to be fixed now because you may not have the opportunity in the future.
Make sure your Buyer-Seller messages are up to Amazon’s Terms of Service standards with this free ToS checklist: