Originally published on December 7, 2016, updated June 1, 2019
With net sales totaling over $107 billion and a worldwide customer base of over 304 million, it’s no surprise that Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) is considered one of the largest and most valuable eCommerce companies in the world. What is surprising is the fact that approximately 2 billion products, which amount to roughly 40 percent of the total number of products that Amazon moves, are sold by more than 2 million third-party sellers. Now, take a minute to let that sink in. 2 billion products—yes, that’s right, billion with a “b”—are sold by average people like us, taking advantage of the Amazon marketplace.
However, if you want to sell on the Amazon marketplace, you need to play by its rules. Engaging in prohibited seller activities and actions can result in the cancellation of listings, suspension from use of tools and reports, and/or the removal of selling privileges.
Amazon prohibits direct emails between buyers and sellers. In fact, sellers do not even receive actual email addresses for buyers, ensuring that they can only communicate through Amazon. Why does Amazon route all email between buyers and sellers through the messaging system? In an official announcement posted on its forums, Amazon claims that it hopes to achieve the following objectives:
But as one author observed, the policy was probably also implemented as a way to prevent sellers from secretly diverting transactions to another website or sales process, thus bypassing Amazon’s fees. Of course, this particular practice is still strictly prohibited, but offenders now have to accomplish the act through means other than a direct email. Regardless of Amazon’s intentions, however, the fact remains that direct emails between buyers and sellers are prohibited.
Fortunately, Amazon's Buyer-Seller Messaging Service does an excellent job working behind the scenes to facilitate individual buyer-seller communications.
According to Amazon, the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service (formerly called the Communication Manager) is a system that facilitates email communication between buyers and sellers in the Amazon marketplace. To achieve its goals, the system automatically hides the real email addresses of buyers and sellers and assigns them an Amazon email alias. The email alias will be unique for each buyer-seller relationship, so users can treat the email alias in the same way as they would a real email address.
After a customer makes a purchase, he or she has 90 days from the date of order to leave comments, feedback and ratings. In fact, Amazon encourages this practice, judging from the fact that the company itself occasionally sends buyers an email, soliciting such feedback. For example, a few days after making a purchase, the buyer may receive an email from Amazon informing him that his order has been fulfilled and requesting him to leave feedback regarding his experience. However, because Amazon does not request feedback for every order, you should do so.
Building strong seller feedback will not only make your brand stronger and more trustworthy, it will also help you rank better on the Amazon marketplace. Unlike product reviews that only directly affect the particular listing on which they’re left, having a good number of positive seller feedbacks will support buy-box ownership across all your products.
As if that wasn’t enough, soliciting seller feedback also has a lesser-known benefit: the chance to determine which customers you want to ask product reviews from. After all, if a customer leaves you 5-Star feedback, praising you for your excellent service, then it’s highly likely that he’ll also leave you a great product review.
One of the primary reasons why Amazon strictly enforces the use of the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service is to improve dispute arbitration. The reasoning behind this actually makes a lot of sense. As Amazon puts it, “[b]y maintaining a record of contacts between buyers and sellers, we can arbitrate disputes faster by ensuring that the Amazon.com Dispute Resolution Team has access to all buyer-seller communications when reviewing A-to-z claims/chargebacks.”
Just ask anyone in retail and they’ll probably be able to share at least one or two horror stories involving challenging customers. There will always be extremely demanding and unruly people. That’s just how human nature works. So, if you sell enough products, chances are that you’ll eventually get your own retail horror story. Although it’s important to avoid as many of these disputes as possible in the first place, having the added level of protection provided by Amazon’s improved dispute resolution process is definitely a plus for the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service.
It's important to respond to buyer emails quickly when issues arise in order to provide a positive customer service experience. Addressing problems right away helps sellers avoid disputes that reach the Amazon level. FeedbackFive is a feedback management tool from eComEngine that helps buyers manage feedback without delay. We recommend that an email requesting feedback also includes a customer service message such as, "If you are not completely satisfied, please contact us."
As mentioned before, the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service automatically hides the real email addresses of buyers and sellers and assigns them a unique email alias. This anonymity presumably makes the communication between parties more secure by preventing the unauthorized sharing and misuse of personal information. While this admittedly has its advantages for buyers, this creates some downsides for sellers.
On one hand, because sellers are unable to collect the real email addresses of buyers, they won’t be able to reach out to them outside of the Amazon marketplace. This obviously restricts marketing efforts, especially for those who operate on multiple channels, such as company websites and other online marketplaces.
Amazon strictly prohibits any and all attempts to lead, prompt, or encourage Amazon users to leave the Amazon website. These attempts include the inclusion of URLs (including URLS embedded on an image), web addresses, and/or hyperlinks in any seller message or product listings. Like the first limitation, the prohibition of links leading away from the Amazon website can be detrimental to your marketing efforts in a number of ways, such as being unable to leverage your success on the Amazon marketplace to increase traffic to your website.
Contact Response Time refers to the percentage of buyer-initiated messages that you’re able to respond to within 24 hours from receipt. Why is this metric important? Well, research has shown that Contact Response Time is directly related to the feedback score. According to Amazon, “messages responded to within 24 hours receive 50% less negative feedback compared to orders with messages responded to after more than 24 hours.”
In other words, your responsiveness on the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service is likely to directly affect your seller feedback score. In turn, your seller feedback score directly affects your rankings on the Amazon marketplace. The better the seller feedback score, the more likely it is that Amazon will rank you higher for your keywords; the higher your ranking, the more visible you are to potential customers; and the more visible you are, the better your chances of getting a sale. With all that said, it’s reasonable to conclude that your Contact Response Time will directly affect your ability to generate sales.
Perhaps the most serious limitation of the Buyer-Seller Messaging System is the seller’s inability to upsell. Amazon considers almost all communications, whether via phone or email, that are unrelated to either order fulfillment or customer service as inappropriate. Its policies even specifically prohibits all marketing-related communications. Understandably, this makes it tricky to upsell or cross-sell existing customers. The fact of the matter is that marketing and direct upselling are prohibited on the Buyer-Seller Messaging System.
If you send a message using the Buyer-Seller Messaging System, you’ll need to keep a few best practices in mind. Failure to observe these guidelines may result in varying penalties. So, take note that your message may not include the following:
There are essentially two ways to contact your customers:
Note: Before your email gets to the buyer, it will be processed through the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service for recording and email aliasing. This aliasing also occurs when using an automatic communication tool, such as FeedbackFive from eComEngine. Sign up for your free trial today.
The maximum number of messages you can send per day depends on your daily order volume. To be specific, the value is computed using the following formula (Daily Order Volume * 5) + 600. For example, if you make an average of 100 sales per day, you’ll be able to send a maximum of 1,100 messages, computed as (100 *5) + 600).
Yes, they are. Amazon does this, so that it can better arbitrate disputes between the parties. It keeps these records for a period of two years.
Yes, it is. Feel free to code your emails, so that they look their best when they get to the buyer. However, take note that Amazon only allows selected HTML tags to be used. Any tag not present on this list will be stripped, but the element's subtree will be preserved in the output document.
Yes, they are. Buyers and sellers can attach any of the following file types to their messages:
Note: The maximum allowable size for attachments is 10 MB.
Originally published on December 7, 2016, updated June 1, 2019
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.