Feedback is valuable information, used to make an important buying decision. All top-performing companies take feedback policy very seriously – they do not only know how to accept positive feedback and deal with a negative one but also constantly ask for it. It is simply the most effective way to reach out to your future buyers and give yourself an opportunity to grow. And there are plenty more reasons behind why it is even more crucial for Amazon sellers.
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Industry Liaison @ eComEngine
This is a guest post written by Liz Fickenscher. Liz is the Industry Liaison for eComEngine, a software company that makes tools for Amazon sellers. She is passionate about helping sellers succeed, and partners with people in the industry to provide valuable information and material that helps them do just that.
Sellers on the Amazon marketplace are expected to know a lot of things. Most important, perhaps, are the rules you need to follow to stay in good standing.
One of the most commonly broken, stretched and misinterpreted set of rules is around Buyer-Seller Messaging and asking for feedback and product reviews. Sellers have faced restrictions from contacting buyers for a period of a few days or have been suspended for breaking the rules. I’ve heard that two Buyer-Seller Messaging suspensions can result in permanent suspension. There’s no need for that! Amazon’s Terms of Service are explicit about what is not allowed. You just have to know where to reference them, understand Amazon’s intention with them, and (most importantly), follow them!
Or, you could just read this article. We’ll cover:
Amazon seller feedback is all about your performance as a seller. Feedback relates to the shipping and packaging of an order as well as your responsiveness if a buyer contacts you. It is not a rating of your product. That’s what customer reviews, or product reviews, are for. Your buyers have 90 days to leave you seller feedback. Your feedback score is the average of all your feedback over one year, and your lifetime feedback score is displayed on the offer listings page.
Seller feedback matters for a number of reasons. For one thing, it affects your ability to win the Buy Box. Since seller feedback impacts your Order Defect Rate, it follows that it would impact Amazon’s Buy Box algorithm. In an instance where two sellers sell the same item at the same price, the seller with a better feedback score will win the Buy Box. Winning the Buy Box is very beneficial for sellers, obviously, as it results in more sales. Even though many orders happen through the Buy Box, some shoppers bypass that option and compare sellers on a particular item. When they do that, they can see your feedback rating.
Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. If you are comparing sellers on a particular item, would you choose the seller with the higher feedback score? Of course, you would. With 300,000 new sellers entering the global Amazon marketplace every year, your (positive) feedback rating is a competitive advantage over newer, less-established sellers.
Even if you’re the only seller of your product, having a low feedback score can hurt your business. In order to be eligible to run Amazon Coupons, you must have a seller rating of 3.5 or higher. To participate in Amazon programs like Seller Fulfilled Prime, you must be a seller in “good standing” which means that a low feedback rating could hold you back from qualifying.
Finally, Amazon uses your Order Defect Rate to evaluate your seller status. If your feedback score slips beneath a certain point, you can be suspended or banned totally.
First and foremost, your products and customer service need to be the best. While product reviews indicate your buyer’s feelings about the product itself, one of the categories for seller feedback is “product is not as described.” Your job is to accurately describe your products on your product listing so that your products are always as described. Listings are your opportunity to properly set buyer expectations and ensure that they will be satisfied with their purchase.
Second, avoid inventory stock-outs. When someone places an order on the Amazon marketplace, they expect it to arrive quickly. If you don’t have it in stock at FBA, or at your own warehouse, you’re going to get bad feedback. Making the transaction process as smooth as possible is the key to receiving positive feedback. If you ship your products from your own warehouse, make sure to have a workflow in place to process orders quickly and get them out the door as soon as possible.
Finally, ASK for feedback. Amazon encourages you to ask for feedback. When buyers are prompted to leave feedback (or reviews), they are more likely to do so. As a shopper, how often would you think of feedback if you weren’t reminded?
There are rules in Amazon’s Terms of Service that state what you can and cannot say in a feedback request to a buyer. It is very important to follow these rules, as non-compliance can result in suspension. It is very stressful to get suspended, and reinstatement is not guaranteed. Bookmark the page in Seller Central that deals with feedback requests and check back often in case the wording has changed. You have to be constantly vigilant.
In terms of what to think about in your feedback request, here is a list:
Expert tip: Use this Feedback Compliance Checklist to ensure you are complying with Amazon’s feedback policies.
Occasionally, negative feedback will strike. Don’t panic. First, verify that the feedback is legitimate. Buyers can make mistakes, too. Read the feedback and assess it for validity. Was the order fulfilled by Amazon? Did the buyer use offensive or abusive language in the feedback? If so, report that to Amazon using the Feedback Manager in Seller Central. If the feedback is actually a product review, rather than seller feedback, report that too. In some cases, Amazon will remove or strikethrough this inaccurate feedback for you.
If the feedback is legitimate, you need to do what you can to make the customer happy. Find out why they’re dissatisfied and make it right. Once you do, it’s OK to ask the buyer to remove or modify the feedback they left. They have 60 days to do this, so it’s important to resolve the situation so that they have the chance to change or remove the negative feedback. Amazon says, “Contact buyers with no more than one polite request to remove the feedback after resolving the problem.”
Finally, learn from previous mistakes. Which of your products are causing more negative feedback? Is there a reason for that? Is there an inventory situation? Is your packaging in need of improvement? Are buyers in certain areas more likely to leave negative feedback? Learn how to improve your processes so that you can avoid negative feedback in the future. In the meantime, FeedbackFive has a feedback removal request template that makes it easy to manage your negative feedback.
Product reviews can make or break the success of an item on the Amazon marketplace. Unlike seller feedback (which rates your performance as a seller), product reviews, or customer reviews, reflect the buyer’s opinion of the product they bought from you. The number of product reviews an item receives and your average star rating are factors in your overall seller rating. The number of reviews a product has impacts its ranking in Amazon’s search algorithm.
Since incentivized reviews were banned in 2016, sellers have been looking for more ways to get those all-important product reviews. It isn’t easy. Statistics say that the standard is 1 review per 100 orders. But, with a good product review strategy and careful and TOS-compliant requests, you can increase those odds.
And increase them, you should. It’s been stated that it takes 21 reviews to turn the algorithm in your favor. Shannon Roddy, the founder of Marketplace Seller Courses and Amazon expert, says “The more reviews you have, and the better those reviews are, the higher your products are going to rank in Amazon’s algorithm system. The higher the number of stars and the higher the rating, the greater your conversion rate is going to be.”
So, we’ve established that you have to get product reviews, but how do you do that and remain TOS compliant?
While there is no magic bullet to getting product reviews, there are steps you can take to increase the odds in your favor. Amazon launched the Early Reviewer Program around the same time they banned incentivized reviews. It’s a great way to get some reviews onto new products on the marketplace. For items with less than 5 reviews (of any rating) that cost more than $15, Amazon will encourage buyers of that item to leave a review. Participating sellers must be brand registered, and it costs $60 per product. Buyers who leave reviews on participating items will receive a small reward in the form of a $1-$3 Amazon gift card. This is meant to thank them for sharing their real opinion, and reviews are not guaranteed to be 5-star reviews.
Another way to get more product reviews is to ask for them, the right way. Whenever I talk about product reviews with groups of sellers, someone inevitably asks why, when it’s so hard to naturally and organically get product reviews, they see other items get what seems like hundreds of reviews in one day. The truth is that, despite Amazon’s attempts to keep reviews honest and real, there are a lot of black hat tactics taking place in the marketplace, and review manipulation is one of them. That’s why it’s so vitally important that you follow Amazon TOS to the letter in your review requests to buyers.
I’m going to summarize Amazon’s terms of service regarding customer reviews, but note this is not an exhaustive list and it’s important to bookmark relevant pages in Seller Central and refer back to them often.
When requesting product reviews from your buyers, you must, yes, follow Amazon TOS. The rules around asking buyers for a product review are in two places – in the Customer Product Reviews section, and in the Community Guidelines section. You have to pay attention to both, and any other places where Amazon might share rules about messaging. It’s your job, as the seller, to be familiar with and follow the rules. If you were to get in trouble with Amazon, you can’t tell them that you didn’t know or didn’t understand – that won’t get you reinstated.
That’s a lot to unpack, but it’s still not the full list of the rules. In addition to the rules around product reviews, you have to remember that requesting a review from a buyer falls under the category of “Indirect Communication,” which has its own set of rules. In emails to buyers, you cannot include:
NOTE: Amazon TOS is subject to change at any time. Bookmark relevant pages and check back often to make sure you’re working off of the most recent changes to TOS.
Breaking these rules, any of them can result in suspension. It’s not worth it to lose your seller privileges and your livelihood in order to send an email to get product reviews. Amazon is looking very closely at all reviews, which means they’re looking closely at Buyer-Seller Messaging. That doesn’t mean you should stop asking, but if you’re willingly violating terms of service, or you haven’t checked on the messaging you’ve been sending in a while, I strongly suggest you use our Product Review Compliance Checklist to make sure you’re compliant.
A few things that aren’t spelled out in TOS, but that I see as a no-no in regards to your review requests, are:
That was a lot of “the wrong way,” so let’s dive into the right way to ask for customer reviews.
The timing of your product review request matters, but is variable depending on the nature of your products. If it’s a seasonal product, your email timing will be different than if your product is something that would take the buyer a while to use, like a sleeping bag or a piece of exercise equipment. Luckily, if you’re using FeedbackFive, you can A/B test the timing of your emails (as well as many other variables) to increase your conversion rate. Try sending SKU-specific requests with different timing to buyers in different geographical areas, or segment by odd and even order numbers. Our team can show you how to do this.
FeedbackFive is one of the most popular tools, created by eComEngine. Sellers on the Amazon marketplace can use it to proactively manage and solicit feedback and product reviews, review negative and neutral feedbacks received, monitor trends, request removal of negative feedback, and more.
You can find an easy step-by-step demo below to learn more about the tool and how to use it!
Another variable in a good, well-converting product review request is your subject line. I mentioned this in the feedback section as well because common sense dictates that the better your subject line, the more likely a buyer is to open the email. This is another thing you can A/B test for better conversion rates. Remember that writing a subject line for a product review request is different than writing one for a marketing email. These emails are specifically designed to offer great customer service and to ask for the buyer’s opinion of your product.
That means the body of your email will be different too. You want to keep your message short and sweet, but you want to provide value at the same time. If you have unboxing or care instructions that you can include in a succinct way, do so. FeedbackFive lets you insert gifs into emails – many of our users have used that feature to do a short unboxing gif or item care gif that helps their buyer understand the product better. That’s great customer service!
Politely ask for an honest review. Keep all TOS in mind, and write a great email and subject line. While asking for product reviews does not ensure you will get them, sellers who ask for product reviews receive more than those who do not.
Unlike seller feedback, where you can resolve the buyer’s complaint and then ask for removal or modification, Amazon does not permit you to contact a buyer to change or remove a product review. Amazon’s philosophy on product reviews is that they should be totally honest and that reviewers should feel free to leave perfectly honest reviews without the fear of retribution or haranguing from sellers. That’s why they’re so protective of buyer data, and that’s one of the many reasons they’re cracking down on sellers who aren’t following the rules. That being said, there is one thing you can do about a negative review. Be honest. Respond to the negative review in-line in the review section. Be respectful. Be helpful. Explain what happened (or gently point out that this review is not for your product, because that happens sometimes) so that potential customers, at least, can see that you’re responsive and responsible.
There are so many things to think about when you’re a seller on any Amazon marketplace that it is easy to lose track of the importance of your seller reputation, and how feedback and product reviews play into it. Hopefully, this guide is a help to you!
Liz Fickenscher is the Industry Liaison for eComEngine, the creators of FeedbackFive, RestockPro, SmartPrice and MarketScout. Liz works with sellers, industry thought leaders and media outlets to educate and connect people. As the affiliate, social media and webinar/video coordinator, Liz lives eCommerce.