If I told you that Amazon updated their communication guidelines from the 8th of September 2020, you could be forgiven for thinking, "So what?". We are all guilty of ignoring policy and terms of service updates as they rarely have much impact on our usage. However, this is one time when you are going to want to pay attention to the fine print. Blissful ignorance could get you locked out of your Amazon emails for a significant amount of time, and continuing to ignore the problem will only make things worse
Amazon appear keen to assert the notion that these are Amazon customers, not your customers. They are not happy when you overstep your bounds in this little ecommerce ménage à trois. Understanding and respecting this relationship is the key to avoid falling foul of their new policy and inviting Amazon's wrath.
Below you will find a summary of the key points of the new guidelines. You can also click the link to see the official document from Amazon containing the new rules.
Forbidden Message Types
The following message types are forbidden by Amazon. In many cases this is because they are already emailing customers with this information on your behalf and do not want the duplication.
- Order or shipping confirmations
- Messages that say only “Thank you” or that you are here to help if buyers have any problems
- Marketing or promotional messaging, including coupons
- Language that either incentivises 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
- A repeat request (per order) for a product review or seller feedback
Amazon define Permitted Messages as those communications necessary to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry.
You may only send Permitted Messages to customers who have contacted you about purchasing a product or who have already purchased a product from you on the Amazon store.
Permitted Messages must be sent within 30 days of order completion.
You may send proactive Permitted Messages for the following reasons:
- Resolving an issue with order fulfilment
- Requesting additional information required to complete the order
- Asking a return-related question
- Sending an invoice
- Requesting product review and/or seller feedback
- Scheduling the delivery of 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 their purchase
Content Forbidden In Permitted Messages
While there are still many reasons to be sending customers messages, you do have to be careful what your messages contain. Below you will find lists of content and styling that are currently not allowed to be used in Permitted Messages.
- 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
- Email addresses or telephone numbers
- Images of purchased products as Amazon includes those on your behalf
- Images that do not relate to your brand or company
Styling Forbidden In Permitted Messages
- Accessibility issues as specified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative
- Message margins over 20% max width
- Image or graphic sizes larger than 80% max width
- Overrides of Amazon’s default line height, font family, or font color
- Fonts in more than three sizes
- Message bodies that are centred or that otherwise override default text alignment settings
- More than two line-breaks (spacing between paragraphs) in a row
- Unsecure images (http instead of https)
- Spelling errors or grammar issues
Punishment For Breaking The Rules
Failure to adhere to the new rules is not without it's consequences. According to Amazon:
"Failure to comply with these Communication Guidelines may result in Amazon limiting proactive Permitted Messages to Amazon’s templates or a suspension of selling privileges in Amazon stores. Amazon has the authority to block any message at its discretion."
It has been observed in the seller community that Amazon has been restricting the use of their internal email system for 30 days to sellers who have broken these rules.
If you fail to remedy your problem emails, it is said that Amazon will extend the restriction even longer.
What Does This Mean For You?
The main thing to consider here is that you can only send what Amazon call "Permitted Messages" and these new rules set the standard Amazon expect you to uphold for such messages.
Sending anything that could be deemed marketing material is frowned upon, so you will have to resist that natural urge to resell. Be aware of the number of messages you are sending to customers, as being over-zealous could be construed as spamming. Remember that although you can request reviews from customers, you most certainly cannot ask them to remove or alter them.
Finally, you will want to be more aware of how you are writing under the new guidelines, as they now forbid spelling and grammatical errors. This becomes an increasingly perilous minefield when you consider that these rules apply to all languages. If you sell internationally, you might find yourself communicating with someone who only speaks Swedish or maybe Arabic.
Being vigilant about the standards of your communication today could save you the pain of a suspension in the near future.