As we begin 2016 it’s important to learn from the sometimes painful lessons of 2015. Amazon’s policy teams acted aggressively throughout last year to restrict or suspend sellers they considered to be “item quality” risks. The logical question for 2016 is: How do sellers prevent the perils of last year from following them into the next?
Get your year off to the right start. Catch up on these new initiatives while also steering clear of previous problems and 2016 will be your best ever year selling on Amazon.
1. Examine the reasons for any policy warnings or performance dips from 2015.
If you were already suspended once you won’t get away with repeating any of the same mistakes. Stick to your POA to avoid having investigators look back on it as a document of empty promises. Otherwise, your account could come crashing down again and next time around your “second chance reinstatement” will be a lot tougher.
2. Reach out to category managers, past account managers or anyone knowledgeable on the inside about Amazon’s beta-version account manager “fee-for-service” programs.
Amazon may set up a second pilot program to test things out after studying the results first. You can bet that they’ll send out invitations to some lucky sellers to pay $2000 or so a month for an Account Manager. Keep your account clean and give yourself the best chance of securing an internal advocate.
3. Keep track of product detail page changes for items you sell on Amazon by paying close attention to ASIN contribution email alerts.
Missing them or ignoring the fact that the items you’re shipping are no longer “as described” on the site creates major problems with “materially different” item complaints. Different item complaints will pile up. Don’t let it happen.
4. Update listing images as needed if product packaging changes.
Buyers frequently complain of fake and “knockoff” items to customer service when the packaging in their hands doesn’t match what they saw on Amazon. These can easily turn into multiple policy warnings on your account, requests for invoices and ASIN restrictions, among other headaches. Update all listing content including images and product specifications as appropriate.
5. If you’re still using dropshippers, make sure the items sent straight to FBA from your supplier are identical to what you’ve listed on Amazon, down to every last product detail.
Anything different could be reported by Amazon buyers who recognize it and complain to Customer Service, resulting in an automated warning. Flying blind in terms of your inventory’s quality may end your account for good, especially if you’re getting “fake” or “inauthentic” complaints in spades. Dropshipping in the age of increased Product Quality suspensions is extra risky so be vigilant.
6. Make sure you have all Product Safety compliance boxes ticked when you list anything with potentially dangerous parts.
This could cover materials used in the manufacture of the items as well as faulty electronics in returns that were re-boxed after a first customer returned the item. Never deal with liquidations, closeouts, and subpar product knowing that reports of faulty items will lead to account restrictions by policy enforcement teams.
7. Make returns as easy as possible or switch to FBA.
Metrics that are currently in beta, like Return Dissatisfaction Rate and Customer Service Dissatisfaction Rate, will become standard measurements of a seller’s ability to meet Amazon’s overall buyer experience goals. Amazon doesn’t want to see buyers facing long reply times when they try to return an item. Amazon certainly doesn’t want to see returns declined by a seller for improper reasons, either. Keep in mind that making your buyer’s life difficult for whatever reason will eventually make yours harder as well in the end. Don’t make buyers send pictures of item damage that you don’t really need to see or make them wait for your answer. Amazon buyers who want returns, get returns- it’s the way of the Amazon world. They’ll leave you negative feedback for a bad returns experience if they’re not happy.
8. Look to your customer service metrics for areas of improvement.
In regards to a buyer’s satisfaction with your level of Customer Service, Amazon will ask buyers to report yes or no if they were happy with your response to their query. No seller will want too many no’s to show up when a customer-centric company like Amazon is taking an extra long look at these new metrics. Be prepared to give detailed responses that actually assist the buyer. Putting off an issue until later or making them decipher how or if you plan to resolve their problem (and when) won’t help you or the buyer.
There are several things to do or watch out for as you prepare for the year ahead. The potential account damage from ignoring policy warnings or otherwise underestimating Amazon’s Product Quality team must motivate all sellers to run a tighter ship this year. If you’re coming off a recent account suspension or even had one earlier in 2015, be certain to avoid all of those same pitfalls while also focusing on potential new obstacles to account health.