Follow-up emails are a great way for sellers to share important product related information when a customer makes a purchase on Amazon, and maybe even put in a request for an honest review. But recent articles like this one on Fortune.com show that an increasing number of customers consider mails from Amazon marketplace sellers as spammy requests for reviews. Remember how Amazon banned all forms of incentivized reviews in one sweeping move when it updated its terms of service on Oct 3rd this year? How long will it be before Amazon bans sellers for sending follow-up emails that are seen as marketing communication or a violation of their terms of service? Could you be sitting on a ticking time bomb?
Amazon works really hard to shield the identity of buyers from marketplace sellers. It achieves this by assigning alias email to all buyers that look like firstname.lastname@example.org. Amazon allows sellers to contact buyers via its Buyer-Seller Messaging platform. Any communication related to a purchase between buyer and seller is exchanged via this alias mail, so you never know the real name or email address of a buyer.
If you have been selling for a while, chances are you are using some sort of email automation service such as Feedback Genius, Efficient Era or Feedback 5. Typically, such services will allow you to send an automated messages to the buyer with details about the order, as soon as it is placed. But that’s not all. Email automation software often come with the ability to schedule the timing of an email with an event trigger such as “Ordered, Shipped, Delivered”. These services also give you the flexibility of sending multiple emails to the same buyer.
And that’s where things could get ugly.
We believe that there are some legitimate reasons for taking advantage of multiple emails, but those should never be the norm. (More on this further down.) We are not saying that email automation is a no-no. Amazon actually permits sellers to send these messages: “The Buyer-Seller Messaging Service allows you to communicate with buyers in the Amazon marketplace via email...In general, you may contact buyers (Amazon.com customers) only to complete orders or to respond to customer service inquiries. You may not contact buyers for marketing or promotional purposes (including via e-mail, physical mail, telephone, or otherwise).”
However, scroll further down on that page and you will see a guideline (read WARNING!)
“If you send a permitted e-mail to an Amazon.com customer, your e-mail may not include any of the following:
Links to any website.
Seller logos if they contain or display a link to the seller's website.
Any marketing message or promotion.
Any promotions for additional products or referrals to third-party products or promotions.”
Any marketing message or promotions for additional products or referrals to third-party products or promotions is a clear no-no. Do customers appreciate your enthusiasm to promote?
Just like any other form of marketing, customers do get put off by too many emails. And it’s not like you are the only one sending them. Amazon sends one right away on your order. Let’s face it. On an average, people could receive several hundred marketing emails a month. How is that number even possible to process? Most of them make it to the trash box, a lot of them get marked as spam and a lot of them are never opened. They could end up getting mentioned on on Amazon discussion forums like this one.
But there is something even worse than that for Amazon Sellers. We have noticed that Amazon has now starting appending an automated section to the bottom of some seller emails like this one, asking if the seller email was helpful or not.
This makes it SO much easier for unhappy or annoyed customers to flag you off with a single click! If Amazon really wanted to take action on increasing abuse of follow-up emails, they could suspend you for a violation of their Terms of Service. And by now you probably know this: You can’t argue with Amazon. Period.
So instead of wasting your customer’s time through multiple email campaigns, we highly recommend that you send out just one valuable email that is tied directly to the transaction. Here are some attributes of a good follow-up email:
Say Thank-You and show your appreciation
Share product related information related directly with the product that was purchased
Provide links to drivers download etc. that are directly related to the product purchased
Provide the ability for the customer to opt-out of your mails via an unsubscribe link
Provide language specific messaging
Politely asking for review
The only legitimate case where we think it is ok to send more than one email to a customer is when you want to, say, communicate a defect in your product or facilitate a recall or a refund. We think that this should be in compliance with Amazon’s TOS especially as your intent is the same as Amazon’s - happy satisfied customers.
And while we are at it, these are what we consider bad examples of using follow-up emails:
Send multiple emails begging for reviews
Send an email with a coupon code for a different product
Send marketing information about your company from time to time
To Amazon, nothing matters more than the customer. There is growing evidence to show that Amazon might be collecting data on customer reactions to marketplace follow-up emails and perhaps take serious action based on it in the near future. When it comes to compliance with Amazon’s TOS, it is always better to err on the side of being over-cautious.
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