With a new change to how Buyer-Seller Messaging works, it appears that Amazon is once again limiting the ability of sellers to direct their customers’ experience.
A few months ago, we saw the introduction of the opt-out feature for Buyer-Seller Messaging.. This feature was slowly rolled out, and more and more buyers have been opting out since its release. Before, we saw around 10–20% opt-outs; now, it’s closer to 30–40%. We still believe that email automation is a critical feature for third-party sellers to provide great customer service, so the growing popularity of the opt-out feature is concerning to us. However, Amazon is focused on satisfying the customer above all else, meaning they will introduce features like this if they receive too many customer complaints.
Now, however, we’re not sure if this new feature was introduced due to input from customers or because of Amazon’s internal priorities. Regardless, here’s the new feature: Amazon is adding a redirect page to any external links within Buyer-Seller Emails. As far as we can tell, they’re adding this redirect page to any link that doesn’t direct you to an amazon.com page. Here’s what the page looks like:
As you can see, the redirect page looks fairly daunting. Amazon’s URL protection makes the link look massive and scary, and the design of the buttons at the bottom is very strategically designed to make buyers return to Amazon. They colored the “Proceed” button grey in order to lead buyers away from it, and the return button is colored bright orange and worded as “Back to Safety,” implying that wherever they may proceed to is unsafe by default.
Based on this design, we think the vast majority of buyers will not proceed through these links, choosing to do as Amazon implicitly recommends and go “back to safety” instead.
What Does This Mean?
In the simplest terms, it means that any external links that you include in your buyer-seller messages will have much lower click-through rates.
Now, Amazon is concerned with keeping Amazon affairs limited to Amazon, so it makes some sense that they would implement this change to scare buyers into staying on Amazon. The first item in their Prohibited seller activites and actions page does mention this, although it limits the restriction to marketing messages:
Attempts to divert transactions or buyers:
Any attempt to circumvent the established Amazon sales process or to divert Amazon users to another website or sales process is prohibited. Specifically, any advertisements, marketing messages (special offers) or "calls to action" that lead, prompt, or encourage Amazon users to leave the Amazon website are prohibited. This may include the use of email or the inclusion of hyperlinks, URLs or web addresses within any seller-generated confirmation email messages or any product/listing description fields.
Additionally, this redirect page provides Amazon with some legal insurance. If a malicious seller redirects a buyer to a URL that is actually unsafe, and leads to them downloading malware, then Amazon can say they gave that buyer ample warning and are therefore not responsible.
However, many sellers can and do use external links to great effect on Amazon. For example, if you’re selling electronic accessories, you might have an link that takes customers to a driver download page, allowing customers to download the needed drivers before the product arrives and have the product work as soon as they plug it in. Some of the purposes filled by external links might be replaced by attachments, such as FAQs or product guides, but not everything can be replaced in this way.
What Should I Do?
It seems that Amazon made this change in order to more severely limit the ability of sellers to introduce outside websites in their Buyer-Seller Messages. If you were attempting to do a bit of marketing or promoting your brand website in your Buyer-Seller Messages, we recommend that you find another strategy. Most sellers already weren’t trying to do this, however, in order to comply with Amazon’s ToS. In that case, this redirect page might not affect you that much.
However, you might still fall into the category of sellers who rely on external links to provide customer service. Unfortunately, in this case, the new redirect page will hinder your efforts to provide the best experience for your customers, and there’s not much you can do about it. You might try to assure your customers that the redirect page is nothing to worry about, but that might come off as more suspicious than anything else.
Ultimately, it makes some sense why Amazon has made this change, but they caught some legitimately innocent sellers trying to provide the best experience for their customers in the crossfire. It’s unfortunate, but there’s little we can do about it, aside from rely more on off-Amazon marketing to serve these purposes.