Are You Ignoring Your Seller Feedback?

In an eternal point of confusion for customers, Amazon uses two concurrent feedback systems: Seller Feedback and Product Reviews.

If you snoop around on Amazon’s help pages long enough, you can find the distinction between the two. Seller feedback should pertain to anything about the buying experience except the product itself. That means shipping (if the product was fulfilled by the merchant), any interactions with the seller, and whether you would buy from this seller again.

Product reviews pertain solely to products — the quality, any problems you had, whether your expectations were met, and all that.

Seller feedback is something of a holdover from when Amazon consisted mostly of resellers or arbitrageurs, rather than the private-label community it’s known for today. If there were 20 sellers selling the same item, you wanted to know which seller you could trust to ship your items on time, hence why seller feedback would be useful. When there’s a single private-label seller, that feedback rating is less useful for customers.

Seller feedback has also become less useful as a source of customer information since Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) became extremely prevalent. Much of seller feedback consisted of evaluating the seller’s shipping, but that part becomes irrelevant when Amazon handles all the shipping and logistics. For customers that haven’t communicated with the seller and bought an FBA product, there aren’t many legitimate reasons left to leave seller feedback all.

Nevertheless, private label sellers are still stuck with seller feedback, even though what they’d really like are product reviews. However, just because it’s less relevant now than it was in the past, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it! Of course, most sellers know the importance of maintaining a high seller feedback rating, but the importance of seller feedback goes deeper than that. We’ll go over the various facets of seller feedback’s importance in this post.

The Importance of Feedback Rating

Feedback Rating Example

More important than your average seller feedback star rating is your rate of positive feedback, which most sellers just call “feedback rating.” Even if you’re selling private-label products, you want to keep this feedback rating up. This is mostly due to its role as a metric of performance for Amazon. They use it in their buy box calculations, so low seller feedback rating increases your risk of losing the buy box to a random reseller. Amazon also uses feedback rating when determining whether to reinstate sellers after a suspension. Low feedback rating significantly hurts your chances of getting reinstated, so that’s another compelling reason to keep it as high as possible. Again, most sellers do understand the importance of feedback rating in this context.

What many sellers don’t know, however, is the surprising amount of power they have to get incorrect negative seller feedback removed.

The fact that many customers don’t really understand what seller feedback is for is a hidden blessing to sellers. Amazon is actually fairly strict about what content qualifies to be included in seller feedback, and what doesn’t. They’ve got all the same restrictions as product reviews — no vulgar language, no personally identifying information — but with some additional restrictions that allow sellers to remove the peskier varieties of incorrect negative feedback.

Guideline: No Product Reviews in Seller Feedback

The most useful restriction: the feedback must not consist entirely of a product review. “Entirely” is the key word here — if the seller feedback contains some form of product review in addition to complaints about the buying experience, like “It arrived three days after the estimated date, then it broke a week after I started using it! Will not purchase again,” that feedback is there to stay.

However, this is an extremely useful restriction when it comes to dealing with confused customers. Amazon does mention to customers that feedback about the product is more appropriately left as a product review, and that they reserve the right to remove any feedback that violates this guideline, but you have to dig to find that information. Most customers would assume that product feedback is a completely reasonable thing to include in seller feedback. Can you blame them?

The result is that a surprising proportion of negative seller feedback consists entirely of product reviews. Under Amazon’s system, these are fair game for removal: you need just ask. Amazon has recently changed the mechanism for removing seller feedback. Previously, you needed to open a ticket with Amazon Seller Support for each feedback you wanted to remove. Now, you must appeal for feedback removal through the Feedback Manager in Seller Central. This article has a good guide on the exact steps for feedback removal.

Guideline: Amazon Takes Responsibility for FBA

We also spoke earlier about how Amazon handles most sellers’ shipping with FBA, and how that makes one of the primary functions of seller feedback — commenting on the seller’s fulfillment performance — irrelevant for many.

Well, what happens when a customer receives subpar shipping service from Amazon — say, the product arrived in 4 days, even though they ordered it with Prime 2-day shipping — and posts negative seller feedback lamenting this? It shouldn’t be the seller’s fault, because Amazon was responsible for the shipping.

Fortunately, Amazon agrees! When you receive negative seller feedback complaining about a poor shipping experience, and the product was fulfilled by Amazon, they will take responsibility. Amazon won’t delete the feedback entirely, but they will strike out the text out of the review and put a note underneath it that says: “This item was fulfilled by Amazon, and we take responsibility for this fulfillment experience.” (Of course, this doesn’t apply for FBM products. You’re responsible for the behavior of any shipping service that isn’t Amazon).

So, at the end of the day, you actually have a surprising number of tools at your disposal for maintaining a high seller feedback rating. If you watch your seller feedback carefully and appeal to Amazon as soon as you see any candidates for removal, you should be able to keep your overall rating comfortably high — as long as there are no other glaring issues with your business.

But, if most seller feedback these days violates Amazon’s guidelines, what’s the point? For consumers buying from private-label sellers, not much. But for sellers, seller feedback can still be very useful if put to another use: driving product reviews.

Driving Product Reviews with Seller Feedback

The concept is simple: since Amazon gives you the contact information of any buyer who leaves seller feedback, you can reach out to anyone who leaves positive seller feedback and ask them if they’d also like to leave a product review.

This is a great review-generation strategy for a couple of reasons.

First of all, Amazon’s automatic order confirmation emails ask customers to leave seller feedback (but not product reviews). Thanks to this, customers are more likely to leave seller feedback than they are product reviews, and you’ll get a greater proportion of positive feedback to negative. Usually, the rule is that very few customers with positive experiences will leave feedback, but almost every customer with a negative experience will leave feedback, so you want to balance that out as much as possible.

If you follow up on this positive seller feedback with gentle requests for product reviews, you’ll benefit even more from this Amazon reminder. Note, however, that this isn’t a way to get past buyer opt-outs. Amazon’s order confirmation emails may bypass third-party communication opt-outs, but your follow-up emails after positive feedback still won’t reach opted-out buyers, simply because the follow-up request will be blocked. Still, you may get some extra pull over customers who don’t have third-party communications blocked, but don’t read them either.

Second of all, there’s a psychological element. Someone who has just left positive seller feedback went out of their way to write about how good their experience was — they’re in a positive mindset! What better time to ask someone to go into a little bit more detail about their experiences in the form of a product review? All it takes is a polite request and a link to make their lives easier.

Of course, just like regular review requests, you need to word your follow-up email carefully. Be sure to thank them for their kind words, then try something along the lines of:

If you’ve had the chance to try out the product, it would really help us and other customers if you left your thoughts in the form of the product review. Here’s the link.

To help automate this process and make your life easier while gaining you reviews, Efficient Era has just the thing: Seller Feedback Follow-Up Automation. To sign up and start your 60-day free trial, click here.

Conclusion

Seller feedback exists in a weird space right now, especially for private-label sellers. As we discussed, it’s not really being used for its intended purpose any more, since many sellers now rely on Amazon for their shipments. You’re also not allowed to write product reviews as seller feedback, even though that would be most customers’ natural instinct. Plus, if a private-label seller is Brand Registered and is the only seller on most of their listings, what customer is going to go to the effort to scroll through that seller’s seller feedback rather than just looking at product reviews?

Of course, while the philosophical purpose of seller feedback is unclear, its impact is still very real. Maintaining a high seller feedback rating is critical, even when you’re the only seller on your products, as Amazon will use it as a factor in judging reinstatements should you ever get suspended or otherwise get in trouble. Chronically low seller feedback ratings can make it very difficult for sellers to get reinstated.

Plus, seller feedback is a great way to generate a few extra reviews by appealing to the people who’d be the most likely to leave positive product reviews in the first place.

So, you definitely shouldn’t ignore your seller feedback, regardless of how strange it seems in the broader scheme of things. Keeping a close eye on it is one of many keys to successful sellers on Amazon, and it’s absolutely worth doing if you want your business to thrive for years to come.

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