Don’t Get Banned from Selling on Amazon; It Could Be Forever!

Online Selling Tips for Promoting Your Products on Google Shopping

Amazon.com offers small businesses and entrepreneurs ready access to a huge customer market for their goods. Of course, sellers pay a price for the opportunity to trade on Amazon’s good name, internet saturation and global market reach. Not only do private sellers often find themselves in direct competition with the internet behemoth for products and services, but Amazon holds all the cards. To protect its own reputation and maintain a satisfied customer base, Amazon’s sellers’ agreement and myriad rules stack the deck firmly in Amazon’s favor.

In order to sell on Amazon.com, sellers must follow an exacting list of expectations that dictate how and when they interact with their customers at every point in the sales process. Fail to meet Amazon’s performance expectations and you could receive a not particularly cheerful “Hello from Amazon.com” letter notifying you that your account has been blocked and your sales listings terminated. And, by the way, Amazon will be hanging onto your money for the next 90 days to cover any unresolved financial issues.

For businesses that rely on Amazon.com as a primary conduit to customers and order fulfillment, receiving one of Amazon’s computer-generated “Hello” letters can spell disaster. A big part of the problem is that the letters are computer-generated. Computer algorithms don’t care if you didn’t respond to a customer within the required 24 hours because you were hospitalized or on vacation. They’re completely unsympathetic that your approval rating appears to be in the toilet not because you provide poor service but because the only customers who have bothered to offer feedback are dissatisfied ones.

Many Amazon.com sellers complain that they’ve been unfairly booted off Amazon because they’ve fallen victim to the “law of negative averages” in which a small number of negative comments can, if they outnumber positive feedback, result in a negative feedback score. For example, if out of 50 sales, 47 customers are satisfied, but only 1 posts positive feedback while 2 dissatisfied customers post negative comments, Amazon’s trackers will record a negative average and you’ll soon be the recipient of a letter from alliance@amazon.com, Amazon’s enforcement department.

What sends sellers into a panic is the phrase “the closure of an account is a permanent action,” implying that you will be forever banned from selling on Amazon. And the ban will not only affect you, but anyone Amazon’s online trackers can connect to your name, street address or email address. All is not lost, however, sellers can petition Amazon for reinstatement and a number have done so successfully. The process is not easy; and, if reinstated, you can expect Amazon to scrutinize your account carefully for some time (and hang onto your money while they do so); but you can get back in the game.

  1. Look carefully at the points made in the letter you receive from alliance@amazon.com. Review your consumer metrics to see if you’re falling short of expectations.
  2. Respond promptly via email, explain that you feel your suspension is unfair and rebut each charge with as much factual information as possible. Attach pertinent records or letters from consumers and offer your explanation of any negative feedback.
  3. If you’ve failed to meet Amazon’s performance targets, review your sales practices and provide an action plan to correct the problem.
  4. Plead your case, emphasizing your sales and customer service record and pointing out how your product benefits consumers.
  5. Monitor your email for Amazon’s decision.

 

To prevent being terminated, keep a close eye on your email and regularly review Amazon’s agreements and help pages as Amazon may change its procedures and guidelines at any time without notifying sellers. Monitor the customer metrics Amazon provides and compare your performance to the Amazon’s seller performance targets to make certain you are hitting the expected benchmarks.

Building an E-newsletter List? Make Sure You Are CAN-SPAM Compliant

Have you ever felt burned by getting a piece of mail from your bank, cable company or insurer whose envelope blared “Important Account Information Enclosed”? You know the outcome: You opened the envelope, that “important information” turned out to be an ad.

Translate that print tactic into untold millions of e-newsletters in distribution, and you will understand why the CAN-SPAM business compliance guide was created.

Email a Powerful Attraction Tactic

Even in an age of Facebook “likes” and Twitter “tweets,” email and e-newsletters — when handled right — continue to be a robust tool for marketers.

  • According to 2011 statistics published by Exact Target, 42 percent of subscribers are more likely to purchase from a company whose emails they subscribe to.
  • The other side of that coin? Content Marketing Institute notes that the e-newsletter open rate can go as low as 8 percent, with monthly newsletters averaging in the low-20 range.

So the audience making up your e-newsletter lists needs to be one you screen carefully — those on your list should be the people most likely to find your information valuable enough to subscribe and to read at least occasionally with few opt-outs. If you use purchased e-newsletter lists, ensure they are from reputable sources consisting only of “opt in” subscribers.

Keeping Out of Trouble

Once you’ve identified an audience to invite as subscribers, you must establish an acceptable template for your message. Just a few false moves, and your carefully crafted e-newsletter could end up in the spam folder.

CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003) establishes standards for commercial email, including e-newsletters. It spells out what you can and cannot say, and sets penalties for violations.

Under the CAN-SPAM rules, for example, you are required to:

  • Identify the nature of your message as an e-newsletter.
  • Tell recipients where you are located. Your e-newsletter must include both an email return address and a valid physical postal address.
  • Tell recipients how they can opt-out of your e-newsletter, and honor their request within 10 business days.

Conversely, the CAN-SPAM law prohibits:

  • False or misleading header information. In other words, the “To,” “From” and “Reply to” headers must accurately identify the person or company initiating the email.
  • Deceptive subject lines. No false promises, “gotcha” wording or other text that doesn’t reflect on the actual content of the e-newsletter.
  • Sending through an open relay or using harvested email address (both examples of technology that allows spammers to find and use lists).

And of course, the CAN-SPAM act requires you to truthfully describe any products or services you are offering for sale in your e-newsletter — and if you are positioning this information as an ad, you must identify it as such.

How to Attract More Subscribers

Subscribers can quickly become un-subscribers, so identifying and attracting new audiences is an important part of your e-newsletter strategy.

How can you encourage people to opt-in?

  • Promote your e-newsletter on your website’s homepage. Keep a colorful sign-up icon near the top of the screen, as you can never rely on visitors scrolling all the way down.
  • Invite new customers to subscribe. If someone makes a purchase through your website, follow it up with an email invitation to the newsletter. You can use the same tactic with visitors who leave contact information on your landing page.
  • Include a “send to a friend” link on every e-newsletter to encourage forwards from subscribers.
  • Promote your e-newsletter on your social media pages; include sneak-peeks of articles or offers that subscribers will find in the newsletter.
  • Offer a free gift to new subscribers. It can be a special deal or item associated with your business, or something general, such as a drawing for an iPad. (However, all giveaways and drawings must be “no purchase necessary” in nature and something anyone may enter.)

Test and Test Again

The way you handle your e-newsletter lists may change once you see how many people opt-in and opt-out of their subscriptions. As with most forms of web marketing, e-newsletters can benefit from testing and measuring results to create the ideal marketing tool for you.