Amazon Launches Brand Referral Bonus Program

Want to make some extra cash through Amazon? Of course you do! Here’s how.

On July 15, Amazon announced the launch of a new Brand Referral Bonus Program. Available exclusively to brand owners enrolled in Brand Registry, the program further incentivizes sellers to accelerate growth from referral traffic.

In short, Amazon is giving you even more reason to level up your external traffic. Not only will registered sellers be able to profit by driving promotions from outside of Amazon, they’ll effectively be able to earn even more money from these sales.

Amazon estimates that on average, registered brands can earn a 10% bonus from qualifying sales. The bonus rate depends on the category for each product, with minor variables such as shipping and gift wrapping charges.

Before you start bumping up your marketing efforts, be sure to register for the program and then Amazon Attribution, if you haven’t already. For sellers already registered in Amazon Attribution, traffic from previous tags will still qualify for your bonus once you’ve registered for the bonus program.

Once you’ve successfully accomplished those tasks, you can create tags through Amazon Attribution that will track your performance and your bonus. Without Amazon Attribution tags, traffic will not count as qualifying credits toward your eventual bonus.

For those who are interested in monetizing traffic to their Amazon listings but don’t own a brand, the Amazon Associates program presents a similar opportunity by providing commissions for purchases brought in by their marketing efforts.

As you begin to see sales as a result of your external marketing efforts, you’ll be able to find and monitor your bonus amount within the Transaction Details page within the seller account.

Some patience will be required from sellers, as they will have to wait two months before they can use the bonuses so that Amazon can properly account for order cancelations and customer returns.

Summary

All in all, this Brand Referral Bonus Program presents a tremendous opportunity to scale your business. Sellers who make the most of this initiative will accelerate growth while saving money, improving the efficiency of their marketing efforts outside of Amazon.

Driving external traffic should always be on the mind of Amazon sellers, especially with the rising cost of advertising on Amazon. With an opportunity to earn money by executing strategies that were already beneficial by driving sales and boosting rank, it makes emphasizing traffic a no-brainer.

For sellers who have been executing strategies centering around external traffic, this bonus is free money. Amazon business owners unfamiliar with advertising outside of the confines of Amazon may find this to be the perfect opportunity to expand their reach. There may never be a greater time to experiment with ads on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

If you’ve been on the fence about ramping up your external traffic efforts, now is the time to unleash your inner influencer and make some extra dough!

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Get Rid of HTML Tags In Your Amazon Listing ASAP

On Monday, Amazon announced an upcoming change that will affect plenty of product listings. Starting July 17, 2021, Amazon will no longer support HTML tags in the product description of product detail pages.

You can view the entire statement from Seller Central below:

In order to provide security for our customers as well as versatility to list products on non-HTML devices, after July 17, 2021, we will stop supporting the use of HTML tags in the product description on product detail pages. Please refrain from using HTML content on detail pages as outlined on our Product detail page rules 260 Help page.

We encourage you to update any product detail page for your listings with an HTML tag. You can use Seller Central or your usual channel for such updates.

Any product description containing HTML tags in the product detail page which are not supported after July 17, 2021, will stop showing HTML formatting. For example, if you use HTML tags in one line of a product description, the line might be removed or shown without HTML formatting, depending on the usage of the tag.

Seller Central

The statement reads somewhat confusing, especially as the Product Detail Page guide referenced mentions that line breaks (written as “</br>”) can be included in the description as a special case. HTML line breaks in listings, as they break up text into smaller, more readable text blocks.

How It Appears

Additionally, the inclusion of “non-HTML devices” is a headscratcher, as most devices can read and display HTML markups without issue.

Nonetheless, Amazon sellers should prepare accordingly.

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While product descriptions don’t make a significant impact on keyword indexation, it allows an excellent opportunity to describe your product, explain crucial product details, and close the deal with a customer.

If segments of your product description are removed or displayed in an undesirable manner, it could consequently lead to lower conversions. Making sure your product description answers potential customer questions, highlights differentiating points, and is reader-friendly can certainly go a long way toward giving your product listing an edge over the competition. Any failure to do so invites customers to click off and check out your market rivals.

Of course, we’ll continue to monitor the situation as more information becomes available regarding the update. The announcement serves as the latest update in what’s been a rather busy week for Amazon news. Stay tuned for more regarding HTML tags on Amazon.

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What’s Going On with Amazon Search Results?

Recently, Amazon search results have gotten a little wonky. What’s the deal?

Over the weekend, attentive Amazon sellers started noticing strange, extreme changes in organic rank for their products. Suddenly, products that were mainstays atop organic search results vanished. Instead of appearing in the most desirable digital real estate on Amazon, they could be found deeper in the seldom seen pages of search.

As a result, sales plummeted for many top sellers as visibility severely declined. Meanwhile, product listings that typically don’t receive much traction benefitted from taking up top spots usually held by competitors.

Destaney Wishon of BetterAMS discovered the issue early on, and made a quick and helpful explainer outlining an example of the issue with Amazon search results.

At first, the sudden change flummoxed Amazon sellers. Was Amazon continuing to crackdown on sellers generating fake reviews? Did the ranking algorithm change?

According to Amazon, it’s simply an error that’s in the process of being corrected.

We are aware some customers are having issues with search results. We are working to resolve this as quickly as possible.

Amazon Technical Support

While many Amazon sellers state things have returned to normal for them, some sellers report the glitch has not been resolved as of Tuesday. Additionally, Amazon has not released a statement indicating that the issue has been completely resolved.

As any Amazon seller will tell you, organic rank remains the holy grail for Amazon sellers. Any rise or drop will significantly impact a product’s bottom line. With this in mind, monitoring your organic or advertising rank can be vital for tracking your product’s performance.

ALWAYS know when your keywords are rising or falling within Amazon search results with Keyword Manager

Of course, we’ll continue to monitor the situation as more information becomes available.

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Amazon Marketplace Sets Record Growth in Q1 2021

After a record-breaking 2020, the Amazon marketplace shows no signs of slowing down. In Amazon’s quarterly earnings report for Q1 2021, the results show the marketplace is only growing larger and third-party sellers remain the backbone of Amazon’s signature retail platform.

It’s estimated that third-party Amazon sellers were responsible for 55% of all products sold on the Amazon marketplace, matching Q4 2020 and up from 52% from a year earlier. Even more encouraging for Amazon sellers, that percentage hasn’t budged even as the amount of products sold has risen.

Overall, Amazon reports $52.9 billion in retail sales in Q1 2021. For comparison, that number represents 44% year-over-year growth from 2020.

Emphatically, the record-breaking numbers are encouraging in any context. However, the sales data becomes even more impressive when taking the events of the past year into context.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdowns that pushed customers online, it goes without saying Amazon sales would dramatically increase. If there were any doubts on if customers would ditch digital shopping once restrictions loosened up, this quarter serves as the first indicator of e-commerce’s staying power.

While the year-over-year results may be partially skewed due to the pandemic only impacting the last month or so, the numbers represent a significant increase from Q2 and Q3 2020, when the pandemic and its subsequent restrictions were more prevalent.

Regarding what’s ahead for Amazon, the company projects year-over-year growth between 24% and 30% for Q2 2021. This projection is company-wide and not solely for the marketplace. With this in mind, the Amazon marketplace continues to thrive and appears poised for continued growth for the foreseeable future.

Without a doubt, there’s never been more opportunity to make your entrepreneurial dreams come true on Amazon.

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Can Amazon Be a $3 Trillion Company in 2024? This Analyst Thinks So, Citing Marketplace, Advertising Health

Is Amazon stock (Ticker: AMZN) headed #ToTheMoon? One notable analyst thinks so, citing the strength of its marketplace, advertising, and AWS.

Are you on the fence about starting your own Amazon business? Concerned you may be late to the FBA party? According to one of the most notable stock analysts in tech, Amazon has plenty of room left to run, powered partly by its massive marketplace.

Brent Thill, a Wall Street Analyst at Jefferies, presented the case for Amazon’s stock price rising to $5,700 over the next three years. In April 2019, Thill speculated that Amazon stock could skyrocket from its then-price of just above $1,800 to more than $3,000 within two years. Amazon stock would reach $3,000 comfortably within Thill’s forecast, doing so in July 2020.

Currently trading at $3,399.44 a share, this would mark a 70% uptick for a company that already owns the third-largest market cap in the S&P 500.

Unless you’re an Amazon stockholder, the gaudy valuation may seem unimportant for the typical third-party Amazon sellers. However, the reasons for Thill’s $3 trillion figure should cause sellers’ ears to perk up.

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While Amazon is renowned for its far-reaching services, three Amazon pillars stand out as a cause for optimism for the foreseeable future: Amazon Web Services (AWS), its advertising platform, and of course, the marketplace.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Perhaps just as eye-popping as the $3 trillion valuation, Thill believes AWS alone could be worth $1.2 trillion in three years. Since its inception in 2006, AWS has shown accelerated growth as cloud computing gains popularity.

The growth of AWS was brought to the forefront months ago when Andy Jassy, the CEO of AWS, was tapped to replace Jeff Bezos as Amazon CEO.

Already boasting an impressive portfolio of clients, AWS appears perfectly primed for scalability as the need for computing, web security, and data storage grows.

Certainly, Amazon’s bet on AWS is paying off in spades and serves as a landmark achievement for Amazon diversifying its revenue streams at a massive scale.

The Amazon Marketplace

While other retail chains stumbled at the onset of the pandemic, Amazon’s retail marketplace soared to new heights.

If there were any concerns about these new heights being a peak before shoppers return to brick-and-mortar retail, Thill’s analysis doesn’t see it that way.

“Prime adoption and a broader shift to e-commerce have driven an acceleration in growth,” Thill wrote. “We believe the length of the pandemic has served to ingrain consumers’ increased reliance on e-commerce.”

Thill estimates the value of the marketplace in three years at $1 trillion. Better news for third-party sellers, $700 billion of that is forecasted for them.

The healthy market conditions for third-party sellers fuel an entire industry built on buying Amazon businesses, with hopes of positioning themselves for the continued booming business. Over the past 12 months, more than $3.5 billion in capital has been used to aid Amazon business acquisitions.

Even as e-commerce boomed in 2020 and into 2021, the analysis of the marketplace’s strength over the long run should be plenty of reassurance for sellers.

Amazon Advertising

Overshadowed by the announcement of Jeff Bezos departure from Amazon CEO but not overlooked by Thill, Amazon’s most recent quarterly report revealed a shocking amount of revenue generated from advertising.

Per MarketingDive, ad revenue growth rate of 64% outpaced growth for third-party seller services (54%), subscription services (34%), AWS (28%), and its online store (43%, which reported record revenue.

The ramped-up growth tells the story of an emerging asset for the company, and more importantly for sellers, which will become a much larger tool for sellers in the near future.

As the marketplace grows, it only makes sense that the value for visibility for sellers increases with it. Amidst the pandemic, e-commerce steadily became a more popular shopping option globally. The pandemic transformed e-commerce from an option to a necessity for many, and customers are unlikely to stop shopping online, with even more projected expansion.

A leading argument for the staying power of Amazon advertising is that it’s an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship between the marketplace, sellers, and customers. In a system where the marketplace sells valuable retail space, leading to satisfied customers and profits for sellers, everyone wins.

Back to Thill’s valuation, he believes Amazon’s advertising could be worth more than $600 billion in three years, behind only Google and Facebook. Recent updates and new features to the advertising platform are actions that display Amazon’s budding emphasis on advertising.

For third-party sellers, this means advertising should be at the forefront of your growth strategy. In an industry where trends are here one day and gone the next, Amazon advertising isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, the optimistic outlook from a respected analyst has to make Amazon sellers feel good about the future.

Much like following market trends within Amazon can help sellers find winning products, following company trends can give you a great idea of the next big thing in the industry.

Thill’s analysis should be a tremendous sign for the future of the Amazon marketplace and indicate that advertising should be front-and-center in future strategy.

With e-commerce forecasts, Wall Street analysis, and venture capitalists looking to enter the space, the future of the Amazon marketplace remains bright.

If you were on the fence about starting an Amazon business, there likely will not be a better time to start than now.

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Amazon Sends Major Reminder Regarding GTINs

On Thursday, Amazon Seller Central shared a reminder regarding GTINs that could result in products becoming invalid.

In a recent Seller Central update, Amazon reminded sellers that unique GTINs (Global Trade Item Number) are a requirement for its marketplace in most categories. Amazon warned that listed products without an acceptable GTIN would be removed if corrective actions aren’t taken in time.

As the update states, “GTINs are considered invalid if they are not GS1-vended or not recognized by the brand owner.”

The reminder arrives as Amazon continues to ensure its marketplace is up-to-code and worthy of consumer trust. Above all, GS1 provides standards for industries to allow products, services, and information to move efficiently and securely to benefit of businesses and consumers.

What You Can Do

Sellers can check to see if their products are in danger of being considered invalid due to the GTIN policy by visiting the Fix Your Product tool in Seller Central.

Affected listings will be displayed in the At Risk listings section.

[RELATED: UPC Codes for Amazon: Everything You Need To Know]

If you don’t have any at-risk listings, no further actions are needed.

To fix any affected ASINs, you can submit a letter of authorization or a licensing agreement that meets the following criteria:

  • Includes the name and address of the brand’s rights owner
  • Legible: it is not too blurry and not too light or dark
  • Displays the manufacturer name and contact information
  • Includes the seller’s legal business name or the seller name that corresponds to your Account information page in Seller Central
  • Includes the seller’s physical address
  • Must be in English
  • Includes a GS1 certificate
    Note: We recommend that you obtain your GTINs directly from GS1 (and not from other third parties selling GTIN licenses) to ensure that the appropriate information is reflected in the GS1 database. For more information on licensing EANs or UPCs from GS1, refer to the GS1 website.

Also, it should be noted this is not a change of policy, but a reminder of the rules and guidelines. For the official statement from Amazon, please refer to the Seller Central statement.

Lastly, be sure to check your status within Seller Central immediately to avoid any future complications.

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The Amazon Product Documents Program Explained

Amazon’s latest seller program aims to cut down on returns, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the buyer and seller experience.

Recently, Amazon unveiled its Product Documents Program, a helpful resource for sellers to upload electronic documents for potential customers to view.

Safety information, user guides and manuals, fact sheets, and instructions for use are just a few of the vital documents that eligible sellers can upload to improve their customer experience.

Previously, sellers needed to include these documents as inserts with their purchase, making them only available to customers who had already made a purchase. Now, this information can visible to customers as they shop.

Amazon describes the program below.

These are customer-facing documents that will be shown on your product detail pages. They are intended to provide pre-purchase information and post-purchase support content to customers. Adding product documents to your product detail pages can result in higher conversion rates, lower customer support costs, increased sales, and fewer returns when used effectively.

Amazon’s About Product Documents

Of course, with any new program, there are questions. Below, we’ll answer a few of the initial questions to help you get familiar with the new program.

Why does this program exist? Who does it benefit?

Customers and all eligible sellers who utilize the program benefit by increasing the quality of seller-to-buyer communication.

Before purchasing, customers can see important information about the product they’re purchasing. For instance, a customer may purchase a product that is more difficult to assemble than they anticipated, contains materials they don’t approve of, or be sized differently than anticipated. Typically, these transactions end with some combination of an unsatisfied customer, a return, or a poor review.

Amazon Product Documents allow sellers to be more transparent with customers regarding crucial product information. As a result, a more informed customer is more likely to be a satisfied customer. Additionally, a seller that is more transparent about product information is more likely to make a sale, avoid a negative review, and generate brand loyalty.

All in all, the program is mutually beneficial for the seller and the buyer.

Who Can Participate?

Registered brand owners in the Amazon Brand Registry program.

The Product Documents Program is the latest perk of being brand registered. While purely speculation, we’d imagine this is unlikely to become available for non-brand registered sellers any time soon.

[RELEVANT: A Guide to Amazon Brand Registry]

How much does it cost to join?

That’s right! There is no fee to join the Amazon Product Documents Program.

What types of documents can be uploaded?

At the moment, this is a complete list of the types of documents and formats allowed as a part of the Amazon Product Documents Program:

  • Safety Information (PDF)
  • Certificate of Analysis (PDF)
  • Certificate of Compliance (PDF)
  • User Guide (PDF)
  • User Manual (PDF)
  • Specification Sheet (PDF)
  • Comparison Chart (PDF)
  • Product Documentation (PDF)
  • 2D CAD (PDF, DWG, DXF)
  • 3D CAD (PDF, EDRW, EPRT, IGS, SLDPRT, STP)
  • Application Guide (PDF)
  • Brochure (PDF)
  • Compatibility Guide (PDF)
  • Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) (PDF)
  • EUA Amendment(s) (PDF)
  • FAQ (PDF)
  • Instructions for Use (IFU) (PDF)
  • Fact Sheet (Patient) (PDF)
  • Fact Sheet (Provider) (PDF)
  • Safety Information (PDF)
  • Size Guide (PDF)
  • Troubleshooting Guide (PDF)

How do I get started?

Amazon provides the following instructions for uploading documents from start-to-finish!

To upload documents for your product in Seller Central:

  1. Go to Inventory > Manage Product Documents.
  2. Click Upload New Documents.
  3. Choose a name for the document you are uploading. This is only for your reference. Customers will not see this name.
  4. Select a document type from the list of allowed document types.
  5. Choose the language or languages that are present in the document you are uploading.
  6. Choose a file to upload. Files must be:
    • Less than 10MB
    • PDF format except for CAD drawings
    • CAD drawings may be in PDF, dwg, dxf, igs, eprt, edrw, sidprt, or stp format
  7. Search by ASIN or product name and follow the on-screen prompts to associate one or more ASINs with the document you are uploading. At least one ASIN must be applied to the document for it to be uploaded.

Once submitted, your content may take seven business days to be reviewed for adherence to below mentioned Amazon guidelines for product documents. It may take longer during peak times. Documents that do not adhere to these guidelines will be rejected.

Once approved, it can take up to seven business days to publish on the detail page of the ASINs to which it applies. If the document status is “Not approved,” view the rejection reasons by clicking Edit for a specific document and make the changes.”

Conclusion

Above all, the Amazon Product Documents Program appears to be a great option to improve customer experience. For eligible sellers with applicable documents, we highly recommend joining this program as soon as possible!

As always, any opportunity to stand out from the competition on Amazon is an edge worth exploring. Uploading product documents with important information may boost consumer confidence and increase the likelihood of turning a click into a conversion.

Even more likely, these document uploads are likely to be an incredibly helpful resource for customers that will decrease the probability of a return and/or negative review. Recently, Amazon has taken much of the onus of customer satisfaction out of the seller’s hands. While this creates less work for sellers, it also takes away control for sellers.

Furthermore, by uploading your own documents and making them easily accessible to potential sellers, you have the chance to gain control back. As a result, you can turn would-be 1-star reviews into 5-star reviews by giving the customer everything they need for a happy transaction.

Amazon News & Updates: Amazon Launches Marketplace in Poland

The e-commerce giant continues its global expansion in Europe.

On Tuesday, March 2nd, Amazon expanded its reach by launching its Polish marketplace, Amazon.pl.

Upon launching, Amazon.pl boasts more than 100 million products across more than 30 categories, making it one of the company’s most expansive launches yet. As global e-commerce continues growth accelerated by the pandemic, the launch of yet another marketplace signals the world’s largest online retailer is still growing.

“We are thrilled to launch Amazon.pl and to be able to offer Polish customers a selection of more than 100 million products, including tens of thousands of products from local Polish businesses.”

Alex Ootes, VP of EU Expansion at Amazon, to Reuters

[Relevant: 5 Reasons To Start Selling on Amazon Europe]

While not without competition from e-commerce companies such as Poland-based Allegro, the arrival of Amazon into any marketplace or industry undoubtedly changes its landscape.

The Amazon.pl home page.

For Amazon sellers, it’s worthwhile to monitor Amazon’s steady expansion into new countries, as they often provide an opportunity to get your brand in front of a global audience. In most instances, Amazon’s fulfillment network makes it convenient for existing sellers to be listed in international marketplaces.

Additionally, making your products available sooner on any Amazon marketplace could pay off handsomely if the new market adopts it as the e-commerce marketplace of choice. If you’re a seller looking to grow internationally with Amazon, you can get started here.

The addition of an Amazon marketplace in Poland brings Amazon’s total marketplaces to 19, spanning North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

The 19 Amazon Global Marketplaces as of March 2021

The Amazon Poland Launch comes less than six months after the arrival of Amazon Sweden. While no announcements regarding further expansion have been made, we’ll be monitoring Amazon’s ongoing expansion efforts.

[Recommended: Find International Products with Product Discovery!]

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4 Notable Amazon Updates & What They Mean for Sellers

Jeff Bezos is obsessed with providing the best customer experience possible. In fact, he was recently quoted saying, “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” 

As a shopper on Amazon, this means an overall better experience. We can all appreciate a seamless shopping experience and super-speedy shipping. But as an Amazon seller, every update to the algorithm, every policy change, and every feature roll-out can directly impact your bottom line. In order to adapt, maintain sales, and grow your business, you should always understand how recent changes are affecting you.

Here at Viral Launch, we live and breathe Amazon. And right when they make a change, we set out to help you understand what it means for you. In today’s news roundup, we’ll go through 4 updates you should know about. And if you want to keep an even closer eye on changes, follow along on social media where we share the latest news and success tactics in real-time.

1. Product Inserts Policy Mixup

The news: Many sellers were shocked and frustrated after receiving an email on 10/31 reminding sellers that product inserts may not ask for a review of any kind. This email contradicted the official policy on their site that only prohibits product inserts that ask for a positive review. Amazon quickly corrected the error with a follow-up message reading: We want to remind you that Amazon policies prohibit box inserts and product packaging that direct consumers to write a positive review, even if no incentive is offered for a review. 

The email that caused confusion, neglecting to clarify that you cannot ask for positive reviews.

What it means for you: Because Amazon corrected the error, there is no change in policy here. However, it’s a good opportunity to ensure you’re in line with Amazon’s terms when it comes to product inserts and reviews. Your product inserts cannot ask customers to take an action based on a positive or negative experience, which means you can’t ask them to contact you instead of leaving a negative review. And remember, you cannot review your own product, incentivize reviews in any way, or use third party services that offer free or discounted products tied to a review. If you have any products already in fulfillment centers and are in violation of the policies, you’ll want to create a removal order to proactively remove your inventory and avoid any trouble.

2. Communication Guidelines Simplified

The news: Effective on December 3rd, Amazon has updated its Customer Communication Guidelines. The company says they’re not changing the policies but are refreshing the language to make it clearer after hearing complaints from many sellers. In summary, the guidelines state that you may contact a buyer who has purchased from you on Amazon only to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry. You may not contact buyers in any way for marketing or promotional purposes, including via email, physical mail, telephone, or otherwise. Read the full policy.

What this means for you: This is another scenario where Amazon is making it crystal clear that it is not allowed to contact buyers for anything other than support. While no drastic action is needed, you’ll want to review the policy to make sure you’re not in violation. Historically, Amazon has made small changes that lead to suspension sweeps, so if you’re currently promoting your brand to past Amazon customers, take this as an opportunity to make changes that align with TOS.

3. Request a Review Button

The news: In Seller Central, you may have noticed a new button on the “Order Details” page labeled “Request a Review.” When you click it, you’ll see the following message: 

And after clicking Yes, you’ll see a popup that says, “A review will be requested for this order. (Note: We will suppress this request if a review has already been requested for this order).” For now, it seems Amazon is testing this button on the Amazon US marketplace, and it’s only available once per sale.

What this means for you: Amazon has also recently removed sections of a customer’s contact information, such as last name and shipping address. The “Request a Review” button falls in this same effort to keep buyer-seller messaging in-house. It’s definitely worth requesting reviews from your buyers to see if you’re able to generate reviews quickly. With the ask coming from Amazon, customers may be more inclined to act. However, as more and more sellers become aware and abuse this button, it could mean that Amazon pivots again or simply that the button will lose effectiveness. Either way, we’ll keep a close eye on how the market is responding and will update via our social media channels. 

4. “Posts” in Beta

The news: Under the Amazon Advertising umbrella, Posts let Amazon sellers use curated photos to inspire shoppers to engage with their brands and products on Amazon. Focused on a brand-shopping experience, Posts help shoppers discover new products and see what’s new from brands by browsing feeds of brand-curated content. They’re currently US only, free to participate in, and include engagement metrics, including views, clicks, and clickthrough rates. Learn more.

What this means for you: Amazon understands the power of social selling and branding. They’re putting resources behind it, so as a seller on their platform you should too. You’re probably no stranger to the value of growing a following early on a social media platform. Of course, Posts may not explode the way Instagram did or TikTok is (in fact, they just shut down Spark, a discovery shopping feature launched in 2017). But, if you’re running social media for your brand anyways, it may be worth testing whether or not Posts will pay off for your brand. They show up on your own detail pages, detail pages for related brands, feeds for related posts, and category-based feeds… all of which are prime real estate. 

Make Small Changes for Big Results

By being the first to know about Amazon updates, you can stay ahead of other Amazon sellers and ensure your products are positioned for success. But you’ll also want to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered when it comes to the basics. For example, are your Amazon advertising campaigns adding to your bottom line, or are you confused about how to make them work? We understand how important it is to get the basics right, so we recently launched two free Amazon courses. Yep, they’re free! 

From Employee to Entrepreneur: How to Sell on Amazon: Follow this step-by-step process to learn the basics of Amazon, confidently build an online business, and unlock your full potential as an entrepreneur. Enroll for free! 

Amazon PPC Playbook: Follow this step-by-step process to make sponsored ads work for you, receive bigger payouts, and get one step closer to freedom. Enroll for free!

Stay in-the-Know

As Amazon continues to make changes, the Viral Launch team will be the first to make sure you’re aware. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for immediate updates.

Follow us on Twitter for real-time Amazon updates!

And if you have any comments or questions about the most recent updates, let us know in the comments below!

Latest Amazon Updates: The Week in Review – October 22-29

The month of October has been quite the whirlwind for Amazon and its sellers. October 3rd, Amazon released a ToS update that banned incentivized reviews, kickstarting a season full of updates and policy changes.

To recap the latest Amazon updates:

  • August 28: Amazon enacts massive restrictions on certain brands, preventing 3rd party sellers from selling without approval.
  • September 1: Amazon announces in an email to sellers that, effective November 1st, US Seller fulfilled returns will be automatically authorized, and Amazon will provide prepaid return label on the seller’s behalf. Read more here.
  • October 3: The new Terms of Service prohibits providing a free or discounted product in exchange for a review unless it’s through the Vine program. Read more here.
  • October 10: Amazon closes the door to Fulfillment by Amazon for new sellers during the Q4, 2016 period. See here under the orange button at the bottom of the page.
  • October 21: Amazon clarifies Promotional Content in Customer Reviews and Questions and Answers in wake of the new review policy. Read more here.

This past week continued this month’s trend with Amazon’s mass seller email regarding reviews and the introduction to Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program..

 

Amazon’s Incentivized Review Mass Email

Many sellers reported receiving an email on October 24th from Amazon with a strict warning about moving forward with incentivized reviews:

“We recently updated our policies to prohibit incentivize reviews, including those posted in exchange for a free or discounted copy of the product. You are receiving this email because products you sell have received incentivize reviews in the past. If you attempt to acquire incentivize reviews going forward, your Amazon privileges will be suspended or terminated.

We consider a review to be incentivized if you have influenced or can influence the review directly or indirectly, including by monitoring whether a review is written and providing or withholding any benefit based on whether a review is written or the content of the review. Below are a few examples where a review is considered incentivize and is not permitted:

  • You provide a free or discounted product, gift card, rebate, cash payment, or other compensation in exchange for the review.
  • You provide or withhold free or discounted products or other benefits in the future based on whether the customer writes a review.
  • You use a review service where reviewers’ continued membership depends on writing reviews.
  • You use a review service where you can rate customers based on their reviews.
  • You use a review service where customers register their Amazon public profile so that you can monitor their reviews of your products.

Incentivizing customer reviews violates our policies and may violate the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The following actions are generally allowed, provided you comply with the above restrictions:

  • You might offer discounts that are generally available to all Amazon customers, such as Lightning Deals.
  • You may give out free products at tradeshows, conventions, or other similar venues where you are unable to monitor whether the recipients write a review or provide or withhold any benefits based on whether a review is written or the content of the review.

The above changes apply only to product categories other than books. We continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advanced review copies of books.”

The initial seller response was shock and a bit of fear. After all, getting called out by the Giant itself is a bit intimidating. However, through this email, Amazon is really just confirming what our CEO, Casey Gauss, mentioned in our initial blog post about the ToS change and our follow up blog post clarifying the policy. Casey posed two large takeaways on October 14th:

  1. “It is okay for 3rd party websites to distribute discounted claim codes on behalf of Amazon merchants.”
  2. “It is okay for merchants to follow-up with the discounted buyers asking for a review, so long as they abide by all other review policies and stipulations (ex. Don’t ask for only a positive review, do not force the customer to leave a review, do not monitor whether or not they were able to leave a review, etc.)”

These statements still hold true, even through this email. Yes, in the past you may have used a review service to receive a review in exchange for a discounted product. But, you weren’t in the wrong. In fact, you were in line with Amazon’s policy at the time. The policy isn’t retroactive, meaning your Amazon privileges should not be suspended or revoked because of those past reviews. *However, we have witnessed that Amazon is retroactively removing thousands of reviews left with a disclaimer.*

This mass email was sent to many sellers who have run promotions in the past, and it serves as a method to make sure that all sellers are well-informed on the new policy. The carefully-worded email instructs sellers on the new do’s and dont’s of offering discounts and receiving reviews, which actually gives some insightful clarification to the update.

So sellers, don’t interpret the email as, “I’m getting kicked off of Amazon, and I’ll never ever be able to sell anything again.” Read it as, “Amazon has notified me that past actions are now against policy. I now have to abide by the new policy, which they’ve just informed me of.” Moving forward, it’s important to abide by these policies. And yes, product promotions are still compliant with these policies. As we mentioned in a blog addressing the review disclaimer a couple of weeks back, “Viral Launch is not giving products in exchange for a review. We are not providing compensation to buyers to leave reviews, nor do our buyers have connections with you as a seller/marketer.” Product giveaways through Viral Launch are still permissible, as we are not providing a product or any compensation for a review, we are not providing products in the future based on whether or not a customer leaves a review, we are not using reviews as a membership requirement on our buyer site, we are not allowing you to rate customers on our buyer site, and we are not registering our buyers’ Amazon public profiles in order to monitor reviews.

All that to say, rest easy, friend. We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that we are in line with the new policy change. This email may have appeared to be intimidating at first, but as long as you continue to move forward within the Terms of Service, you will be in good shape.

 

Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program

Yesterday, on October 27th, Amazon announced the introduction of its new Early Reviewer Program. After banning sellers from incentivizing reviews, Amazon itself will start rewarding and incentivizing reviews. It is believed that the program is currently in beta testing and will likely be enacted at the start of November. Amazon describes the program on its Site Features:

The Early Reviewer Program encourages customers who have already purchased a product to share their authentic experience about that product, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. Amazon shoppers depend on reviews to learn more about products, and this program helps to acquire early reviews on products that have few or no reviews, helping shoppers make smarter buying decisions. Customers who have purchased a product participating in the Early Reviewer Program may be asked to write a review and those customers who submit a review within the offer period will receive a small reward (e.g. a $1-$3 Amazon.com Gift Card) for helping future shoppers.

This new program should (hopefully) help sellers who are bringing a brand new product to market. Doing so over the past month has been a bit like the chicken and the egg scenario; you need reviews to get sales and you need sales to get reviews. Where the heck do you start? One of our main recommendations has been implementing a stellar email follow-up sequence to capitalize on all sales, trying to get as many of those oh-so-important initial reviews from the get-go. But with this move, Amazon may be trying to smother follow-up review sequences. Think about it from a consumer standpoint…if you are bombarded with emails every time you make a purchase on Amazon, you might end up with a bad taste in your mouth about Amazon as a whole. It may seem like a bunch of review hungry sellers who only want you for your review. But, if Amazon can be in control of who reviews, and if they can make email follow-up sequences seem pointless when they’re bringing in higher review rates, Amazon wins and the customer wins. And for Amazon, that’s a win-win.

As we get more information on the Early Reviewer Program, we’ll be sure to share it. For now, we’ll say that it should hopefully be good news for sellers looking for initial reviews on new products. It does seem a little ironic though, doesn’t it? Amazon bans incentivized reviews and then incentivizes reviews…Well, when you live in Amazon’s world, you’ve got to live by Amazon’s rules.

More information from Amazon concerning the Early Reviewer Program can be found here.

 

Conclusion

The latest Amazon updates have caused quite the buzz within the Amazon seller community. While it may seem hard to keep up, we’re here to comb through the changes and guide you through the wonderful, hard, rewarding, and sometimes stressful process of selling on Amazon. We’ve been busier than ever this month, and I’m sure you have been too. But isn’t that part of the fun?

Continue to stay informed and make decisions that are in line with Amazon’s (ever-changing) policies, and you’ll be okay. While selling on Amazon may be confusing and messy at times, it can surely be rewarding. Although it may be a bit tougher to bring a product to market, it definitely isn’t impossible. In fact, we believe that with the right strategy, you can definitely still be incredibly successful as a private-label seller. Amazon makes the rules, and everyone has to live by them. If you can figure out how to do it best, you’ll be in great shape. And as always, Viral Launch will be here to help inform and clarify along the way.

We would love to hear your thoughts and questions on the latest Amazon updates. Feel free to post in the comments below!