Amazon Seller News: Seller Facts, Blackout Dates, New COO Requirements, Banned HTML, and More...
- Amazon Releases Free Product Research Tool Named ‘Product Opportunity Explorer’
- New Documentation for Supplements Required to Avoid Listing Removal
- Updated Amazon Inventory Deadlines For Q4
- Delivery Time Accuracy With New Amazon Shipping Settings Automation Tool
- China’s Widespread Power Cuts Further Strain Global Supply Chain
- New Changes To Removal Of Aged Inventory
- Amazon Suspension Risk For The Uninsured
- Amazon Egypt Now Open For Business
- Why Have Amazon Sellers Suffered a Significant Drop in Restock Limits?
- SoStocked Prices Increasing After Friday, September 17th, 2021
- Amazon Search Shadowban For Products That Violate Title Guidelines
- Your Amazon Posts Can Now Appear On Your Product Detail Pages
- Amazon Grade And Resell Program Rolled Out To Reduce FBA Waste
- Amazon Overhauls Its A-to-z Guarantee Policies To Streamline Damages Claims
- Now Factor Restock Limits Into Forecasts
- Streamline Shipments With “Send To Amazon”
- Changes To Amazon Professional Selling Plan Fees
- Automated Amazon Stranded Inventory Removal
- Typhoon Wreaks Supply Chain Havoc On China's Eastern Coast
- Country Of Origin Now Required For Amazon Products
- Prevent Customer Complaints By Putting Seals On Consumables
- New Amazon Brand Referral Bonus Program For Amazon Sellers
- Four New Certifications Could Qualify You For Climate Pledge Friendly Badge
- Amazon IPI (Inventory Performance Index) Update
- Potentially Lower Fulfillment Fees Spells Good News For Amazon Sellers
- Big News: Sellers Can (Again) Contact Customers About Bad Reviews
- Amazon’s APRL Scheme Leaves Sour Taste In Sellers’ Mouths
- Blackout Dates: China’s Dragon Boat Festival
- Amazon Global Program: Sell Worldwide With No Added Fees
- Set a Faster Default Handling Time
- Amazon Product Description HTML
- Amazon Prime Day 2021 Check-In Dates
- Amazon 2021 MCF Fees and Features
- 2021 Amazon Restock Limits Update
- CBP Announces New Customs Requirements For Low-Value Shipments
- Five Seller Facts from Bezos’ Final Shareholder Letter as Amazon CEO
- All ASINs Now Require Melting Temperature Attribute
- RIP Early Review Program
- VAT Services Even When Outside EU
- Unsuitable Inventory Policy
- Amazon’s New Automated Pricing Tool
- A/B Testing Product Images Available
- New Shipping Data Requirements
- Amazon Storage Limit Updates
- Amazon “Review Commenting” Updates
Amazon Releases Free Product Research Tool Named ‘Product Opportunity Explorer’
To satisfy unmet customer needs, Amazon has recently introduced “Product Opportunity Explorer,” a new product research tool that helps third-party sellers identify innovative new items to launch and sell on its website.
It is hinted at but not fully clear whether sellers will be provided with more detailed data on product niches that Amazon does not have current offerings for. Access to more of Amazon’s internal search data might provide knowledge as to which areas are being underserved on Amazon and this very well could be a means for Amazon to provide third-party sellers the opportunity to launch products within that space quickly. This would be a smart move on Amazon’s part as it would help third-party sellers to develop and launch products that buyers are not finding on the marketplace currently.
Empowering Sellers with Advanced Capabilities
The Product Opportunity Explorer is an excellent addition to any seller’s marketing arsenal. While it seems, at face value, to be an Amazon version of the tools that many AMZ software marketing suites have been offering for years, our hope is that it will provide more actual internal data that has not been wholly available to us previously.
This new tool intends to help sellers discover new market opportunities by providing valuable insights into what shoppers are truly searching for, visiting, and purchasing (and not purchasing) on Amazon itself.
It also provides rich information on a product’s search volume, pricing trends, past sales, and growth potential. This way, sellers can efficiently gauge and assess its potential on Amazon, i.e., whether or not it will gain customer traction.
Once a new product is ready for launch, sellers may opt to join Amazon's FBA New Selection program to qualify for free product removals, return processing, and monthly storage for all new-to-FBA parent ASINS for a limited time. Keeping costs low while launching a new product will help sellers improve their margins during the early sales period.
Eliminate Guesses from Growth Strategy
Product Opportunity Explorer gets its data straight from the source (Amazon). So, the insights it provides are based on what customers actually want and need rather than making educated guesses, which many third-party tools do.
Therefore, Amazon’s product research tool helps take the guesswork out of discovering which new products to sell. And since all the data sellers need for their research comes from a single location, it makes the job less time-consuming, allowing them to come up with new offerings more efficiently.
Of course, we take everything with a grain of salt as it is an Amazon tool and we’ve found often that non-Amazon tools have been much more accurate, workable, and user-friendly. At the same time, this is a search data-driven tool and the source of the data being Amazon means that this tool has a higher likelihood of being a valuable resource.
Time will tell, but it is certainly an intriguing and interesting new development that we hope will benefit the seller community well.
Available for free in Seller Central, Amazon’s product research tool is currently in testing mode, with plans to make it accessible to all sellers in 2022.
New Documentation for Supplements Required to Avoid Listing Removal
As more and more questionable food supplements come onto the market with claims that they can support weight loss, improve memory and attention span, or enhance sexual performance, Amazon further reins in the supplements niche. As if automatic listing suspensions when you use mysterious restricted terms weren’t bad enough, get ready to submit to more rigorous compliance.
In late September 2021, Amazon began requesting that sellers in the UK and EU who list certain high-risk food supplements submit compliance and safety documentation for products that fall within these sub-categories. Primary focus seems to be within the sexual enhancement and weight loss segments but, in true Amazon fashion, we do not have a complete list of those under fire so all sellers in food supplements should be prepared and should also skim their listings for anything that might push them unnecessarily into being flagged for those categories.
It has always been the case that products sold on Amazon's platform must comply with national and international laws and its own policies for compliance and safety. But it seems Amazon is increasing the regulation, verification and enforcement of these products. This could be a good thing for some sellers in that it could help to thin the competition and make it more difficult for bad actors to enter the space. On the other hand, we can be certain that some good sellers will fall within the crosshairs and suffer from these updated policies.
Amazon's new legislation dictates that sellers who wish to continue trading these kinds of supplements will now need to provide documentation that they have been manufactured according to national healthcare standards, which differ from county to country. To find out more about which requirements are necessary for each county, Amazon suggests reading these guidelines. In addition, you can visit Seller Central and Vendor Central to view the compliance status of listings and to upload new documentation.
While these policy changes only affect sellers of food supplements in certain categories, Amazon has reminded all sellers of food supplements and grocery category products to ensure that their listings comply with its latest food and food supplement regulations.
Amazon will provide sellers with a 60-day grace period to get up to speed with the new rules, but any food supplements product listings that fall into the high-risk categories that are not accompanied with the required documentation are subject to removal as early as November 2021. Supplements usually tend to have a big boost in January due to New Year’s Resolutions so make sure you are prepared to avoid such disasters.
Amazon Inventory Deadlines For Q4
Make sure that you don’t run out of stock this holiday season by preparing your inventory for Q4 well before Amazon’s deadlines.
To avoid missing any opportunities and to offer your customers the best discounts and deals without interruption, be sure that all your inventory reaches Amazon’s fulfillment centers before the following dates:
One way to prepare for the holidays is with an inventory and logistics checklist. With factors like the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic causing worldwide labor shortages in production and logistics sectors, plus the recent typhoons, floods and ongoing power cuts in China, the global supply chain is fraught with delays, so making sure you are on the ball with your delivery timelines is crucial.
Another thing you can do to get ready for Q4 is to create a calendar with FBA holiday selling dates. Your calendar should include all the US national holidays, and you should add blackout dates that might affect your Amazon business. Alternatively, you can simply download our Blackout Days Calendar and use this information to add supplier blackout dates to your SoStocked account.
If you need any further information on getting ready for holidays or selling dates, you can also read Amazon’s guidelines here, or if you want to learn more about what Amazon’s deals your products qualify for, head over to their deals page.
Delivery Time Accuracy With New Amazon Shipping Settings Automation Tool
Amazon has released a powerful new tool for sellers that it calls Shipping Settings Automation (SSA). This tool is specifically geared toward Merchant-Fulfilled and Seller-Fulfilled Prime shipments. It lets you create shipping templates quickly to provide your buyers with more accurate delivery estimates per region.
Plus, thanks to this new feature, you won’t need to calculate shipping times for each region manually anymore because SSA will do it for you automatically. It does this by using your warehouse(s) location, the buyer’s location, and up-to-the-minute information from the carrier(s) you use. Essentially, this saves you time as it eliminates the need to update your shipping templates with accurate details. Read on to find out more about how it works, how you can use it to your advantage, and what to watch out for when using the settings.
Who can use SSA, and what are the benefits?
As of now, SSA supports automated delivery times for domestic self-fulfilled standard shipping, including expedited one and two-day deliveries, as well as Seller-Fulfilled Prime. It comes as no surprise that buyers want fast delivery times, so having a tool that allows you to provide customers with the most accurate information is something you should seriously consider adding to your seller arsenal. Even if your delivery times are a little longer, giving your customers precise transit times will go a long way to improving buyer satisfaction by setting expectations, and in the long term, this should improve customer relations and potentially show up in more positive reviews for your Amazon business.
As mentioned, SSA supports shipping region automation for domestic Seller-Fulfilled Prime one and two-day deliveries as well. This is especially significant as you must hit Amazon’s delivery speed targets to remain in the Seller-Fulfilled Prime program.
One more benefit SSA offers is that it can reduce the occurrence of over-estimation for delivery times. So often, sellers err on the side of caution and relay to their customers longer delivery times than what it will actually take for the product(s) to arrive. With SSA’s automation settings, the delivery times you promise your buyers will be much closer to the actual speed of delivery. Accurately predicting faster delivery times could mean the difference between the customer adding to cart or bouncing.
Are there any requirements to use SSA?
If you want to take advantage of SSA, you have to use the carrier selected in your settings, so make sure you’re happy with your shipping service provider before you set things up. Alternatively, you can opt for “Buy Shipping” to choose through Amazon any carrier that meets customers’ expectations.
Bear in mind that Amazon will be monitoring your delivery performance, and if it notices that you are not meeting the requirements, Amazon might add time to the delivery promise your customer sees.
To get started with SSA, go to the Shipping Settings and edit your current shipping template, or start from scratch by creating a new shipping template.
This feature could be a great competitive edge over those not quick enough to implement as we move into the holiday season especially as FBM becomes more necessary with restock limits.
China’s Widespread Power Cuts Further Strain Global Supply Chain
If there isn’t already enough going on to disrupt the global supply chain, you can now add power cuts and forced electricity rationing throughout China to the list.
It seems like one supply issue after another, and we’re still dealing with backlogs thanks to the past typhoons and flooding that swept across the nation and forced port, terminal, and warehouse closures, not to mention the still present disruptions thanks to COVID.
All of these factors have put further strain on production and logistics, and as Amazon sellers work to get their last Q4 shipments out of the country, these electricity supply issues couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Due to the significant increase in lead times that will be created by this problem, suppliers are even beginning to encourage sellers to get their Q1 inventory orders sent in as soon as possible so it can ship before Chinese New Year.
The power restrictions and supply issues result from government orders aimed at reducing energy consumption, part of China’s greater plan to enforce tighter environmental regulations, coupled with the fact that coal prices have reached record levels, making it impossible for many power plants to run a profitable business.
Government Push For Energy Targets
Word has it from state-run newspapers that many local governments have ordered the curbs on electricity use so as not to miss the targets laid out by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing regarding emissions intensity and energy reduction. These rules imposed by the CCP are an attempt to make China fully carbon-neutral by 2060.
These recent curtailments come after the nation’s chief economic planner identified nine provinces last month that had increased energy intensity over the first six months of 2021, amid a rapid economic recovery witnessed in China after the peak of the pandemic.
So far, the cuts have been felt in over ten provinces, with commercial powerhouses like Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu being some of the worst affected. Many of China’s major production companies are based in these regions, and news sources in China reported that several of these businesses had gone as far as to declare the impacts of the power shortages in filings with stock exchanges.
It is advisable for sellers to reach out to their own suppliers for updates on lead times and whether their production has been affected. Some of our personal sources in China share that this may become more widespread across the country in coming months so all sellers should be prepared. We have also learned that some factories have had to supplement their power sources with generators. Judging by these hardships, plan for not just lead time increases but possibly cost increases as well due to the economic shifts all this will likely create.
Coal Prices Hit Record High
Meanwhile, as electricity demand has risen, so has the price of coal, and with the government austerely regulating electricity prices, coal-fired power plants are unwilling to operate at a loss. In fact, coal prices are now at an all-time high, making business unprofitable for several of the country’s largest power plants, with many drastically reducing their power output, leading to supply issues in many provinces.
Since China still relies heavily on coal, with more than half of the country’s power coming from the combustible energy source, we should prepare for a rough time on the supply chain ahead if these gaps do become more prevalent and expand into more areas. If that does occur, the effects of supply issues could be more severe than even the previous power limitations that hit many parts of China over the summer. Developing more flexibility along your supply chain and finding backup suppliers may become more important now than ever.
New Changes To Removal Of Aged Inventory
In preparation for the holiday rush, Amazon has recently updated its Automated Removal of Aged Inventory.
The update broadens the scope of said service and introduces a value-recovery option. You can now enable automatic removals for the following types of inventory and opt to liquidate them at the same time:
Prior to the update, Amazon only accepted automatic removal of unsellable inventory (products returned by customers in bad condition) and inventory that was subject to long-term storage fees.
The recent move is most likely an attempt to allow more room for popular products this Q4 to brace for another eCommerce-driven holiday sale period and to create a more streamlined way of sellers clearing out old inventory systematically. Adopting this feature could help improve your IPI score and minimize holding costs.
Meanwhile, the newly added value-recovery option allows you to liquidate aging inventory through Amazon’s FBA Liquidations Program. You could recoup 5% to 10% of your product’s selling price by liquidating inventory while avoiding long-term storage fees. The net value recovered should appear in your account 60 to 90 days after the liquidation order is submitted. You’re not going to make a lot of money for sure, but it’s still a better option than simply disposing of your products.
However, if liquidation is not the right option for you, consider creating a Removal Order to have your items sent back to you instead. Simply adjust your Automated Fulfillable Inventory settings and input your return address.
Regularly check your Manage Inventory Health page to identify aging inventory or slow sellers before they start incurring additional storage costs and affecting your IPI score. For more tips, check out this article: Excess Inventory: Why It’s Bad and How to Reduce It?
Amazon Suspension Risk For The Uninsured
Less than 2 months ago, we told you about changes to the A-to-Z Guarantee. Well, a lot has changed in that short time.
This is important, so pay close attention. Amazon may restrict you from certain selling categories or even suspend your account for non-compliance of this policy.
You can read the full policy on Seller Central, but the cliff’s notes are this: if you’ve sold $10,000 or more in any one month, you need business insurance of at least $1 million in aggregate. Previously this was set as any seller who hit $10,000 for any 3 consecutive months.
Further, it is not enough just to have it. (I’ve had this insurance since I started selling in 2014.) You now need to ensure Amazon is named as an additional insured by way of a certificate of insurance.
I’m not done yet. You also need to provide Amazon with proof of this insurance by uploading the certificate into your Seller Central account.
Do this by going to Settings > Account Info > Business Insurance and then following the steps to submit your proof of insurance.
Now, if you’ve already had a certificate of insurance created for Amazon in the past, that likely will not be valid as Amazon has changed it’s requirements for what may be listed on the additional insured certificate. If you do not have the name listed correctly, your proof of insurance will be rejected.
The name to be listed on the certificate is:
“Amazon.com Services LLC., and its affiliates and assignees”
Anything else will be rejected. You also need to meet the minimum requirements for coverage. For full details on exactly what you need, check out Amazon’s insurance requirements page.
You can usually just send this list of requirements to your insurance provider and they can provide you with what you need. But move quickly as, since this policy took effect on September 1st, 2021, so you technically have until September 30th to submit your insurance before your account or selling privileges are at risk.
For most sellers who already have this insurance, getting a certificate is usually quite easy, taking only a matter of hours to receive from your provider via email.
But for those who need a new policy, this may prove challenging, especially as all other sellers on Amazon are likely attempting the same just now.
You may, however, try using the new Amazon Insurance Accelerator program where Amazon has teamed up with insurance providers to make the process of acquiring insurance smooth and easy for sellers.
It has always been good business for any company to be properly insured, now Amazon makes it a verifiable requirement. For more on what types of insurances might be valuable to eCommerce sellers, check out our blog post on Amazon Seller Insurance Tips.
Amazon Egypt Now Open For Business
With its launch on September 1, Amazon Egypt became the e-commerce giant’s 20th global marketplace, while its new Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) logistics center in the country is the first of its kind in Africa.
Until now, the leading online shopping platform in Egypt was Souq.com, which Amazon had acquired for $580 million back in 2017. However, as witnessed with Souq stores in the United Arab Emirates in May 2019 and Saudi Arabia in June 2020, Amazon has completely rebranded the localized platform to fall in line with its internationally recognized user interface now operating as Amazon.eg.
Egypt is an emerging e-commerce market with approximately US$4 billion in annual trade, and trends over the last decade indicate that the market is expanding rapidly. Thus, Amazon sees now as the right time to establish a foothold in the country by putting down roots and growing its brand.
As part of the rebranding, Amazon has migrated all existing Souq accounts to its new platform, meaning its users will still have the same login details and information like payment credentials and delivery addresses; even their wish lists have been moved across. In addition, all the familiar product categories will be available on the new site, meaning Eqyptian shoppers will enjoy the same conveniences as those in other countries.
“Today marks a proud day for Souq.com and Amazon, a day we have been working toward since the two companies came together,” commented Omar Elsahy, Country Manager of Amazon Egypt. “Amazon.eg brings together Souq.com’s local know-how and Amazon’s global expertise, something we believe will be of significant value to customers across Egypt. We’re only getting started, and we will keep innovating in ways that are meaningful to our customers, as we remain laser-focused on providing them with exceptional service, fast delivery, and great prices and selection on millions of items.”
Amazon Egypt’s local competitors include Nigeria’s Jumia and the UAE’s Noon, and compared to other countries where Amazon operates, the Egyptian market is relatively small. However, when combined with the above-mentioned Amazon stores in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the region becomes rather lucrative. Plus, as is often the case, the early bird gets the worm, and sellers who get their foot in the door first will find considerably less competition than they are used to in markets like the U.S. and Europe, so you may want to brush up on your Arabic!
As of now, Prime isn’t available in Egypt, but all orders on Amazon.eg directly from Amazon or sellers using FBA over 350 EGP ($22), will qualify for free shipping. Nationwide delivery is said to take no more than 1-2 business days, while deliveries within the Cairo – Giza – Qalyubia metropolitan area only take 1 day.
Why Have Amazon Sellers Suffered a Significant Drop in Restock Limits?
Many sellers have seen sudden restock limit decreases of up to 70% despite strong sales!
What’s going on?
There’s been chatter among sellers and influencers about Amazon revising restock limits in the US marketplace. The restock limit reductions reportedly range from 6% to 70%, putting affected sellers at risk of going over the limit earlier than expected – or suddenly being pushed over limit with this new drop.
For instance, one seller saw a 10% decrease on Monday, August 30th, and another 25% decrease a few days later. Others weren’t so lucky and suffered a huge blow with a 70% restock limit reduction overnight!
Why is this happening?
There could be many reasons why this is happening. Many speculate that Amazon is simply overwhelmed right now, so they resorted to pulling the “Oh, shit!” lever on FBA sellers.
As we all know, Amazon's algorithm calculates inventory limits using various factors. But every so often, they will lower sellers’ max inventory capacity considerably without warning.
One particular time that they did it was in May. And the reason behind that move was to help speed up check-in times before Prime Day.
If Amazon tends to reduce restock limits before key selling dates, we have good reason to think that the decreases we see today are part of their plan to:
It seems the recent decreases are not based solely on sales performance metrics, which explains why some top-performing sellers are also affected.
If we dig deeper into why Amazon’s pulling the lever again, we’ll find that continuing pandemic repercussions may be a culprit: current global supply chain problems, warehouse labor shortages, and skirmishes, and possibly even Hurricane Ida may all be factors at the root of our restock limit issues.
It is likely that Amazon is still dealing with the backlogs left by recent slowdowns at China’s terminals and labor disruptions due to typhoons and COVID. And let us not forget the ripple effects of past supply chain disruptions (Suez Canal, driver shortages, etc…) that are still being felt. Therefore, Amazon is, perhaps, trying to avoid overwhelming their warehouses further with too many shipments before Q4.
None of them are within our control as sellers, which is frustrating. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.
Here’s a couple of tips to overcome lower restock limits:
1. The Golden Rule in avoiding stockouts: Don’t let anyone have all your stuff!
In more familiar terms: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, from sudden restock limit decreases and port shutdowns to warehouse labor disruptions. Having a backup plan – or several – is more critical now than ever.
If Amazon rejects your inbound shipment because you’re suddenly over the limit, but you don’t have a backup warehouse or fulfillment center, you’ll stock out and lose sales. Having a third-party fulfillment center allows you to switch to FBM quickly and continue fulfilling orders from there. This also helps to maintain your restock limits while stocked out at FBA, as we’ve covered in our comprehensive Amazon restock limits article.
You also need a backup plan for your import/export and warehouse to FBA logistics. If you put all of your newly manufactured inventory on one boat and that boat gets stuck at port for 3 weeks, your stockout risk is high. But if you have held back an inventory reserve with your supplier that you can air freight in case of such an emergency, you can avoid stocking out while avoiding expensive air freight if your ocean shipping goes to plan. This is also known as CYA: Cover Your Ass.
Similarly and commonly, if you are used to sending all of your inventory LTL from warehouse to FBA and Amazon neglects to check it in for 4 weeks (it’s been known to happen), what do you do? In that case, if you reserve some inventory at your 3PL, send a smaller amount or inventory Small Parcel Delivery (SPD) as loose cartons get checked in faster than LTL.
Making contingency plans like this provides you the flexibility you need within the chaotic conditions under which we’re selling.
2. Run flash sales
As mentioned earlier, Amazon wants to relieve its overcrowded warehouses. So, they’re likely using excess inventory and utilization percentage as influencing factors for calculating restock limits and really forcing sellers to trim the fat in every way possible before the Q4 crush.
If you suffered a significant restock limit decrease due to overutilization, use excess inventory to run flash sales. This tactic will help you clear up needed storage space and improve your sales velocity and sell-through. Alternatively, consider liquidating your excess inventory if you’re in an emergency situation and don’t have the time to run a flash sale.
The bottom line is: there are things you can do to be more prepared for situations like these the next time they come around.
The thing you should not do is abandon your focus on sell-through and proper inventory management practices that improve your IPI score and restock limits just because every now and then Amazon itself throws those rules out the window.
That would be like giving up on successful PPC and ranking strategies because every now and then Amazon suspends a best seller.
Keep doing the things that work, follow successful inventory management practices on Amazon, and prepare for those times when Amazon breaks its own rules. The game is always changing on Amazon. That is the only constant we can be sure of. Our job as entrepreneurs is to roll with those punches better than our competitors do.
Have a backup plan, don’t let Amazon be your only distribution channel, and, finally, have a backup plan to your backup plan.
SoStocked Prices Increasing After Friday, September 17th, 2021
ANNOUNCEMENT: SoStocked’s Amazon inventory management software UNLIMITED PLAN and locking-in LIFETIME PRICING is going away. 👋
If you’ve been on the fence and haven’t yet signed up for SoStocked, NOW IS THE TIME. Seriously, prices are going WAY up, and I don’t want you to miss out when we flip the switch.
This does NOT affect existing accounts. You will NOT see a price increase. HOWEVER, you might want to consider purchasing an ADDITIONAL account if you think you’ll need it in the future.
All newly created accounts will be subject to the new pricing structure, whether registering an additional account, or a brand new account.
Since our launch back in 2019, you’ve seen our prices steadily increase as we’ve released new features ⚡ and beefed up our team 💪 of coders, customer support, and server infrastructure.
Until now, we’ve had ONE unlimited plan🔥 and have grandfathered customers into receiving new software features we released for the sweet deal of $79 per month.
But that’s ENDING Friday, September 17th, 2021 at midnight.
We’ve got BIG plans for Q4 and 2022. And with big plans come big expenses 💰💰💰.
So we’ll be raising our prices and switching to a tiered pricing model based on the number of orders, SKUs, and feature upgrades.
There will NO LONGER be an unlimited plan with unlimited orders, unlimited SKUs, and no getting grandfathered into big future feature releases. 🤯
So if you (or your friends) are interested in creating new OR additional accounts, we’d be happy to honor our current pricing of $79/month for UNLIMITED orders, SKUs, and features thru Friday, SEPTEMBER 17TH.
Share this with a friend who might not forgive you if you don’t let them in on this sweet deal.
Amazon Search Shadowban For Products That Violate Title Guidelines
While most Amazon sellers are familiar with suppressed listings, which hide listings from shoppers that do not meet Amazon’s product information standards, many may not be aware of the search suppression Amazon imposes on listings with titles that do not meet its guidelines.
What is Search Suppression?
Think along the lines of what we see happening on social media platforms like Instagram, where posts are shadowbanned if a user’s content violates community guidelines or is deemed inappropriate in any way. Then, Instagram will hide or restrict that content without any warning or notification, and it means that the post won’t show up on other users’ Instagram news feeds, while the person who posted the content will be none the wiser.
The suppressed searches on Amazon work in a very similar manner, and Amazon has gone so far as to state that it will hide any items sold under high-risk categories (those where Amazon is more likely to suffer from liability issues) with titles containing restricted keywords from searches.
What is restricted remains somewhat ambiguous as Amazon tends to add new restricted keywords often without warning and only has a shortlist of restricted keywords on their official list, yet suspends accounts for many terms far outside that list.
However, we do know that titles containing promotional keywords and phrases like “free shipping” or “100% quality guaranteed” are prime candidates for search suppression. So are those with non-readable characters, including emojis and titles exceeding more than the allowable character length, usually 200 but can vary per category or sub-category. Of course, titles not containing any product identifying information are equally likely to face the same fate.
The tricky part with all of this is that Amazon, it seems, will likely never notify you when they have enforced search suppression on one of your listings, just as Instagram shadowban posts without a word.
Product Types that May Be Suppressed from Search
The complete list of sensitive categories on Amazon includes Alcoholic Beverage, Baby Product, Beauty, Cleaning Product, Consumer Electronics, Food And Beverage, Gifts And Occasions, Health Personal Care, Home, Kitchen, Luggage, Paper Product, Party Supplies, Pet Supplies, Prescription Eyewear, and Tobacco And Cannabis Products.
Why is Amazon Suppressing Searches Rather than Just Listing Suspensions?
From our assessment, it seems that Amazon wants to remove accountability by hiding listings that shoppers are searching for if they deem a listing to violate its terms. Another part of their focus on Amazon customer experience being of the utmost importance.
However, the product remains available to buy on Amazon, and sellers can continue to drive external traffic to their listing via other off-Amazon marketing strategies. Amazon would not want to miss out on a new customer and the traffic you may be sending to Amazon. They may allow you to make sales using your own traffic efforts to your own potential customers, but they don’t want you giving their current customers a potentially negative experience through misrepresentation of products or non-compliant titling.
Search suppression is an interesting and potentially hard to identify, an issue that could make figuring out why you are not making more sales quite difficult. So knowing and adhering to this policy is important.
If you want to find out more about search suppression and which of your ASINs may be affected, log in to your Seller Central account and open Inventory > Manage Inventory > Listing Quality Dashboard.
Your Amazon Posts Can Now Appear On Your Product Detail Pages
Posts is Amazon’s new advertising tool that helps drive your brand awareness and increase the likelihood of product discovery and consideration by providing shoppers with a curated selection of lifestyle imagery via a shoppable news feed.
While Posts is currently undergoing beta testing, when launched, the new platform aims to allow sellers to attract shoppers that have a genuine interest in their products. What’s more, Posts streamlines the shopping process by letting users click through from a brand’s feed directly to its product pages, all within Amazon’s mobile shopping app.
Speculation from sellers currently using the beta version suggests that Amazon will roll out the full version of Posts in the next few weeks. Not only will it provide you with a new way of showcasing your products, but it will also help to increase your reach and develop a stronger brand identity by sharing your content with the right customers.
Amazon has also begun testing new placement for these posts within your actual product detail pages, which they should be releasing more widely within the next few weeks. So not only will shoppers be able to discover your brand and products via Posts, but they would also be able to discover your content once they have found your product through traditional Amazon shopping methods. These Posts on your sales page could improve conversions significantly if intelligently used, as sellers can create content that shows the many benefits, features, and uses of their products, increasing appeal, and purchasing.
By tailoring content for shoppers with specific interests, Posts lets you engage with the people who want to learn more about what you have to offer, affording you the opportunity to bring your brand to life. Whether you want to drive discovery or educate shoppers about your products, Posts gives you the chance to post as much content as you want for free, so you may as well take advantage of what it has to offer!
Amazon Grade And Resell Program Rolled Out To Reduce FBA Waste
In a bid to reduce the negative environmental impacts of its e-commerce business model and stop perfectly good, returned items from unnecessarily becoming trash, Amazon has recently launched Grade and Resell.
The new initiative, which is now live in the UK, makes it possible for third-party sellers to sell items that have been returned through Amazon's network as “used.” In an effort to cut down on e-waste, the new program comes after independent investigations into Amazon's FBA warehouses, which reported that Amazon had labeled millions of returned and unsold items for destruction.
In an interview, an ex-employee from Amazon told ITV News, “From a Friday to a Friday, our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week. I used to gasp. There's no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional MacBook, and iPad; the other day, 20,000 Covid (face) masks still in their wrappers.”
Meanwhile, the new program is still undergoing beta testing in the US and is running on an invite-only basis, but Amazon claims the service will be fully operational there by the end of the year, along with France, Germany, Spain, and Italy following in early 2022.
So what does it mean for Amazon sellers? Previous to the launch of the Amazon Grade and Resell program, third-party sellers had the choice to donate the unsold items, or they would remain sitting on warehouse shelves until their eventual destruction. Either way, sellers would absorb the financial losses.
But now, when a buyer returns an item, sellers can automatically funnel these items through Grade and Resell, after which Amazon will give the “used” item one of the following familiar ratings:
Then, since everything works through Amazon's existing warehouse infrastructure, third-party sellers can set pricing for the item based on Amazon's rating and sell it just like they would a new item.
While the program clearly benefits the environment as fewer items needlessly end up in landfills, some Amazon sellers remain cautious of the accuracy of Amazon's grading system, which may result in negative customer feedback should the grading be incorrect or should Amazon resell items that are truly unsellable. However, the chance to profit from previously squandered stock means that some third-party sellers will likely be happy to see the changes implemented.
Sellers interested in the Amazon Grade and Resell program can discover more about how it works, product eligibility, and fees here and should familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions of the program before enrolling.
Amazon Overhauls Its A-to-z Guarantee Policies To Streamline Damages Claims
Starting September 1st, Amazon will begin paying out up to $1,000 in damages should a customer suffer harm from any products or items sold on its platform, no matter who the Seller is. Amazon says it will work with Sellers and keep them informed every step of the way when a damages dispute is initiated, but no further details have been made public about the move at this time.
Defective products can cause a lot of harm, and that harm can range from these $1,000 claims to amounts reaching into the hundreds of thousands. Nevertheless, when a product is sold on Amazon, Amazon is responsible for that product, and over time courts have been progressively deciding that Amazon should cough up the damages when a faulty item causes injury.
Amazon claims that 80% of damages claims usually amount to $1,000 or less. However, the remaining 20% is at risk of being a much more considerable sum, so while for years Amazon has been susceptible to huge liability exposure, these moves are a likely sign that the company is trying to streamline its claims process and figure out a way to limit its threat to exposure.
So, who is accountable for defective products? Regarding liability in terms of the supply chain of distribution, since every supplier, manufacturer, distributor, and retailer is on the hook for defective products, Amazon is by definition liable for the products sold on its platform. So, the $1,000 coverage could be a means of swaying consumers away from legal battles when the product in question falls into the 20% higher risk category.
On the other hand, Amazon says not only will it pay this $1,000 regardless of who the original seller is, and if they step up or not, but it is also announcing plans to start Amazon Insurance Accelerator, an initiative to help smaller sellers get product liability insurance. This new scheme likely stems from the fact that Amazon deals with many third-party vendors that it doesn't have complete control over. Therefore, it is encouraging any vendor to get that liability insurance if that seller sells at least $10,000 per month for 3 consecutive months on Amazon, meaning that while Amazon still remains legally accountable, it has the means to deflect that liability.
Another noteworthy point worth covering under this overhaul is commingled inventory stored at Amazon warehouses. When numerous Sellers sell identical products from one location, the question of liability becomes somewhat ambiguous. But from a legal standpoint, Amazon is the distributor of these products, whether under the guise of Amazon or a third party, and remains liable.
Looking at what we know so far about the updates to Amazon's A-to-z Guarantee, it sounds like a move intended to keep the company out of court and to swing the narrative in its favor by offering shoppers an upfront settlement, when in fact, a legal claim might be worth far more than that.
Now Factor Restock Limits Into Forecasts
The new SoStocked software feature for factoring Amazon Restock Limits By Storage Type into forecasts is NOW LIVE!
See how it works and how to turn it on in your SoStocked account, or click “Contact Us” in the bottom right corner to ask us a question.
Streamline Shipments With “Send To Amazon”
Send To Amazon is a new streamlined shipment creation workflow for FBA sellers that saves you time by simplifying FBA shipment creation. Amazon claims that Send To Amazon improves upon its older Send/Replenish Inventory workflow with new technology and a refreshed user interface, but does the new experience really make life easier for FBA sellers?
With the new system, you're guided through a series of steps based on your decisions when creating shipments, but it's important to note that the steps you see may vary based on your choices. To find out how beneficial the new shipment creation workflow is, let's take a look at how it works.
Box Content Information
The first step in the workflow is providing box content information. Knowing the contents of each box allows Amazon to move your inventory rapidly through its network with minimal manual touches. Providing Amazon with accurate box content information also reduces the chances of boxes getting sidelined due to inconsistent shipment information, making your inventory available for sale faster.
You provide box content information through reusable case-pack templates for inventory shipped in boxes containing multiple units of the same SKU (single-SKU boxes). These templates contain information on how your SKUs are prepped, labeled, and packed and are ideal for SKUs shipped with the same box configuration shipment to shipment. Each time you create a shipment in Send To Amazon, the box content information is automatically identified from your case-pack template. You can simply enter the number of boxes to add them to the workflow and avoid entering other specific details from shipment to shipment when you always pack, prep, and label an SKU the same way.
If you're packing more than one SKU in a box (mixed-SKU boxes), you'll be prompted to enter the number of units of each SKU that you're shipping. Once you have confirmed the inventory you want to send in mixed-SKU boxes, Amazon will determine which SKU can be packed together based on whether they require special handling at Amazon’s fulfilment centers. For example, SKUs considered to be hazardous materials (hazmat) cannot be packed with other SKUs since hazmat SKUs are shipped to special fulfilment centers that can safely receive them. You're then prompted to provide box content information for each SKU group that can be packed together. You can directly enter the box weight and dimensions if you're consolidating your mixed SKUs into one box. If you pack your inventory in multiple boxes, you'll be prompted to upload your box packing details as a spreadsheet.
Finally, you can ship both single-SKU boxes and mixed-SKU boxes simultaneously using Send To Amazon. As an example, if you normally sell fast-selling products on FBA and want to test customer interest with a few new products, you can create shipments with single-SKU boxes using the case-pack template for your fast-selling products, and create mixed-SKU boxes for your new products in the same workflow.
The next step in the workflow is to confirm shipping. Once you've provided box content information, Amazon will determine where each box has to be shipped, ensuring that inventory is placed close to customers. Amazon then estimates carrier fees to ship your inventory as individual boxes using small parcel delivery (SPD) or as pallets using less than truckload (LTL) options based on shipping destinations and boxes. This enables you to make a well-informed decision regarding the shipping mode that works best for you.
Whatever your shipping mode, you can choose to use an Amazon-partnered carrier and purchase your shipping labels from directly within Send To Amazon taking advantage of discounted shipping rates. However, you're welcome to use any carrier you like to deliver your inventory to Amazon fulfillment centers.
After confirming your shipping, you're ready to label your boxes and pallets. Let's first consider the small parcel delivery shipping mode. Each box that you send to Amazon's fulfillment centers requires an FBA box ID label, identifying the box's contents. If you're using an
Amazon-partnered carrier, a shipping label will be generated for each box in addition to the FBA box ID label. Make sure that the correct label is applied to the correct box. If you're shipping pallets, an FBA box ID label will have to be placed on each box before you load it onto a pallet. Once the boxes are palletized, you'll be prompted to choose your carrier and provide pallet details for each shipment in the workflow. After confirming pallet information, you'll get four pallet labels for each pallet (one for each side of the pallet).
When you're done labeling your boxes and/or pallets, you're ready to hand them off to your carrier and start tracking when your inventory is received at Amazon's fulfillment centers. If you're using a non-partnered carrier, make sure you provide a tracking ID for your shipments so that Amazon can prepare for their arrival.
Out With The Old
As to whether or not the new system will make your daily workflow any smoother, only time will tell, but it's likely that Send To Amazon is here to stay, and the older system will eventually be phased out. For now, you can try using the new Send To Amazon shipment creation workflow and send your feedback to Amazon about your experiences at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can learn more about Send To Amazon here.
Changes To Amazon Professional Selling Plan Fees
Amazon has announced changes to the fees for its subscription-based Professional Selling Plan, which came into effect on August 1, 2021. The update affects sellers who have active listings across multiple countries and regions and use merged accounts.
According to Amazon, Sellers with merged worldwide accounts will no longer be billed for their subscription in one lump sum but instead will have their Selling on Amazon Fee divided across whatever accounts they use globally. Furthermore, Amazon will now charge the fees in the corresponding currency of whatever country Sellers have Amazon stores, but the subscription fee charges will only be billed for months when Sellers have active listings.
The good news is that no matter how many Amazon stores you have, the total amount for your combined monthly subscription fees remains capped at US $39.99/month per account (or the equivalent amount in other currencies). However, this amount is exclusive of any taxes, except in Brazil and Mexico, plus any fees for foreign transactions which may be charged by either your credit card issuer or bank, and it’s also worth noting that you might see these charges billed to accounts differently.
As an example, if you have multiple Amazon stores across different countries in the Americas region, such as one store in the United States, one store in Canada, one store in Mexico, and another store in Brazil, you will now be billed for your Professional Selling Plan subscription in US Dollars (USD), Canadian Dollars (CAD), Mexican Pesos (MXN), and Brazilian Real (BRL) individually. Still, even with the updated subscription fee calculation method, the total amount charged each month will not go up, but rather it will help you monitor how much you are spending in each country specifically.
Additionally, subscription fees for each store will no longer be billed on their registration’s “mensiversary” (a monthly recurring date of a past event). Instead, all of your subscription fees for your global stores will be aligned, meaning they will all be charged on the same day. In order to align Seller’s billing days, Amazon has said it will give a one-time-only extension on subscriptions at no extra cost where necessary.
Automated Amazon Stranded Inventory Removal
This announcement is for sellers with stranded inventory in Amazon’s UK and EU fulfillment centers. The eCommerce giant has recently released new automated removal settings to make it easier to fix stranded inventory post-Brexit.
These new settings will allow you to:
If you have any stranded inventory that needs to be returned or disposed of, update your existing automated settings by following these steps:
- Sign in to your Seller Central account and open the “Manage Inventory” tab.
- Go to the “Fix Stranded Inventory” page.
- Select “Edit Automatic Action Settings.”
Selecting “Edit Automatic Action Settings” will open another window on your screen where you can choose between “Return” and “Disposal.” You can also set the number of days (1 to 30) you’d like for Amazon to remove your stranded units automatically.
What if your account doesn’t have a local return address saved? 🤔 In that case, Amazon will automatically choose “Disposal” as the default setting.
But Amazon can’t just dispose of your stranded products without your consent. So you’ll need to log into your “Fix Stranded Inventory” page to change “Disposal” to “Seller Returns” or simply update your settings to your liking. And you have until the 15th of August 2021 to do so. ⚠️
Suppose you still can’t secure a UK or EU return address. In that case, Amazon recommends joining its network of service providers to get in touch with someone who can assist you with shipping or storing your stranded inventory. Once you’ve connected with a reliable local provider, it’s up to you to negotiate rates, secure contracts, and finalize shipping schedules.
Want to learn why products get stranded and how to fix them? Read about more “Amazon Stranded Inventory tips.” 👈
Typhoon Wreaks Supply Chain Havoc On China's Eastern Coast
China is now battling the devastation of its second drenching as typhoon In-Fa made landfall this past Sunday, lashing major cities along its Eastern seaboard, including Shanghai, Zhoushan, and Ningbo, with torrential rain and gale-force winds.
The news comes only days after reports of record-breaking rainfall in the nearby landlocked province of Henan, which caused destructive flooding in several parts of the region and disrupted logistics operations at a central air cargo hub in Zhengzhou.
The latest effects of the typhoon caused further freight delays to distributors in China, as the downpour forced Shanghai's two international airports, rail hub, and container port to close over the weekend.
According to the city's municipal Meteorological Bureau, Shanghai received over four inches of rain from Sunday to Monday, and the wind speed topped 72 mph. Typically, Shanghai gets around 4.7 inches of precipitation for the entire month of July.
The storm prompted the closure of the seaport and airport in Ningbo, which, together with Shanghai, make up some of the largest distribution hubs in the world. With the clean-up well underway along China's East Coast, most carriers expect normal operations to resume by Wednesday, 28 July.
However, with a backlog of cargo waiting at several ports in the area, vessel berthing delays of four-to-six days are expected at Shanghai and Ningbo seaports, and shipping rates are expected to increase for the next couple of weeks as freight forwarders scurry to find limited outbound availability.
Additionally, supply chains have been disrupted for the region's many factories, including a complex in Zhengzhou where almost half of Apple's iPhones sold worldwide are produced; hence its moniker “iPhone City.”
While China has suffered from annual summer flooding and typhoons for millennia, the record rainfall in Henan coupled with the nation's latest storm surge has provoked questions from meteorological experts about how cities in China could prepare themselves better for freak weather events, which they say are occurring more frequently and with increased intensity due to climate change.
Country Of Origin Now Required For Amazon Products
This announcement is for the UK, and we are not sure yet if the US marketplace and other marketplaces will soon follow. My guess is this might be specific to the UK right now as Amazon has pushed back on the COOL bill (Country Of Origin Labeling) in the past, which would mandate prominent disclosure of where a product is produced for all online retailers.
The new Country Of Original requirement seems to be more of a response to BREXIT. In the wake of the BREXIT fiasco since the UK exited the EU in January 2020, which has led to complex trade issues along the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland open border, Amazon has responded by introducing a new County of Origin (COO) regulation for Amazon Sellers.
This regulation update takes advantage of a largely unknown geographical and legal loophole, whereby Great Britain (GB) only constitutes England, Scotland, and Wales, whereas the United Kingdom (UK) also comprises Northern Ireland. However, while the root cause of the amendment stems from the debacle on the Irish border, Amazon has not openly admitted this to be the cause of the update. As such, the new rule acts as a blanket policy to all product listings regardless of where they are sold.
From 22 August onward, Amazon Sellers will need to give the appropriate COO data for every listing in their shop. Amazon states that the new regulation aims to improve the quality of product listings and ensure that FBA Export orders transiting the UK-EU, which now includes the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border, are not held up by customs or face other taxation issues, which it says will hopefully smoothen out deliveries and improve customer satisfaction. But, of course, the new rule does come at one significant expense. Namely, the time Sellers will need to spend going through every listing in their shops to add Country Of Origin info. Those with extensive inventories could find themselves spending countless hours sifting through several thousand listings to make sure they are all compliant.
You might be asking, “What changes will the new requirement bring?” The update will have two direct impacts on listings and the Add a Product tool.
First, Sellers must provide COO information for all new listings, or else the system will not allow the listing to be created. In order to choose the COO, there is a drop-down menu that provides a list of countries to select. Second, Sellers cannot make any edits to existing listings until COO information has been provided.
What constitutes the COO may not always be clear when products are manufactured in different nations at different parts of the production process. According to the Rules of Origin outlined by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Article 27, “Goods whose production involved more than one country shall be deemed to originate in the country where they underwent their last, substantial, economically justified processing or working in an undertaking equipped for that purpose and resulting in the manufacture of a new product or representing an important stage of manufacture.”
In any case, when you are unsure of what data to provide for the COO, you can find further information at Amazon’s Providing Country of Origin help page.
Prevent Customer Complaints By Putting Seals On Consumables
One thing all Amazon Sellers can probably agree on is that there’s nothing worse than receiving a customer complaint that could’ve been easily avoided.
So, in a bid to cut down on unnecessary grievances, Amazon recently analyzed a broad selection of complaints from buyers, taking note of what left customers feeling dissatisfied, and found that many buyers mistakenly identify items as “used” if they are not sealed.
This discovery suggests that even though Amazon Sellers supply customers with brand new, unused items, the lack of seals on certain products leads customers to believe that the products are not new.
As a result, Amazon has recommended that sellers (especially those selling consumable products) make themselves fully aware of preventing product condition issues, paying particular attention to the information on broken or missing seals.
Additionally, Amazon offers further help to understand complaints relating to product condition issues through this video which details how to avoid different product complaints linked to the condition.
It should be added that #2 on that list is “Items that are dirty, soiled, or have hair, stains, odors, or other substances”. This has actually been a not uncommon issue as Amazon will, at times resell your returned products without sufficient inspection and products have been resold to customers with food stuck in it or even as wild as diaper products that have been soiled.
This should not happen but it does. Thus it is important to note that, even if you are complying with the above, Amazon themselves may be causing these issues internally which you may have to deal with. This is something else to keep in mind if you are having problems with customer complaints.
New Amazon Brand Referral Bonus Program For Amazon Sellers
Amazon announced a new program that incentivizes sellers to advertise their Amazon product listings rather than their own websites through non-Amazon marketing channels.
For example, Amazon would instead have you pay Instagram influencers to send traffic back to your product on Amazon–not to rival platforms where your product is listed.
This move by Amazon is likely a response to the momentum Shopify has been gaining by partnering with the Google marketing ecosystem to extend sellers’ reach and Shopify’s expansion of its one-click checkout to ALL merchants on Google and Facebook. So what is the new program? Well, it’s NOT the “Amazon Associate” program for affiliate marketers. The new program is called the Amazon Brand Referral Bonus program, and it’s designed specifically for Amazon sellers.
How does the program work? When you drive traffic that results in a sale on the Amazon platform for your brand, you will receive a referral bonus, which Amazon says averages about 10%. That referral bonus acts as a credit to your Amazon referral fees. Also, if customers buy anything else from your brand, you’ll receive credit if it falls within the 14-day click window.
You’ll have to decide if the Amazon Brand Referral Bonus program is suitable for your business model. For some, it might be a win-win because you won’t have to deal with the merchant fees, hosting headaches, and other operational headaches experienced in multi-channel e-commerce.
It doesn’t make much sense for other sellers who want to own their customer’s journey and expand customer lifetime value through upsells and future sales. You can learn more about the Amazon Brand Referral Bonus program here.
Four New Certifications Could Qualify You For Climate Pledge Friendly Badge
Amazon continues to expand its Climate Pledge Friendly badge system with the addition of four new third-party certifications.
These new certifications aim to provide badges for items across the beauty, household, and grocery sectors.
Learn about the new certifications, plus the advantages and challenges of the Amazon Climate Pledge certification.
Amazon IPI (Inventory Performance Index) Update
Amazon hints that they’ll soon be in a better spot with storage capacity and are set to provide an update to Amazon sellers regarding IPI (Inventory Performance Index) sometime this December. Read IPI Update: July 2021
Potentially Lower Fulfillment Fees Spells Good News For Amazon Sellers
In an encouraging move, Amazon has announced that sellers who create new offers then simultaneously store their FBA inventory across a broad selection of countries using Pan-European FBA could save up to 53% on their fulfillment fees. Sounds great, but how does it work?
To learn more about how much in savings you can potentially make, Amazon suggests heading over to its FBA potential savings page in Seller Central, which details the methods applied to make the hypothetical savings. According to the information cited by Amazon, your maximum would-be savings can be calculated by making a comparison between the European Fulfilment Network fees and your local (current) FBA fulfillment fees.
By applying the formula to your last 12 months of FBA sales, you’ll be able to differentiate the costs involved with each type of fulfilment to establish your capacity for savings precisely. However, it’s important to remember that, as noted above, savings only apply to new offers enrolled in the Pan-European FBA program.
Big News: Sellers Can (Again) Contact Customers About Bad Reviews
Amazon updated its Customer Reviews tool! Brand-registered Amazon sellers can now send direct messages to customers who left a 1-3 star review.
It is under the BRANDS > CUSTOMER REVIEWS tab in Seller Central:
If you do not have access to this feature, you have not been identified as a brand owner. Visit the Brand Benefit Eligibility page to identify as brand owner and gain access to Customer Reviews and your other brand-exclusive benefits.
Sellers can reply to any product review with a rating of 3 and below:
You can contact the buyer only when you are the seller for that order. If you’re not, you’ll see a message like this:The message that you are able to send to the unhappy customer is a templated email that cannot be edited and can only be sent to the customer as-is. Example:You are also able to send an email about issuing the buyer a refund or replacement. This email is also an email template that can’t be changed.
Here is the official announcement from Amazon:
Amazon’s APRL Scheme Leaves Sour Taste In Sellers’ Mouths
In a highly-debated move, Amazon UK has announced that as of 5 July 2021, all Amazon Sellers must offer customers a Prepaid Return Label or Returnless Refunds for items that fall under Amazon’s Return Policy. In other words, Amazon Sellers will have to cough up the fees to return items at the whim of customer demands for almost all of the items found on Amazon, with only a handful of exceptions that are exempt from the update. While Amazon claims this change of policy has come about as a result of listening to feedback from its customers, the backlash from Amazon Sellers has been significant.
Dubbed Amazon Prepaid Return Label (APRL), almost as if a nod to April Fool’s Day, the new policy allows customers to initiate returns via Amazon’s Online Return Centre (ORC), which Amazon will automatically authorize. Customers will then receive a tracked Prepaid Return Label through APRL, while the postage fees will be immediately deducted from the Seller’s account as soon as a courier receives the item and scans the Prepaid Return Label. Customers will have the option of selecting Royal Mail or Hermes to ship the items back, but Sellers can at least breathe a sigh of relief that this feature is only (currently?) for domestic sales.
Tracked Returns or No Returns
Adding insult to injury for Amazon Sellers, the new rules also indicate that all Prepaid Return Labels must include a tracked shipment method, regardless of whether the customer ordered the item with tracked shipping in the first place. Amazon also went so far as to note that Prepaid Return Label may not be suitable for low-priced items, so Sellers have the option of selecting Returnless Refunds, allowing customers to keep the item and receive a refund without the need to return it. It looks like a win-win for customers, but these new regulations will surely hit many Amazon Sellers hard. And all this on the heels of the new restock limits policies pushing a lot more warehousing holding and handling fees back onto sellers.
One shred of hope for Amazon Sellers is that they can apply for exemptions for items deemed as high-value, large-size, or those that require unique delivery methods, but the final decision still rests with Amazon as to whether or not it will be exempt.
Amazon also noted that if Sellers wish to continue trading on its platform, their acceptance of this new program is obligatory, and as such, they should familiarize themselves with all of the policy’s terms and conditions as well as Amazon Buy Shipping Services.
Blackout Dates: China’s Dragon Boat Festival
China’s Dragon Boat Festival will take place June 12th-June 14th, 2021.
I recommend taking care of any China-related business beforehand because there will be potential delays due to factories closing for this holiday, also sometimes referred to as blackout days. Blackout days refer to periods where no production and shipping can happen, such as the Chinese New Year or China’s National Day.
I also recommend adding blackout dates to your inventory forecasting calendars for these dates and other essential blackout dates so that you avoid any logistical headaches.
You can anticipate blackout dates like the Dragon Boat Festival by talking to your vendors or looking at a Chinese calendar.
China’s National Day takes place from the 1st through the 7th of October. You can also refer to the Chinese calendar for other holidays to ask your suppliers about and which may affect production and shipping so that you can set those dates well ahead of time.
The SoStocked Blackouts feature allows you to easily factor blackout periods into your inventory calculations and tells you to either order more inventory or order earlier to account for the days when the supplier is unavailable to produce inventory.
Amazon Global Program: Sell Worldwide With No Added Fees
Amazon Global Program: Sell Worldwide With No New VAT Accounts or Added Fees: Things have just gotten a whole lot easier for Amazon sellers when it comes to selling products internationally. By taking advantage of Amazon’s new global operation, products that are fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) can now be sold anywhere in the world without any extra charges.
Sellers can now allow Amazon to purchase FBA items at the price the seller names, and Amazon will sell these products to international customers from the customer’s local Amazon marketplace. This means that the sale is registered as a regular domestic transaction for Amazon sellers and their customers. Meanwhile, Amazon takes care of all the logistics costs and handles all of the cross-border legwork.
By enrolling in the program, sellers permit Amazon to add their products to other Amazon marketplaces around the globe, which translates the item information into the local target language and converts its price into the local currency, making it easier for customers to find and buy the products they want.
Once sellers have enlisted, Amazon will sell products bought by international customers through the customer’s local Amazon marketplace, which is also used for returns. They will purchase the product from your current marketplace and arrange for delivery to the customer. For customers, it will be as if they bought the product locally.
Yet, while the customer pays for the product in their local currency, sellers are still paid the set product price in their own currency, making it a win-win, with the added bonus of no cross-border transportation fees or new VAT accounts or VAT filings needed.
It’s as if Amazon is acting as the cross-border drop shipper, listing your products in marketplaces where you don’t currently list or have VAT accounts and then buying them from you and selling them through these listings. Amazon takes care of the logistics and any VAT requirements within the new country of sale. You, of course, would need to handle any required VAT to your local country on your end for your sale to Amazon for this transaction.
Amazon will only purchase products from the Amazon marketplaces where sellers have provided a VAT number in Seller Central. Then, when sellers receive an order through the global program, it will appear as a domestic order on the Manage Orders page within Seller Central, while the name of the customer will show as Amazon.
There is no need for sellers to sign up as an Amazon supplier or vendor in order to join the program, and their account status will remain unchanged.
Opting in is very straightforward and simply requires sellers to go to their Fulfillment by Amazon settings and click Enable where it says “Allow Amazon to buy my products to sell globally” for each Amazon marketplace they want to allow to sell their products.
Sellers who decide to enable this feature should familiarize themselves with all the terms and conditions of the program.
Set a Faster Default Handling Time
📢 Amazon has recently announced its new customizable default handling time settings for Seller-Fulfilled Prime orders!
Effective May 25, 2021, sellers with professional selling plans can now set one-business-day lead times for their products—one day faster than the previous two-day handling times!
With quicker estimated shipping times, you will be able to serve your customers better, and you’ll be more likely to be highlighted as the “Featured Offer” on Amazon’s product details pages. Therefore, leveraging this update could lead to increased customer satisfaction and sales. 💰
But for sellers who don’t have the operational capabilities to pack and ship orders within one day or who can ship only a portion of their catalog within one day and need to adjust settings on a SKU by SKU basis, Amazon recommended selecting a longer handling time using:
To change your product’s default handling time from two business days to one business day, follow Amazon’s step-by-step guide in this post.
Amazon Product Description HTML
Amazon Prime Day 2021 Check-In Dates
Christmas arrives early for some Amazon sellers! Yes, s-o-m-e. Because unfortunately not all countries will be having a Prime Day next month, and with valid reasoning.
Typically held every July, the annual two-day discount event has been scheduled to take place in June. If you plan on selling internationally on Prime Day and have enough storage capacity to accommodate your incoming inventory (see Amazon restock limits update), be sure to send your inventory to your target countries by the dates below.👌
Target Inventory Arrival Dates for Prime Day:
In other news, India and Canada will see no Prime Day action in June due to a high uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past few months, CNBC reports. 😟
No rescheduled date for India and Canada has been offered yet. So watch for any future announcements.
Check out the registration links below to start selling and shipping items globally on Prime Day 2021.
Amazon 2021 MCF Fees and Features
In response to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and what was undoubtedly a challenging year for most, Amazon decided to lend its sellers a hand in December 2020 by postponing its annual fee adjustments. Additionally, Amazon absorbed certain costs to support sellers through a challenging winter and help them get back on their feet after a few tricky and uncertain quarters.
At long last, it seems like there is a glimmer of light at the end of the COVID tunnel. With what looks like a path to normality now set before us, Amazon has concluded that the time is right to announce its next US Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) fee adjustment, due to take place on June 1, 2021.
What are the Key Changes for 2021?
The 2021 US Multi-Channel Fulfillment fee changes include measured increases in fulfillment fees, in line with the industry average of about 3%, to reflect changing fulfillment, transportation, and storage costs.
Furthermore, Amazon has given sellers the option to block orders from being shipped by Amazon Logistics for a 5% surcharge. This change results from the fact that sales channels like eBay and Walmart prohibit Amazon Logistics, so sellers will be able to block this shipping method at the account level within the FBA settings or on individual orders.
Starting in June, most MCF product size tiers will be aligned to the Fulfillment by Amazon tiers, and there will be a new Small standard size for products weighing 2 oz or less. Also, Amazon plans to remove expedited and priority shipping speeds on large oversize and special oversize products.
Amazon to add Sellers’ Top-Requested MCF Features
Firstly, Amazon claims to have improved on-time shipping for customer orders, although shouldn’t they have already done that? The company says standard-speed orders for in-stock inventory are now shipped out within two business days of order creation and expedited. Priority-speed orders are shipped out within one business day, so hopefully, this will improve MCF shipping overall.
Secondly, sellers will have the ability to track through AfterShip, to ensure Amazon Logistics shipments are trackable on popular channels such as Etsy and Wish. Any MCF tracking number can be used to search on Swiship.com as well. These tracking numbers can be accessed via the Seller Central order details pages or Amazon’s tracking API. Moreover, sellers will have the choice to have the number sent to the customer automatically, so long as an email address is provided when the order is submitted.
Thirdly, Amazon will use sellers’ MCF volume when calculating their Inventory Performance Index (IPI) score, which may help qualify for unlimited storage. If you don’t know your current IPI score, then head over to the Inventory Performance dashboard.
The final significant update for sellers is the ability to sign up to be put on the waiting list for the beta test of the unbranded packaging and international shipping features.
Do you think these updates are beneficial to your selling abilities? You can always let Amazon know what you think by dropping them some feedback at [email protected], and if you need any further information about the 2021 MCF updates, check out the MCF help page.
2021 Amazon Restock Limits Update
In the official news bulletin, Amazon announced: “Effective April 22, 2021, FBA products will no longer be subject to ASIN-level quantity limits. Instead, restock limits will be set at the storage-type level, offering you more flexibility in managing your shipments.”
Learn some pro tips on how to handle this update in-depth article Amazon Restock Limits.
CBP Announces New Customs Requirements For Low-Value Shipments
In what seems to be a bid to curb Importer of Record (IOR) risks, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced new guidelines for correctly shipping your inventory to Amazon fulfillment centers in the US. It has also been speculated by Amazon forum members that the new measures aim at reducing the number of counterfeit goods on Amazon, most of which originate in China.
An IOR is a standard requirement for shipments of inventory that enter the United States from another country. However, Amazon, including its fulfillment centers, will not act as an IOR for any shipment of FBA inventory. This rule applies to all shipments of any size or value, regardless of origin and product. It’s essential not to leave this field blank on the customs entry form, as doing so may result in the shipment being refused and returned.
Since the IOR is the entity or person in the destination country responsible for ensuring compliance requirements are completed and met, they become liable for any goods that pass through CBP. The IOR is accountable for customs clearance, product classification, and the payment of duties and taxes. They are also the entity liable for all risk associated with clearing the goods.
Giving the correct information in the appropriate format ensures that goods imported to the US have a smooth transition through CBP. Additionally, merchandise owners who wish to take advantage of duty-free (Section 321 21) entry into the US need to supply information about their identity, such as their first and last name, or their company name, to CBP through the shipping manifest or customs entry form.
To assist sellers, Amazon suggests that you use this format on all import documentation:
If you’d like to learn more about how to properly format information about the merchandise owner in your customs documentation, we recommend reviewing CBP’s rules. Amazon has also stated that you should consult with your carrier or customs broker for further guidance about your shipments if you are in any doubt.
There’s also a lot of helpful information to be found over at Amazon’s Guide to Delivering Imports.
All ASINs Now Require Melting Temperature Attribute
Yep, you heard that right. ALL products now require this. 🤦♀️
Amazon announced on April 13th that ASINs require a melting temperature attribute regardless of whether they are sold via FBA or MFN.
I’m sure the last thing any of us want to do is manually update every one of our ASINs. It’s not like we all sell candles, chocolate, and lip balm.
It seems laughable to add melting points to things like shoes. What a Croc, eh? 😉
Especially when customers could care less about melting points.
I’m assuming Amazon must have a good logistical or storage reason for this. 🤷♀️
The good news sellers only have to do this for NEW ASINs and any ASINs that they update moving forward.
If your product isn’t heat-sensitive, you can select “No” from the drop-down.
If you’re the unlucky few who have to select “YES”… get those Googling fingers ready. Hopefully, Wikipedia or the periodic table has the quick answer you’re looking for. 🤞
RIP Early Review Program
Next up, it's time to say “rest in peace” to the Early Review Program. The enrollment for this program has been closed, and the program has been canceled.
Amazon believes that it has come up with other, more successful ways of getting reviews such as the “One Tap” reviews system. Using One Tap reviews, a buyer can only leave a star rating without actually writing a review. This system allows for more star ratings to occur without buyers having to fill out additional details like the review title and review text that was previously required.
Then we also have Global Review Sharing. If you've got reviews in the UK, you’ll be able to share those reviews across multiple platforms so that all of the reviews across all Amazon platforms will benefit all of your marketplaces.
One of the downsides of the Early Review Program’s cancellation is for those sellers launching new products. It may be more challenging to get those first reviews. If you find yourself in this position, I recommend still keeping your current review policies and systems in place, especially things like using the Request Review button. This will help to increase those reviews and the sales-to-reviews conversion ratio.
Some seller tools have a Chrome Bulk Request Review extension. I would try this if you've got a lot of products or a lot of sales, and it's going to take you a long time to work your way through all of those reviews. As long as they’re not giving you any trouble, keep any email follow-up sequences that you have in place to request reviews per terms of service.
VAT Services Even When Outside EU
Amazon wants more sellers in the European Union (EU). To help support this goal, Amazon has launched a new program for Value Added Tax services (VAT – similar to sales tax in the US). If you are a business outside of the EU, you can now tap into the VAT services available for partners on Amazon.
“Value Added Tax” is a tax on any goods that you're selling on Amazon. VAT filings can be confusing if you’re unsure which countries you should be filing and paying taxes to.
Because it can be so difficult to navigate these legalities and so expensive to move into new markets like the EU, many sellers haven't made the leap from the US to the EU. Amazon is trying to bridge that gap by launching this free program with many perks to lessen the financial blow. This new program is free for the first year; I imagine it's going to be a paid service after that.
If you’re interested, move quickly because this free offer is only available through April 30th, 2021. If you're considering getting into the EU, it would be a good idea to take action now before that window closes. This free program includes:
Within this program, you will also get a free European Union “EORI”, which is an “Economic Operations, Registration, and Identification number.” The EORI is the number assigned to your specific VAT situation. You can for the program register here.
This VAT service might save you some money! Also, check out our FBA new selection program blog post to learn more about another program that incentivizes sellers by saving on fees.
Unsuitable Inventory Policy
The unsuitable inventory investigations policy is a brand-new policy that allows Amazon to request information from sellers to determine whether goods are counterfeit or illegal. Amazon will be asking for documentation from sellers on these products. If they find the documentation to be unsuitable or not presented at all, they could dispose of that inventory. In some circumstances, they could simply make it available for you to remove yourself.
I can see some good and some bad in this. It’s a good thing that Amazon is cleaning up the marketplace and making it more trustworthy. Amazon buyers should feel more comfortable and safe, knowing that they’re not going to be buying a counterfeit product. It will also potentially protect us as sellers from the fraudulent hijackers that come onto our listings and say that they're selling our product when they are not.
The only potential downside I see to this is that Amazon has been prone to shoot first, ask questions never, and has also tended to get it wrong sometimes (i.e., the pesticide policy).
Just a heads up, if you have a suspension that occurs for no good reason and Amazon is requesting documentation, this might be why. You can learn more here.
Amazon’s New Automated Pricing Tool
Amazon is now instituting automated pricing. If you are a retail arbitrage or wholesale seller, this could potentially be excellent news for you.
Some sellers use external repricing tools, which raise or lower your price based on the prices of others selling the same product, usually someone you're sharing the BuyBox with, as well as other parameters you’ve pre-set. A repricer are a beneficial tool and can help to:
Amazon has now built its own tool, potentially allowing you to stop using and paying for your current Repricers, canceling some of those software fees. I recommend testing it out first. You want to make sure that it works the way you think it's going to work before you cancel those services.
For those who don’t know, here’s a little primer on how reprices generally work: you will start by building out “rules” around how high or low you are willing to go with your pricing and what your sales objective is, such as whether you want to focus on higher profit, for example, or more sales with lower profit, etc. If you're using pricing tools, you're familiar with pricing rules.
One of the benefits of this tool is that if you're using the Build International Listing tool, it will allow you to create pricing rules across multiple marketplaces. For example, if you sell in Mexico, Canada, and the US, and your pricing needs to be different for each country based on your profitability, you can create rules for each individual marketplace.
Again, test it out. Amazon's tools have tended to show bugs or faulty logic in the past, especially during early stages, so I’ll emphasize again that you want to make sure that Amazon’s automated pricing tool is working the way that you think it should work before you convert over. I would recommend doing a test to compare Amazon's repricer tool to your current repricer tool and see if it's working to your standards.
A/B Testing Product Images Available
The next thing I want to bring up is the new A/B testing tool within Amazon. Under the Manage Experiments section in the New Brands tab in Seller Central, you can do split testing or A/B testing of certain elements of your listings. You can test titles, product images, and A+ content to discover what changes will earn you more conversion and sales.
For sellers who have done this testing in the past, it has been crucial to test over one full week for accurate results because sales on a Tuesday can't compare very well to sales on a Sunday, for example. Typically you'll have higher sales one day of the week than another.
For this new tool, however, that could be a thing of the past. Amazon has built their A/B tester by sending traffic to both tests equally within the same timeframe. What it is doing is sending 50% of the traffic to one side of the test and 50% to the other side, Amazon can then internally see what gets more conversion and better results.
This way you can take a Tuesday and split the sales on a Tuesday, around the same time. Given this, you could potentially do split tests a lot more quickly because you're splitting that traffic equally on the day of the same week and time of day so that you have more accuracy in regards to comparisons and you don't have to do such long split tests to get accurate data. That’s pretty cool!
In running successful split tests, start by changing just one thing. If you change a whole bunch of things at once, you won't be able to tell what actually contributed to the increase or decrease that you get. For example, if you change the title and change the images at the same time, you won't know which one produced the impact.
Always change one thing before moving on, decide which one is the winner, and stick with it. Then move on to testing something else, and in this way, streamline your process as you identify which elements are going to be most successful for your brand.
New Shipping Data Requirements
The last thing I want to talk about is shipping. There is a new requirement that when you ship seller-fulfilled inventory that you now have to provide the carrier name. For instance, UPS, FedEx, USPS, or any other provider that you're using for shipping out your seller-fulfilled inventory. Amazon will also soon be validating your tracking details.
When you're fulfilling an order, Amazon will look at the tracking information and make sure it’s valid and will show a warning if it gets an invalid tracking detail.
There has previously been a loophole allowing you to put in tracking information that was not valid. Sellers might have done this if they weren’t getting their orders out within the timeframe Amazon requires. If you put some sort of tracking information in, you could trick Amazon into thinking you were sending orders faster than you were, which would allow you to avoid the bad marks you might get from Amazon for slow delivery. That loophole seems to now be being closed with this new requirement.
Amazon, more times than not, eventually closes the loopholes. We want to take advantage of the good loopholes when we can, but a loophole like this is dangerous territory as it also affects the end buyer.
Amazon Storage Limit Updates
You may have recently received an email similar to the one I did stating that if your score is 450 or above, you will no longer be subject to storage limitations. This means you won't have storage limitations for standard-sized products, oversized, clothing, or footwear starting January 1st, 2021. Restock quantity limits are still going to be restricted.
In my opinion, not much is changing for most sellers. Sellers with oversized products could experience considerable relief but most other sellers won’t notice much. That said, we do have to pay attention to what is happening. We are starting to see restrictive quantity limits go up incrementally.
In the fall of 2020, we all had relatively decent limitations and could send in 3+ months’ worth of inventory. In December, we saw that cut-down, at times as low as five weeks or lower. I’ve already seen it start to climb back up in my account to over 60 days of stock, so it is beginning to move in the right direction, but you still might encounter these limitations.
If you're interested in finding out whether you have an IPI score of 450 or above, you can find it on your Seller Central dashboard under the Inventory Performance Dashboard. You can also review your storage limitations there at the bottom of the page. Just click “Storage Volume” to expand it upward and see how much you're using in each of the different storage segments.
If you have storage restrictions, this may significantly affect you, especially if you have oversized items. However, if you have standard-sized products, it may not be that substantial of a change. We are starting to see the quantity restrictions move back up in a positive direction.
Hopefully, we’ll see that continue to improve and become less restrictive. Even so, I don't think it's going to go back to the way it was before. I think Amazon is more interested in being a distribution center than a storage center and wants Amazon sellers to improve their inventory management and take more responsibility for that side of their business.
If you want to improve inventory management, join me on a live webinar, I host twice a month discussing things like Restock Limits, NARF, Brexit, inventory planning, etc. Whether you're using SoStocked or a spreadsheet, the techniques we discuss are essentially the same.
Amazon “Review Commenting” Updates
As of December 16th, 2020, review comments have been removed. This means that when customers write reviews, sellers and other Amazon buyers cannot comment on these reviews. I think this is a disservice to customers and sellers alike.
This new rule makes it difficult for us to contact our customers to address various issues if something goes wrong. Sometimes the only place we’re able to find unhappy customers is in the negative reviews. We can then contact them, apologize for the problem and offer to send a replacement or make things right somehow. It's no longer possible to handle those issues through the comments section of your products.
This is very unfortunate. It is worth a try for us to contact Amazon Seller Central with our opinion. We need to let them know that, at the very least, they should allow sellers to comment on these reviews. I can understand why Amazon wouldn’t want random customers commenting, but we need to show that we are taking care of our customers through our comments and interactions. Other customers will see those comments and be able to understand that there is someone there for them if anything goes wrong.
Viral Launch published a brief article on this topic and gave some excellent tips about using your copywriting to either avoid a bad review or mitigate those types of damages. For example, there might be something in your copy that you have not adequately explained. If you're not sufficiently explaining the product, customers may have a misconception about your product’s capability. Therefore, you may be giving them a wrong impression and be causing those negative reviews.