Up until now, brands selling on Amazon have been able to connect freely with their customers to provide various offers. This may soon become a problem for many. In March of this year, Amazon implemented an email opt-out rule that is causing many to fear sending unsolicited emails. New Amazon policies usually mean new penalties, so sellers need to know what this email opt-out means for business.
The Amazon Email Opt-Out Policy
Customers who go for the email opt-out – and there are many – will still be getting the usual emails concerning their order status and requests for needed additional information. Sellers don’t have to worry about making sure that their customers stay informed about delivery issues. They can also still communicate with customers about shipping addresses, product customization, and the like.
Sellers who are still trying to recover from the ban placed on incentivized reviews are going to take another big hit, however. Asking for feedback on service or for a product review is considered by Amazon to be a non-critical email. This means that eliciting those much-needed feedback and review scores is going to be even harder. Long-time sellers know that customers are much more likely to comment when they have had a bad experience than if they were satisfied, so we expect seller scores to fall across the board. It’s time for everyone to step up their game or face the consequences.
Other Restricted Emails
Other emails that are restricted by the email opt-out are notifications about items that are out of stock or delayed, confirmation of orders, shipments, and deliveries, and product manuals or instructions and tips for product use. All of these can negatively impact the customer’s experience.
First, customers who have ordered an item will expect it to be delivered within the promised number of days. If the item is suddenly out of stock and the standard notification bounces, the seller is going to have one angry customer on his hands. Sending out these notifications helped to ease the situation by offering the customer an alternative, or simply letting them know not to expect their item for a few more days. There’s nothing more frustrating to a shopper than not getting what they paid for. Being left in the dark about concerns like this just increases the chances that they will blow their tops.
Second, the usual order fulfillment notifications that assure customers that their orders have been received will not go through. This also means that any follow-up emails about order processing and status are also blocked by the email opt-out rule. It is surprising that many customers would want to stop receiving these since it is an assurance that their orders are going to get to them on time. If anything goes wrong and there are delays, however, they are not going to think about the fact that they wanted the email opt-out and instead focus on how the seller messed up.
Third, customers will no longer receive those helpful after-sales emails that give them more information about the products that they recently purchased. These are very useful for avoiding negative feedback when a customer isn’t clear on how to use a certain item. Again, they may get frustrated and blame the seller because they weren’t able to receive the useful tips.
We can only imagine how many emails Amazon got about this policy. It seemed to work, though, because Amazon added a FAQ on the policy assuring sellers that there will be no penalties for sending emails to customers who have opted out. That’s good news because it means that sellers can continue to use the automation software that saves them so much time for otherwise tedious tracking tasks. And if they want to figure out how to weed the email opt-out customers from those who want to stay informed, they will have more time to do so. Sellers will, however, have to take on the daunting task of adjusting their marketing strategies to make up for this new restriction.
Since When is Being Pro-Active Bad?
Many sellers are especially confused and irritated by this email opt-out policy because it hampers their ability to provide excellent customer service. Sending out many of the banned emails mentioned above is part of their way of pro-actively controlling customer responses. They provide information just in case it is needed, keep their customers informed so they don’t worry, and send over offers that might be of interest. Some shoppers might be annoyed by all these messages, but we agree that they likely have not thought this through.
We anticipate an increase in complaints that are a direct result of a lack of communication. We just hope that Amazon is able and willing to separate these out from the rest. Sellers should not bear the burden if customers have purposefully rejected their communications. Perhaps Amazon will realize that the email opt-out is not optimally configured and make some changes to balance things out.
It looks like that is exactly what is going to happen, luckily. Amazon has already allowed a workaround to the email opt-out. Sellers can still send a few non-critical emails to certain customers if they feel that it is an urgent need. By writing “[Important]” in the email’s subject line, sellers can get information through the block. Messages sent via the Buyer-Seller tool will also be allowed through if they choose ‘‘Additional Information Required’’ from the subject options to let Amazon know that it’s important. This method doesn’t always work, but sellers can double-check by blind copying themselves on the email to make sure it gets through.
Long-time sellers are probably not surprised that Amazon has thrown them another curve-ball. They will just have to get creative once again. Finding ways to keep customers happy and keep sales flowing in despite the many challenges this marketplace presents is the Amazon seller life.