The Amazon marketplace is becoming an increasingly crowded place for sellers.
This may not come as a big surprise, especially considering that Amazon.com, Inc. ranks number one on Internet Retailer’s list of e-retailers in the United States. Over 90 million Prime members (up 40 percent from 2016) and millions more non-Prime shoppers are hard for any merchant to ignore.
As the pool of third-party merchants rapidly expands to meet growing demand, one thing is certain: the importance of seller feedback on Amazon. In this post, we’ll explore the three most common reputation management strategies taken by Amazon merchants.
If you spend much time on the seller forums, you’ll hear a similar refrain from some merchants. It sounds something like this: “Amazon shoppers don’t want to be bothered with feedback solicitations. If you go above and beyond to impress customers, they’ll organically reciprocate with feedback.” In other words, take care of customers and they’ll take care of you.
The “laissez-faire” feedback management strategy is commonplace for several reasons.
For starters, there’s only a fixed number of hours in a single day. Sourcing new products, repricing listings and managing orders can easily be a full-time job, leaving little time for feedback solicitation. In addition, few sellers actually understand Amazon’s rules for requesting feedback. Many assume (wrongly) that feedback solicitation is a prohibited practice and might get them into hot water.
Sellers are often surprised to learn that Amazon actually encourages feedback solicitation (check out this guide for “Improving Your Feedback Rating”). Amazon acknowledges that most customers, despite being happy, aren’t motivated to leave feedback. To address this issue, Amazon recommends that sellers “send a polite request for feedback to the customer after the shipment has been received.”
Amazon wouldn’t make such a recommendation unless doing so made a tangible impact. Yet, some sellers choose to bypass Amazon’s best practices, sticking to the “safer” hands-off method.
But, is a laissez-faire approach truly the safest choice? Probably not. Sellers need positive feedback—and lots of it. All things being equal, a seller with thousands of positive ratings will usually win the Buy Box when competing with a lower-rated merchant. Therefore, failing to ask for feedback will, in most cases, put you at a distinct disadvantage—especially when competing against sellers who are soliciting.
Negative feedback can be devastating to your reputation, especially when combined with a laissez-faire strategy. Remember, Amazon’s primary way of communicating your reliability is via the feedback rating. The feedback rating is publicly visible to Amazon shoppers and is expressed as a “percent positive” ratio.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume you’re a new seller and have successfully fulfilled 500 Amazon orders. If you’re not asking customers for feedback, you may only have a handful (let’s say five) of positive ratings. Prior to receiving a negative feedback, your feedback score is 100 percent positive. However, the moment a one-star or two-star feedback arrives, your seller rating immediately drops to 83 percent.
There is good news: Amazon does permit sellers to “resolve” negative feedback with customers. As Amazon points out, “…we encourage you to contact the buyer individually to resolve the problem. After resolving the buyer’s concerns, you can ask him or her to remove the feedback from the website.” Once removed, the feedback score returns to its previous level.
Choosing to only focus on negative feedback removal (while bypassing positive feedback solicitation) is the most common example of a “reactive” strategy. As demonstrated in the example, a purely reactive approach magnifies the consequences of negative feedback, thereby increasing the importance of a successful removal. And considering there’s no guarantee of removal, it’s not a great situation to be in.
The last strategy, and likely the most prudent, involves a proactive approach to Amazon feedback management. Rather than hoping for the best, the proactive merchant builds scalable systems that will help achieve these goals:
Capturing positive feedback from more satisfied customers: Automating the solicitation process in a way that maintains a personalized, friendly tone and aids customers to understand how (and why) they should consider leaving feedback.
Monitor negative ratings in real time: Receiving email or text alerts within moments of a customer leaving a poor rating. The sooner you’re aware of a problem, the greater the odds that you can resolve the issue.
Systematizing the removal of negative feedback: Feedback removal may require substantial correspondence with the customer. You need a way to capture the steps you’ve taken to resolve the issue before ever asking for feedback removal. Asking too soon could be as costly as not asking at all.
Ensuring total customer satisfaction: Amazon wants its sellers to be focused on one primary goal: ensuring total customer satisfaction. Feedback is a direct reflection of satisfaction, which should always be at the heart of any proactive outreach campaign.
In today’s tech-driven world, most of these goals can now easily be automated. Some sellers attempt to build custom integrations to their Seller Central accounts via the Amazon Marketplace Web Service API. On the other hand, many choose to use an off-the-shelf platform, such as our FeedbackFive platform (or a tool from another vendor). Granted, automation does come with a tangible investment of time and/or financial resources. If you choose to build your own integration, there will be development costs and ongoing maintenance. If you go with a prebuilt software app, you’ll likely need to budget for monthly subscription fees. Such costs should be weighed against the opportunity costs of a less automated approach.
Which Strategy Should You Try?
As discussed, there are several approaches to consider when it comes to Amazon feedback. Before deciding on your strategy, I would strongly encourage you to fully educate yourself. Amazon offers a variety of helpful resources on this topic.
eComEngine provides software that helps merchants manage feedback, inventory, pricing and other tasks on Amazon.