Getting suspended on Amazon is something any merchant wants to avoid at all costs, yet more and more businesses are facing this exact fate.
While the process of getting your Amazon account suspended isn’t totally avoidable, there are certain things that can be done to prevent it.
Throughout this article, you’ll find a number of steps you can take to prevent this happening to your business.
What does Amazon account suspension mean?
Having a suspended account means that Amazon have identified an issue, or have reason to believe you are not a reliable seller. It removes all your seller privileges until you can contact them with an appeal to try and get your account back.
There are many reasons why Amazon may decide to suspend your account, it could be due to:
Poor customer feedback
Late shipping rate
Late dispatch rate
A number of unresolved issues with buyers
Buyers have complained to Amazon directly
This means it's very important to keep up with a number of things to ensure your account is not suspended, take a look at these important steps you can take.
Look carefully at the item's condition.
Firstly, selling restricted items on Amazon is a very easy way of getting your account suspended, so ensure you're carefully reading the restricted products help pages before listing a product. You can view the complete list of Amazon's restricted products here.
Amazon also encourages sellers to consult with their legal counsel if they have any questions regarding laws or regulations.
You should also look a the condition of an item and ensure that you're describing it as accurately as possible. Failing to do so could result in poor feedback.
Ultimately, you should be complying with the following guidelines:
Items must work perfectly and should not include signs of mould, heavy staining or corrosion.
Amazon does not permit the sale of items that are damaged in a way that renders it difficult to use.
An item should not be missing any essential accompanying material or parts, or require repair or servicing.
Any item being sold must not be a counterfeit, replica or imitation.
The item must not have already passed its expiry date, best by date or sell by date, and must have an acceptable amount of its shelf life remaining.
The item should not be prohibited for sale on Amazon.
When checking an item's condition, be completely honest with the condition it is in, otherwise you may be at risk of negative customer feedback (more on this later).
To help you out, Amazon currently offers six options for describing the condition of an item:
A brand new, unused and unopened in its original packaging.
A refurbished product that has been professional restored to working order. Typically, this means that the product has been inspected, cleaned and repaired to meet manufacturer specification. The item, however, does not need to be in the original packaging.
Used - Like New:
An apparently untouched item in perfect condition. While the item's original protective wrapping may be missing, the original packaging must be intact and pristine.
Used - Very Good:
An item that hasn't been used a great deal and remains in great condition. The item must also be complete, unmarked, undamaged and work perfectly. It may, however, show small signs of wear.
Used - Good:
The item will show wear from consistent use, yet remain in good condition and work perfectly. It may be marked or show other signs of previous use.
Used - Acceptable:
The item will be fairly worn, but continue to work perfectly. There may be signs of wear such as scratches, dents and worn corners.
These guidelines are for everyday products, but for more specific items such as software, electronics and home entertainment, more relevant guidelines can be found here.
Monitor how you treat your customers.
The way you treat your customers - loyal or new - can seriously affect how buyers view your business and the chances of repeat custom.
Amazon wants to keep their customers happy, so if you make a mistake, it is reflected badly on them. After all, your customers are also Amazon’s customers. Here are a few ways you can keep customer service to a high quality:
Respond to messages as soon as you can.
Make sure that you are keeping an eye out for messages that buyers (and Amazon) send you. The quicker you respond to messages, the more likely you are to receive positive feedback.
In fact, you should never underestimate the power of word of mouth. If you are unresponsive to messages, there is a strong chance Amazon will remove your seller privileges.
Check on your metrics daily.
Charlie McBroom, Founder of FittedCommerce, thinks Amazon's core ambition should be taken into consideration by online sellers.
"There is no one rule to avoid or prevent account suspension on Amazon, other than putting the customer first. Amazon's vision is to be "Earth's most customer-centric company" and by selling on the Amazon platform you must act in a way that fits in with their mission statement. One recommendation we make to our clients is to run a daily metric check on all your Amazon platforms. This is to ensure your accounts are health and by recording this you can spot and address any issues before they become critical".
Monitor all third-party services.
Stay in close contact with any third-party integrations you have, whether that be couriers or software systems.
Make sure feedback is completely organic.
Organic feedback and reviews mean that the positive or negative feedback has come straight from the buyer and the seller has played no part in that feedback, apart from the service.
Amazon banned the use of incentivised reviews back in 2016, meaning discounted or free products cannot be exchanged for positive reviews.
Chee Chew - Head of Amazon Customer Experience - made this statement back in October 2016 when the change was made:
“Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions, and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. In just the past year, we’ve improved review ratings by introducing a machine-learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews; applying stricter criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge; and suspending, banning or suing thousands of individuals for attempting to manipulate reviews”.
It’s very important to keep positive feedback as organic as possible because if any seller is caught bribing or manipulating buyers for the positive feedback, their account will be suspended and it may be tricky to gain the account back.
Monitoring feedback altogether is a great way of identifying problems very early on. It’s also a cost-effective way of solving problems. Here are a few quick suggestions how to keep positive feedback as high as possible:
1. Respond quickly when you get negative feedback that you do not agree with. Make sure to be polite though.
2. If there's an immediate issue with a transaction, let the buyer know straight away. This may prevent them from leaving negative feedback. Equally, send a confirmation email to your buyer as soon as the item is dispatched, as keeping your buyer up to date with any information will enhance the service you offer.
List your items at the right place.
Listing your products at the correct price is something that Amazon takes very seriously.
If your competitor’s prices are cheaper, and the items are of a better quality, Amazon will pick up on this and may deactivate the listing. They do this to avoid a negative customer experience (like I said, your customers are also Amazon’s customers).
Sellers can help avoid blocked listings by setting the minimum and maximum allowed selling price for each product in their inventory.
Here’s how you can do this:
Click Inventory> Manage Inventory.
In the left-hand navigation, under Fix price alerts, select Potential pricing error.
Update or confirm your listings, item by item by doing either of the following:
Update your offer price, or
Confirm your offers price by setting your minimum price and maximum price so that your offer price is within the minimum and maximum price range.
Click Save and Finish to reactivate your listings.
Amazon will alert you if your price falls outside your price range. If you do not use the minimum and maximum price settings, their systems will continue to use internal data to help detect potential pricing errors.
There are many ways you can check what sellers with similar items to you are priced at, here are a few quick tips:
A simple keyword search of the item you are selling on other sites such as eBay, Flubit or Amazon itself.
Using software to compare prices of other items sold on Amazon. An example of this would be using your own Amazon account tool which you can access on your account, which compares prices on other sites to make sure your products are at the right price.
Know all you can about ISBN's and ASIN's.
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and every book is assigned a unique ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 when it's been published. ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number, which is a unique code Amazon uses to identify it, almost every product listed on Amazon has its own ASIN.
For books, the ASIN is the same as the ISBN number, but for all other products, a new ASIN is created when the item is uploaded to Amazon's catalogue. You'll find an item's ISBN or ASIN on the product detail page which includes further details about the item, which may include information such as size, number of pages etc.
It’s essential that every product has an ASIN and product page, and if you attempt to list the same item under multiple ASINs you will most likely get suspended.
If you have duplicate pages, you can merge them together by contacting Amazon:
Select Products and Inventory > Product page issue.
Under What kind of issue are you having?
Select Merge or split product page.
Select Merge and provide the requested information.
Amazon will then notify you if your request has been approved or not, after this all information about the products will remain the same, active and uninterrupted.
Keep up with Amazon's standards.
Amazon has high standards for their sellers, which means it has strict performance targets that each seller has to meet.
Order defect rate: less than 1%
Pre-fulfillment cancel rate: less than 2.5%
Late shipment rate: less than 4%
There are ways to measure your seller performance, alternatively, you can always wait for Amazon to review your performance for you, as they will send you notifications when you are slightly off target to warn you. But if you’d rather be ahead of the game:
Monitor your customer metrics.
Amazon provides its sellers with customer metrics to inform them how they are performing. These metrics are available in your Amazon seller account and are essential if you want to stay ahead of the game.
These customer metrics include:
Order Defect Rate (ODR).
This is the percentage of your orders that have either received negative feedback, an A-Z Guarantee claim that has not been denied or a credit card chargeback.
Each of these are considered order defects and are calculated during a 60-day period.
More specifically, Amazon uses the following conditions to measure overall performance:
A seller who maintains a low percentage of negative reviews including 1 and 2-star reviews will be considered unacceptable.
A seller who works proactively with customers to resolve order problems will avoid most A-to-Z guarantee claims. Amazon measures your claims rate using the percentage of all orders that involved a claim.
When a buyer disputes a purchase charged to their credit card with their back, it is referred to as a service chargeback.
Pre-Fulfillment Cancellation Rate:
This is the number of orders cancelled by a seller prior to shipment confirmation. This is then divided by the number of orders placed in the time period of interest.
When working this out, Amazon will consider all cancellations initiated by the seller.
Late Shipment Rate.
Late shipment rate refers to the number of orders with shipments that are not confirmed by the expected ship date within a specific time period. Orders that are shipped late may lead to increased customer complaints which can also negatively impact your customer's experience.
Joshua Price, an online marketplace experts, has a few tips on how to keep up to speed with your delivery rates:
“The thing to always remember is there are always going to be complaints - no matter how well you run your business - you’re never going to have 0% of your order defect rate. Let’s look at the shipping rate – so how long it takes for a product to reach the customer after they’ve ordered it. After you sell a product, Amazon gives you 48 hours to ship it, for example; if it sells on a Monday it has to be dispatched on a Wednesday. For most of the year not everyone will have a problem with this, especially if you have your products in the warehouse it’s absolutely fine. However, as the year goes on, the quantity of orders starts to increase, sometimes that turn-around is not as quick.
The way around this is by increasing your dispatch rate from 2 days to 4, and that gives you that little extra leeway and will make that process a little more comfortable. It also means if you ship out earlier than that Amazon are not going to penalize you for it, and the customer will be completely satisfied, and you beat your shipping rate. It also means your dispatch rate – which is the metric for the time in which it takes for you to dispatch an item – will not be affected”.
To increase your dispatch rate, simply log into your Amazon seller account, and click on My Amazon - Shipment Settings - then click on the tab Fulfilment Latency.
Keeping up to date with your seller performance is the best way to ensure you don't slip behind.
Amazon's seller performance standards are only going to get tougher, so the more you check monitor your performance, the less likely you are to get warnings or be suspended.
Have a plan of action to avoid Amazon suspension.
The final step is to ensure you have a solid plan in action.
More specifically, planning what your next step is and having steps for unexpected issues will be the best way to ensure your account doesn't get suspended.
Chris McCabe, founder of eCommerceChris, explains his number one way to avoid account suspension on Amazon and has a guideline plan if you find yourself suspended.
"The number one thing you can do as a seller to reduce your risk of suspension is to respond properly to Amazon Performance Notifications. If you don’t respond when Amazon sends warnings and suspends listings then you increase the chances that a manual investigation results in your account being closed.
Examine the causes of the notifications. Take a long hard look at where you could potentially improve. Then, be sure you communicate your comprehensive solutions as effectively as you can. This goes straight into your Amazon account, make sure it represents you well.
Use our proven, 4 step system to create effective Plans of Action.
1. Figure out “What Went Wrong”. If there's a potential gap in your account operations, identify it concretely and be ready to describe it, in as much detail as you can. Look deep into your account and operations to find areas of improvement.
2. State your root causes. Don’t just restate the reason Amazon gave you. You need to tell them WHY it happened.
3. Lay out your plan of attack. How will you resolve the problems that led Amazon to review your account? Could they reasonably annotate your account indicating that you understand what failed, and moved immediately to fix what broke? Think in terms of due diligence you already have in place. Is there any room for improvement?
4. Putting it all together. Get your best writer and editor on the job. This is most likely going to Seller Performance or Product Quality teams, and they aren’t known for messing around. Put together a draft, then cast a skeptical eye on what you have in front of you. Have you stuck to the facts? Have you taken responsibility for the issue or issues? Have you stated your case clearly and concisely? Don’t send it off prematurely, and then regret it. Get it right the first time.
If Amazon thinks you only have short-term solutions to offer, then they likely will not take your email seriously. They don’t want to have to look at your account again for the same issues".
If you find that your selling privileges have been removed, getting in touch with people like Chris can help guide you through the steps that get you back on Amazon's site, it's certainly a good way of getting an expert's opinion.
In recent years, Amazon has made changes to its account suspension protocols, by asking online sellers to produce a pre-plan of action stating exactly what they were to doto avoid account suspension. Before, POA requests were only sent out of your Amazon account had been suspended.
You will most likely receive a warning email from Amazon stating that it has reason to believe your account is at risk of suspension. If you receive an email from email@example.com it is advised that you do not ignore it.
Avoid Amazon account suspension with inventory management software.
It can be tough, stressful and challenging to protect your Amazon seller status.
With an Amazon inventory management solution in place, however, you can manage your inventory in one location and ensure that your stock levels are automatically adjusted and synchronized across all your additional selling channels.
In turn, this will remove the risk of overselling and delayed order fulfillment, both of which can lead to account suspension on marketplaces.
Speedy order fulfillment can have a very positive impact on online reviews as well, therefore inventory and order management software can help solidify your presence on Amazon and enhance your online reputation, increasing the likelihood of more sales and repeat purchasing.
It's a win-win.
Amazon is becoming stricter with their rules and regulations every year, and once suspended from the marketplace, it can be a challenge to reclaim.
Even though there are certain things that are unavoidable, by following these steps and tips from marketplace experts, you'll be doing everything you can to keep your business flourishing on Amazon.
For more expert tips and guidance on how to increase sales on Amazon and grow your business on the marketplace, have a read of this.