Amazon Now Requiring Tracking for Envelopes/Flats

Attention Amazon Sellers,

Small_USPS_TruckIn case you haven’t noticed, Amazon is making serious changes to their policies impacting 3rd party marketplace sellers.   Just a couple of weeks ago they started restricting well-known brands from being sold without approval.   Just last week they announced a major change in their return policy as well.

It appears they are still making changes to improve the overall customer experience in the buildup to Q4 and the 2016 Holiday Season.   In yet another announcement, Amazon is requiring merchants who are fulfilling very small, lightweight items that are typically shipped in regular first class envelopes or flats to include tracking.   This does not apply if the item is priced less than $10 USD.   Otherwise, the addition of the “package” weight and delivery confirmation from the US Postal Service will add a couple of bucks to each shipment.

Dear Seller,

 

Beginning October 12, 2016, Amazon’s package tracking requirement will extend to small and light items that are priced over $10 USD (including shipping). Please note that this is a change from the previous policy that tracking would not be required for any items that fit in a USPS Standard Mail envelope or First Class Mail envelope.

Small and light items under $10 in price (including shipping) can still be shipped in USPS Standard Mail envelopes or First Class Mail envelopes without tracking; however, starting on the date listed above, we will require tracking for small and light items over $10, just as we do for the catalog in general.

Amazon displays package tracking information buyers because we find that being able to check an order’s shipment status and not worry about its whereabouts creates a better experience for buyers. This peace of mind is especially important for higher-priced orders.

In addition to an improved customer experience, providing valid tracking numbers for all of your shipments has several benefits:

 

1. Decreased order defects and better seller feedback ratings

2. Fewer buyer messages

3. Reduced lost shipment costs

4. Improved conversion

If you choose to fulfill the tracking requirement by shipping your item as a parcel, there may be a $1-2 increase in base shipping cost but you will receive complimentary tracking on the parcel. You can access parcel rates while using the same packaging that you typically use by wrapping your item lightly in bubble wrap before putting it in the packaging, such that the thickness is more than 3/4” thick.

 

Small and light packages that are shipped before October 12 will not be counted toward the valid tracking requirement. After October 12, if you aren’t providing tracking on 95% of your items in a given category (including small and light items over $10), you risk losing your ability to sell non-FBA items within that category.

 

You can view your current Valid Tracking Rate by category by going to Seller Central > Performance > Customer Satisfaction > Account Health. Tracked packages will count toward your Valid Tracking Rate when there is at least one carrier scan recorded. If you purchase postage through Amazon’s Buy Shipping service, tracking will be automatically applied to the shipment at the time of purchase.

 

Learn more about :

 

• The new Valid Tracking Rate: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/201817070

• Premium Shipping options: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/201503640

• Amazon’s Buy Shipping services: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200472530

 

Thank you for selling on Amazon,

Amazon Seller Performance Team

 Amazon is certainly tightening down in preparation for the holidays.   Marketplace Sellers are being hit left and right with now policy punches that can make it more difficult (and more expensive) to run their businesses.

Amazon Shakes up 3rd Party Sellers with Forced Prepaid Returns

Amazon.com has been shaking up the scene lately with 3rd party “Marketplace Sellers”.   Just last week they announced a massive plan to begin restricting well-known brands from being sold by Marketplace Sellers.   The ripples of this announcement are still sending shock waves throughout the community of Amazon sellers who practice what’s known as …

More Bad News for Amazon Sellers

In a year where Amazon’s policies seem to be getting increasingly hostile to their 3rd party Marketplace Sellers, more bad news is out this week. In an attempt to get a grip on what Amazon cites as a surge in “counterfeit and unauthorized goods”, they have enacted massive restrictions on certain brands.   These restrictions …

Quit Selling on Amazon (Part 3)

A year ago I told you to Quit Selling on Amazon. A week later I gave the same message: Quit Amazon for Real This Time.  A year has gone by and I’m here to tell you to quit again.   This message is particularly relevant this week as a couple of events have come together …

You’re Never Too Busy for Metrics

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Have you ever settled in and ignored your metrics?

Friends, one of the main reasons that I started this blog was to share news and insights about e-commerce and online selling.   With over a decade in e-commerce, I’ve seen plenty of things – some amazing successes and some really discouraging heartaches.   I hope that my transparency and vulnerability with our readers will help save some of you from the mistakes we’ve made and at the same time, launch you into some of the success we’ve enjoyed.

We Got Sloppy and It Costs us over $10,000

Yes, you read that correctly.   Today I just swallowed the intense reality that we’ve unexpectedly accrued over $10,000 worth of eBay insertion fees.   How did that happen?  It’s not pretty.

Because our company is a high volume seller, we qualified for a promotion a while back that enabled us to have unlimited eBay listings with zero insertion fees.  Zero.  It was a super promotion that we have been honored to enjoy for nearly a full year.  It’s allowed us to mass list tens of thousands of products on eBay.

Despite having some employees who oversee our eBay sales and customer service, I (as the owner) happened to login to our eBay account a few weeks ago to help out with some customer service issues over the weekend.   I nearly fainted when I noticed that instead of a “Top Rated Power Seller” we had red marks everywhere and were listed as “Below Standard”.   Our metrics were awful and we had listing restrictions in place.   Apparently we had an unusual spike in customer escalations about refunds.   I spent hours investigating each of these. A few of them were legit – we just simply were sloppy and didn’t refund customers quickly enough which forced the buyers to escalate to a claim with eBay.   The rest of them really weren’t our fault at all.   A couple of them had to do with customers who, for whatever reason, were unable to print the PDF return labels we’d sent to them.   Instead of working with us, they escalated it to eBay.  There were just enough issues to barely (by less than 1% point) push us into “Below Standard” for that month.

This caused a domino effect that has proven to be one of the most painful mistakes we’ve ever made:

  1. As a result of the poor metrics, we dropped to “Below Standard” and lost our Power Seller status.
  2. All final value fee discounts were lost as a result of our poor status.
  3. Overall sales plummeted because everyone knows that Power Sellers with good metrics get better search placement and visibility.
  4. This is the real bruiser.  The promotion agreement for our “zero insertion fees” had a clause that required us to maintain our performance.

Since three full weeks have passed before this came to my attention, we’d accrued over $10,000 in listing fees because our integration software is scheduled to automatically list (and relist) items.

So what happened?

We got busy and sloppy.   That’s the bottom line.   No one person was delegated to intentionally review metrics on our account.  I suppose the Sales Manager assumed someone else was aware.  The Customer Service manager probably assumed the same.  And the Owner – well, I assumed that my staff had it under control and only discovered this when I happened to stumble upon it.   So who is to blame?   Well, we all take some responsibility but as the Owner, I take the ultimate responsibility because I should have been in tune with our marketplace metrics.  Furthermore, I should have made it crystal clear that there was an expectation that our metrics be monitored daily.

This is the type of failure that could be a fatal failure if you are not prepared.   How many businesses can take a $10,000 hit and keep moving?  For most of us who are just starting out or selling online in smaller volume, this could be catastrophic.

The Moral Of The Story …

I believe the lesson here is clear.   E-Commerce Owners:  don’t go on autopilot.  Don’t get sloppy.  Monitor all of your performance metrics daily.   Bookmark your Seller Performance pages for every venue where you sell.  If you see trends, fix them.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

And that’s our painful tip for all of you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Things Your Customers Want

summit_social_600x300This past week I had the privilege of attending the annual Global Leadership Summit via simulcast hosted at a location here in Georgia.  It was two jam-packed days of teaching from some of the world’s greatest (and most successful) leaders in the world.

For any entrepreneur who is leading a business, whether an online e-commerce operation or any other type of organization, leadership is critical.   Good leadership will help a venture soar to higher heights and poor leadership will most assuredly sink you into the lowest of lows.

One of the speakers was Horst Schulze, the CEO of Capella Hotel Group and Founding President of Ritz-Carlton Group.   He discussed three simple reminders about hospitality and what customers want.  I’d like to translate some of his teaching into our world of e-commerce and online business.

What Do Your Customers Want?

  1. Your customers want their product (or service) without defect:   customers want to get what they ordered and they want to receive it without defect.  That means we need to be sure we are shipping the correct product.  We need to make sure that the product is in the condition described.   We need to make sure that it’s packaged properly and protected in shipment.
  2. Your customers want timely service:   This means that you ship on time.  You answer customer inquiries quickly.  If a customer needs to return a product for some reason, they want the return to be easy and quick.
  3. Your customers want to feel like you care about them:   This is one of the hardest things to accomplish through an online business.  The bulk of our interactions are electronic and there is very little interaction between your customer and yourself.  How can you make them feel like you care?   Are you shipping your own product?  Do something special like tossing some candy in the box or a savings coupon for a future order.   Send a courteous followup email to make sure they are happy with your service.   These are just a few ideas.

I would challenge everyone to think about their online business through the lens of these three customer needs.   How can you adjust your fulfillment and customer service practices to better serve your customers?