It involves establishing workflows that ensure positive customer experiences, so your brand is poised to earn honest, positive reviews.
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of common complaints that sellers of all sizes encounter. You’ve probably seen a number of these before. But if your first instinct is to chastise your team or simply address fires as they come up: (A) we get it, ecommerce moves fast and it’s easy to make errors, but (B) we challenge you to consider more long-term solutions.
Below are our recommendations on how to address the root of each complaint. Read on for practical tips on how to optimize your operations so that you’re less likely to face these issues in the future.
Complaint: “Item not as described.
If not an actual manufacturing issue, then you’re likely dealing with a catalog issue. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to fix, assuming you have the right tools to bulk edit your catalog across all the channels that it lives on.
Check that your SKU is categorized correctly. It’s easy to miscategorize your listings when every channel has its own menu of categories and subcategories and/or makes frequent updates to their browsing pathways. Also, if you’re using an automation tool that simply routes SKUs based on the product name, then you may find that your “Plastic Teapot Play Set” is being listed as real kitchenware. To avoid this issue, make sure you’ve got a smarter system for categorizing your products that takes into account a variety of product attributes.
Publish complete product data. If you’re the gatekeeper of your product listing, fill out as much product details as possible. Include product details beyond what your marketplace requires, such as measurements, materials and recommended use. Don’t leave details to the imagination. Rather, opt for more true-to-life copy over salesy language.
If you’re a reseller piggybacking on an existing listing, submit as much additional information for your marketplace to consider and report wrong information when necessary.
Highlight the most important details up top. Leverage your product name, description and bullet points to draw attention to defining traits about your product. Some channels will also let you format text or add labels to your product images. For clothes or accessories, consider adding sizing charts and helpful links to avoid related complaints like “Not true-to-size.”
Leverage the Q&A section. Amazon and Walmart both have public Q&A sections at the bottom of product listings. This gives you an opportunity to address customer questions honestly and thoroughly, plus helps you identify what information you should surface higher up in your listing. It goes without saying that for eBay, Facebook and other marketplaces, you’ll want to keep an eye out for direct messages from your customers. You may even want to invite questions directly from your listing if you anticipate confusion over anything.
Don’t overlook the power of pictures. Pictures compensate for the fact that your customer can’t touch or try on your products. You can mimic the window-shopping experience by showing your items in use, pointing out special features or illustrating the actual size of your item. If you offer various colors, patterns, etc. of the same product, take pictures of each variant and make sure they’re mapped to the correct setting (e.g., your blue phone case should only show when the buyer has clicked “blue”).
Don’t overproduce your photos. Take caution when editing your photos: invest more into lighting and good-quality raw photos than Photoshop. Even when you add a disclaimer saying that colors may not look as bright in person (as an example), you risk disappointing your customer. If your marketplace allows illustrations or other special edits to photos, keep it minimal and don’t mask your product.
Offer instructions or tutorials for technical products. Some buyers may conclude that your product is defective or incongruent with your description if it’s hard to use, e.g., I once watched a beauty YouTuber rate the Dyson Airwrap poorly because she tested it out on dry hair (the Dyson Airwrap is meant to curl fresh-out-of-the-shower hair while drying it at the same time). If your product comes with a learning curve like this, provide instructional images, descriptions, live-streams, videos and/or links to dispel confusion prior to purchase.
Complaint: “Item not delivered in time.”
Delayed delivery may be due to a clerical error or a warehouse issue. If either occur consistently, then you’ll want to entertain the idea of finding a centralized order, inventory and warehouse management tool. This is the most fail-proof way of accurately receiving, routing and tracking orders across all your SKUs from all your different channels and warehouses.
Check your settings. Are your shipping preferences correct (e.g., are you enabling/disabling fast shipping for the right locations and/or dates)? Did you specify the right shipping location(s)? Are you sending the right package weight(s) to trigger the right weight-based shipping template? Each of these are essential to check, though they can be tedious to monitor if you lack a multichannel management software to track, view and edit your SKUs in bulk across all your channels.
Take advantage of shipping lead times. Shipping lead times tell each channel how many days it takes you to ship an order. They’re especially important during peak selling season, like the holidays, because they help you manage customer expectations around products with additional manufacturing, assembly or delivery needs. You can also leverage lead times when you go on vacation and want to continue receiving orders while delaying time to ship until you get back.
Shipping lead times also ensure that your marketplace doesn’t mark orders as late and thereby hurt your seller performance. Note that lead time is different from your shipping method: if you set a lead time of 3 days and you select expedited shipping (one to five days) as your shipping method, then you’ll have five days to fulfill the orders after the 10-day processing time. With an inventory management tool, you should be able to set lead times at the warehouse or SKU level and easily toggle settings when necessary.
Set priority warehouses. An inventory management tool can help you automatically route orders depending on a number of factors, including your channel-to-warehouse assignments, inventory levels at each location, package weight, ship-to location and other custom rules. Your software can make sophisticated routing decisions in a matter of seconds, plus reserve and communicate inventory to your sales channels so that you don’t oversell. This provides the highest level of assurance that your deliveries won’t get delayed because of an inventory flaw—and save you time.
Streamline the ship/pack/pick process. Advanced warehouse management systems offer robust features for simplifying and automating this part of the fulfillment progress. They offer digital pick lists to increase the speed and accuracy of the picking process, e.g., SkuVault’s Hyper Picking Feature tells you what needs to be picked, where it needs to be picked and by when across a whole array of orders. You can also sort pick lists by storage location versus order number to maximize time and ensure that the process of packing your products doesn’t slow down your business.
On the Amazon front, you can choose from FBA, FBA Onsite, SFP, Amazon Logistics, and more to control your inventory while staying competitive. To be clear: we don’t recommend relying on any one fulfillment method like FBA. You never want to be at the full mercy of Amazon (or any marketplace for that matter) where sudden policy changes could lead to big losses.
Complaint: “Wrong item or missing components.”
When your business is doing hundreds or thousands of orders a day, errors are inevitable when everything is done by hand. Automation, as we mentioned earlier, can significantly reduce the burden on your staff and allow them to focus on making strategic improvements to your warehouse workflow. Here’s what we mean.
Track kits and bundles via an inventory management tool. Kits and bundles are a common cause of defective orders. They become especially hard to track when they’re not prepackaged and/or require shipment from multiple warehouses. In this instance, a multichannel inventory management software can help you route orders to the right places and update the displayed quantity of each component SKU and your master SKU on all of your channels to prevent overselling. You can also quickly create kits from scratch within your software (essentially disable/enable them) to better control the complexity of the orders coming in.
Have a QA system in place during the pick/pack/ship process. Automated error reports can help you identify partially shipped orders after they go out, while a system like barcoding can prevent them from happening in the future. While barcodes themselves are relatively simple, how you use them can vary drastically, e.g., will your barcodes represent product ID and/or lot ID and/or serial number? Getting in the habit of using barcodes can ensure that the right product is being picked for the order at hand.
Taking it one step further, a “connected” barcode scanner like Finale Inventory’s creates a real-time feedback loop between your scanner and inventory software, so you can instantly update numbers across your warehouses when you decide to move stock. With Finale’s Zentail integration, you can additionally receive orders and update inventory on all your ecommerce channels.
Complaint: “Quality is poor. Not worth the price.”
To state the obvious: you don’t want your products to break on your customers or fall sorely below their expectations. But assuming you’re not taking dishonest shortcuts in manufacturing, here are some things that you can do to avoid unfair claims.
Remember, context is everything. Sometimes you’re not looking to offer the highest-quality item but if you fail to disclose quality or material details, you could run into trouble with this complaint. The number one rule of thumb is not to over-promise as you’re writing your product descriptions and titles. Instead, be descriptive about the proper use, purpose and materials in your product. You may also want to mention the material (“faux suede”) in the product name and include keywords like “budget-friendly” in your descriptions (most marketplaces will not allow you to add price-related terms in your product titles). The following example shows the difference in attitude between two customers with two wildly different ideas of the intended use, audience and value of a foam archery target that they bought.
Offer a fair, value-driven price. As we all know, price is probably the biggest indicator of quality. There are various pricing strategies you can use, but the value-first strategy stands out as a way for you to offer competitive prices without short-changing yourself. Ecommerce clothing brand Everlane takes this approach and is “radically transparent” about where their clothes are made, the true cost of producing their clothes and the actual price they charge. Though they will charge $168 for a shirt that cost $54 to make, many customers feel good about their purchases because of other values they get back—and the money they still feel like they’re saving.
Make sure you’re listed next to the right competitors. Though you can’t choose who you’re ranked against on Amazon, eBay and the like, you can do competitive recon to ensure that you’re listing to the right marketplace and are positioning your product appropriately. Walmart, for example, appeals to wallet-conscious buyers whereas Amazon appeals to a mixed audience, including those seeking brand names at slightly lower costs (but with the same quality expectations). When researching, consider who are you up against on each channel? What mindset do people have when landing on your product listing, and what should you do to combat unrealistic expectations?
Over to You
As inevitable as customer complaints are, there are proactive steps you can take to avoid these common issues. Have any other tips to add to the list? Or want to chat automation with us? Tweet us @ZentailCommerce or email us at email@example.com.
However, review manipulation is only one tactic among many that unscrupulous sellers are using. Here are several other underhanded practices that are cropping up. Beware of suspicious activity that resembles these—and avoid succumbing to them yourself.
8 Common Black-Hat Tactics
Click farming. A seller will hire bots or workers in “click farms” to search for their products on Amazon, then click on their listings repeatedly or add items to their carts. The increase in click-throughs and engagement is intended to trick Amazon’s algorithm, so listings will appear higher in search results.
Sabotaging competitors with negative reviews. A seller will post negative reviews on a competitor’s listings to hurt their reputation and/or get their listings suppressed by Amazon. The seller may even mark negative reviews as “helpful” via other fake buyer accounts to make those reviews more visible to shoppers.
Sabotaging competitors with positive reviews. A black-hat seller will generate and post dozens of carelessly fake and unverified positive reviews on a competitor’s product—raising red flags in Amazon’s system.
False brand infringement claims. In this instance, a hijacker will claim to be the brand owner or manufacturer of a product, then file an infringement claim against a reseller. Amazon usually acts quickly in such cases and will suspend the reseller’s ASIN. While a reseller can get his/her ASIN reinstated, it may require some chasing—Amazon will want to hear from the brand “owner,” who won’t typically won’t respond to these requests. If this happens to you, your best bet is to ask the real brand owner or manufacturer to write a statement to Amazon confirming that they did not make the claim.
Posting a bogus safety claim. A hijacker may actually buy a product from a legitimate seller, then post an over-the-top negative review claiming that it was dangerous. The hijacker will cram words like “hazardous,” “risk,” “choking,” and “fire” to trigger an immediate removal of the listing.
Counterfeit switcheroo. There are a few ways that counterfeiters can nab sales from another seller. The most common way is for a counterfeiter to list his/her inventory (of knockoff goods) to an existing listing. Or, counterfeiters may buy their competitor’s product themselves, then return a counterfeit version. They will subsequently complain to Amazon and/or leave a review claiming that they received a counterfeit. To protect yourself from this, take a page from our Brand Control playbook and serialize individual units of your product.
Hacking listing content. A bad actor finds a listing for a product that’s only slightly different from the one they’re selling. They start selling on the listing and submit a new title, description and image that matches their product rather than the original. People who buy the original product then complain that it’s “not as described,” and the original seller gets suspended.
Posting prohibited content. A seller may also upload vulgar or controversial images to a product listing, or change copy to include outlandish claims, leading to the listing’s immediate removal.
How to Protect Yourself from Black-Hat Sellers
Keep in mind that Amazon is aware of these issues and getting better at detecting abuse. In early 2019, the company introduced Project Zero, a program that lets sellers automatically remove counterfeit listings without involving Amazon. It’s expected that Amazon will continue developing tools and processes to handle multiple types of hacks, especially as new scams are being publicized.
In your day to day, you’ll also want to be vigilant in monitoring your Amazon store. Pay special attention to your high-performing listings. If you see any suspicious activity, report it right away and don’t stop at opening a case with Seller Support. Escalate the issue to a team or category manager, and do so the right way. You don’t want to haphazardly put together a complaint or POA, only to get rejected for submitting confusing material.
Finally, you’ll want to take proactive measures, like getting your brand registered, to receive more protections from Amazon. Stay away from any questionable practices yourself—follow the mantra that if something seems sketchy, it probably is!
8 White-Hat Tactics that You SHOULD Consider
So if you want to power up your listings the right way, consider these tactics.
Make sure your product data is complete. The more detailed your product descriptions, the greater chance you have of getting ranked on Amazon and earning your consumers’ trust. Heed expert tips on how to optimize each component of your listing. And if the idea of manually enriching all of your listings makes your eyes glaze over, take advantage of Zentail’s SMART Types system, which automatically adds essential attributes to your listings. It’ll also format your listings according to Amazon’s requirements so that your ASINs remain compliant.
Take advantage of Amazon’s Enhanced Brand Content (EBC). EBC is available to any registered brand. It allows you to add custom imagery and text to capture your consumers’ attention, and to build trust around your brand. It’s easy to use, so if you can, why not put your best foot forward?
Offer product bundles and kits. List your products as multipacks or special bundles to offer your customers a good deal and create unique, non-competitive ASINs. Of course, you’ll want to first read up on Amazon’s ground rules for bundling. You’ll also want to look into tools like Zentail’s inventory and kitting automation to ensure that kits/bundles don’t come at the cost of accurate inventory.
Cross-promote your Amazon listings on social media and other websites. Leverage multiple channels to drive consumers to your Amazon listings. This increase in engagement can improve your ranking in Amazon’s search engine. You may want to even consider investing in advertisement to gain initial traction on new or slow-selling items.
Take advantage of the Early Reviewer Program for new products. Amazon created this initiative (available to any U.S. registered brand) to address the fact that new products often have trouble selling because of their lack of reviews. If your product is enrolled in this program, Amazon will solicit reviews for up to a year or until your item receives five product reviews, whichever comes first. You can enroll any ASIN with fewer than five reviews that costs more than $15. To participate, you’ll also have to pay $60 for each SKU in the program (but you only pay after you receive your first review).
Improve text matches. Ensure that your titles and descriptions include the right keywords, in addition to related keywords, without sounding robotic. Cut out any sales fluff to make room for genuinely helpful and descriptive content.
Make sure your products are readily available. Unsurprisingly, Amazon will de-emphasize listings that are out of stock. Once your listing goes out of stock, it’s reportedly harder to recover your rank. So before you get to this stage, establish a reliable method for syncing quantities to the actual inventory in your warehouses and/or inbound stock. Use inventory thresholds to avoid stockouts, while employing an automated forecasting tool to keep you ahead of demand.
Ensure your pricing is competitive. You don’t have to be told twice—pricing matters. It’s the second-most highest factor when it comes to winning the buy box (second to your fulfillment method). Even for brand owners, having a competitive price is key to earning a top spot. For resellers, the best type of repricer is, hands down, an algorithmic repricer. An algorithmic repricer will adjust to buy box winners in real time without killing your profits. In fact, it’ll incrementally increase your price to keep you winning at the highest possible price.
The competition on Amazon is only intensifying with time. But as we reported earlier this year, though the number of third-party sellers seems to be growing, 28% of sellers are dropping out year over year. The ones who remain not only deliver great service and products—they employ white-hat tactics to increase brand visibility, without putting their ethics on the line.
Of course, many are also tapping into automation to make managing these tactics exponentially easier. Zentail is an industry-recognized COM platform that helps in this manner. With AI-powered automation and an easy-to-use interface, Zentail simplifies your workflows and multiplies your productivity. Manage every aspect of business in one place to move fast and unlock new opportunities for growth on Amazon.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to speak with one of our seasoned Amazon experts.
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Built by online sellers who've been around the block, Zentail is today's no.1 commerce operation management (COM) system. We help brands and resellers accelerate their growth on Amazon and expand to new channels. See whether Zentail is right for you—reach out to our team today. Contact us: 888-366-8458