Marketplaces Relief Programs and Policy Changes During COVID-19

Allison Lee

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March 27, 2020

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Last updated on May 9, 2020

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has upended countless businesses across the country. Warehouses have had to be shut down. Services, like Amazon FBA, have been stalled. And many sellers who are stuck at home face cash flow constraints.

Read Also: 7 Ways to Keep Revenue Flowing—Even When Your Home

Ecommerce marketplaces are springing into action by offering temporary relief programs for sellers or relaxing their policies. Below is a running list of what marketplaces have publicly announced so far. Check back for ongoing updates as we find out more.

Amazon 

  • May 9 - Amazon says it will remove quantity limits on products you can send to FBA fulfillment centers until further notice.
  • May 4 - Amazon announces it'll be waiving the May 15th long-term storage fee. "We thank you for your patience as we’ve made adjustments in our facilities to protect our employees and fulfill the highest priority products that customers need. To ensure we have capacity to receive, restock, and ship your products to customers, we continue to have delays in removal operations," Amazon writes. You can still create removal orders, but there will be delays in completing requests. Auto-removals will also be delayed.
  • April 10 - Amazon informs sellers that they can try to reactivate items that they think were incorrectly blocked by price gouging prevention bots. If your listing remains inactive after attempting to re-activate it once, Amazon urges you to lower your price or appeal their decision through the Account Health Dashboard.
  • April 2 - Amazon extends its return window for most items delivered between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020. Those items can now be returned any time before May 31, 2020.
  • March 30 - Amazon says it will waive two weeks of inventory storage fees for FBA products stored in the U.S., amid other countries. This is in addition to a previous announcement that the April 15 longterm storage fees for inventory in the U.S. will be waived. Sellers using Seller Account Management or the Launchpad program will also have their April fees waived.
  • March 25 - Amazon temporarily pauses loan repayments owed by marketplace sellers. This is associated with its Amazon Lending program, which offers sellers anywhere between $1,000 to $750,000 for acquiring inventory. Loan repayments will restart on May 1, 2020. Loans will not accrue interest in that period.
  • March 21 - Amazon announces relaxed policies for shipping-related performance metrics. The retailer says it will take COVID-19 disruptions into account when reviewing cases of late shipping or canceled orders. That being said, there are steps you should take. Adjust your delivery time and inventory to reflect your current situation and/or put your account on “vacation” mode to avoid dings to your account health. You’ll also want to be extra communicative with your buyers, and have them submit official cancelation requests if needed.

Walmart Marketplace 

  • March 30 - Walmart extends return dispute window from 45 days to 90 days. This applies to any marketplace orders placed on or after March 1, 2020 and is intended to give sellers more time to serve their customers.
  • March 25 - Walmart says it will relax order defect rate (ODR) rate policies to consider any coronavirus-related challenges with listing, canceling, shipping and inventory. The company will also pause any suspensions for exceeding maximum ODR thresholds, though it urges you to continue shipping as quickly as possible. You should also set proper shipping expectations by adding lag time and/or requesting a lag-time exception (for additional lag time beyond what’s normally allowed). 
  • March 24 - Walmart announces that its order auto-cancelation policy—which normally cancels orders if they haven’t been shipped within four days of the Estimated Shipping Date (ESD)—will be extended to eight days past ESD. This will continue until further notice.
  • March 24 - Walmart reminds sellers to update inventory feeds, e.g., setting them to “0” if you lack physical inventory in your warehouses. It also suggests placing operational outages in Seller Central at least a day before your business closes shop (for periods longer than a week). For active listings, you should avoid using alarmist language and price gouging amid COVID-19 events. 

eBay

  • May 5 - eBay says it will launch new marketing campaigns, including its "Up & Running" commercials intended to showcase how hundreds of thousands of small businesses are always up and running on eBay. eBay also reiterates its efforts to defer fee payments, boost seller protections and provide 100,000 incremental free listings. "The listing promotion has been very popular and was recently extended through the end of July, with 50,000 additional, free fixed price listings per month for store sellers, and 200 additional free listings per month for non store sellers. These actions reflect a commitment from eBay North America to deploy up to $100 million in support programs for sellers," eBay writes.
  • April 14 - eBay extends its Returns and eBay Money Back Guarantee policy timelines. Buyers have up to 21 days from the moment you accept a return request to ship back their item. You then have 5 business days to issue a refund after you receive the item. This extended timeline applies to returns opened or after March 25, 2020 until further notice.
  • April 14 - Sellers report that eBay is subsidizing coupons to spur buyers in the Sports Cards, Collectible Card Games and Non-Sports Trading Cards categories. The promotion runs from April 14 to April 20, and offers 15% off a single transaction with a minimum purchase of $50. These coupons state, "Coupon is funded by eBay."
  • March 25 - eBay defers most seller fees for 30 days. This includes final value fees, which some sellers argue should be lowered rather than deferred. Essentially, all fees due today will be owed at a later date, without any discount.
  • March 25 - eBay publicly announces a new Small Business Hub aimed at highlighting small businesses that remain open for business. The webpage showcases unique products from across the world.  
  • March 23 - eBay offers Store subscribers 50,000 free fixed-priced listings in March, and another 50,000 free fixed-priced listings in April. Note: Store subscribers must activate the promotion by hitting "activate offer" on the promotional landing page, and fixed-priced listings will be automatically renewed.
  • March 18 - The company reassures that sellers will not be penalized for being unable to carry out usual operations. No accounts will be downgraded between March 20 to June 20 for performance-related issues. That means you’ll automatically keep your “Top Rated Seller” status through June. But, if your status improves, you’ll still be upgraded as expected. eBay further advises that you put your store in vacation mode if you’re unable to fulfill orders. 

Google Shopping Actions

  • March 20 - In an email to Zentail and its other trusted partners, Google says that it will be pausing incentives like “New User Coupon” and other marketing tactics (to include weekly promotional emails, lifestyle campaign, flash sales and push notifications) to be sensitive to current shopper sentiments.  
  • March 20 - Within the same email, Google announces that it will launch a banner on all transactable PDPs and at checkout, informing users that there might be shipping delays and limited item availability
  • March 16 - Google extends Retailer Standards seasonal thresholds through June 1, 2020. This provides you with more leeway when it comes to your shipping defect rate. Your ratings will be protected against late deliveries due to circumstances out of your control.

Related: Senate Approves $2 Trillion in Coronavirus Relief Stimulus Package   

On March 25, the Senate approved a historic $2 trillion relief package, which is now headed to the House for consideration (the vote will be held on Friday, March 27). The bill sets aside $350 billion for small business loans, meant to incentivize continued employment or rehiring of laid-off workers. Read up on the details! We also encourage you to contact an SBA-approved lender now—not later—to get ahead, if the loan makes sense for your business.

What Zentail Is Doing to Help

Our team is committed to helping you navigate the uncertainties caused by COVID-19, and are here to help through any policy changes or sudden events. We’re working closely with our users and keeping our doors open to any sellers seeking expert guidance. We invite you to also check our blog for daily updates and/or submit a topic request for our researchers to dig into. 

written by:

Allison Lee

Marketing Manager

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