Amazon is the largest and most successful e-commerce platform ever. With over 2.7 billion visits per month, Amazon sells over 350 million unique products and shipped over 5 billion items worldwide in 2019. To put those figures into perspective, the number of visitors Amazon draws each month as the world’s leading e-commerce site is roughly equal to the visitors from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th most popular e-commerce sites combined (~2.9 billion).
Perhaps even more staggering, yet less visible to the public eye, is the success that third-party sellers have on the Amazon platform: in 2019, Amazon supported over 2.5 million third-party sellers, who were responsible for more than 50% of Amazon sales and generated over $50 billion in revenue. To help monitor this astonishing number of sellers, Amazon employs a large Seller Performance Team who police the seller marketplace and enforce Amazon’s policies and seller code of conduct. Within this enforcement framework, Amazon sellers’ suspension accounts is the most common enforcement mechanism in the Seller Performance Team’s punitive toolbox, with an estimated 20% of all third-party sellers receiving a suspension in 2019. Recently, more and more Amazon suspension appeal services have emerged to help sellers get back online successfully.
Suspension Life Cycle: Using an Amazon Appeal Service
Receiving an Amazon account suspension is not a death knell to sellers, but it does require that particular steps be taken in a particular sequence in order to be reinstated. The typical life cycle of an Amazon suspension is as follows:
- Step 1: Seller receives notification from the Amazon Seller Performance Team of account suspension, along with instructions for submitting an appeal letter and Amazon plan of action.
- Step 2: Seller drafts and submits appeal letter (including Amazon plan of action and all necessary supporting documentation).
- Step 3: Amazon Seller Performance Team reviews the seller’s appeal and either (i) reinstates the seller’s selling privileges or (ii) upholds the suspension, subject to the subsequent submission of additional appeals.
This process is simple in theory but fraught with nuances, and missteps in the Amazon appeal process can result in not only delays to reinstatement but also permanent account deactivations. It is therefore imperative that suspended sellers say the right things at the right times to the right people in the right way in order to quickly and efficiently be reinstated. Getting a bit more granular…
- Content. Amazon suspends sellers for particular reasons and therefore looks to confirm that the seller has taken particular remedial actions addressing those reasons. Unfortunately, Amazon typically does not provide sellers with the specific reasons for suspension, instead relying on broad, often ambiguous descriptions pulled directly from Amazon policies and Seller Code of Conduct. As a result, suspended sellers must first hone in on the reasons leading to their Amazon account suspension, then take the required corrective action, and then finally correctly and succinctly communicate those corrective actions in their Amazon appeal. This process of identifying, correcting, and communicating the root causes of your suspension is the most critical step in achieving reinstatement.
- Timing. Traditionally, Amazon suspended sellers indicated that they had 17 days to appeal their suspension (and, if they did not, Amazon would permanently shutter your account and disburse any remaining funds owed to you within 90 days). Over the past few months, and likely due to the pervasive complications stemming from COVID-19, Amazon has departed from indicating this strict 17-day deadline. It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary or permanent measure, but the baseline best practice remains to submit your appeal within 2 weeks of receiving suspension.
- Recipient. The Amazon Seller Performance Team is a multi-tiered structure with various levels of escalation and primary areas of expertise. While suspended sellers can always submit their appeals to the particular Performance Team specified in your initial Amazon appeal letter, the fastest and most efficient way to get reinstated is to understand the reasons for your suspension and then direct your appeal to the Amazon team that is best positioned to promptly grant reinstatement, both in terms of escalation level and Amazon policy focus.
- Tone and Format. Not to be overlooked in the list of crucial steps in the path to account reinstatement are the things not to include in your appeal letter. Principal among these are the tone with which you write your Amazon appeal – with no exceptions, appeals that are accusatory, flippant, critical of Amazon, or in denial of wrongdoing will be immediately rejected, with sellers likely to be permanently banned. It is also important to avoid long-winded or misdirected content in your Amazon appeal letter; they expect to see succinct, carefully crafted appeals that follow a specific format (particularly in your plan of action), and therefore the aesthetic way in which you structure your appeal is just as important as the substantive content you include therein.