Seller feedback is one of the few public metrics for marketplace sellers, we use it for top Amazon.com marketplace sellers ranking. But most customers do not bother leaving a review, so for many years sellers have proactively reached out to buyers to ask for one.
This has allowed a whole niche of software providers to arise, offering automation tools to reach out to customers after their purchase. Both to encourage reviewing the product they bought, reaching out with any problems they had, but also to leave a feedback review for the seller.
Some customers were not happy about receiving multiple emails after every purchase, so Amazon updated the Buyer-Seller Messaging system on March 28th to allow customers to out out of unwanted emails from sellers. Before this change customers had no choice, but to receive those emails. Now asking for reviews was deemed nonessential, and customers could put a stop to it.
Based on our research in March all Amazon.com sellers received 5.9 million feedback reviews. Because of the change it then started to drop to 5.4 million in April, 5.2 million in May, and 4.1 million to June. For July it has already dropped to 3.7 million.
So since March the feedback volume has decreased by 37 percent.
For context, eBay.com sellers receive over 20 million reviews every month. Seller feedback has always been more prominent on eBay, so the ratio of customers leaving a review is much higher than that of Amazon. For some sellers that ratio has dropped to 1 percent recently.
In Jet.com Thinks of Marketplace Sellers as Suppliers we looked at how different marketplaces treat seller feedback:
“Marketplaces in the US are - maybe passively - trying to hide the concept of the marketplace from customers. Especially the model of Jet.com makes the sellers take the role of a supplier to Jet.com, as opposed to being a retailer.”
Seller feedback has been playing a decreasing role as marketplaces built processes to keep an eye on sellers. Initially feedback was the only way to know if a seller should be trusted, so for example on eBay it was crucial. It encapsulated payment, support, shipping times, quality, counterfeit, and other issues. Most customers wouldn’t buy from sellers without a proven history of performance, and eBay couldn’t do much beyond that as sellers handled most of the transaction.
On Amazon too feedback played a major role as the feedback score was clearly visible in all products’ offers page. But with the growth of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) shipping - the most common feedback topic - is no longer up to the seller. For most orders on Amazon the feedback is for Amazon.
For years now Amazon’s message is that as long as a product has a “Prime” logo next to it, a customer can purchase it without checking anything else. No matter if it is Amazon or one of the sellers, the experience will be great. While not always true, the Prime program represents trust, and thus removes the need to figure out which seller is trustworthy. More on this in Why Amazon Buy Box Is Not The Lowest Price.
This is why Jet.com, and most recently Walmart, have decided to be feedback-less. In a marketplace with good enough checks in place, seller’s performance is visible without having customers to enter a comment. A well run marketplace shouldn’t need to have customers check feedback before buying either. At which point, why have any concept of feedback at all.
Feedback on Amazon is not going away anytime soon, but this decision to reduce seller emails to customers is because Amazon doesn’t mind loosing the volume of feedback. Which to us is a sign that the role feedback plays is not the same as it was before. Most sellers thus shouldn’t focus on it too much.