Amazon’s been in the news a lot this year.
From quiet backend keyword adjustments to a massive product review makeover, there isn’t much that hasn’t changed.
All along the way, Amazon continues to expand their reach.
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Sales of the online retail giant are expected to grow 25% in the fourth quarter compared to 2015, according to Stephen Gandel, Deputy Digital Editor at Fortune Magazine. Some estimate Amazon could reach an astounding 45 billion in sales by the end of the year.
Needless to say, many sellers are reaping the benefits, but it doesn’t come without a willingness to adapt. Here’s are some of the most important Amazon news stories from 2016–so you can prepare for 2017.
1. Amazon Tested a Major Sponsored Products Algorithm Change
In February 2016, many sellers noticed their Sponsored Products impressions, clicks, and volume dropped on phrase match keywords. This was because Amazon was testing a new more restricted relevancy matching algorithm.
“Typically we use phrase match keywords because they are more efficient, but volume dropped and we had to adjust our strategy to stabilize performance as quickly as possible,” says Nick Sandberg, Marketplace Channel Analyst at CPC Strategy.
2. Amazon Increased Search Terms Character Limits to 1,000
Amazon also increased their backend search terms character limits in February, which gave sellers the ability to show up for even more keywords.
“Working within the small confines of 50 character fields was always challenging, forcing sellers to make hard decisions about what words should be entered,” says Sandberg. “Now there is much more freedom to add, repeat, and list with less of a concern for making omissions based on available space.”
Full Story: Amazon Increase Search Terms Character Limits
3. Amazon Account Suspensions Became a Hot Topic
Seller suspensions were one of the biggest discussions in 2016, with sellers flooding forums claiming to have been suspended or even banned from the platform, typically due to an inability to meet customer service requirements or terms of service violations.
It was also a year when we saw a lot of big brands crack down on alleged intellectual property rights violators.
“Intellectual property rights complaints [skyrocketed in 2016],” says Cory Rosenbaum, Amazon Sellers Lawyer.
4. Amazon Increased Brand Gating Restrictions
Due to an increase in counterfeiters on the platform, Amazon tightened up on restricted brands, requiring many brand resellers to provide up to $1500 per gated brand, invoices from manufacturers, and written permission to sell those products.
“This is great news for shoppers and is yet another example of Amazon putting their customers first,” Petriello says.
“It’s been no secret that inauthentic product reviews and low-quality knockoff products have created poor customer experiences in the past, and Amazon is now taking steps to clean up the marketplace and retain the consumer’s trust.”
5. Amazon Banned Incentivized Reviews
Amazon banned incentivized reviews–or reviews that were received in exchange for a free or discounted product–after these were proven not to improve the customer experience. Next, they started rolling out the Amazon Early Reviewer program, which could help fill the gap for 3P sellers in need of product reviews.
Oh–and they gave vendors the ability to start responding back to customer comments and questions, another testament to the importance of the customer experience.
6. Amazon Took Counterfeit Sellers to Court
Amazon didn’t just tighten up on counterfeiters on the platform with suspensions and account banning, they took legal action against counterfeit sellers in court.
Here’s what they said in the court documents:
“Amazon has zero tolerance for counterfeits, and has invested heavily in protecting the integrity of the Amazon marketplace for consumers, sellers, and manufacturers.”
This was welcome news for brands like Birkenstock who were wary of counterfeit problems on the platform.
7. Amazon Introduced Enhanced Brand Content for 3P Sellers
A+ detail pages for vendors were on the rise in 2016, and Amazon has recently been extending a version of it to 3P sellers in the form of Enhanced Brand Content.
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“One of the most immediate impacts that Enhanced Brand Content will have for 3P Sellers in the Brand Registry program is the benefit to paid advertising conversion rates,” says Pat Petriello, Head of Marketplace Strategy at CPC Strategy.
What Will Happen Next Year?
The best way to stay on top of changes is to anticipate them–which is exactly what we did in our recent blog post. From the expansion of AmazonBasics to the growth of international markets, it’s all here: