By Lesley Hensell, Co-Owner, Riverbend Consulting
Selling on Amazon never stays the same – especially when it comes to seller account suspensions and ASIN deactivations. Whether a seller sells in India or Indiana, late 2022 brought dramatic changes to Amazon Seller Performance, with its launch of the new Account Health Rating and Account Health Assurance programs.
Based on these and other updates at Amazon, Riverbend Consulting makes the following predictions for 2023.
Prediction #1: An early year meltdown for new enforcement programs
Amazon’s new Account Health Rating (AHR) and its related Account Health Assurance (AHA) program will continue to cause havoc for global sellers.
Slow-rolled out during September and October – and all the way into December – the programs continued to experience many glitches and dramatic changes. While these may have made sense inside of Amazon, they caused confusion among sellers.
For example, sellers with high AHRs were warned of suspension in 72 hours if they didn’t immediately address multiple policy violations. This was extremely confusing, since Amazon clearly stated that sellers with AHRs of 200 or over were “healthy.”
Expect the bewilderment to continue into 2023 – throughout Q1 and possibly deep into Q2. Why? The program seems to be continually moving goalposts for sellers. Another example is the importance of individual policy violations. Some policy violations labeled “high impact” suddenly changed to “low impact” or “no impact” – within a single seller account.
In addition, sellers in the “green” who have been granted membership to AHA mistakenly believe that “green is good.” They will be shocked when after-holiday enforcement suddenly bites them, possibly taking down hero ASINs or even their entire accounts.
Ultimately, Seller Performance likely will revert to near-status-quo. The biggest change? More sellers will get a 72-hour warning before deactivation, rather than being suspended immediately. And the focus will move to appealing ASIN-level violations, one by one, to get and keep accounts healthy. This is a nightmare for any seller with hundreds and thousands of products in the catalog.
Prediction #2: Layoffs at the ‘Zon create seller pain
Amazon’s recent and continued layoffs will cause challenges for sellers worldwide. Even after the announced cutbacks of approximately 3 percent of Amazon’s workforce are completed, we expect that employees who leave due to natural attrition won’t be replaced. Layoffs have already been seen in the U.S. and Canada, and is likely to hit the UK, Germany, India and other countries. Note that Amazon’s presence extends to 58 countries, with it being the leading e-commerce player in North America, Western Europe and India.
Layoffs and attrition will cause already bad “partner” service to deteriorate further. Expect slower responses to cases, delayed technology fixes, and an increase in FBA errors.
Worse, this could encourage more aggressive bad actor behavior. The Black Hats will figure out that fewer people inside Amazon are available to pay attention, tweak the artificial intelligence, and stop their shenanigans. Sadly, with less support overall, good sellers will have a harder time than ever getting anyone to help protect them from fake bad reviews, click-farm attacks and similar.
Prediction #3: AHA gets replaced by an expensive, paid version
AHA was rolled out as a free benefit with automatic enrollment for sellers who maintain an AHR of 250 or above for six months. Under this program, Amazon promises not to suspend an account if the seller works with Seller Performance to correct policy violations.
We suspect that this program will either be replaced or will offer an enhanced, upgraded version – for a rich fee. In some ways, it would be similar to the current Strategic Account Services (SAS) Core offerings used by larger sellers. The fancier AHA program would allow sellers to postpone enforcement against their ASINs or accounts. Unfortunately, such a mechanism would hurt buyer experience, while also allowing larger sellers to get away with things that the small mom-and-pops never could.
Prediction #4: Seller Performance sees sky-high AI-inspired false positives
Artificial intelligence (AI) has wreaked havoc with Amazon Seller Performance for years. Shameful examples include flagging beauty products as “face masks” during Covid, flagging walking canes and children’s blankets as adult products, and endless other mistakes.
False positives also result in account suspensions, where sellers are wrongly accused of forging invoices or maintaining prohibited linked accounts.
Unfortunately, Amazon is all-in on AI. While the technology performs valuable services keeping the catalog clean and preventing bad seller actions, and more, AI cannot completely replace human brains and decision-making. Worse, inside of Amazon, an attitude exists that the AI as written is 100 percent accurate.
Expect to see false-positive suspensions of both accounts and ASINs continue to grow unabated, until someone in Amazon’s upper management becomes aware of the trends. It’s also possible that executives whose performance metrics require accurate suspensions and reinstatements may halt some or all enforcement in certain arenas – just to improve the data. This would be disastrous for buyers and high-quality sellers.
Prediction #5: Executive shake-ups in Q3 or Q4
In 2022, Amazon’s executive team saw massive changes. Many long-timers left the company, and remaining directors and VPs made their moves. Some worked to build internal empires and consolidate additional control over their personal fiefdoms.
At some point in 2023, the massive rollout errors and AI-related mistakes in AHR, AHA and Seller Performance overall will become clear to the executive team. Worst of all, we expect this to show up as a nosedive in Buyer Experience – where Seller Performance fails to enforce against members of the AHA program despite shipping wrong, defective or damaged products. Also, if current trends hold, truly bad sellers violating rules for platform manipulation, Code of Conduct and similar will not be suspended. This will further harm customer trust.
The shakeout will happen later in 2023, when the dots are connected between bad AI, the AHA program, and a failure to enforce.
About the author
Lesley Hensell is a partner with Riverbend Consulting, a global B2B consultancy that solves critical problems and offer effective growth strategies for sellers on Amazon and other ecommerce platforms. Lesley leverages two decades as a small business consultant and Amazon seller herself to address the underlying business issues in ecommerce operations, resulting in improved efficiency and profitability. Learn more at riverbendconsulting.com
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