Amazon Limits Customers Talking With Each Other

Written by Evan Schuman
March 10th, 2010

With Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn leading the way, many retailers are experimenting with a wide range of approaches for creating common-interest communities for their customers, especially online. Of course, such actions start to shift some of the power away from the chains and to the consumer. Amazon last month made its first defensive move in trying to control that type of community.

What Amazon did was change how it handles E-mail. Before, comments to a discussion forum would include a customer’s real E-mail address. No more.

“Real buyer and seller E-mail addresses will be hidden by our systems. All sellers and buyers will be assigned an Amazon E-mail alias,” said an Amazon statement. “This will enable both parties to continue communicating as they do today with standard E-mail providers (such as Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.). However, that communication will happen via their new E-mail aliases instead of their real E-mail addresses. All communication will be stored and available for review in case of disputes.”

This move is very interesting. From a brand-building perspective, there are few things better than sitting back and creating a huge room for tons of your customers to gather and talk about you. In the meantime, you sit back and take notes, capturing all of the exchanges for later analysis—for both general trends and any individual situations that you can address with individual customers. That last part has become a Twitter specialty.

The E-mail problem that Amazon is now addressing is, “What happens when customers try to continue the discussions outside your room?” You quickly lose control, both in the sense of policing the room (no obscenities, SPAM, personal attacks or drug deals. I’m cutting you and you off) and being able to monitor all of the exchanges for the referenced general and specific feedback. And, yes, some of that policing might—for the short-sided among us—include deleting nice comments about your rivals and bad things said about your brand.

In an E-Commerce space, though, these exchanges can get even more dangerous. By allowing the E-mails in the open, you’re offering an easy way for your rivals to talk with your customers. Customers can talk with each other privately, complaining about a perceived plight. One person can post an unhappy experience on Amazon, and it has limited damage potential. Someone has to search for it and find it.


One Comment | Read Amazon Limits Customers Talking With Each Other

  1. bill bittner Says:

    I actually like this idea, especially when I am buying my x rated videos … no need for the seller to know my real e-mail (just kidding).

    My only comment is that I believe the discussion of “unnecessary contacts during claims investigations.” misses the point. I think Amazon is saying that if they are confident they have all the exchanges that occured between a buyer and seller there is no need to go back to either to gather additional information. Amazon already has everything that should be needed to resolve the issue.


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