Amazon Account Reinstatement and Suspension Prevention

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August 25, 2016

UPDATE: Why You Need Amazon Brand Approval Now

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Let me state upfront that a lot is going on at Amazon and there are questions I’m trying to find out for all of us about all these restricted brands.  Some of this is official (i.e. from Amazon PR) and some isn’t (other sources, our clients’ experiences, etc.).  It is intended to provide more food for thought as you deal with the changes going on in the platform:

WHY IS AMAZON SUDDENLY GATING CERTAIN BRANDS?

This goes back to the issue of inauthentic that I talked about last week.

Amazon’s focus is on building and maintaining buyer trust. Anything that disrupts that trust is a problem that must be addressed.  This is why we have seen so many suspensions for product review manipulation, for example.

In the past there has been a rush of new sellers to the platform from all over.  With that rush has come bad actors which have increased the frequency of inauthentic events on the platform.  What we see this week is part of an ongoing process by Amazon to stamp our counterfeit and build buyer trust.

Building buyer trust is in the best interest of ALL sellers.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK?

There are many brands where you now need to get approved in order to sell them.

  • Must have invoices or a letter from the manufacturer to get approved
  • Some brands also require a fee ranging from $500-$5000 in order to sell
  • For some brands you now need: 1) category ungating, 2) brand ungating and 3) permission for specific ASINs.  So, if you’ve sold a particular item in the past with no troubles you may easily get permission to sell the ASIN, but you will still need to get permission to sell the brand.

The brand gatings are across the platform and represent hundreds of brands.  The brands initially gated are ones that already have a proven mid-to-high risk of counterfeit.

These also tend to be the most popular and desirable brands on the platform which is causing angst among the sellers who buy retail.

IS AMAZON TARGETING RA/OA SELLERS WITH THIS MOVE?

No.  Amazon isn’t even aware of what kind of seller you are. They don’t track us by sourcing model.  They welcome all sellers who can provide an excellent buyer experience.  This is part of what I said last week in that if your account is clean and there are no buyer complaints, Amazon’s not going to come after you and you can afford more risk. They are targeting the bad actors who destroy buyer trust and provide a bad experience.

In talks with several Amazonians this past week we learned that many do not even know what RA is.  We are just sellers to them.

WILL AMAZON GRANDFATHER IN SELLERS WHO HAVE INVENTORY AT THE WAREHOUSE?

We have been told that there will be no grandfathering.  This means if you have inventory already at the warehouse, you still have to get approved to sell.

Sellers have until 8/30 to either get approved or remove their inventory from the platform.

If you don’t have invoices to get approved, you are not able to sell.  This is very limiting for RA/OA/Drop-ship sellers.   Liquidators’ invoices are already not accepted by Amazon.

IS THIS MOVE AIMED AT THE CHINESE?

No.  This is aimed at bad actors.  They have counterfeiters and gray market sellers from all walks of life and all geographic locations.

HOW COME SOME SELLERS CAN STILL SELL ON THESE BRANDS BUT NOT OTHERS?

Until very recently, Amazon tended to view and weight all sellers equally.  That is changing now to where sellers will be grouped more according to their history on the platform.  They will start to take into consideration your tenure and your excellent metrics.

I don’t know if this is why some sellers can sell on these brands and others can’t but it seems to fit what is happening.

WHY IS THAT SOME ASINS UNDER A BRAND CAN STILL BE SOLD BUT NOT OTHERS?

This would relate to the risk of counterfeit.  This doesn’t mean they won’t gate those other ASINs in the future.

ARE THERE MORE BRAND SHUT-DOWNS COMING?

In discouraging bad actors by requiring invoices and charging fees, it is likely the fakers will move to other brands. There is nothing specific I could find out, but in general it seems we can expect this to not be a one-time event with Amazon but rather ongoing.

While this first round was about high risk brands and products, it seems likely to me that we can expect Amazon to spiral in tighter and tighter to brands where there is less of a problem with counterfeit or even pre-emptively (i.e. something is incredibly easy to create a knock-off). This would be in line with the total quality management principles practiced at Amazon as a company. I mentioned this in my book.

WILL PRIVATE LABEL SELLERS BE ABLE TO CONTROL WHO LISTS ON THEIR BRANDS IN THE FUTURE?

Sellers will have greater control. Amazon is offering Brand Protection Services to its sellers as well as its vendors.  They want Amazon to be a platform that helps build brands and helps brands expand globally.
We heard about the exclusives program at the Women’s Conference earlier this month. That is one step in this process. I don’t know what other services will be offered at this time.

WHAT IF I NEED MORE TIME TO GET APPROVAL OR REMOVE MY INVENTORY?

Many people got a letter from Amazon this week stating that if they didn’t get approved or remove their inventory by 8/30 it would be removed for them.  It seems likely that sellers in better standing will be able to ask for someone to review their case and possibly grant more time.  We’ve been told to start with Seller Support which may send it over to Seller Performance.  We’ve not tried it yet but would be very interested to know what other sellers’ experiences are.

WHAT WILL AMAZON DO WITH THE FEES?

The fees charged when you are approved to sell a brand go towards activity Amazon uses to manage risk and investigate counterfeit.  Among other things, this might involve laboratory testing, the use of expensive equipment, etc., to make sure products are not counterfeit.

IS AMAZON COMING OUT WITH AN OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT?

New language in SellerCentral Help and possible webinars are expected to help sellers sometime in the next few weeks…possibly.  No one was able to say when for sure.

International Events in China and UK

Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, China

Cynthia will be in China at the end of August speaking at a huge Amazon seller summit on Monday, August 29 at the Futian Sheraton in ShenZhen and at a special Amazon sellers’ meet-up in Hong Kong on August 31.

Register to attend this free conference now – seats are filling up. An all-star lineup of speakers includes WorldFirst, Wal-Mart, Jet.com, SlickDeals, Anker, SellerLabs, Marketplace Ignition, MerchantWords and much more!: Cross Border Trade eCommerce Seller Summit

Sign up for the meet-up here: Hong Kong Private Label Sourcing and Amazon FBA Sellinglux_660x280_london_HousesofParliament

Lesley and Cynthia are co-hosting an Amazon seller conference in London on Oct. 26 with SellerLabs and MerchantWords. The conference will cover two tracks for both newer sellers and high volume sellers. Topics will cover compliance issues, avoiding suspension, private label, product giveaways/reviews done right and more. Early bird special is running now! Click here to sign up for the UK Seller Conference.

Let’s Meet!

In addition to these awesome conferences, you will find us traveling the US over the next two months:

  • SCOE Banner 2 (002)SeattleSCOE. Lesley is speaking on the latest suspensions from Amazon. Use code CYNTHIA for $175 off! Join Lesley for dinner at the exciting Crow restaurant downtown. RSVP required.
  • Nashville – CES IV. Cynthia is talking about risk management in your Amazon business. Join her and Lesley both for dinner at Flyte restaurant downtown on the strip! RSVP here. Space limited to 20.
  • Los Angeles – Feedvisor conference. Cynthia is talking about the latest challenges facing high-volume sellers with Amazon suspensions. Sign up here for a $75 discount! (First 20 signups only. Expires 8/28/16) Use CODE LAVFC75.
  • Las Vegas – Retail Global conference. Sign up for $100 discount with code: STINE100. We will be co-hosting a meet and greet happy hour and dinner Thursday night Sept. 22 with the ScannerMonkey group. Register here – it’s free!

retail global

October 6, 2014

Tired of Shopping? Take a Seat!

Online Arbitrage coverWe’ve all heard about them, those guys who sell on Amazon but who don’t shop. How do they do it? Either they are buying wholesale or they practice online arbitrage. Online arbitrage is a great option not only for people who hate to shop or who live far away from stores, but for anyone as a part of their overall business.

Chris Green – the FBA seller and CEO of ScanPower who brought you Arbitrage: The Authoritative Guide on How it Works, Why it Works and How it Can Work For You – leads the way again with his newest tome (epic? Iliad?) Online Arbitrage: Sourcing Secrets for Buying Products Online to Resell for Big Profits. It weighs in at around three pounds and it is hefty in more than one way. I’ve been trying to read it in bed at night. It digs into my chest. If you buy the book, be sure to buy the softcover version from Amazon.com. You will get the Kindle version for free which will make it a lot easier to read.

At its simplest, the concept of online arbitrage is buying inventory from online retailers to resell on Amazon.com (or eBay or any platform of your choice). You find a good deal online and flip it on another platform – or sometimes the same platform. It is different from wholesaling because you are buying from a retailer rather than a wholesaler. You can buy as few as one item if you want unlike wholesaling which usually has a minimum purchase. Also, many online retailers like Target, Walmart, ToysRUs, etc. have retail stores where you can source the deal you find online. So why is Online Arbitrage more than 400 pages if it is so simple? The details! This book is chock full of strategies and precise tactics.

Chris doesn’t hold back. He shares his tools right down to his recommended browser (Chrome), websites and much more. Most importantly, he shares how he thinks. With many, many real-world examples he takes you through his thought process of how he found the deal, how he analyzed the data and then how he sold the item. His data is fresh – many of his deals are from earlier this summer.

Let’s face it, when a $200+ book comes out, the question everyone asks themselves is…”Is this the silver bullet that will magic beanstransform my business? The magic beans that will lift me to FBA nirvana?” Well, no, maybe, could be, yes! The thing about this business is that you have to work it consistently and in a disciplined way. Despite the book title, Chris Green is the first one to tell you in his book that there are no “secrets” to making money on Amazon, only strategies diligently applied.

That being said, we all know that the really successful sellers are obviously doing something different from us or we would be as big-time as they are. At CES II in September, for example, I learned from sellers who have outsourced their businesses, who shop together in large buying groups, who create unique products to sell on Amazon, and many other strategies that have helped them scale up.

Like many of you, when I plunked down my money to buy the book during the conference, I wondered if it would be really worth it, especially to someone like me who has been selling for a while. I understand online arbitrage and have done a little bit of it myself on Black Friday, etc.

I wasn’t doing it like Chris Green, that’s for sure! I learned a lot. Several times I found myself saying “holy sh%^#!” because I had either never thought of it that way or I had not realized exactly what I could do with all of the available data out there.

For example, I’ve sold on the Amazon platform for over four years and I never understood why some offers were suppressed (i.e., no buy box – you have to click thru to see the offers). I never really thought about it. More shame me!

I learned in the book that a suppressed buy box means that the offers are all higher than MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price). It also means that Amazon is not selling that item at the moment (if ever) and that there is an opportunity for me if I can find that item at retail price to flip it on Amazon. If the item isn’t selling online, Chris can often find out where it is selling in his area stores and go out to buy it. In addition, he often finds deals where Amazon has an artificially lowered price that he can flip quickly to make money at normal prices.

Combine that knowledge with how he finds fast moving items and I could immediately see the huge potential to make money and frankly, what an unfair advantage Chris has when he looks for inventory. His analytical mind makes it easy for him. The rest of us may need to practice a bit before it seems natural to us – but he shows exactly how he finds his deals in the book and with the 35+ private videos that are part of the book. You can scan the QR code to see them, type in the link or press on it if you are reading the book in your Kindle (or the free Kindle reader).

Chris calls the book a course more than a book. I think of it as spending several hours inside the mind of a master seller. Reading it reminded me of the hours he spent with me early on answering my questions and helping me understand not only the mechanics of retail arbitrage but the strategies and big picture. I used to leave his office or hang up from a call with my hair on fire – so excited I wanted to run outside immediately and get to work.

485px-jumpingrabbitAs far as I can tell, there is nothing held back. He may or may not be sharing every single one of his online sources, but by sharing the strategy of “Rabbit Trails,” he teaches you how to find your own deals in the exact same way. Several times in the book he shows how he started in one place and ended up finding a deal somewhere else because of his strategies and approach.

He covered a lot of sites and tools that I’d never heard of before which made the book valuable to me. It helped cut time off my learning curve and I love automating tedious things like research.

In the chapter on “Scaling” he covers the pros and cons of scaling along with resources he uses to outsource part of his business.

The strategy “Learn a Line” teaches you how to quickly become fluent in any line or any product and to find out which products in a line are going to be popular, hot and/or hard to find. This isn’t just about toys. It applies to any consumer line of products. Knowledge is power in our business and this chapter answers the question “what’s going to be hot for Christmas?” once and for all.

He is highly analytical in his approach so there is a lot of math, charts and graphs involved – brace yourself. If you think of numbers as dollars…it is way more fun than school. He also has a lot of full-color pictures – big screenshots with arrows (I wonder where he got that idea?).

Considering that everything is on the internet and this is online arbitrage you may be wondering, “couldn’t I just find all this stuff myself online if I did some research? The answer is absolutely! IF you happen to already think like Chris Green. That’s why I said the book is like looking inside his mind. Throughout the book in his comments to the reader you get insight into how he thinks about his FBA business and basically why he is successful. Buy the book for the strategy not the tools. They will come and go, but the strategies are what will make you money.

I had a lot of “holy sh$#^$!” moments and my hair is aflame again with the possibilities.girl's hair on fire

There are some cons in that some of the resources and websites will no doubt become obsolete over time – one chapter was devoted to a site that is already gone. The book is heavy and so physically large that it is hard to read. Again, I suggest you read it on your Kindle. He warns you in advance that there are typos. It is expensive and we FBA sellers are by inclination cheap (me included!).

While online arbitrage offers a lot of benefits in terms of working from home, and lots of free shipping supplies, it also involves a lot of sit-on-your-butt research and math. Also, part of his success strategy is to be the guy that buys up all the stock so he can control the price. That won’t work for smaller sellers. This is not to say that there aren’t smaller deals for folks with more modest inventory budgets, but understand that volume is power just like knowledge is power.

The table of contents is more than 30 pages into the book and I found it hard to navigate the book. This is partially because he ran out of pages (CreateSpace has a limit) and had to eliminate every single white page that might have made it easier to navigate (by putting chapters on the right-hand side of the book and other publishing tricks). For the same reason the text font is small even though the pictures are nice and big. Again, buy the Amazon 2-for-1 deal, but read it on the Kindle or your eyes will start to cross and you’ll get frustrated when you want to go back to something later. It is not a bifocal-friendly book. I had to resort to sticky notes and make tabs for myself.

These are minor issues, though. To my mind, this is a transformational book. It has the potential to completely change how you think about your business. Some of the ideas seem so obvious once he explains them but the fact is they weren’t intuitive to me and I didn’t think of them until he explained them so I’m grateful he wrote the book.

Online Arbitrage is more than worth the price I paid and highly applicable to what I am doing now. Put aside a few of your Q4 dollars and buy this book as a present for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. And if you aren’t? Amazon has this lovely extended holiday return policy. I’m sure you’ve heard about it!

Still not sure? Either download a sample to your Kindle or click here to have the first few chapters emailed to you for free.

Have you read the book yet? Please share your comments below! Happy scouting!

Please note that if you click on the links above, they will take you to Amazon.com or ScanPower. I am an Amazon affiliate and will make a small commission if you decide to buy the book. You can, of course, go to Amazon.com without an affiliate link to buy the book. The free Kindle with the purchase of the softcover book is Amazon’s special, not mine. The free chapters from ScanPower are not an affiliate link and you can go there directly from Scanpower.com.