In this Amazon news roundup for sellers and brands, we look at the latest dirty seller tricks, toxic school supplies, Amazon’s small business enterprise report puff piece, and new pesticide takedowns affecting thousands of products.
Yet More Dirty Seller Tricks
Dirty seller tricks just keep popping up on Amazon. In this latest instance, two Chinese sellers appear to have highjacked and altered thousands of 5-star listings.
What a mess. eGrowth Partners is trying to unwind this for our clients.
But if you are a seller without someone to help you, check your inventory right now. Look for these names: Xawy or Plochy. If either one is on your inventory, then most likely you have problems.
These two brands, which may or may not be owned by the same people, have gotten into Brand Registry and somehow claimed thousands of listings that they then revised. Perhaps they have switched your listings to read, Shiny Rose Gold White Marble Design Phone Case. Or maybe to Power Bank Portable Charger Huge Capacity Charge External Battery Pack Compatible with Smart Phones, Tablet and More. These particular product substitutions have been reported in Amazon seller forums.
When the real sellers try to set their listings right, they get a message from Amazon Seller Support saying that the listing was created by the rights owner:
“Our specialized Team has looked into this case and I have to hesitantly inform you that, we are unable to change the title of the ASIN, since the ASIN is registered with a Brand Owner.
The ASIN has the Brand Name registered as “Xawy “. Any changes to this page, including title, description, images, and any other product-related information must be approved by the brand owner.
Further, I would like to inform you that since the brand owner “Xawy” has contributions for this brand, you can directly get in touch with the brand owner, by going to the brand owner’s store front, and asking the brand owner a question.”
What an absurd response! Xawy isn’t going to respond. If you have had a product taken down recently for infringement or a listing problem, check to see if either one of these names is suddenly on your listing. Some of our clients are reporting 75 or more listing takedowns and we are estimating thousands of listings were affected.
Amazon is not being consistent in its decisions. Some people are getting their listings back, others aren’t:
- Submit to Brand Registry support (even if your brand isn’t registered). Seller Support is not helpful.
- Include a picture of the product with FNSKU label
- Screenshots of other listings the seller hijacked
- Link to product website (if possible) showing what it is supposed to say and who the actual brand owner is.
If it has happened to you, keep letting Amazon know until it fixes the issue itself. I am confident Amazon will ultimately act.
Sellers Must Prove Kids Product Safety
If you were part of the takedown earlier this year, you already know about this issue. The state of Washington found toxic levels of lead and cadmium in 50+ products meant for children on the platform, and it took them down.
As a result of that state’s action and to avoid a lawsuit, Amazon agreed to require third-party testing of these products by a certified lab to prove that they don’t have toxic levels of cadmium or lead. The kids’ products that were contaminated also included pencil pouches, backpacks, lunch boxes, book covers, and jewelry – not items typically associated with heavy metals.
Amazon identified roughly 18,000 sellers offering about 900,000 individual children’s school supplies and jewelry on its platform. As of the date of this news announcement, those who want to sell in the category of school supplies will have to provide that certification or third-party test before they’re allowed to sell these products. Sellers taken down earlier this year had to provide that information in order to continue selling them.
If you sell products that children might use, whether it’s fabric or a hard surface, or jewelry for kids, then be prepared to test these items before sending them in to Amazon. Obviously, if Amazon finds over-the-limit levels of toxic metals in your products, you will be taken down and probably not allowed to sell in that category anymore. This is especially costly for smaller brands and private label products, because you’ll need to have all of your individual products tested.
It’s not like getting into a category where you just provide invoices and testing for one product. You will need certification for every single product that you want to sell. This is also going to apply to resellers. If you can’t get independent third-party tests from the supplier or brand, you will have to test yourself if you want to sell that product.
Be aware that Amazon will be doing its own ongoing testing, just like it does in the jewelry category. It randomly pulls out products and tests them and has state-of-the-art testing capabilities. It’s up to you to make sure to test first before sending products to Amazon.
Today it’s school supplies and children’s jewelry but expect to see these new requirements expand to cover a wide range of products. This rule is effective across the entire platform and probably will end up on some other platforms as well.
Amazon’s Annual Puff Piece
Amazon’s 2019 SMB Impact Report is an answer to critics like Democratic senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who advocate breaking Amazon up. Hey, Amazon is saying. We’re not mom-and-pop business killers. We’re small-to-medium business creators.
There’s definitely some interesting information in it, but it’s not very contextual. There’s no background behind these numbers, so it’s a little hard to interpret what’s really going on.
What Amazon says about Alexa should be of particular interest to sellers. There are hundreds of thousands of third-party developers creating applications for Alexa. That tells me that this is going to be a huge selling tool for Amazon, much like the Kindle was for its books. Sellers need to know that Amazon gives precedence to Alexa orders in terms of ranking and special badges. If many people are ordering your product through Alexa, then Amazon is going to give that product organic search precedence over competing brands on the desktop and mobile apps.
Sellers who are new brands or are launching new products, this is something you have to think about. How can you get your customers to order your product by name through Alexa and become Amazon’s choice? The advantages could be huge. It’s got a lot of potential for selling, and this may be a way that you can differentiate your product from all competitors.
I think we’re going to see a lot of more Alexa-oriented strategies by brands and other sellers. I’ll be really curious to see how they play out. Also, I have to say, I expect this to be the next area of abuse. As soon as Amazon launches something really cool that gives people a selling advantage, expect the black hats to show up and spoil the party.
For some reason, Amazon didn’t want to talk about bad actors in its brightly colored spin report.
In other news of interest to sellers, in 2018 nearly 200,000 SMBs brought in more than $100,000 in revenue on Amazon. More than 50,000 SMBs posted sales higher than $500,000 in 2018. And last year, more than 25,000 SMBs posted revenues of $1 million or more vs. slightly over 20,000 SMBs hitting $1 million in sales through Amazon in 2017. If you are in one of these groups, pat yourself on the back for being an elite seller.
Another interesting fact? Amazon issued $1 billion in loans to third-party sellers last year. That’s staggering. I think almost any bank would be thrilled to have $1 billion in loans under management. It just boggles the mind how quickly Amazon became one of the major players in banking.
Because Amazon so rarely gives out any kind of information about its sales beyond gross numbers, it is fascinating to learn that the top product sales categories were health and personal care, home, and beauty. That correlates with the suspensions that we see too.
Always keep in mind the purpose of this piece. Amazon is trying to show it actually helps grow small businesses. Like so many things that Amazon says, there’s truth to that. We’re all here because we’re making money on the platform. But there are also some things Amazon does not talk about: like how hard it makes it for sellers -or how many sellers leave each year because they can’t hack it -or how they’ve just gotten suspended for the last time, and they’re not going to take it anymore.
As I’ve mentioned before, lawmakers and people in power don’t understand Amazon. Amazon clearly is concerned about being regulated by those who do not understand what it is or does. Look for more PR pieces like this. I expect a fairly aggressive campaign from Amazon to portray itself as a small business champion.
Weird Pesticide Takedowns
Amazon just got real about pesticides. Amazon voluntarily agreed to self-regulate pesticides sold on its platform in order to avoid regulation and possible penalties. One of its rules is that sellers must be US-based.
That’s been a problem for some of our clients based in Canada, Mexico or somewhere else outside the United States. Suddenly they can’t sell pesticide products on Amazon and there’s nothing we can do about it. In addition, the algorithm is taking down a wide range of products that aren’t normally considered pesticides like fabric doorstops that stop drafts.
The reason the algorithm is taking these products down is because they have trigger words:
Everything from head lice treatment to soap to touch-screen cleaners is getting caught and taken down. The fastest solution is to go ahead and take the pesticide test. (You need to be logged in to Seller Central for the link to work. If it doesn’t, log in to Seller Central and search for “Required Training for Sellers of Pesticides”). You can generally complete it in hour or less, and it will fix your problem, provided you are based in the United States. If your product is not a pesticide, you’ll have to appeal to Amazon and prove that it should not be covered by the same rule.
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- Next speaking engagement – IRCE in June: Come meet Cynthia Stine in Chicago this summer: IRCE 2019 (June 25-28, McCormick Place, Chicago. Register here )
- Future speaking engagement — ecom Chicago. Cynthia returns to Chicago in October (October 16-18, Elk Grove Village, IL).
- Starting on June 10th, inventory that is stranded for an extended period will be classified as unsellable and MUST be removed from Amazon fulfillment centers. Keep an eye on your stranded inventory!
- Sellers can’t get away with “tricking” the shipping queue anymore in order to consolidate orders and reduce shipping costs. “You will not be permitted to ignore, delete, or abandon units in any shipping plan.” As of June 1st, we are assuming this will become a policy violation and Amazon will make examples of sellers in the beginning. Don’t be one of them.
- Attn: apparel brands! This month Amazon is removing its generic size charts from all listings and making each brand create their own. This is designed to reduce size-related returns so take this seriously.
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