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
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 Selling
In addition to these awesome conferences, you will find us traveling the US over the next two months:
- Seattle – SCOE. 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!