Season 1, Episode 106

Protect Yourself

For Prime Day

Prime day is right around the corner, which means Amazon sellers need to be preparing themselves for the worst. In this episode, Chris and Leah delve into the crucial aspects of safeguarding your listings and account from both competitor attacks and non-compliant practices that may lead to restrictions.

Show Notes

Transcript

Chris: [00:00:00] Hello everybody. Welcome back to another wonderful edition of Seller Performance Solutions. I’m Chris McCabe of ecommercechris, I’m with Leah Mchugh here to talk about Prime Day of course. It’s coming up very, very soon, not just what you need to focus on in terms of competitor attacks.

We talked about that quite a bit all throughout 2023, and Leah posted about this on LinkedIn yesterday. We’ve had a lot of interesting comments and a lot of clickthroughs on that. But we also want to talk about things you might be doing to get your listings restricted by Amazon itself. Not competitor attack related, but things that aren’t compliant.

And these are things that Leah, you see constantly, whether it’s prime day or not. So I thought you could kind of talk about the restricted product part first.

Leah: Yeah. Well we tend to see an upswing in restricted products being flagged. I think partly, Because a lot of people are making changes to their listings around peak holiday periods or [00:01:00] peak sales periods, I should say.

I guess Prime Day is not an official holiday. I think at this point it’s a holiday. Partly because people are making changes to their listings, which they maybe shouldn’t make. So we’ve talked before about adding keywords to your listing, which implies a disease claim, or implies that your product is a pesticide or implies that your product is for children when maybe you don’t have the testing for it to be a children’s product.

So we tend to see a lot of flags around that. But I don’t think it’s just Amazon’s algorithm and sellers and overdrive. I think it is also that a lot of sellers start reporting each other more. Leading up to peaks holiday periods because , it’s in their interest to remove competition where they can.

And so sometimes we’ll see that in the form of an attack, but we also see a lot more sellers reporting other sellers for policy violations. So again, I think it’s important to prepare yourself for an attack, but it’s also important to look at yourself and look at your own account and your own practices, and make sure you’re not giving anybody any excuse to get you shut [00:02:00] down before a peak sales period.

Chris: And I think some people are getting an email from an agency or a marketing company saying, Hey, we’re getting you in position to sell more on Prime Day. We know how to enhance your listings. We know how to modify your listings. And then everyone starts thinking, oh yeah, I gotta do something to make sure I really kick it into high gear on Prime Day.

So they’re really just kind of responding to a special offer that they got in an email.

Leah: Well, I think it’s just everybody goes into optimization overdrive. So it’s not even just listing content, it’s also things like let’s put these together as a variation, because then it looks like you have more reviews and then that’ll boost sales for both products.

So we see a lot of anything around listing optimization that can get people into trouble is what we tend to be seeing people being suspended or flagged for around peak sales periods.

Chris: And it makes sense that Amazon would do this because they’re selling more of everything during prime day.

So of course there’s more scrutiny, of course there’s more [00:03:00] enforcement of policies when there are things that maybe have been ignored in the past, but there’s also more scrutiny by your competitors, like you said. So It makes more sense that they’re going to get more reports of listing violations.

We’re constantly reporting listing violations to Amazon, and we’ve noticed that they take a little bit longer to respond or to review things around this time period simply because of the volume of reports going in. So, Consider that on both sides. One, you might not get flagged until right before prime day because you’ve been reported already, perhaps, and haven’t taken action on it yet because they didn’t get to it.

And also, if you are looking to report competitors, they might not respond right away. They might not review it correctly. You might have to send it in two, three times. Just because they get easily backlogged and things are misplaced, misunderstood all the time these days.

Leah: Well, enlisting violations are also one of the easier things to report people for.

All you have to do is look on the website. You don’t have to do a test by, you don’t have to go through any sales [00:04:00] funnel. You can just see it. It also makes it a lot easier to report it to Amazon because you aren’t really having to provide a whole lot of proof other than just explaining to them, this is against this policy because of this, as opposed to potential review manipulation or anything like that.

You have to do a lot more investigating on your side before you can report somebody for that. So I think also we see a lot more reports like this around peak sales periods because it’s quick and it’s easy to report people for.

Chris: And I love to refer to my favorite LinkedIn example, that thread where there was an agency or a service promoting all these changes you can make to images, right? They said it was the best user experience. And then there was an Amazonian on there saying, by the way, this is a hundred percent wrong.

Leah: Well not wrong. A hundred percent against terms of service.

Chris: And the idea, we talked about this in a prior podcast, but the idea that because you see people getting away with stuff means that you should be getting away with it too. Or means that Amazon’s okay with it and it’s policy compliant simply [00:05:00] because you can see it and it’s live on the site.

That idea is one that needs to go away as quickly as possible. And also people are picking up on trends that they see posted on LinkedIn, posted on Facebook, posted anywhere with these special offers. Consider the source of the information. Are they compliance experts or are they just trying to milk something like prime day.

Leah: Well, and I think people get kind of focused on the reward rather than the risk in peak sales period so they see other people doing it. They’re like, oh, it might be against policy, but I’m just gonna do it anyway. Because it is a higher sales period. But they’re not really considering the the risk that your entire account could be shut down for that peak sales period.

So I think it’s a combination of multiple factors, but part of it is also more risky behavior on sellers side. Maybe not doing as much research as they would normally as they’re preparing to sales optimize everything for prime day. [00:06:00]

Chris: Speaking of great segue point, speaking of not doing enough research, let’s talk about abuse reporting and attacks and make sure you research.

Don’t just assume you’re being attacked by a competitor who’s just trying to take you down and using any means to do it. Research things you might have done yourself to get your listing suspended before you start pointing fingers.

Leah: That’s something else I wanted to talk about, if something happens to your listings at this time of year or any time of year really it’s nice to assume that you did nothing wrong and it must be an attack, but really the first thing that you need to do before any action is taken on your side is to make sure that you were actually not violating a policy yourself. Because we do get that quite a lot where sellers come to us and they’re like, I’m being attacked and we’re like, no, this was a correct action by Amazon.

Chris: It’s a knee-jerk reaction. So let’s run through a quick list of the typical types of attacks we see during peak periods, right? Backend keyword abuse is a good place to start.

Leah: Yeah. keyword abuse is [00:07:00] consistently a popular form of attack.

What I’m seeing more in the keyword abuse area , is well actually sort of gone full circle at this point because we saw this years ago and now we’re seeing it again, but seeing a lot more keyword abuse where when you talk to catalog, they say it’s a retail contribution, which a lot of sellers tend to think means that Amazon put that information on their listing, but what it actually means is that somebody used Vendor Central to attack your listing. That’s a good point. It’s a popular form of abuse because if it’s a retail contribution, it is a little bit harder to correct.

So it does have a tendency to get you taken out for a little bit longer than if they were just putting in incorrect keywords from an international marketplace or via the API.

Chris: Well, there’s many forms of ASIN contribution abuse. Right? I think a lot of brands still assume that because they’re in brand registry and they’re the brand owner, that they hundred percent control any contribution to a listing.

Leah: Sadly, no. But it’s also again, it’s similar but different category abuse. So [00:08:00] people getting products moved into a different category or moved into an unbuyable category one that we saw a few years ago, which I’m still kind of impressed with, but if only they use this for good instead of evil.

They moved a product into the mobile app category, so then the product was only purchasable from a phone. You couldn’t buy it from the desktop site. So we see a lot of stuff like that during holiday periods because again, It just reduces your sales and knocks out their competition from their category.

And it’s also quick and easy for them to do.

Chris: Right. And of course, sometimes we see detailed page abuse. We see people having their titles rearranged.

Leah: Hijacking. We see a lot of listing hijacking this time of year too. Particularly if you have a very good selling product with lots of reviews.

Chris: And then of course, people using some illicit service to buy from you and try to pump those keywords into their [00:09:00] complaint in terms of this is unsafe, this is hazardous. I went to the hospital. My whole neighborhood was in the hospital because they were all sick or they were all injured.

You just have to really prepare. This is counterfeit, even though it’s a branded product and only being sold by the brand. These are things you have to prepare for and expect to have to appeal, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if it’s irrational. You do have to appeal it.

Even when you’re disputing it, you’re not necessarily writing a plan of action of course, you might be asked for one, but you’re essentially appealing this as an error saying these are clearly time to tax for prime day. You wanna look for patterns in the buying history of course, if you’ve had attacks previously from a particular party, you wanna do some research and really kind of comprehensively go through any details you can provide.

Because if you’re very vague, if you’re generic, and if you just throw it at Amazon and say, we’re being attacked, you guys figure it out. We don’t know exactly what’s going on. They’re not likely to do anything about it.

Leah: Yeah. And then [00:10:00] another one that we see pretty much every major holiday sales period are listings being flagged as adult, that aren’t adult products.

And a few that I’m seeing this year, which is sort of a newer one because it wasn’t really a thing a few years ago was getting products flagged as meltable. They’re planning for your inventory to get removed from FBA because it isn’t allowed to be an FBA during the summertime.

Chris: That’s true. Things that haven’t have no capability of melting are being flagged as meltable.

Leah: Right. And we always see expiration complaints on products that can’t expire. My favorite was the plastic containers that were flagged as expired.

Chris: Yep. The Tupperware containers. That were not capable of expiration. That’s what I mean. Things that don’t make any sense. And you would think that Amazon would anticipate that and would flag fewer listings that they could at least lift out the easy ones. Things that don’t even expire, for example.

Leah: Or just maybe have a person look at it before they send [00:11:00] out the complaint.

Chris: Yeah, they’re just marching through dozens or hundreds of these in one go, I think.

Leah: Oh. I just don’t think they’re even being reviewed at this point. it’s just automated.

Chris: Yeah. A lot of what we’re talking about today is unfortunate because they’ve been seen before. These aren’t novel forms of attack.

These are things that came up Black Friday, cyber Monday last year, maybe Prime Day last year, maybe all of last year.

Leah: I wanna say I was working on this stuff on Thanksgiving the year before last. So yeah, we see it pretty much every year, every sales peak.

Chris: We want to, at some point, we’ve got a plan to send calendars to people at Amazon. Circle the year, ,\ it’s not 2022 anymore. Pretty sure it’s not 2021 either. And see if they can start learning from some of these mistakes instead of just rushing through and slapping it together. Copy and paste last minute ends up being a bad user experience for both sellers and buyers, of course, because buyers end up being [00:12:00] exposed to fewer quality listings than they could be when you’re genuine listing is taken down in favor of somebody else. Anyone who’s willing to attack you in some sort of black hat fashion probably is willing to mess with the quality of their own products and maybe not have the right ingredients in their product, right? If they can do it cheaper. And just put some info on the label and not expect anyone to care, right? We’ve seen that too. So yeah, it’s weird .

Leah: I do assume that the people doing me attacks have not very good products. I don’t actually have any evidence to suggest that, but I do assume that for whatever reason.

Chris: Yeah, that’s not something we spend a lot of time talking about. I’m not even sure if the media spends a lot of time talking about it.

Leah: But if you’re willing to cut corners in an anti-competitive behavior I assume you’re willing to cut corners when it comes to product quality and safety. I didn’t realize I made this connection until you just said this.

Chris: If you’re willing to cheat in terms of policies and even laws, you’re probably willing to cheat in terms of other [00:13:00] things tied to your own products, and you’re probably just not selling as well as you could be if you had a better product.

All right, thanks everybody. Let us know if you have any questions on anything we touched on today. The closer we get to prime day, the more likely strange and unusual things are likely to occur. And of course, some of them aren’t unusual. That’s the problem. That’s the point. Flag those early and get them in front of our eyes or in front of competent eyes if you need to report anything to Amazon, because if something’s going wrong now, The sooner the better.

Give them as much lead time as possible to fix the problem when you report it. Thanks, Leah.

Leah: Thanks Chris.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh

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