Season 1, Episode 22

Variation Misuse

In our experience the ASIN variation policy is one of the least understood areas by Amazon sellers. Unfortunately, the way Amazon words their policy warning ASIN Variation Misuse, leads a lot of sellers to believe that no action is required by them. We discuss the steps that sellers should take to protect their listings and account.

Show Notes


Chris: [00:00:07] All right, you want to do variations?

Leah: [00:00:09] Sure! Let’s do it.

Chris: [00:00:17] Hey, Amazon sellers. This is Chris McCabe of ecommerceChris. I’m an Amazon seller consultant. I’m here with Leah McHugh. I really want to talk to you today since you’re the leading Amazon ASIN variations and listing compliance expert. We see so many sellers getting notifications warnings, detail page corrected. It usually says in a handful of ASIN’s, and for some reason, maybe you can enlighten me why? We’re seeing that people just think the issue is resolved. Okay. Amazon is telling me that they fixed this problem. It’s still a warning, right? It’s still a performance notification. So I don’t understand why people ignore those or think the problem is solved. And Amazon’s just giving you a, ‘Hey we took care of something for you’. It’s not about that.

 [00:00:59] I think that is the problem. The way those policy warnings are worded, they kind of do make it sound like, Hey, we fixed this just heads up.

[00:01:06] Well, right. But we all know how Amazon operates. Right?  They’re warning you.

Leah: [00:01:10] But , we’re looking at these problems every single day, most sellers are not seeing this every day, they’re not looking into other people’s accounts, they’re just in the bubble of their own account.  And , they send a lot of  soft warnings that you kind of just have to be aware of and that’s it. So, it’s difficult to know they’re that serious, unless you can see the patterns that we can see. I think the biggest thing that people don’t realize in that Amazon does not make clear in the notification, is that they’re not going to warn you for every single issue with variation misuse.  They’re sending you a heads up that those particular ASINs are incorrect. That doesn’t mean that all of your other ASINs are fine. That just means that this is the one that they’re decided to warn you about right now.

Chris: [00:01:50] That’s the key takeaway.

Leah: [00:01:52] And what they want you to do, but they don’t tell you to do for some unknown reason. Is they want you to look at all of your other ASINs to make sure that that error isn’t there as well. And I will say that in my experience of looking at people’s listing, if there’s one listing with incorrect variations, chances are that almost all of their listings have the incorrect variations. It’s usually not just one listing that has the problem.

Chris: [00:02:16] And I hasten to add, there are so many people who tell us, 90% of our listings are correct. These are a few strays. We know we’re doing this right.

Leah: [00:02:24] Or these are old.

Chris: [00:02:25] Well, these are right. We know they’re right. We’ve read the policy. We understand how to do these. We’ve always understood how to do them. They are a hundred percent correct. We don’t know why we’re getting this violation. It’s an error in variably. Leah looks inside flat files, listing samples, and so forth and sees mistakes and errors that explain why Amazon flagged those listings.  Usually it’s to the point where I’m not going listing by listing and telling them what’s wrong because the teachers lead the same thing.  It’s usually just systemic issues in the way that they’re creating the listings. But what we’re seeing a lot more of now is one warning followed by a suspension.
That’s what people need to be worried about.

Leah: [00:03:05] Right. So, whereas before, you used to get a few warnings and that would maybe alert you to look at the other listings as well. Now they’re really just sending one warning. And that warning is supposed to tell you to check all of your listings. And then if you don’t do that, it’s often followed by a suspension. And not always, because of course this is never consistent. But a lot of the accounts that I’ve worked on lately have received only one warning before their account was suspended for variation misuse.

Chris: [00:03:31] I think you can expect once you’ve had one warning, you’re on notice. That’s the warning shot over your belt. Don’t expect to get a second one. There are people who get two, don’t expect to be in that group. Once they’ve given you some heads up. You’re on the clock. You need to go through all those variations. Make sure you’re not using the wrong variation themes. I don’t know, Leah. You’ve seen every permutation of this error under the sun.

Leah: [00:03:53] I think he’s in the wrong variation theme is probably the most common error that I see. This is where it’s important to keep records. Because Amazon tells you that there’s a problem after they fix the listing. So if you don’t have a record of how that listing was set up, and maybe you set this listing up  five years ago, you don’t necessarily know what it is that they corrected. Unless you have flat files or some other files that shows you how that listing had been set up before. And then you can see what Amazon has done to it now. That’s very important because you need to be then looking at that in your other listings. And if you don’t know what you’re looking for, that makes it a lot more difficult to find the errors.

Chris: [00:04:27] For sure. Use flat files. We still talk to people who don’t know what they are or don’t use them and that’s not the way to go.

Leah: [00:04:33] And if you don’t have any now, download a category listing report, and then you can use that to create your flat files.

Chris: [00:04:40] This is one of the major listing compliance enforcement actions we tend to see these days. Amazon tends to do the listing deletion, listing compliance mop-up in Q3, so that they don’t have to take down valuable ASINs and revenue generation. It’s not supposed to be something that they’re targeting. Slowing you down in Q4 is not what they want. They do it this quarter because they want you to mop this stuff up.

Leah: [00:05:04] And I think we’re also seeing a lot more sellers reporting other sellers over this, because it’s probably one of the easier infringements to report. So then that’s also leading to an increase of action on this.

Chris: [00:05:15] So detail pages corrected doesn’t mean your whole problem is corrected and you don’t have to do anything. That’s my main point today.

Leah: [00:05:21] Right. Look at all of your listings to make sure you’re not doing it anymore.

Chris: [00:05:24] Not just those ASINs. All right. Thanks Leah. We’ll have you back of course, again for listing compliance issues. Have a great day. Thanks everybody.

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