The Top 3 Risks of Ignoring Your One Star Amazon Reviews

What is one simple thing you should be doing to manage your brand’s reputation (that you’re probably not doing)?

Think back to your most recent purchase decisions. If you’re like the majority of shoppers, chances are you spent some of your time looking at star ratings or thumbing through detailed product reviews.

Over half of consumers expect responses to their online reviews, and 7 in 10 say they have changed their opinion about a brand after seeing the brand reply to a review. Consumers expect you to pay attention and reply to your negative (one and two star) reviews.

In this post we’ll cover:

  • why reviews are so important (to the consumer and Amazon)
  • why negative reviews are even more important than positive reviews
  • what consumers expect from you when it comes to Amazon reviews
  • how to manage your Amazon reviews

Consumers Trust Amazon Reviews
(Even When Shopping Offline)

As we all can attest to from personal experience, consumers continue to be more and more reliant on online reviews to help them make purchase decisions.

In particular, shoppers look to Amazon for product reviews. Although some sellers will find ways to game the system, Amazon has worked hard over the past few years to ensure their reviews are not manipulated by sellers/brands, even going so far as to file suit against websites that it alleges skew its product ratings. The end result is that consumers trust Amazon star ratings – they’re an extremely powerful form of social proof.

Even when shopping in store, shoppers frequently check prices and reviews online before making a purchase decision.

  • a 2016 study showed that 39% of in store buyers read online reviews before purchases
  • in 2018 BazaarVoice reported that 45% of brick & mortar sales started with an online review

These numbers underscore the importance of your products’ Amazon reviews, no matter where the final sale occurs.

Here are the top 3 risks of ignoring negative reviews on Amazon.

1. One Star Ratings Matter More Than Five Star Ratings

A Yale research paper examined the impact of online reviews on purchase decisions. While they found that a higher star rating leads to higher sales, they also found “evidence that one-star reviews have a greater impact than five-star reviews.” The researchers concluded that “the relatively rare one-star reviews carry a lot of weight with consumers. This result makes sense when the credibility of one-star and five-star reviews are considered.”

53% of customers expect a reply to their online reviews within a week

This is not the only reason you need to actively manage reviews. Consumers expect brands to be responsive.

2. Consumers Expect Brands to Respond to Reviews

Today’s consumers expect replies to reviews. Not convinced? Consider the following statistics:

  • 53% of customers expect a reply to their online reviews within a week (Review Trackers, 2018)
  • A 2018 BrightLocal study showed that 89% read replies to reviews
  • 41% of respondents in a Bazaarvoice survey said that when a brand replies to reviews, it makes them believe the brand really cares about their customers
  • Not replying may increase customer churn by up to 15% (Chatmeter, 2017)
  • 7 out of 10 consumers changed their opinion about a brand after seeing the brand reply to a review (Marketing Charts, 2013)

These statistics are compelling. If you’re not actively replying to negative Amazon reviews, why not?

3. Negative Reviews Affect What Shoppers Will See & Purchase

The more 1 star reviews, the lower your overall star rating will go – especially if you haven’t built up a lot of reviews already. This is a twofold problem.

First, lower rated products are less likely to be purchased by consumers who view them.

Second, lower rated products are less likely to be shown to shoppers – Amazon wants to show higher rated products more prominently in the search results, because they know that consumers are more likely to go on to complete their purchase. They even won’t even let you run certain ads for products rated below 3.5 stars:

 

How to Manage Amazon Reviews

So, how should you manage reviews on Amazon?

  1. Ask for reviews – anyone selling your products should have an active autoresponder requesting reviews
  2. Remove negative reviews when you can – your team should actively remove negative reviews that violate Amazon’s Terms of Service (e.g., those that contain profanity)
  3. Reply to negative reviews – show all consumers that you care about, and stand behind, your products
  4. Analyze WHY you’re getting negative reviews – this is valuable market feedback!

We’ve found numerous reasons for negative Amazon reviews, including:

  • packaging issues led to products being damaged in shipping (these types of issues led us to create custom premium packaging for Amazon for some of our brands)
  • products were past their expiration dates, due to sellers not adequately managing inventory
  • products that didn’t match Amazon listings
  • consumers were unhappy with product quality and features

Review management is just one of the services you should expect when partnering with a 3rd party to sell your products on Amazon. While you’re at it, check out the rating on Amazon for the 3rd party as a seller – it should be 99-100%.

Conclusion

Online reviews, and particularly Amazon reviews, are important, as they drive consumer perception of your brand and therefore sales.

Negative reviews are of particular importance to shoppers, and shoppers expect brands to respond to those reviews.

Brands that appreciate the importance of Amazon reviews will have a system in place to actively generate and manage reviews.

 

About TLK Sourcing

TLK Sourcing a digital retail agency with significant expertise in the Amazon marketplace and unlike typical marketing agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars in fees, we earn our income by purchasing your products wholesale and then reselling them - thereby ensuring that our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

Discover how to stop unauthorized online sellers from violating your MAP policy

tlkcta

Amazon Brand Registry – A Key to Content Control on Amazon

If you want to maximize traffic and conversions on the (highly competitive) Amazon sales channel, your Amazon listings need to be top notch, with compelling images and copy.

Unfortunately, Amazon product listings operate like a wiki – in other words, anyone and everyone who sells your products on Amazon can submit suggested edits to your listings at any time.

There is a solution to this problem. Amazon’s Brand Registry enables the brand owner themselves to control the content of the listing, regardless of who the seller is. Without Brand Registry, the likelihood of your product getting traction and stealing market share from the competition is far lower.

If you want to know how to create really great content and then make sure no one else can change it after the fact, read on and we’ll walk you through it, step by step.

Note: The current version of Amazon’s Brand Registry is 2.0. If you were in Brand Registry prior to approximately DATE, your brand is likely no longer covered.

Product Content

To create a highly effective Amazon product listing, the following areas must be addressed:

  • Product Title
  • Images
  • Bullet Points
  • Description

Product Title

When it comes to SEO on Amazon, there is no content element with a greater impact on SEO than the product title.

In our experience, simply optimizing the product title alone can have a profound impact on how a product will rank in the Amazon Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) – which in turn contributes to increased sales velocity – which in turn helps the product rank even higher in the SERPs.

This flywheel effect is huge, and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the product title can help to unleash it.

So how does one optimize the product title?

The first step is to take a look at existing marketing materials, read existing customer reviews, analyze features and benefits, and take a look at competing products.

The goal of this first step is to gain a broader perspective of the problems that this particular product solves, as well as the ways in which consumers describe these problems.

Armed with this perspective, you are now ready to dive into Keyword research.

While a full keyword research tutorial is beyond the scope of this post, we can offer you a highly detailed process for keyword research using a tool called Href.

In a nutshell, the goal of keyword research is to find the most relevant words and phrases that consumers would use to find this product, and then make use of these words and phrases in the product title.

Here’s an example of a highly optimized product title. Notice the placement of the brand name, as well as how they made full use of the maximum number of words allowed.

Product Images

The next most important aspect of a highly optimized Amazon product listing is the use of product images. Using the product above as an example, you’ll note the following things:

  • They have used 9 images
  • The first image complies with Amazon TOS in that it is a shot of ONLY the product on a white background
  • All the other images are either lifestyle images or infographics

The reason that images are so vital is that a significant portion of consumers are shopping from their mobile phone and as a result, they are far more inclined to use the information in product images (vs the bullet points and description) to help them to decide to buy or not.

Knowing this, smart brands make use of these images to feature reviews, product benefits, and so much more.

Bullet Points

Next in line after images are the bullet points. As you can see in the image below, Amazon allows brands to use up to 5 bullet points to describe key features and benefits of the product.

While not nearly as effective for conversions as optimized images, these bullets points do play a role in SEO, and as such, they should be carefully crafted to include relevant keywords as well as features and benefits.

Product Description

And finally, we have the product description. Using the same product as an example, you can see that in the product description Amazon now allows brands to make use of what is called Enhanced Brand Content (EBC).

Here’s a screenshot of just a portion of this product’s EBC.

The product description is an ideal place for a brand to tell their story to prospective buyers.
In addition to making use of EBC, we recommend the following guidelines for creating an optimized product description:
  • Match the brand voice
  • Elaborate on the title/bullets
  • Repeat only the most powerful benefits from your bullet points
  • If your product is particularly technical, use the description to lay out in plain English what the benefit is
    “With an ISO range of 100-6400 (expandable to 12800), you can shoot in low-light situations, reducing the need for a tripod or flash.”
  • Use logical & powerful language
  • Include common terms used by consumers
  • Emphasize your differentiators – what makes your product better/different than others on Amazon? (part of a bundle, better quality, more colors, etc)
  • Overcome objections
  • Help shoppers imagine the experience of using your product
  • Evoke emotion where possible
    “Savor the luxuriously deep and velvety dark chocolate combined with tangy cherry pieces and roasted almonds for a delightful crunch.”

Brand Registry

Now that you understand how to create a highly optimized Amazon product listing, we need to talk about how to keep it that way.

Enter Amazon’s Brand Registry service.

According to Amazon, over 60,000 brands are now registered, and on average, they are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspect infringements than before the service was launched.

Brand Registry provides a variety of benefits according to Amazon’s website, including those listed below:

1. Accurate brand representation

Brand Registry gives you more control over Amazon product pages that use your brand name, so customers are more likely to see the correct information associated with your brand.

2. Powerful search and report tools

Amazon simplifies the process of finding cases of potential infringement with custom features designed specifically for brands:

  • Global search: search for content in different Amazon stores from the same screen without ever having to navigate away
  • Image search: find product listings on Amazon that match your product(s) or logo(s) using images
  • Bulk ASIN search: search for a list of ASINs or product URLs in bulk to explore and report potentially infringing content fast (plus enlarge image thumbnails in this tool for easier identification of infringers)
  • Sort view of average customer ratings of ASINs to gauge popularity

After you complete your search, Brand Registry provides you with simple and guided workflows to submit a report of potential infringement that Amazon can review and take appropriate action on.

3. Additional proactive brand protections

In addition to Amazon’s standard proactive measures to protect customers, Brand Registry uses information that you provide about your brand to implement additional predictive protections that attempt to identify and remove potentially bad listings.

The more you tell Amazon’s Brand Registry team about your brand and its intellectual property, the more Amazon can help you protect your brand, for example:

  • Product listings that aren’t for your brand and incorrectly use your trademarked terms in their titles
  • Images that contain your logo, but are for products that don’t carry your brand name
  • Sellers shipping products from countries in which you do not manufacture or distribute your brand
  • Product listings being created with your brand name when you have already listed your full product catalog on Amazon

To see if you meet the eligibility requirements to enroll your brand(s) in Amazon Brand Registry, visit brandservices.amazon.com/eligibility.

How Do Your Products Compare?

So now that you understand how to create great content for your products, as well as how to keep others from changing it, the only question that remains is this: how does your current content compare to your competitors and is it good enough to allow you to gain the upper hand?

Next Steps

Want to learn more about partnering with us? Get in touch.

How to Increase Sales on Amazon

I have yet to meet with a brand owner that didn’t want to increase their sales on the Amazon marketplace. However, most often, there are two main challenges that stand between them and their goals:

  1. A lack of the specialized knowledge required to effectively leverage Amazon’s marketing tools
  2. It can be very difficult to identify and remove the unauthorized grey-market sellers that are causing MAP violations and a myriad of other problems for the brand

In today’s post, I’m going to start by walking you through some specific strategies that have been proven to work to increase sales on Amazon.

Then at the end, I want to finish off by ensuring that you have a clear understanding of just how dominant the Amazon marketplace has become in terms of consumer search patterns, and the impact of Amazon on your offline channels.

6 Tips for Increasing Sales on Amazon

1. Study Your Competition

Amazon is an extremely competitive marketplace. If your goal is to increase Amazon sales, the first step of the process is knowing what you are up against. With that, you’ll also want to consider the size of the opportunity (i.e., how many sales are there to be had?).

For example, if you sell horny goat weed, you would want to know the answers to the following questions:

  1. Does my product have a unique ingredient or feature that sets it apart?
  2. How many more reviews do the products in the organic search results have than mine?
  3. How does the average product feedback rating of the competition compare to mine?
  4. Are there a lot of ads from the competition?
  5. How does my price (and value) compare to the competition?
  6. What is the size of the market opportunity for the keywords that consumers would use to find my product?

As you can see below, I have done a search on Amazon for “horny goat weed.” In the red section, there is a headline search ad, in the blue section, there are a few sponsored product listings, and in the green section are the start of the organic search results.

In looking at this data, I can draw the following two conclusions:

  1. My competitors are indeed running ads (though I don’t yet know the cost of these ads)
  2. The top 2 organic search results have a very large number of reviews with an average of 4.5 stars

So, assuming you have a comparable product, you are going to need to either spend heavily on Amazon ads (possibly at a loss) or find another way to gain visibility on this channel.

Would it be worth the ad spend investment, considering the outcome is not guaranteed?

To find that out, I want to gain a better understanding of how much the phrase “horny goat weed” is worth in terms of sales.

As you can see below, the top 2 sellers combined generate approximately $244,000/mo in revenue. The aggregate revenue estimation from the remaining products on the first page of the search results is another $300,000/mo.

Armed with this data, you are now in a better position to determine if this is a battle you want to fight.

2. Optimize & Protect Your Content

Assuming this is a battle that you deem worthwhile, the first step should be to optimize your product listing content. Optimizing content involves making sure you have:

Once you have optimized your content, you also need to protect it to ensure that some other seller doesn’t decide to change it.

Key Take Away

Properly optimized product listings can have a profound effect on the product detail page conversion rate, which in turn will have a profound effect on how well that product ranks in the Amazon organic search results.

3. Manage Your Product Reviews

If you want to succeed at increasing your sales on Amazon, pay close attention to your product reviews. When you do, you will find a few interesting things:

  • Some of your positive reviews will provide you with valuable customer feedback that you can use to improve the way your products are marketed, the keywords you should target, etc.
  • Some of your negative product reviews will actually violate Amazon’s Terms of Service and could be easily removed

4. Advertise Your Products on Amazon

Over the years, Amazon has become an increasingly pay-to-play marketplace. Gone are the days when you could just list your product and watch the sales come in.

To be successful today, you need to take advantage all of the advertising tools that Amazon provides to sellers. These tools include:

  1. Headline search ads
  2. Product placement ads
  3. Sponsored product ads
  4. Amazon Demand Side Platform

The above tools each have their pros and cons and if you want to increase your sales on Amazon profitably, you are going to need to make use of every tool in the toolbox. Expect to do plenty of testing with Amazon’s various advertising tools to get this right.

5. Drive Traffic To Your Products From Outside of Amazon

Amazon’s marketplace tools provide sellers with plenty of ways to buy additional exposure for their products; however, Amazon’s tools are far from the only tools available to sellers.

As you might imagine, the number of ways you can drive traffic to your Amazon product listings from external sources is virtually limitless – and well beyond the scope of this post.

What I will say is this: while Amazon doesn’t share the specifics of their search ranking algorithm, one thing that has been readily proven is that one of the greatest factors in organic search rank is sales velocity. 

Key Take Away

Sellers that have access to external traffic sources would be wise to consider sending that traffic to their Amazon product lists so that they can take advantage of the ‘flywheel effect’ that Amazon offers.

In other words, more transactions = higher ranking in the organic search results, which in turn = more exposure for your products, which in turn = more sales.

In other words, the flywheel effect.

Key Take Away

More sales = improved Best Seller Rank = improved positioning in Amazon’s organic search results = more product exposure to Amazon’s huge pool of buyers = more sales

Amazon is an extremely popular marketplace with millions of eager buyers, so it behooves the smart brand owner to do everything they can to put their products in front of those buyers. Driving external traffic to Amazon with the sole purpose of improving BSR can yield substantial results in this regard.

6. Reduce the Number of Sellers to Just Two

Whenever I talk to brands that sell their products on the Amazon marketplace, they are often surprised to learn that having more sellers on each product listing is a bad thing. Many mistakenly assume that having more sellers will somehow increase exposure – and therefore increase sales.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you have one or two sellers on your product listings – assuming of course these sellers are working closely with you – your brand will experience the following benefits:

  • A larger percentage of the seller’s profits can be invested in ad campaigns
  • MAP violations will be eliminated entirely
  • Your listings will be fully optimized
  • Content will remain locked down
  • All negative reviews in violation of Amazon TOS will be removed

So, now that you understand how to improve your product’s Amazon organic search rank (and sales), let me close out by ensuring you understand just how important Amazon has become for product research.

How Consumers Research Products Today

Check out the image below. This is data direct from Amazon.

As you can see, 59% of consumer research now starts on Amazon. But you probably knew that already.

What might be new to you is just how profound an impact Amazon is having on your offline sales.

Consider the following:

  • 37% of searches start on Amazon and finish offline
  • 22% of searches start in the aisle at a store where the buyer visits Amazon on their phone before completing the checkout in-store.
  • 35% of searches start elsewhere and finish on Amazon
  • Just 6% of searches start and finish on Amazon

Amazon_purchase_path

Amazon Has a Greater Impact on Offline Sales Than You Might Think

The image above clearly tells us that Amazon has a much larger impact on offline sales than most brands think.

How do I know? I give presentations about Amazon to brands on a regular basis (every week) and whenever this slide comes up, the people I’m presenting to are very surprised by the data.

So, now that we know how much of impact Amazon is having on your total sales (not just online sales), what conclusions can we draw?

MAP Violations are a HUGE Deal: if keeping your offline retail partners happy is important to your business, you have to get online pricing under control (yes, this is possible). If you don’t, those offline retail partners are likely to remove your products from their shelves.

Controlling Product Content is Critical: Amazon product listings are much like a wiki. Unless you lock them down with Amazon’s Brand Registry, anyone can make any change at any time – which makes keeping your content under control virtually impossible. If you have products with FDA compliance issues, unauthorized content can even bring your listings down and wreak havoc on your revenue.

Responding to Negative Reviews is Critical:  As I mentioned above, consumers today actively use Amazon for product research. Product reviews, in particular, play a huge role in their purchase decisions. If you (or your authorized 3rd party sellers) aren’t actively monitoring and responding to critical product reviews, you are definitely leaving money on the table.

Actions You Can Take Today

Whenever I give a presentation to a brand’s leadership team, at the end, I’m always asked something along the lines of, “What steps can we take today to solve our problems on Amazon?”

My answer is this:

  1. Reduce the number of sellers on your products listings to a chosen few, as doing so will have numerous benefits
  2. Choose to work with 3rd party sellers that do more than just sell your products
  3. If you are selling directly to Amazon, consider working with a 3rd party seller instead as you will have far more control

About TLK Sourcing

TLK Sourcing a digital retail agency with significant expertise in the Amazon marketplace and unlike typical marketing agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars in fees, we earn our income by purchasing your products wholesale and then reselling them - thereby ensuring that our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

Discover how to stop unauthorized online sellers from violating your MAP policy

tlkcta

The Risks of Having a Single Amazon Seller

“You have manipulated product reviews on our site. This is against our policies. As a result, you may no longer sell on Amazon.com, and your listings have been removed from our site.”

Last August, Zac Plansky woke to find that the rifle scopes he was selling on Amazon had received 16 five-star reviews overnight. Usually, that would be a good thing, but the reviews were strange. The scope would normally get a single review a day, and many of these referred to a different scope, as if they’d been cut and pasted from elsewhere. “I didn’t know what was going on, whether it was a glitch or whether somebody was trying to mess with us,” Plansky says.

As a precaution, he reported the reviews to Amazon. Most of them vanished days later — problem solved — and Plansky reimmersed himself in the work of running a six-employee, multimillion-dollar weapons accessory business on Amazon. Then, two weeks later, the trap sprang. “You have manipulated product reviews on our site,” an email from Amazon read. “This is against our policies. As a result, you may no longer sell on Amazon.com, and your listings have been removed from our site.”

Source: Prime and Punishment

A rival had framed Plansky for buying five-star reviews, a high crime in the world of Amazon. The funds in his account were immediately frozen, and his listings were shut down. Getting his store back would take him on a surreal weeks-long journey through Amazon’s bureaucracy, one that began with the click of a button at the bottom of his suspension message that read “appeal decision.”

A quick search online and on any Amazon seller forum will reveal countless stories of Amazon account suspensions. Amazon Terms of Service are long and not always intuitive, and reasons for suspension range from the obvious (e.g., horrible customer service, multiple products sold that don’t match the Amazon listings) to the obscure.

For instance, consider the story of the seller – let’s call him Chris – who had excellent seller metrics but ended up hiring a longtime friend to help with his flourishing Amazon business. This friend had previously had her own seller account, but thought she had closed it 2 or 3 years back. However, as soon as Chris granted his friend access to his seller account (using her personal email address that apparently was still linked to her old seller account), Amazon suspended both accounts.

Chris was able to appeal Amazon’s decision, and eventually able to reopen his seller account… 40 days later.

40 days. That’s a long time to be without what for most eCommerce brands is a significant portion of their revenue.

What would it mean to you to be without your Amazon sales for 40 days?

How much revenue would you lose over the 40 days?

Chris was a smaller seller, but big enough to work his business full time and pay himself from the profits. And account suspensions aren’t limited to smaller sellers – in 2017, one of the top 10 third-party sellers in the US had to deal with account suspension.

The downsides of having one seller on your product(s) aren’t limited to the loss of revenue due to a potential account suspension.

How are Sellers Vulnerable?

As has been described here, the number of dirty tricks available to bad actors on the Amazon platform – and their use of them – has steadily increased over the last year.

Just because your brand hasn’t yet been the victim of these tactics is no reason to believe that that will not change in the future.

Here are just a few ways that sellers are vulnerable:

Seller Buys Competitor’s Products

A seller buys his competitors’ items over and over and continually reports the item to Amazon as defective or counterfeit.  Eventually, Amazon places restrictions on the sellers account and demands supplier invoices.  Amazon takes a long time to verify the invoices (or they can’t verify them at all) and the seller is out of commission for weeks.

Seller Buys Fake Reviews For Competitor’s Products

A seller hires a company to leave a huge volume of positive reviews on their competitors’ listings. Amazon then goes after the innocent competitor for fraudulent reviews.

Competitor Hijacks Your Product Listings

A brand has a competitor literally copy their products, take over their own listings for themselves (hijacking), and then claim to Amazon that THEY have the real, legitimate listing.  Some have gone as far as to register another company’s trademark as their own in Brand Registry and then do takedowns of the true rights owner.

False Complaints of Dangerous Products

An electronic product seller has a competitor that buys a product from them and then claims to Amazon that it caught on fire. Some of them have astonishing pictures of the product burning as if it was lit with gasoline.  Amazon is very quick to kill listings for safety concerns.  The innocent seller then has to show proof of certification from independent third-party testing labs to get reinstated – an expensive and time-consuming proposition.

The Vendor Central Hack

A bad actor with a Vendor Central account changes a competitor’s listing to create bad buyer experiences.  Sometimes they change the dimensions or weight of the product so suddenly the seller is paying oversize fees on a small box and losing all of their margin on a product.  Other times they change the product picture or description so that the buyer is unhappy when they get their purchase.  When a change is made through Vendor Central, Amazon considers it a “retail contribution” and it is really hard to get them to fix the listing.

Competitor Uploads Obscene Photos to Your Listings

A recent client had a bad actor that was uploading obscene and vulgar pictures to all of his listings over and over again. He’d get it fixed with Amazon and within a few hours the horrible pictures were back.  These were all through normal flat file uploads to the Amazon platform.  Amazon couldn’t catch the bad actor because these were all stealth accounts and the bad actor used a different stealth account every time they uploaded. There was no point in blocking a seller account in other words. Buyers were literally screaming at the brand (IN ALL CAPS!!!) in the product reviews.  The brand’s listings plummeted in the organic search results.  Do you think Amazon will remove these bad reviews when the problem is fixed? Of course not. They never remove product reviews if they are from legitimate buyers.  The damage is done and will keep on killing those listings.

Further Reading

From the WSJ: Amazon Fires Employee for Sharing Customer Emails

From Forbes: The New Black Hat Tactics Amazon Sellers Are Using To Take Out Their Competition

From Webretailer: Are Black Hat Sellers Winning the Battle on the Amazon Marketplace?

What is the Business Impact?

Should your brand fall victim to any of the dirty tricks mentioned above, your brand will experience any or all of the following:

Loss of Revenue Due to No Amazon Sales

This is the obvious one, and is discussed above. Getting your account reinstated can occasionally be a quick process, but usually takes days or weeks, and in some cases accounts are permanently closed.

Amazon’s judgments are so severe that its own rules have become the ultimate weapon in the constant warfare of Marketplace. Sellers devise all manner of intricate schemes to frame their rivals, as Plansky experienced. They impersonate, copy, deceive, threaten, sabotage, and even bribe Amazon employees for information on their competitors.

Source: Prime and Punishment

Loss of Revenue Due to Drop in BSR

If your account is suspended, you’re automatically out of stock of certain products. This leads not only to loss of revenue in the short term, but can lead to a significant drop in Best Seller Rank (BSR).

Even once you’re back in stock, this lower BSR can in turn lead to lower sales, generating a negative feedback loop that can be difficult to break.

You may end up having to spend a significant sum on Pay Per Click (PPC) to raise your BSR back to where it was – assuming you even can!

Plansky’s Jeff letter was never answered, but after he’d sent it, a fellow Amazon seller at a local meet-up gave him the name of someone “high up” in the company. He emailed them, and shortly afterward, he got his account back. (Stine maintains that it was the Jeff letter that did it.) All told, he estimates his suspension cost him about $150,000 in sales.

Source: Prime and Punishment

Additional Benefits of Having Two Sellers

There is no reason to have 3, 5, 10 or more sellers of your products on Amazon. In fact, the more sellers you have, the more problems you will have; however, there are some very good reasons to have two sellers.

Inventory Management

Each seller will want to maintain stock no matter how many sellers are on a listing, but if there is only one seller, it’s crucial that that seller remains in stock – otherwise, you will have again a loss of revenue due to a drop in BSR (see above).

A second seller significantly buffers against the risk of running out of stock, even if there is a small issue on the supply end.

To guarantee your products stay in stock even as sales fluctuate, the single seller will need to maintain a much higher level of safety stock. This leads to additional cash invested in excess inventory as well as higher storage fees (and in 2017 Amazon raised 4th quarter storage fees drastically, so this isn’t insignificant).

Over the following days, Harris came to realize that someone had been targeting him for almost a year, preparing an intricate trap. While he had trademarked his watch and registered his brand, Dead End Survival, with Amazon, Harris hadn’t trademarked the name of his Amazon seller account, SharpSurvival. So the interloper did just that, submitting to the patent office as evidence that he owned the goods a photo taken from Harris’ Amazon listings, including one of Harris’ own hands lighting a fire using the clasp of his survival watch. The hijacker then took that trademark to Amazon and registered it, giving him the power to kick Harris off his own listings and commandeer his name.

Source: Prime and Punishment

In-House Expertise

When the single Amazon seller is the brand themselves versus a dedicated Amazon seller, the brand needs to – in one way or another – attain the expertise in selling on the Amazon platform, either by training, hiring internally, or hiring a consultant.

  • Who is the Amazon listing expert?
  • The Amazon PPC expert?
  • Who will stay current on Amazon Terms of Service?

The cost of this internal expertise is often underestimated by brands who don’t consider the true cost of hiring, training, and payroll burden. There’s also the issue of being back at square one if the brand loses their internal expertise – which you inevitably will at some point because people don’t stay with one company for long these days.

Smart brands focus on what they excel at and outsource what they don’t.

Now, it’s also worth noting that there are many benefits to having limited sellers of your products.

JC Hewitt, whose law firm frequently works with Amazon sellers, calls the system’s mandatory guilty pleas, arbitrary verdicts, and obscure language “a Kafkaesque bureaucracy with bad writing.” Inscrutable rulings emerge as if from a black box. The Performance team, which handles suspensions, has no phone number; there’s no one to ask for clarification. The only way to interact with them is by filing an appeal, and when it’s rejected, sellers often have no idea why. Sellers can call another Amazon department, Seller Support, but those workers can’t provide information about the Performance team and can offer only generic advice about what the seller might have done wrong.

Source: Prime and Punishment

Benefits of Having Two Sellers on Your Amazon Listings

If your brand relies on 3rd party sellers to sell your products on Amazon, it’s critical to understand how the number of sellers on any given product listing will impact sales, pricing, customer service, and brand equity in general.

Generally speaking, the larger the number of sellers, the less control your brand will have over pricing, content, promotions, advertising, and customer service.

Brands who limit the number sellers on their Amazon listings have made a wise move in many respects.

With limited sellers:

  • pricing control on the Amazon marketplace is simpler
  • it is easier to control the content (images, text) on the Amazon listing
  • the brand doesn’t have to work with numerous sellers to coordinate consistent promotions
  • the brand can be represented with a consistent level of customer service

All of the above are even easier with only one seller, but are all very manageable when the brand sells alongside one or two responsive brand partners.

The Performance workers’ incentives favor rejection. They must process approximately one claim every four minutes, and reinstating someone who later gets suspended again counts against them, according to McCabe and others. When they fall behind, Stine says, they’ll often “punt” by sending requests for more information, as Harmon experienced.

Source: Prime and Punishment

Is It Worth the Risk?

In the end, the decision whether to have a single Amazon seller – or act as your own Amazon seller – is up to you.

If you have a single 3rd party seller on your listing, there is really no benefit. If you’re acting as your own seller, there can be a benefit in terms of profit – assuming, of course, you don’t get your account suspended.

Only you can answer the question, is it worth the risk?

Scammers have effectively weaponized Amazon’s anti-counterfeiting program. Attacks have become so widespread that they’ve even pulled in the US Patent and Trademark Office, which recently posted a warning that people were making unauthorized changes through its electronic filing system, likely “part of a scheme to register the marks of others on third-party ‘brand registries.’” Scammers had begun swapping out the email addresses on their rival’s trademark files, which can be done without a password, and using the new email to register their competitor’s brand with Amazon, gaining control of their listings. As Harris encountered, Amazon appears not to check whether a listing belongs to a brand already enrolled in brand registry. Stine has a client who had trademarked their party supply brand and registered it with Amazon, only to have a rival change their trademark file, register with Amazon, and hijack their listing for socks, which had things like “If you can read this, bring coffee” written on the soles.

There are more subtle methods of sabotage as well. Sellers will sometimes buy Google ads for their competitors for unrelated products — say, a dog food ad linking to a shampoo listing — so that Amazon’s algorithm sees the rate of clicks converting to sales drop and automatically demotes their product. They will go on the black market and purchase or rent seller accounts with special editing privileges and use them to change the color or description of their rival’s products so they get suspended for too many customers complaining about the item being “not as described.” They will exile their competitor’s listings to an unrelated category — say, move a product with a “Best Seller” badge in the office category to lawn care, taking the badge for themselves.

Source: Prime and Punishment

We Can Help

At TLK, we have proven experience helping brands mitigate the single seller risk.

In addition, we provide Amazon expertise – we’ll optimize listings and provide PPC services, and there’s no charge for those services. We’re happy to discuss further; give us a call at (208) 272-9379.

About TLK Sourcing

TLK Sourcing a digital retail agency with significant expertise in the Amazon marketplace and unlike typical marketing agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars in fees, we earn our income by purchasing your products wholesale and then reselling them - thereby ensuring that our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

Discover how to stop unauthorized online sellers from violating your MAP policy

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How We Help Your Brand to Grow Outside of the Amazon Marketplace

When it comes to acquiring a new transaction, you just can’t beat Amazon. Thanks to Amazon’s dominant position, 55% of eCommerce transactions start on their site.

But there is just one problem…and it’s a BIG ONE.

When you acquire a transaction on Amazon, you do not acquire a new customer.

Transactions on Amazon give Amazon new customers…but not your brand. You are left out in the cold.

Or are you?

Watch the video below to discover how we help our supplier-partners to grow their customer list outside of Amazon – even if the first transaction happened on Amazon.

About TLK Sourcing

TLK Sourcing a digital retail agency with significant expertise in the Amazon marketplace and unlike typical marketing agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars in fees, we earn our income by purchasing your products wholesale and then reselling them - thereby ensuring that our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

Discover how to stop unauthorized online sellers from violating your MAP policy

tlkcta

How to Enforce MAP Pricing and Eliminate Unauthorized Sellers on Amazon

Many brands today understand the importance of enforcing MAP on Amazon – but they struggle with the execution of the strategies needed to succeed.

In today’s post, we are going to share with you several effective strategies that you can use to enforce MAP and eliminate unauthorized sellers on Amazon.

But first, in case you aren’t yet familiar with why MAP violations on Amazon are so destructive, here’s a simple formula to explain to brands why maintaining MAP on Amazon is so important:

  1. When MAP is broken, brick & mortar partners will complain and potentially start dropping your product line.
  2. When that happens, your main distribution channel becomes Amazon.
  3. If most of your sales are on Amazon, you’ll attract more 3P sellers, and they will race to the bottom, and/or Amazon will start buying from you and they will price the lowest of all.
  4. If Amazon starts buying from you and they are your main source of distribution, they are going to start asking for bigger discounts, more co-op budget, etc… and everything they ask for (demand) is going to decrease your profit margin.

Conclusion: If you fail to effectively enforce your MAP policy, you will eventually destroy your brand’s profit margin – and maybe the entire company.

 

How to Enforce MAP on Amazon

The good news is that there are effective ways to enforce MAP on Amazon.

Create reseller policies that clearly outline your rules – and the consequences of not following your rules. To avoid potential anti-trust litigation and other liabilities, roll out these reseller policies unilaterally so they are not contracts between the brand and the reseller. Require distributors and resellers to sign that they have received their reseller policy.

Create and enforce policies related to MAP. As with the point above, these need to be unilateral policies, not contracts. Enforcement is the critical piece that will show distributors and retailers that you are paying attention. If you catch a reseller breaking the rules and decide to drop them, make sure words gets out so everyone else knows you are serious.

Where realistic, offer manufacturer warranties with your products. Make these warranties only available on products purchased through authorized resellers. List these resellers on your website. Trademark attorneys have told us that the authorized seller’s warranty versus the unauthorized sellers lack of a warranty does, in fact, constitute a material difference in the product – and a material difference is an infringement on your trademark that Amazon will act on.

Gate your brand on Amazon. Amazon will gate product listings if a brand can demonstrate that there are customer safety issues that exist if the product is purchased from anyone other than the authorized resellers. For ingestible products, it isn’t overly difficult to convince Amazon that you can’t guarantee safety to Amazon customers for products purchased from grey-market sellers.

Consider putting serial numbers or batch numbers on your products. Tie these numbers back to specific distributors/retailers so that when you do a test buy from an unauthorized reseller, you can easily identify the source of the product – making it far easier to take action and close the leak. Furthermore, if a grey-market seller chooses to remove the serial numbers or batch numbers, this qualifies as a material alteration of your product, and likely constitutes infringement.

Reduce Authorized Sellers to No More Than Two

Once you have the correct legal foundation in place, you may also want to consider reducing the number of authorized sellers for your products on Amazon, as doing so will provide some significant benefits to your brand.

And finally, if you do decide to reduce the number of authorized sellers, be sure to only work with professional 3P sellers who will add value to your brand – value beyond just selling your products.

About TLK Sourcing

TLK Sourcing a digital retail agency with significant expertise in the Amazon marketplace and unlike typical marketing agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars in fees, we earn our income by purchasing your products wholesale and then reselling them - thereby ensuring that our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

Discover how to stop unauthorized online sellers from violating your MAP policy

tlkcta

Amazon Has a New Tactic to Fight Counterfeits

Amazon is in the midst of testing a new brand registry system designed to reassure vendors that sell on its marketplace that their intellectual property will be protected – which, up to this point, is something that Amazon has struggled to do.

In their latest announcement, Amazon said that they will now let any brand register its logo and other IP with Amazon starting sometime in April; thereby enabling Amazon to remove listings for counterfeit product.

The move is just part of Amazon’s larger initiative to reassure prospective brands that their trademarks and other IP are safe on its Marketplace.

According to Peter Faricy, VP of Amazon Marketplace, last year, 100,000 sellers sold at least $100,000 worth of goods in 2016. “This puts Amazon in the position where we can protect your product across the Amazon Marketplace,” Faricy said.

The brand registry, first tested in 2016, will be free to North America vendors.

So What’s The Big Deal?

According to Cynthia Stine, or eGrowth Partners, there are a number of things that brands should be excited about:

1) Brands don’t need to be sellers to join the registry anymore.

2) Brands can take down sellers for infringement which includes things like logos, using their name, trademarks, copyrights and IP, even if a seller used their own UPC code instead of the brand’s UPC.

3) It will be super easy for brands to do this without lawyers and the long time it takes now. Cynthia said that her team has already seen brands take down all their listings on the platform and kick off all the sellers for infringement. This will only escalate when the program is out of beta. Cynthia said she predicts a lot of cease and desist orders will go out to sellers for all kinds of brands.

What’s Next?

At this point in time, we do not yet have the details of the new/improved program from Amazon so it’s tough to take any specific action at this juncture. As soon as Amazon releases the details of the program, we’ll be publishing a “how to” blog post that describes in detail the steps needed to take advantage of the new initiative.

About TLK Sourcing

TLK Sourcing a digital retail agency with significant expertise in the Amazon marketplace and unlike typical marketing agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars in fees, we earn our income by purchasing your products wholesale and then reselling them - thereby ensuring that our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

Discover how to stop unauthorized online sellers from violating your MAP policy

tlkcta

How to Maximize Sales by Advertising on Amazon

Amazon makes up a massive portion of online sales. Bloomreach reports that 50% of United States shoppers start their online product search on the Amazon platform. With that volume of shoppers, there is obviously fierce competition on Amazon.

tlkOne way you can make your products stand out is through paid advertising. Amazon offers advertising through two different merchant channels:

  • Sponsored Products, available through Seller Central, and
  • Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), available through Vendor Central and Vendor Express.

As shown on the image to the right, shoppers actually tend to click on sponsored ads even more than they click on organic search results.

Here’s an overview of how to best advertise on the Amazon marketplace.

Read more

Should Product Brands Handle 3rd Party Marketplace Sales Themselves or Work with a Partner?

7 Ways Professional Amazon 3rd Party Sellers Can Add Value to a Brand

All day, every day, I look at brands on Amazon and all too often I see the same thing over and over; the current Amazon sellers aren’t doing a damn thing to add any value to the brand whose products they are selling.

In fact, in many cases, these sellers are nothing more than parasites that are collectively sucking value from your brand, and slowing destroying the equity that you (the brand owner) have worked so hard to create.

It’s no wonder that may brands today don’t want to increase the number of people selling their products on Amazon.

How to Increase Your Revenue on Amazon

When it comes to maximizing conversions and sales, there are 3 parts of your product listing that you absolutely must get right:

  • Pictures
  • Bullet points
  • Product reviews

In addition to the 3 points above, there are also a number of other ways that professional 3rd party sellers can add value to your brand.

Turn Your Images Into Sell Sheets

When it comes to maximizing a products listing’s conversion ratio and increasing sales, there is nothing more powerful than having high-quality pictures that provide buyers with all the relevant information they need to make a purchase decision.

Here is an example of a product that has very high quality images – images which provide value with key pieces of information.

In other words, instead of just showing the product, these images have become sell sheets for this particular product.

krause-sink-sell-sheet

Now take a look at your brand’s product listings and ask yourself if there are key pieces of information that your potential customers would want to know, and if there is, why haven’t the Amazon sellers you are currently working with added it?

Bullet Points to Sell Benefits

Most often when I am looking at a product listing, the bullet points are far too short and talk only about a product features. This is the wrong way to create bullet points.

As you can see in the example below, there is a fair amount of available real estate in this area, and the bullet points should be focused not on features, but instead on the benefits that the product will give a customer.

krause-bullet_points

Automatically Generate More Product Reviews

Product reviews have a dramatic impact on how well, or how poorly, a product sells. According to Amazon’s data, 2 to 3% of customers that purchase a product will take the time to leave a product review.

If you look at the number of reviews that you have and they are less than 2 to 3% of the sales volume for this product, the sellers on this product listing have not bothered to implement an automatic review gathering system.

amz-product-review

Generating organic reviews automatically is very easy to do. Ideally, every one of your sellers will set up an email autoresponder system to ask all buyers for a product review. However, in all likelihood, few – if any – of the sellers on your product listing will have taking the time to do this, because they aren’t interested in investing the resources needed. Instead, they are only interested in helping themselves and to win the sale, they often resort to the easiest option available to them; and that is to cut the price.

As a result, the total number of product reviews (and your sales volume) will be far lower than it otherwise would be if such a review generation system were put in place.

Respond to Negative Reviews

Removing a negative product review is nearly impossible to do, so instead of ignoring them, professional 3rd party sellers like TLK will publicly respond to each review and in doing so, demonstrate to other potential customers that customer service is a priority for your brand!

If your current crop of 3rd party sellers aren’t responding to negative reviews, your brand is suffering as a result.

Other Benefits a 3rd Party Seller Can Offer

If you have a relationship with a 3rd party seller, you should expect them to add additional value beyond optimizing product listings. Here are a few more things you can expect from your 3rd party seller.

Report & Identify MAP Violators

If your company has a MAP policy, chances are you are already familiar with the frustration that comes from seeing your product selling on Amazon below MAP because every time this happens all your other retail partners are quick to (loudly) voice their complaints.

stop_doing

Controlling MAP on Amazon is not easy. One of the major challenges in controlling MAP on Amazon is simply identifying who all the unauthorized sellers are.

If you are working with a professional 3rd party seller, this is one area where you should expect them to add a great deal of value to your relationship because it is in that 3rd party seller’s best interest to do their utmost to help you to identify all of the sellers who are selling your product below MAP.

Increase Visibility Using Keyword Research

Today 40% of product research on the Internet starts on Amazon. As a result, one of the major keys to maximizing product visibility on Amazon lies in having a thorough understanding of all of the search terms the buyers might use to find your product and then optimizing your listing to show up for as many of these search terms as possible.

keyword-research-header

When I am looking at products on Amazon, time and time again it is painfully obvious that none of the current sellers for a given product have put any serious effort into keyword research and optimization.

For example, if your product title doesn’t contain the main keyword people would use to find that product, you are definitely not going to rank very well in the Amazons search results – and sales will suffer significantly as a result.

This is yet another area where a professional 3rd party seller can add a great deal of value to their relationship with you, and when they do, you should immediately see a lift in organic sales.

Drive Revenue with PPC Advertising Campaigns

If the products you sell face a high level of competition for exposure in the Amazon search results, creating and managing effective PPC advertising campaigns is a very powerful tool for increasing the exposure, discovering profitable long-tail keywords, and increasing long term sales.

seo-ppc

When you have multiple sellers on each one of your product listings, it is unlikely that any of them is putting the effort necessary into these types of promotional campaigns – and your sales are suffering as a result.

On Amazon, SEO & PPC work hand in hand to achieve greater product exposure, and they are a powerful combination if used correctly.

Once again this is an area where a professional 3rd party seller with PPC campaign management experience can add significant value to their relationship with you.

Inventory Management

If your products are in a competitive niche, running out of inventory is the kiss of death in terms of sales velocity, sales rank, and product visibility.

When you have multiple sellers on each one of your product listings, it’s highly unlikely that they are providing you with a coordinated sales forecast, and as a result, you have to cross your fingers that they’ll all do a good job of inventory management to keep all your products in stock at all times.

This is yet another area where a professional 3rd party seller can add significant value to your brand; especially if you are considering reducing the number of unauthorized sellers or eliminating them all together to go with a single exclusive 3rd party seller so you can control MAP pricing.

Going with an Exclusive 3rd Party Seller

Deciding to give a single seller exclusivity for one (or all) of your products is a decision that can solve a great deal of the problems that most brands face on Amazon.

With a single seller representing your brand, you can expect them to help you to:

  • Control MAP pricing & eliminate the race to the bottom
  • Help to identify and eliminate unauthorized sellers
  • Get more product reviews
  • Ensure your listings are fully optimized (pictures, sales copy, keyword targeting) for maximum product visibility
  • Provide you with detailed reports on the performance of the Amazon channel
  • Ensure consistent customer service levels
  • Work closely with you as your partner and add as much of the value described in this post as possible

Conclusion

If you haven’t had much in the way of an Amazon eCommerce strategy up to this point, you are probably leaving a great deal of money on the table.

Rather than ignoring requests from new sellers to sell your products on Amazon, perhaps a more effective strategy involves investing the time to better understand how a professional 3rd party seller can add value to their relationship with your brand in ways that your current crop of 3rd party sellers aren’t doing – or don’t know how to do.

About TLK Sourcing

TLK Sourcing a digital retail agency with significant expertise in the Amazon marketplace and unlike typical marketing agencies who will charge you thousands of dollars in fees, we earn our income by purchasing your products wholesale and then reselling them - thereby ensuring that our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

Discover how to stop unauthorized online sellers from violating your MAP policy

tlkcta