Recently, we had the opportunity to attend ChannelAdvisor’s webinar, “7 Ways To Get Kicked Off Amazon.” During this webinar, Ryan Barker, the Campaign Manager of Marketplace Services at ChannelAdvisor, discussed the 7 sure-fire ways to get the boot from one of the most profitable marketplaces (there are over 2 million sellers on Amazon for a reason!). A suspension means losing a global audience that, 39% of the time, begins its shopping search on Amazon. It’s not all doom and gloom though – we’ll walk you through what we learned, and provide the tips Ryan suggested to avoid suspension in the first place. Have you committed any of these 7 deadly Amazon sins?
1. Neglecting The Price Parity Issue
First things first – what the heck is price parity? Per your contract to sell on Amazon, you agree to abide by price parity, meaning that if you sell an item on Amazon as well as another sales channel, the item on another channel cannot have the total price lower than what’s listed on Amazon. So if you sell running shoes on Amazon for $70.95 plus shipping, you cannot sell the same pair of shoes through your Shopify account for $65.95 plus shipping, as it can drive buyers away from Amazon and toward your website instead. Price parity is a delicate issue and one that may easily be breached if you don’t fully understand what Amazon expects of you. Amazon actively runs searches to make sure its sellers are not breaking this rule on their other selling venues, so be sure you abide by this rule.
How should you avoid it?
- By understanding the boundaries set by Amazon regarding prices of merchandise outside their sales channels (which you now do).
- By making sure your employees are aware of this as well, so they do not mistakenly break this rule.
- Potentially by using a repricing software, and setting limits for each sales channel so that no matter how your product prices adjust, your Amazon products are either priced lower or exactly the same as what’s listed on other sales channels.
2. Directing Shoppers Away From Amazon
Most Amazon sellers are already aware of this – nothing on your Amazon storefront can advertise or allude to your outside sales channels. But even if you don’t include your website URL within your Amazon storefront, there are a few sneaky ways you may breaking this rule without even realizing it. Make sure you aren’t doing any of the following:
- Watermarking your product images, or including promotional text within pictures.
- Including a .com, .net, .biz, etc. in your seller name.
- Including anything about you or your business in product descriptions or featured bullets.
- Including logos with outside links.
The purpose of product images, details and feature bullets is to communicate to the buyer exactly what they are buying. You want them to have zero questions regarding their purchase. Ryan suggested that your product descriptions and featured bullets stick to this:
- Descriptions – Make sure they are relevant and detailed about the product. You have a max of 2,000 characters to accomplish this.
- Featured Bullets – Should be short and sweet. You can include benefits of the product, care suggestions, etc. You have up to 5 features available and a max of 256 characters per feature.
3. Mismatching or Duplicate Product Detail Pages
If you are a new Amazon seller, this may be tricky to understand. You’re pumped to get your products listed and start selling, and you may create a new product detail page without realizing that one already exists…which is a big Amazon no-no. For new and seasoned sellers alike, make sure you search for the ASIN or UPC of your product first. ONLY add a product detail page if an ASIN search did not churn up an established product page on Amazon. To avoid mismatched product detail pages, follow these steps:
- Make sure you are using the correct UPC. Cross-reference your UPC with product identifiers, such as title and brand.
- Be wary of item condition differences. Make sure item conditions match.
4. Abusing Ratings and Reviews
Given that feedback is a vital portion of persuading buyers to shop from you over a competitor, we understand the desire to have stellar feedback from every transaction. Amazon is not a marketplace where you should expect tons of feedback, though – on average, buyers receive feedback on 3-5% of their orders. Make sure you do not incur any of the following violations when dealing with feedback:
- Post abusive or incorrect comments on feedback from your buyers.
- Post feedback to your own account.
- Pay or offer incentives for positive feedback or feedback removal.
- Write reviews for competitors.
You are allowed to offer a free item in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. There is no guarantee whether it will be positive or negative. We always recommend editing your packing slip details to include a brief, thoughtful thank you to your buyers, and a kindly worded request to leave feedback if they feel so inclined. Email marketing is another option, as long as you send just one email per transaction and send only what you would be content to receive if you were in the buyer’s position. We have a customer who was able to increase his Amazon seller rating from 96-100% with ecomdash’s email marketing tool, so if done respectfully, it is a good option to encourage feedback.
5. Submitting Sticker-less/Comingled Inventory for FBA
If you use Amazon FBA to fulfill sales orders, you need to be sure your products have the appropriate barcode stickers on them before sending them to an Amazon warehouse. This means you need to make sure you do business with reputable suppliers only, who understand and abide by these standards. You should also take into consideration the pros and cons of Amazon FBA before committing.
- Items are eligible for free two-day shipping with Prime accounts.
- Rely on Amazon customer service to handle returns (we also have these easy steps to make returns pain-free, if you pick, pack and ship your own products).
- Can use FBA for multichannel fulfillment for your other sales channels.
Your products run the risk of being comingled. What does that mean? Comingled items are a group of the same product being stored together in a warehouse. When fulfilling an order, Amazon will take an item from the pile of identical products stored together. Just because you use a professional supplier, doesn’t mean all other sellers of that product will, and you run the risk of being lumped in with counterfeit and subpar goods. If an Amazon employee pulls a faulty product to be sent to your seller, it will reflect poorly on you, even though you did not source that defective item.
To ensure your items are labeled properly and available for fulfillment, follow the following steps.
- Print FBA labels directly from your Seller Central account.
- Cover your original manufacturer’s barcode.
- Make sure other barcodes (aside from your FBA printed label) cannot be scanned.
- Label each item before sending.
- Use only removable white labels.
6. Listing Products With Bad UPCs
A UPC is considered ‘bad’ by Amazon if it is fraudulent or incorrect. To list on the marketplace at all, most categories require a valid UPC as a pre-requisite to ensure item quality (some brands require this as well). A quality UPC will be found on the barcode and registered through GS1. You can purchase UPCs or apply for brand registry with Amazon, particularly if you manufacture and sell your own branded product. Also, note that UPCs for bundled and single products are different. If you’re unsure or need to know how to buy a UPC, check GS1 US.
7. Ignoring Amazon Communication Guidelines
Although seemingly simple enough, this policy can be breached without intention. In the world of online commerce, the same rules that apply to brick and mortar shops do not exist for e-stores. There is no such thing as a 9 to 5 window of being open for business – customers want to be able to reach you at any time. Here are some things to keep in mind when communicating with buyers.
- Saturdays are included in Amazon’s response time metric. Make sure you check your seller messages at least once every day.
- Orders with messages responded to within 24 hours receive 50% LESS negative feedback (a real metric Ryan shared with us that came directly from Amazon leadership).
- When contacting the buyer, make sure you use the buyer-seller messaging system, and reach out only for transactional reasons.
Finally, Ryan was kind enough to share one final kernel of wisdom with us – what to do if you do get suspended? On occasion, some of clients have suffered an Amazon suspension and will call Ryan for help with next steps. Ryan has them follow a strict plan of action, and usually, within 48 hours, they are back selling on Amazon. Here is what he suggests you do in the unfortunate event of facing an Amazon suspension.
- Fulfill any outstanding orders or open customer service issues. Amazon will automatically cancel pending orders.
- Try to get to the bottom of why you were suspending. Review your product details, seller ratings, customer service process, customer feedback, etc.
- Request an appeal. You can do this by
- Logging into Seller Central.
- Clicking on performance notification on the Performance link.
- Click appeal button within your suspension.
- Enter your plan of action.
- Your plan of action is your appeal for reinstatement to sell on Amazon. Ryan’s key components of a successful appeal are as follows:
- Professional language (remove all emotion – we understand how hard this is, given the situation).
- Address the issues that led to your suspension.
- Be specific about changes. What will you do in the future to rectify this situation completely?
- Identify areas for improvement. What else can you do to become a better Amazon seller?
- Show investment in your business career at Amazon. Consider signing up with FBA, or showing some other initiative that demonstrates how serious you are about selling successfully on the Amazon marketplace.
- Be exact! When discussing the occurrences that led to your suspension, give Amazon all the details and quantify everything. What was the exact time frame that you neglected a buyer-seller message? How many products ended up being flagged as counterfeit or subpar? Number everything, don’t be vague.
With this knowledge in your ecommerce tool belt, you should be able to steer clear of an Amazon suspension. And, before you hit the panic button, know that Amazon will send warnings of policy violations before a suspension, so you will have the opportunity to correct any issues. Many thanks to Ryan Barker for putting this all together; this is great information for Amazon retailers and any ecommerce sellers looking to start selling on Amazon.
Have you ever violated one of these seven deadly Amazon sins (knowingly or unknowingly)? Were you able to get reinstated? Let us know in the comments.