Ask A Former Amazonian- Selling on Amazon FAQs
As part of my new year’s initiative to meet personally with as many proactive and knowledgeable Amazon sellers as possible, I spoke at an Amazon Seller event in NYC for World First.
The subjects covered anything from the quality of supply chain documentation to multiple account policies and overall “what to do” first if Amazon takes away your valuable listings.
For those who don’t know, World First provide in-country receiving accounts to collect your Amazon revenues overseas. They really could save you compared to using Amazon’s converter service.
I started working with World First about two years ago, when they referred suspended sellers to me for assistance. Since then, we’ve managed to help several of their sellers recover suspended accounts or restricted listings.
Answering a range of questions from sellers, I noticed that there are knowledge gaps from one or another country and how policy differences between marketplaces pose unprecedented challenges to third-party sellers.
Yet no matter what areas we delved into or what country we focused on, the message I deliver stays clear: stay on top of things by monitoring performance and policy actions on your account, all the time.
Erroneous assumptions could easily lead to the downfall of a well-established, properly-run Amazon account.
Pay attention to key pieces of information, and convince them that you’ve resolved problems fully in your communications with those teams.
I’ve seen multiple sellers trying to avoid email correspondence because they’re not sure what to say, or they hope the problems with specific listings will go away.
I understand that amazon does not post specific guidelines or “what to do next” lists. It will always be up to the seller to rectify known problems that caused performance notifications.
All replies or Plans of Action submitted to performance or policy teams have to address buyer (or, as we discussed at Brooklyn Brewery, right’s owner) complaints in a meaningful and permanent fashion.
If Amazon believes that problem resolution lingers a bit out of your reach due to incomplete “root causes” or they decide that the presented solutions fall short, then to Amazon, you haven’t fixed anything. That’s usually where sellers find themselves stuck in endless requests for more, and then more after that, and still more later on, despite the fact that they think they’re including all relevant information.
As we discussed in some of the specific areas below, there’s more to the puzzle when trying to read Amazon’s tea leaves. What kind of more? Here I’ll give a few examples.
What Kind of Documentation Do I Need to Have?
Good documentation, and usually lots of it. This is the documentation you need to protect your account.
The days of having an invoice from your supplier to hand over as sufficient proof that you’ve got a legitimate item are drawing to a close. Any time Amazon challenges the authenticity of your products based on past buyer complaints, you’ll want to have at minimum authenticity letters from each supplier ready to go.
If you’re a reseller, understand now that a difficult path awaits you ahead.
Amazon refuses to get caught in the middle if the brand you’re selling dislikes your sales of their items on the site. They know that brands will employ all potential weapons at their disposal to knock you off those listings, including infringement claims, trademark violation reports, and other intellectual property complaints.
Even if you buy from authorized resellers, brands often do their utmost to target you with these tactics, not alleging inauthentic items, but alleging right’s infringement. They know Amazon will remove you and steps back while prompting you to contact the brand themselves to resolve the matter.
If nothing else, the brands know they can get you to name a distributor so that they can take the matter up with them. If you don’t name where you sourced the goods, the brand won’t contact Amazon on your behalf to indicate the matter’s been resolved.
When those brands drag Amazon into the fray, Amazon now prefers to suspend the account where they formerly sent warnings or simply removed listings.
Notice teams are now much less prone to send notifications for multiple ASINs while leaving you to sell during a period when you try to resolve the complaint.
From Amazon’s perspective, receiving complaints from brands about such violations requires proper actions to avoid liability risk and it also drains precious resources that they could devote elsewhere.
Ultimately, it’s easier to suspend the account and prompt you to submit a comprehensive POA proving it will never happen again. That makes brands happy and reduces the workload of Amazon’s internal policy teams.
If the brand did not agree in writing to let you sell their products on Amazon, then expect that knock on the door anytime.
Private label sellers have other concerns.
Will buyers in a particular international marketplace take to a certain item you sell in the US differently?
Will they complain more about it?
Conduct as many tests as you can before you sell internationally.
You’ll be grateful later on if some results indicate your item would not be well received, or even understood, in say the UK or Germany.
Remember, proper content in titles and across your product detail page can separate a buyer order from an ignored listing.
Some buyer misunderstandings result in the now omnipresent “safety incident” complaints. Amazon takes action to remove any listing which might represent a health hazard or risk of bodily harm.
All sellers must make sure invoices are dated within the past 365 days for anything you have sitting in FBA now, and be willing to remove items 365 days or older to prevent problems with aging inventory.
Sellers can’t risk the possibility of a buyer complaint regarding condition, authenticity, or safety of an item that fails to sell within acceptable time periods. If your invoice shows FBA held on to the item for a long time, it’s considered an aging product by their current definitions.
This is doubly true in the case of expiration dates.
If you sell consumables and you’re anywhere within a few months until expiration, pull those products now. They cannot be sold unless you’d like to risk buyers reporting to Amazon that the normal life use of your items push them past expiration.
Product safety is just as important (and rightfully so) as anti-counterfeit policies that you keep hearing about, so tread carefully. Don’t give buyers any opportunities to complain about you, and don’t give Amazon any reasons to warn or suspend.
Is Seller Performance the same globally? Are the same teams dealing with my Amazon UK or Amazon.DE appeals as in the US? Is it all India?
Performance and Policy teams are global. Amazon has its main base of account investigators in India, Europe, and the US in Seattle.
Many sellers have asked me, “When’s a good time to submit a POA to keep it away from investigators in India?”
The answer is that investigators work day and night shifts in India, so at any given moment, they may be reading your appeal.
In my experience, training and auditing quality remains low across the board no matter what team handles your case at whichever time of day, so trying to outthink Amazon investigations won’t help you much.
The bottom line is, each seller needs a strong enough Plan of Action in order to anticipate any chance of success with an appeal.
If you’re playing guessing games about who may read it and what they’ll be willing to accept in which global office, you’re looking at everything the wrong way.
If you end up requiring an escalation to get reinstatement work completed, you need the solid POA before even deciding where to send the email, let alone when.
Don’t worry about who works where at a time where the quality of all enforcement work is at an all-time low point.
What am I supposed to do now, I’ve had multiple accounts for awhile!?
There’s no clear answer for this one, unfortunately.
If you’ve sold for months and years on two accounts but never asked Seller Performance for permission to operate separate and distinct but related accounts, then you’re either waiting for them to notice and take action, or you’re closing one account down yourself before it presents any headaches down the road.
Sellers can reasonably expect to avoid trouble later on if they take action now to move listings and inventory out of an account they plan to close themselves.
I have not seen any examples of sellers who took this unilateral action without being prompted by warnings from Seller Performance who received punishment later on for accounts lacking permission.
What we do see, however, and regularly is that sellers face a range of possible punishments if they continue to operate more than one account that is quite clearly related to another one.
I’m selling a lot of the same inventory in the UK, that I sell in the US, but I keep running afoul of policy violations! I have lost many listings for products. What Should I Do to prevent this?
You need to take as much time, effort and energy as possible to identify potential violations of local laws or Amazon policies when you load listings for sale in a new, and foreign, marketplace.
For example, if you sell vitamins and supplements, which product ingredients are disallowed in the UK?
Selling in the UK does not mean moving over all inventory from the US and selling the same way you sell on Amazon.com. Amazon reps invited you to sell in the UK and that’s great, but you have to embrace the responsibility that goes along with it, too.
By the way, since we’re talking UK:
What is this UK verification/ Amazon Payments process that signs everyone out of their accounts?
The murky and endlessly frustrating situation around accounts suspended, or permanently closed, for what’s known by many as the “UK Verifications” process.
These are often triggered by a “Know Your Customer” investigation after a seller signs up for amazon payments, or changed their financial information in Seller Central.
If a seller “fails review” without any specifics into what caused that failure, sellers find themselves signed out of their accounts without access.
They tend to stay that way, either until they can re-submit the information properly and completely.
But keep in mind, failing a process this air-tight to begin with likely means greatly reduced chances on a second or third pass. Even getting a reply becomes an irresolvable problem for most, or seeing one within weeks, or months.
There are multiple problems with appealing any review process failure or attempting to reinstate an account you no longer have any access to.
Any seller can certainly attempt to reconfigure the requested documents but make sure you decide before you start how much your UK account actually means to you. If you have everything together and ready to re-submit for an appeal, do you know where to send it if there’s no response from verifications teams?
Up next, I’ll be meeting with Amazon sellers in Sydney on April 27th to hear their stories. I’m investing a lot of time this year meeting with international sellers and matching up their experiences with sellers in other regions with Amazon’s truly global marketplace. World First will be there and so will like-minded sellers looking to discuss strategy and successful approaches to appeals sent to Seller Performance and Product Quality. Join the Sydney Amazon Seller’s Meetup.
(Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for World First)