One of our clients had a major challenge, wherein for every original product listing, there were 0.5 phony product variations and 1.5 duplicate listings. This was not only detrimental to their brand value, but also their sales, with an observed drop of 25% in the Buy Box appearance. We employed a range of data-driven techniques to create a comprehensive list of all the sellers and helped them identify the ones cannibalizing their sales.
While this was a specific case that we dealt with, unauthorized sellers on the platform operate in a variety of ways:
- Creating phony listings: This tactic involves the manipulation of Amazon’s policy, which allows the creation of new listings for even slight variations in the product specifications. This avoids detection of the products on Amazon through external price tracking software.
- Using phony names or multiple seller accounts: These sellers use generic display names instead of official company/establishment names or simply switch to a different seller account, rendering it impossible to track and take them down.
- Selling counterfeit products: As per the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report, the amount of total counterfeiting worldwide was estimated to reach 1.82 Trillion USD by 2020. Out of this, 25% of the losses come through digital channels. Amazon is no exception in this regard. In fact, in May 2020, Amazon seized and destroyed over 2 million counterfeit products that sellers had sent to their warehouses. Following are two types of counterfeit products that exist in the Amazon system-
a) Exact counterfeits: Some unauthorized sellers attach to your existing product listings and start selling your products or fake products. They may also create duplicates of your listings.
b) Variation counterfeits: Some unauthorized sellers start selling fake copies of your products by converting your product designs into their own versions, listing them as variations of your products.
It is necessary to identify these issue listings and their sellers on Amazon. If your ASINs are few, you can do this manually. However, an automated system to identify the issues is quite useful.
- Manipulating Amazon’s algorithm: In cases where multiple sellers are offering the same product, Amazon’s pro-buyer policy chooses that seller for the Buy Box who makes a sale and not necessarily the one who is an authorized seller. Unauthorized sellers use repricing software to ensure lower prices and higher buy box percentage. In addition to this, there are also instances where these notorious sellers take control of the product listing and manipulate it to suit their requirements. In cases where the listing is created by a nefarious seller, the original brand owner loses autonomy and is unable to make any further edits to their listing.
The loss of Buy Box is the most devastating to a brand, causing massive loss of revenue. Since Amazon wants to offer customers the most competitive pricing and does not view unauthorized sellers as violators unless there are copyright or intellectual property infringements, it does not get extensively involved in unauthorized seller related matters. And so, it becomes critical for sellers to protect their brand through other measures.