Posts in Brand Management

Amazon Scams: How to Spot Them and How to Stop Them

April 15th, 2019 Posted by Amazon, Brand Management, Scams, Seller Central 0 thoughts on “Amazon Scams: How to Spot Them and How to Stop Them”

With over 6 million sellers and accounting for nearly half of the online retail market, Amazon has grown too big to ignore. People are taking advantage of its size and of you: the customer. With so many products and sellers to sift through, it becomes a challenge to spot the scams before they happen. The balancing act of buying from the most reputable seller, with the highest quality product, at the lowest price is all a guessing game. Then you get your package, or maybe you don’t, and only then do you know if you made the right call. Thanks to the effort of Amazon, fellow sellers, and the unfortunate victims or scams, identifying a scam before becoming their next victim has gotten just a little bit easier.

Unauthorized Sellers

Big brands sell their products to carefully selected distributors and stores, but once it’s on the market it’s basically fair game. If a distributor offers a big sale or even if it’s Black Friday at Walmart, anyone can get their hands on a product at a discounted price to turn around and resell it at a higher price. The issue here is that any average Joe can stockpile a bunch of bulk buys in his garage and list it online.

This is one of the biggest obstacles for fellow sellers who have received authorization from the brand, or often are the brand themselves, because these sellers compromise the brand integrity. They often undercut MAP, don’t adhere to the storage or packaging guidelines, steal the sales of reputable rule-following sellers, and cause bad reviews on what were once well ranked, successful listings.

These sellers evade legal action under the first sale doctrine which basically says anyone has the right to buy and resell a product. Brands can overcome this legal loophole by trademarking not just the product, but the way the product is handled. When a rogue seller pops on with their unauthorized inventory, the threat of legal action is much more real if they can’t adhere to the handling trademark. This helps prevent you from receiving someone’s garage inventory that’s see who knows what kind of exposure and elements.

Counterfeit Products

When purchasing a product on Amazon, typically the buy box is devoted to a seller with a combination of the best price, most convenient shipping, and a solid reputation. But sometimes merchant sellers with low or no reviews will discount the prices so low that they get the buy box by default. The question often is, how can these sellers afford to sell and ship the items as such a low price?

The answer: it’s not always the product that you think it is. These scam sellers can launch their account and within just a couple days, they have hundreds or thousands of listings. Their prices are unbeatable, enticing the customer and jeopardizing the brand’s integrity. Then the consumer receives a product that they really didn’t want. By the time consumers and Amazon catch on to the scam, the seller has likely already made several sales, lots of money, and they’re gone in the wind.
It’s safest to beware the “Just Launched” Seller. Sure, everyone has to get their start somewhere, and often new sellers will discount products to grab initial attention and begin building sales. But as always, it’s too good to be true, it often is. If a seller has just launched, doesn’t have any reviews, and offers a popular brand’s product in new condition at an unreasonable price, you can bet it’s a scam.

No Show Packages

The biggest drawback to purchasing products online as opposed to in person is the lack of personal guarantee. In a store you can see and hold the product, ensuring its authenticity and that it is, in fact, there. Any time you purchase something online you’re risking the guarantee that you would get from that personal experience, but it’s a gamble we’re often willing to take for reduced prices and increased convenience.

So, what about when you take the chance and the product just isn’t there? You don’t receive a counterfeit item or the wrong item. It’s not damaged or broken. It just never arrives. Much like counterfeit items, these listings are often owned by just launched sellers who have tons of available products, generate sales quickly, and then disappear.

Amazon has started beating these sellers to the punch by requiring legitimate tax identity information. This verifies the authenticity of the account and holds the seller responsible for their account’s performance. They have also tackled security look holes that were previously abused by scam sellers. This all makes it more challenging for someone to use fraudulent or stolen information, but still it’s not impossible.

Stick to the Site

Possibly the biggest red flag of all the scams out there is when a seller asks you to contact them outside of the site. Reports have been made of high dollar items at heavily discounted rates being sold by scam sellers. On the listing there will be information that requests you to email the seller outside of Amazon to purchase the product. They receive an email response with an Amazon logo from what appears to be an Amazon email address. The email has a link for you to purchase the product, enter in all your card information, and now you’re waiting for your package. But it never comes.

What makes this so much more stressful that fraudulent accounts on Amazon is that Amazon cannot help you in this situation. They have no record of your transaction because it happened outside of their website. They can’t issue a refund or resend the product. You just lost your money.

Amazon typically does a good job policing content on their listings and flagging certain wording that would request you to contact or purchase from another site, but consumers must remember that most of their systems are automated. If a scammer creates a listing from scratch, it’s easier for them to control the content without alerting Amazon or other sellers. Scams are also orchestrated from a human level, so it comes down to the human brain versus an algorithm, and the human brain will always find a loophole. The best rule of thumb is to only purchase from the Amazon website, verify the URL address bar, and don’t correspond off the website.

Trust Your Gut

The first step to protecting yourself from scams is knowing how the scammers target consumers and carry out their scams. Knowing the issues that other consumers have already faced can help you protects yourself in the future from fraudulent listings and dishonest sellers. While Amazon and authentic sellers are working together to get scams shut down before they can even begin, there will still be some that slip through the cracks. It’s important for you to be vigilant, as well. Remember to scout thoroughly, checking reviews on both the seller and product level. Do not purchase products from an Amazon listing outside of the Amazon market place. And as always, trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

Amazon Vendors Pressured onto Seller Central: An Unexpected Shift

March 8th, 2019 Posted by Amazon, Brand Management, Seller Central 0 thoughts on “Amazon Vendors Pressured onto Seller Central: An Unexpected Shift”

Once again, it appears Amazon is pulling the carpet from underneath its vendors in a bold surprise move. While Amazon has not made an official statement, rumors are swirling that Amazon.com, without warning, has stopped purchasing products from many of their wholesalers, instilling fear amongst their vendors. Without any official communication at this time, Amazon vendors have stopped receiving their regularly scheduled POs for the week. As panic sweeps the community, many vendors are turning to forums, community channels, and social media sites in hopes for some form of clarity on the situation. With a clear lack of information from Amazon and reportedly thousands of vendors impacted, the time is now to consult with an Amazon-focused agency.

The abrupt shift from Amazon is a clear attempt to encourage vendors to sell directly on their marketplace, shifting to Seller Central. Amazon, looking at the bigger picture, can now offload the cost of purchasing, shipping, and even storing products. All the while, Amazon can continue to charge suppliers for these services, while also pocketing a commission on every transaction, which is a much more secure strategy. Amazon remains to be buyer-centric. The company is determined to raise profits within its core e-commerce business, even if that means disrupting relationships with its loyal suppliers. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that many suppliers need to source products from manufactures months in advance. Vendors will need to act quickly in shifting to an appropriate sales tactic if the expected orders do not arrive.

CEO Dan Brownsher, of Channel Key, a LA-based e-commerce business, selling more than $100 million of goods on Amazon annually has already spoken out. He states, “If you’re heavily reliant on Amazon, which a lot of these vendors are, you’re in a lot of trouble.” The only related statement to come from Amazon reads, “We regularly review our selling partner relationships and may make changes when we see an opportunity to provide customers with improved selection, value, and convenience.” The company continues to decline specific inquiries on the situation. A lot of the panic was noted at the recent ShopTalk conference that drew in a crowd of over 8,000 retailers in LA. Many vendors have stated that Amazon simply stopped submitting routine orders on a large variety of products, usually without any explanation.

With Amazon’s rapidly evolving platform, it is crucial to choose your Amazon partners wisely. Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have all adapted Amazon’s online business model. Amazon will generate e-commerce revenue of $317 billion this year alone. This figure represents 52.4% of all online sales in the U.S, according to EMarketer Inc. With Amazon, once again shifting the marketplace, more vendors will now be forced to sell on the marketplace directly or run into the risk of getting stuck with unsold inventory said the CEO of Marketplace Valet, Will Land.

If you haven’t already done so, put together a contingency plan. Continue to stay cool and go about your business as usual on Vendor Central. Continue promoting, advertising, etc… The goal is and always has been to keep sales momentum steady and ensure a painless transition when a shift occurs. If it is all a little too overwhelming, come talk to us. With our 32 years of experience in the industry, we have the foundation to guide your brand through these troubled waters.

Fight the Amazon Fees

October 16th, 2018 Posted by Amazon, Brand Management 0 thoughts on “Fight the Amazon Fees”

Welcome to the fourth quarter where everything is amped up and your budgets don’t matter. Amazon’s recently redesigned long-term storage fees kicked off last September. Combined with the annual increase in monthly storage fees, it’s getting more challenging to leave your products in a fulfillment center. Sellers have to balance the right amount of inventory to keep their product in stock without costing them a fortune in fees.  With the heat turned up, some sellers have decided to take themselves out of the kitchen. Programs like Seller Fulfilled Prime, FBA Onsite and e-Fulfillment are making the reasons to keep your products at an Amazon fulfillment center obsolete.

Going Through Changes

In March Amazon declared that they would be changing a number of Inventory Storage Fees and Policies. First, monthly storage fees would be in increasing $0.05 across the board for items of all sizes. Then they said they would be changing the Long Term Storage Fees as well. There would now be a minimum long-term storage fee of $0.50 for any product over 365 days old at an Amazon Fulfillment Center. That means even the tiniest of items would cost at least $0.50 per until to store after 365 days.

But possibly the largest change was taking the long-term storage fees from semiannual to monthly. Starting September 15th, products over 180 days old would be charged some kind of long-term storage fee. Inconveniently, this plan was implemented after the last semiannual fee date and the month before the monthly storage fees triple for the fourth quarter. Avalanche found themselves in a pickle and began exploring options to relieve the financial stress of storing their products with Amazon.

Become Self Fulfilling

Amazon has a program called Seller Fulfilled Prime which allows sellers to get a prime badge while sending the products from their own warehouse. Sellers can enroll online through their existing account. They just have to provide their information and location, complete a trial, and then they can offer prime to the people around them.

Whether a customer has Amazon Prime or not, they’re more likely to purchase products from a Prime seller. The Prime badge holds a certain amount of trust and integrity. People know they can get what they want, within two days, without paying for shipping, and they know Amazon wouldn’t endorse anything less.

The main setback with classic Seller Fulfilled Prime is that you’re geographically limited. If you shop our products outside of a certain distance, our account no longer offers prime. Because we’re located on the east coast, we’re fortunately able to reach major cities like Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York. However, we still cannot provide Prime to places like Los Angeles or Houston.

Keep it Close to Home

Avalanche has been working on their FBA Onsite game for about a year now, and the payoff is immense. Onsite gives us the ability to receive things in our own warehouse and list them for sale on Amazon while maintaining our Prime badge and listing us as Fulfilled by Amazon. Essentially, our warehouse has been turned into an Amazon Fulfillment Center. The more we’re able to store on our own campus, the less we have to pay in storage fees, and we can do it all while still maintaining the integrity of an FBA seller.

Because we don’t have to pay storage fees of any kind for Onsite products, it allows us to sell and ship oversized items that were once too expensive to send to Amazon. It’s also a great help for when Amazon is backed up on checking in products. If we check our inventory in on Onsite while it’s in transit to Amazon, we can cover potential out of stock days. This will be especially convenient come December when Amazon can no longer guarantee that your product will be checked in before Christmas.

Certainly, this isn’t without its own fees and complications. We have to have our warehouse and equipment inspected and regulated by Amazon, ensuring that we’re meeting all their requirements. There are still Onsite fees to be paid to Amazon, but whenever these fees are cheaper than sending it to Amazon, we keep the products on campus.

UPS Ups the Game

The most recent endeavor on which Avalanche is embarking is UPS’s new e-Fulfillment program. UPS has two fulfillment centers, one in California and one in Kentucky where sellers can now send their products. In these centers, sellers can store and ship their products through their account on Amazon under Seller Fulfilled Prime. They even fulfill to 15 different sales channels, expanding the customer base for sellers.

Because Avalanche is located on the east coast and the UPS warehouses are in Kentucky and California, it gives our account the ability to show Seller Fulfilled Prime nationwide. It also improves our rate of replenishment. While typically we stop ordering Halloween products from west coast companies at the beginning of October, we’re able to order well into the season and have them shipped directly to an e-Fulfillment center. This also helps out our own shipping department who have enough on their plate during the fourth quarter. UPS even guarantees that all products will be checked in within two days of receiving, which will be especially helpful come December 2nd when Amazon can’t guarantee a product will get checked in before Christmas.

The program is still in its very beginning stages, but Avalanche is already showing profits on a handful of products that they’ve sent in for e-Fulfillment. The more successful the program is and with the addition of new sellers, they could expand their fulfillment centers and may promise to be a convenient alternative to fulfillment by Amazon.

There’s Always an Answer

Amazon has been throwing curveballs our way since we’ve listed on their site in 2009. Sometimes we strike out and other times it’s a home run, but no matter what’s happening on the field, our team is always working to find new and innovative solutions. The change in storage fees may have been a setback, but it helped us explore and expand other avenues of sales, which could prove to be more lucrative than our previous approaches. We live each day like it’s the first and see every hurdle as an opportunity to learn and grow.

The Secrets to Expanding Your Brand

August 1st, 2018 Posted by Amazon, Brand Management 0 thoughts on “The Secrets to Expanding Your Brand”

Essential Online Presence

Amazon is the largest internet based retailer in the world. They have retail websites for 15 different countries and the ability to ship worldwide. With that kind of exposure, it only makes sense for retailers to have their products listed on the website. Brick and mortar appeals to local consumers and independent websites are great for brand presence and consistency, but for a retailer interested in volume, Amazon is the key.

Here’s the catch, Amazon can be a multifaceted and challenging experience requiring attention from a full-time team. For this reason, many brands and distributors partner with third-party retailers who dedicate their time to maintaining brand integrity and value product by product. This gives retailers the time work on their brand and product line on an intimate level while teams like Avalanche handle the Amazon storefront in a variety of ways.

Getting Your Products Noticed

Amazon has very specific algorithms for what products appear when you’re browsing. One of the factors is a product’s sales rank, based on the frequency with which that product is purchased in comparison to other products in that category. Items that are brand new to the marketplace will not have a sales rank yet, and items that are not properly managed can often time have a poor sales rank. Even if you’re selling the most useful or stylish item, your rank can keep you from getting anywhere.

Partnering with a business like Avalanche Industries will ensure that your product is seen. We have a whole team dedicated to just advertising your products. We run campaigns so when people search related products, regardless of previous sales volume or reviews, your product can appear at the top or bottom of the page. Sometimes a sponsored advertisement will appear on the actual page of a related product.

Perfecting the Production Process

Companies like Avalanche also get your products noticed with proper listing optimization. They employee in-house photographers, copywriters, videographers, and graphic artist to ensure that each product is displaying at its full potential. We shoot the product both in the studio and take it on location to get the full spectrum of uses and looks. When we sign an Exclusive Partner we generally optimize 10 to 20 listings upfront. That’s anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 in complimentary production services that we offer our clients, showing our partnerships how seriously we take our relationship and our dedication to long-term success. With proper titling, keywording, and descriptions your product is searchable and enticing to consumers. The benefit of partnerships between brands and third-party retailers can pay for itself instantly with production services alone.

Our Lead Photographer, Chris Vendetta explains the importance of brand consistency, “As a consumer when I find a great product, then go to Amazon and I see poor images, iPhone box shots, I doubt what I am getting. I worry if it’s a knockoff. I worry it was used. Data shows that doubt on the consumer end will cost you sales long term.” With a production team, associates work with their brand and reps to identify what should be showcased about their brand as a whole, as well on the product level to ensure consumer-friendly consistency.

Maintaining Brand Integrity

Anyone who has optimized a listing on Amazon knows that the most painstaking tasks is getting your images, copywriting, or videos to show on the page. Once it shows, there’s no guarantee that it will continue to show, so essentially all of that production work was for naught. Third party retailers often have their own departments dedicated to maintaining the listing to show all of the production work.

Occasionally when information falls off a product or it receives a bad review, Amazon will take the listing down. These teams also catch any inactive or suppressed listings to fix them and get them up and running again for consumers to see. Avalanche has its own in-house proprietary software to catch any listing issues, so our teams can fix them immediately.

Shaped Up and Shipped Out

Amazon has a variety of packing, shipping, and labeling rules and regulations for a product to be considered sellable. Your brand’s packaging, no matter how creative or stylish, might not be up to code for Amazon. Third party sellers like Avalanche have fully equipped shipping departments where your products can be expertly prepped, packed, labeled, and shipped under all fulfillment standards.

Avalanche currently has a total of 58 full-time employees including a number of temporary and part-time employees. They are in teams or managers, preppers, shippers, receivers, and issues staff and work in three large industrial warehouses. With all efforts combined Avalanche ships about 350,000 units and over 300 pallets per month. Most retailers do not have the capacity to do all of the shipping and labeling while producing their own line of products, which is why partnering with a third party retail can immeasurably beneficial for a company.

All of the Opportunities with None of the Work

Third party retailers are the perfect option for companies that want all of the volume of listing on Amazon without any of the effort to maintain listings. Companies that partner with Avalanche can maintain their brick and mortar store and work on expanding their brand while third-party retailers like Avalanche handle their day to day business with Amazon. We take optimization and upkeep of your plate so you can focus on what you do best. It just takes one more pallet and one more invoice to send, allowing for maximum return on investment.

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