ER 016: Amazon Tricked, New Performance Reporting, Vine and Video, Product Reviews
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Fake law firm tricks Amazon and seller gets banned
New inventory performance dashboard
This is The Ecommerce Roundup, Podcast 16, today is September 15, 2017, I’m your host Bryan, and here’s the ecommerce news roundup for this week –
- Amazon tricked by a fake law firm and removed a listing
- New inventory performance reporting
- Video and Vine for FBA sellers
- A quick talk about product reviews
- Wall Street Segment
Amazon was tricked by a fake law firm and removed a listing
This is a very disturbing story I just saw this week.
An Amazon merchant said his hottest product was kicked off Amazon because of a complaint made by a fake law firm.
The merchant owns a store called Brushes4Less, and he was suspended for his best selling product, a toothbrush head replacement, because of an intellectual property violation. In order to resolve the matter and get the product reinstated, the owner would have to contact the law firm that filed the complaint.
But the law firm didn’t exist. And this was right before Prime Day this summer. The seller said that the matter was resolved in 2 months but that he also lost at least $200,000 in sales.
This is incredibly disconcerting for all sellers. Everyone needs to face it, there are bad actors out there and you might be a victim even if you’re following all the rules. Then if this happens to you, what are you going to do?
Amazon really doesn’t have a good way to address this right now, and with Amazon, you are guilty until proven innocent. So, I’d recommend being aware that you might get a competitor coming after you and filing a false claim that takes your business down. And if that happens, get a lawyer. I’m including a link in the show notes to this article, and in it you’ll find 2 people who help sellers resolve these issues. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/07/amazon-was-tricked-by-fake-law-firm-into-removing-toothbrush-head.html
I hope Amazon will clean this up for its sellers very quickly. Until then, keep your guard up and follow Terms of Service. Also always reply to messages from Seller Performance and other issues you have with Seller Support. You want your account to be clean and annotated that you are a seller in good standing.
New inventory performance dashboard just added
In Amazon’s own words – “The Inventory Performance dashboard is the hub for optimizing your FBA business. From this page you can identify opportunities to grow your sales, reduce costs, track your KPIs, and compare your performance to other sellers.”
Amazon uses the Inventory Performance Index to gage your seller performance, and they refer to it as your IPI score.
Currently you’re judged on three metrics – In stock rate, Excess inventory, and stranded inventory. Amazon has a little bar to also tell you how to stack up in comparison to other sellers.
I’m including a link in the show notes for you to review what this is, and it’s worth the five minute read – https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/202174810
If you don’t have this yet in your account, you probably will soon.
Video and Vine are coming to Seller Central
This is great that Amazon is giving Vendor tools to FBA sellers. To take advantage of this you need to be brand registered. If you haven’t started this process yet then start today. You need a trademark and that can take months. So start now.
Second, you’ll need to set up enhanced brand content for this. Then within EBC, you’ll be able to upload a video. This is slowly rolling out to FBA sellers.
I wouldn’t worry about making a video until you get this feature because you don’t know how long it’s going to take until you get it, and your time is better spent doing other things. But if you do have access to this feature, then you’ll want to make a professional looking video that’s both entertaining and educational that helps your product and brand stand out from the competition. I won’t go into making a video right now but hopefully we can do it in a later podcast.
Vine is also open now for FBA sellers. This is also slowly rolling out. It’s going to cost $1,000 per ASIN, and you’ll be giving away your product for free for reviews. You can also get these reviews before you launch your product so it’s incredibly valuable to have these reviews right away so you can hit the ground running.
Unfortunately, this is an extremely expensive program and the rich sellers will be able to use this to their advantage and it’s going to be harder to launch for small sellers. I don’t like this price tag. I wonder if Amazon is deliberately trying to get smaller sellers off of the platform with programs like this.
Although, if you think about a product making over $100,000 in it’s lifetime or even more, then spending $1,000 to do the vine program isn’t such a huge cost long term. I guess it just depends on your product, your market, and your business if you decide to do this.
A quick talk about product reviews
Given that we just spoke about Vine coming to FBA sellers, and that getting reviews these days is so hard, I just wanted to go over a few things on the latest strategies to get reviews.
Building your own email list, using giveaways and Facebook ads is still the best way to build your own internal launch list and build a relationship with your customers so you can get reviews on demand. This takes a long time, but it’s worth working on right now. Ultimately this is your best long term strategy. Scott from the Amazon Seller has a whole webinar on this and it’s a good lesson if you haven’t seen it yet. I do things a bit differently but the gist is the same. So number 1 is to build your own email list, now.
If you can’t wait for your email list, and if you’re brand registered then do the early reviewer program. It’s $60 but worth it to get early reviews. The first are the most critical. If you have access to Vine then calculate your expected cost per review. Maybe it’ll be about $15-20 per review and that would be worth it to you.
Okay, but what about if you’re not brand registered yet, and don’t have an email list?
What about launch services like Viral Launch and Zon Blast? Those places don’t ask their buyers to leave reviews anymore. So you can expect less than 5% of people buying your product there to leave reviews. I get less than 5% from speaking with people who use those services.
What else can you do? Email reviewers directly.
Many buyers still list their email address on their Amazon reviewer profile. You can find products with many reviews, go through the reviews, and look for the email addresses of reviewers.
Then email them directly. Ask them if they want to try your product for a discount or for free. Just do not ask them for a review at all. If you do you’re breaking terms of service. But, you’re allowed to give away product for free to influencers. And let’s face it Amazon reviewers are influencers. As long as it’s unconditional and no review is expected then I can’t see why it’s against Terms of Service. If you do this then a certain percentage of them probably will leave reviews because people like leaving reviews. Just never pester them about reviews and don’t expect it. If it happens that’s up to them, and it has nothing to do with you giving them free or discounted product. I’ve gone over the rules with people I know and thought about this a lot, and I don’t think you’re breaking any Amazon rule by doing this. This is the best way to get quick reviews in my opinion.
Also, I know people use Vipon.com to find deals for Amazon, so list your product there. Buyers do use Snag Shout and Jump Send but many more people use Vipon. Vipon is more expensive but it’s probably worth it due to the volume.
Also, I know there are still Facebook review groups out there. I also know that some sellers will make deals with reviewers so that the reviewers buy the product at full price, write a review, and then the seller reimburses them over PayPal or something like that. This is totally against terms of service and I recommend you never do this although you probably will not get caught. It’s just not worth the risk. The small chance of being caught for this will get you banned and it’s not worth it.
Are there sellers out there breaking the rules? Yes, absolutely. But I don’t recommend you do it. It’s just not worth it.
Wall Street Segment
In this week’s Wall Street segment, let’s talk about Amazon first.
Amazon is building a giant new warehouse in India so they are investing heavily there. This is awesome news for everyone selling on Amazon. India is a country with over 1 billion people. And because of their democracy and openness and because English being an official language there I think it’ll be easier to sell on Amazon India than it will be to sell on Amazon China for quite some time. Amazon going big into India will open up a giant market for Amazon sellers around the world.
Amazon is also building a mega warehouse in Mexico near Mexico City to be completed next year. It’s going to triple Amazon’s distribution space in Mexico, which has over 100 million people. This is also great news for Amazon sellers. I’ve personally been very disappointed in Amazon Mexico up until now so to see them invest in Mexico to build out the marketplace and their distribution capability is good news.
Hillary Clinton came out with a book about why she lost the 2016 presidential election and Amazon has been removing hundreds of 1 star reviews of the book. If you check out the listing on Amazon, you’ll see that reviews are either 1 star or 5 stars. Obviously she’s a very polarizing person, but forget about politics, it’s interesting to see Amazon interfering with a product’s reviews so aggressively like this. I don’t know if this is unprecedented or not, but my personal feeling is that this isn’t a good move by Amazon for PR purposes. It’s just going to make people angrier as opposed to just leaving it alone. I think the majority of people either love or hate Hillary and the reviews of the book won’t make a difference. Although in Amazon doing this, it’s certainly good PR for Clinton’s book, so she will probably sell more books because of this issue, so Clinton and her publisher are probably happy about it. I do think though that if Amazon continues to police the reviews for this book then it sets a dangerous precedent for all sellers because how will we know which products get review policing and which don’t, and why would they too? There are just too many questions rather than just maintaining a strict policy of non interference. Maybe they’re doing it because all these reviews came the day the book was published and it’s impossible to read a book in a day? Maybe. Then if that’s the case then reviews for books shouldn’t be allowed for a few days after they are released. Review abuse is rampant on Amazon and there’s got to be a better way for Amazon to deal with reviews.
Shopify stock is up over 20% this last month. Why? Because the company continues to grow at a clip. Although the current stock price expects Shopify to continue to grow. If growth numbers don’t meet expectations, then it’s going to fall.
Bitcoin continues to crash hard this week. I think it’s still because of China closing down bitcoin exchanges and banning it. A ton of bitcoin trading was coming from Asia and now with the Chinese out then it makes sense that the price will fall. The CEO of JP Morgan came out against Bitcoin very publicly this week, but it seems that people aren’t concerned by that. Is this a bitcoin or crypto currency buying opportunity right now or will it fall further? You be the judge.
So that’s it for today. Thanks for listing.
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