Account Suspensions and How to Run a Nimble Product Business

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Joe Zalta explains how sellers get notified about listing shutdowns due to recalls
  • How Riverbend Consulting resolves Amazon suspension issues and how they handle sellers who try to cheat and sell counterfeits
  • Joe talks about Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) returns that involve bad items being moved back to inventory
  • How having a customer-centered philosophy leads to a long-standing excellent relationship with Amazon
  • Joe discusses the best practices for packaging Amazon products and how to optimize product instructions and photos on Amazon
  • Joe shares 3 key points to becoming an entrepreneur in 2020 on Amazon and tips for finding the next big thing to sell on Amazon
  • What nimble Amazon management is and how it can catapult you to the next level
  • Why being part of a group of other Amazon sellers is beneficial to entrepreneurs
  • Joe explains what variation abuse means on Amazon listings and how he helps clients resolves issues related to it

In this episode…

When Amazon sends a notification to sellers that their listings have been taken down, most of them don’t know where to start in the appeal process. This tends to be a high-level issue and for the sellers that try to resolve the problem on their own. They’re hit with roadblocks in the process that make them realize that they need professional help to fix the problem.

Joe Zalta’s team at Riverbend Consulting comes into the picture the moment the notification is received. They help resolve account suspension issues and work with Amazon sellers to ensure that such issues are resolved as fast as possible and how they can avoid encountering these issues in the future.

In this episode of Buy Box Experts, Joe Zalta is interviewed by Eric Stopper about how the work Riverbend Consulting does for Amazon sellers. Tune in as he shares some of the best tips to avoid suspension issues, how to optimize product instructions and photos on Amazon, how to avoid variations abuse on the platform, and find out how to discover the next big thing to sell on Amazon for you to become the best entrepreneur you can be this 2020.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

Buy Box Experts applies decades of e-commerce experience to successfully manage their clients’ marketplace accounts. The Buy Box account managers specialize in combining an understanding of their clients’ business fundamentals and their in-depth expertise in the Amazon Marketplace. 

The team works with marketplace technicians using a system of processes, proprietary software, and extensive channel experience to ensure your Amazon presence captures the opportunity in the marketplace–not only producing greater revenue and profits but also reducing or eliminating your business’ workload. 

Buy Box prides itself on being one of the few agencies with an SMB (small to medium-sized business) division and an Enterprise division. Buy Box does not commingle clients among divisions as each has unique needs and requirements for proper account management. 

Learn more about Buy Box Experts at BuyBoxExperts.com

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:09
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts Podcast where we bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e-commerce world.

Eric Stopper 0:18
This is Eric stopper and welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast. This episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. We take ambitious brands and make them unbeatable. Big brands hire us because we are one of the best holistic solutions on the market. We’d love to talk with you about what you want to get done on Amazon where your struggles are, where you see low hanging fruit, and we have a team of consultants who will help you figure that out. I am one of them. I’m on this consulting team. Reach out to me reach out to any of my colleagues we know our stuff we’d love to help you make more revenue and navigate the platform as best as possible. So go to buyboxexperts.com click on the free analysis button at completely free, no strings attached. We will eventually start charging for it though because our time is just getting scarcer and scarcer. Now today, I am honored to bring on Joe Zalta from Riverbend Consulting. He runs a team of consultants who work with many of the top thousand Amazon sellers, as well as smaller sellers, to help them prevent account suspension and to get ahead of potential issues right, just nipping into the bud before it can become a problem. Their team is comprised of ex amazon seller, performance managers and other people who have worked at Amazon. And these consultants work hand in hand to find solutions. So all of the changing Amazon policies. Joe is an expert. He’s an Amazon seller and he’s come to impart his knowledge about how to become the best that you can on Amazon. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Zalta 1:51
Eric, great to be here, man. Great to be here. I love what you guys are doing.

Eric Stopper 1:56
Yeah, we’re having a lot of fun. Now I have all sorts of questions. For you around a bunch of different topics, but give me the rundown on like the most significant thing that you guys are dealing with day to day right now at riverbend Consulting, like what’s the hottest thing that people are having issues with?

Joe Zalta 2:14
So right now, there’s this really huge recall, part of this supplement supplement category, that there was an ingredient by ABH pharma that caused this massive recall. And what it did was it triggered Amazon to basically take down or suspend a ton of sellers listings or in the supplement category. So anywhere between two to 300 sellers had their top listings taken down right away, and they had no clue it kind of hit him, you know, totally out of nowhere. And they saw that their you know, listings were getting bad reviews and that their listings were down And Amazon has actually also issuing refunds to customers that bought the product over the last six months to even a year, which is, again every day, something new, you know, you never know what’s gonna, what’s going to come. So these sellers, some of them reached out to us found, you know, found us on social media or found that on Google and thank God our team is you know, well equipped to handle basically anything regarding seller performance. So, you know, we pulled the we pulled some of the some some magic out of a hat and we got some of their listings back up within a day or two and, you know, constantly we’re getting calls from other people that other supplements sellers that were having those same issues. So again, that’s this week’s poison. You never know what next week is going to bring.

Eric Stopper 3:48
So So help me understand though because if I ABH is the one that provided this specific ingredient to a whole bunch of people, right? Why are they they’re not the only provider of that ingredient though.

Joe Zalta 4:01
No, from what I understood was that they were called out by the FDA. Mm hmm. And then there was a list put together on on on the FDA website that said that anyone that purchased that ingredient from this company, that there was a recall. Okay, then what Amazon did is Amazon basically zapped, they just swept the whole category swept, oh,

Eric Stopper 4:28
it didn’t matter, they didn’t verify that you got the ingredient from ABH or not,

Joe Zalta 4:33
right? If your company has to be on that list, okay, so you can have to be on that list, but not every product. So that was the wild part. Let’s say you had one product that have 15 that had that ingredient, and it may not have even been from that time period. But let’s say you know, it was they basically swept all 16 products and they took them all down and then you had to basically appeal Amazon and say, Hey, guys, this is incorrect. Here’s My supporting documents is my supporting evidence, please reinstate my listing. And that’s what my team did for all these sellers.

Eric Stopper 5:06
So so hold on, hold on, hold our hands through this process, right? Because some of the people listening, we’re probably a part of that group. So I’m assuming you’ll get some calls. But they get they get the note, there’s a notification that comes to them that says, hey, all your all your listings got shut down, or is that something that you had to go and check on manually? And then you mean the seller from this?

Unknown Speaker 5:26
Yeah,

Eric Stopper 5:26
yeah. The seller they see their listing, how do they come to the knowledge that their listing has been shut down as a result of this recall?

Joe Zalta 5:32
So they were notified through the regular channel of seller, you know, seller performance, they had that little red flag, as we all know, and we dread seeing every time we sign on to our seller account. And then there was a notification saying that all their agents were taken down for this record reason, and then they had to appeal it. And really, most sellers didn’t even know where to start. I think some of them tried to appeal themselves but didn’t get anywhere. Because it was a higher level issue and that’s kind of why you need professionals that know which departments within Amazon to go to, to get these things taken care of.

Eric Stopper 6:09
So you, you deal with escalating these these issues, these appeals, right? So somebody comes to you, they say, hey, all my stuff is in disarray in a panic. And you guys directly connects them with somebody at Amazon. Are you emailing seller performance? Like what’s what’s the typical, like first steps that you’ll take?

Joe Zalta 6:29
Gotcha. So we’re not doing, we’re not reaching out on behalf of anyone. That’s not what we do. We consult the seller. We immediately have a conversation with them on the phone, which not every company does, but we like to get to know our people that we work with, and we hear their side of the story. Then we do a full analysis of their accounting of the issue that they got to spend it for. And then we comprise a, we’ve put together a plan of action for them, and then they submit it and then we tell them where to go to first. We always start from the bottom. And if the entry level team could take care of it, they do. If not, and we feel like it needs to go to a higher department, then we go to that higher department.

Eric Stopper 7:10
Right on, that makes a lot of sense.

Joe Zalta 7:12
So I don’t like going to school and saying, you know, talking to the teacher First, the teacher sends you back and you say, Can I speak to the principal, please? Hmm. Not that you would ever do that. But you know,

Eric Stopper 7:21
sure. Yeah. Can I can I speak with the regional Superintendent?

Unknown Speaker 7:25
Yes, exactly.

Eric Stopper 7:26
So one one question that’s always been burning on my mind for because because I don’t interface I don’t I don’t offer this like seller performance consulting myself. The people on our team will consult at a like a mid level on on these kinds of things. But how often when a seller comes to you, or they just totally in the wrong and they’re just this, you know, piece of crap seller that’s trying to cheat and counterfeit and stuff like that. How often does that happen?

Unknown Speaker 7:53
It happens, it definitely happens.

Joe Zalta 7:57
It’s usually discussed in my team, you know, we’re very We are very tight knit group and we all talk on the chats and zooms and slacks and all that, it definitely comes up, we use some pretty bad words to those people not gonna lie internally, but there’s a handful out there that that know they’re doing wrong, and are trying to beat the system. And we usually don’t work with them to be honest, because if we don’t feel we can help someone and get them back on. You know, at first, when you’re writing an appeal, you first have to admit your wrongdoing. And then the second part of the plan of action usually has to do with remedying the situation or explaining how you’re going to avoid it from happening again. But it has to be the truth. If you’re going to do it again, and you’re going to continue to be a repeat offender. You’re not going to last long on the platform. So we usually don’t work with those types of sellers.

Eric Stopper 8:47
And that I mean, there’s there’s a bunch there’s a bunch of stuff to unpack in there. I there was an example on here. I think I’ll post it on Twitter, maybe but you you walk through this scenario, and I wonder if it’s True, right? This is what it says. Imagine that you sold a gorgeous designer sweater on Amazon via FBA. Your buyer wore it spilled wine on it, let their dog take a nap on it and then they returned it. You likely expect and industrious amazon.com fulfillment center employees open the box be hit with a sense of wine and dog. Notice the red splash of color and throw the sweater into the unfulfillable inventory. Unfortunately, you may be wrong. Is that is that a true? Is that a story that actually happened? Or is that just an example?

Joe Zalta 9:31
No, that’s a sound marketing person being very creative. Yeah, no, but Oh, things like that happen. I’ve heard cases very recently of cell phones because we deal with a lot of electronic sellers. And, you know, there’s apparently this factory in China that makes pieces of or like a weight, right that weighs the exact same as an iPhone. So people will order iPhones take the iPhone out and replace Place it with a weight that is the exact same weight as an iPhone and send it back to Amazon. And this is what I heard. I know Eric it sounds crazy that that someone at Amazon would just basically put it back into fulfilled eliminatory. And then what happens though in that, obviously like none eventually it’s going to lead to a complaint because then another customer is going to get that weight and they’re going to say I got a weight instead of an iPhone, and that’ll be on get a negative review or it’ll be on Apple authentic,

Eric Stopper 10:28
right? But in that situation, if I’m Apple, right, can’t I just go and say the last person that purchased this item is is responsible for this because they you know, this is this is a returned item.

Joe Zalta 10:42
You know what I mean? Like no way to track it, really track it? No, it’s gonna come back and as long as it gets marked as a fillable inventory, it goes right back to your inventory. Interesting.

Eric Stopper 10:52
Now, I want to know a little bit about who these people are at these industrious amazon.com fulfillment centers, right. Um, I’m assuming we got maybe a little bit over minimum wage at these facilities, or do they try to stack it with some, like some real professional warehouse managers like who is calling the shots on whether or not my inventory is refillable.

Joe Zalta 11:14
So I wish I knew, I mean, I actually have been to a fulfillment center, but I don’t think anyone realizes how important of a job that is because it literally can suspend someone that’s selling 100 million dollars in Amazon and it’s up to some person that gets, you know, a return and says, Oh, this is fine. Let’s put it back. I can’t imagine that. It’s, uh, you know, that it’s a high position there. But, you know, we’ve seen Amazon being trained in a way that that is helpful for the seller, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the customer. I think we can’t forget that. Bezos has always been about that and everyone in his company is about making sure that the customers come back to Amazon.

Eric Stopper 11:56
Now Now, tell me a little bit about this because this is this is a point that you emphasize to me even before this episode, right? And that if if you want to have a long standing excellent relationship with Amazon and you want to thrive on the platform that you can’t forget this customer centered philosophy, this thesis that they have for their company, what does it actually look like day to day managing and account? Like what kind of what kind of things do you do to make sure that you are keeping that in mind? Right, what does that actually look like in practice?

Joe Zalta 12:31
That’s a great question, Eric. I think a lot of people lose sight of at the end of the day, you’re, you’re on their platform. You know, sellers get very full of themselves very quickly when their product starts to fly on Amazon. And then they forget what actually got them there and what the purpose of selling that product was. And it’s to offer a great value to a customer that’s going on Amazon and buying the product on Amazon because of Amazon’s Equity brand equity people trust Amazon, right? Whether it be the reviews or the speed to, you know to delivery, or you know, just the convenience factor. But at the end of the day, as a seller, you need to remember that the customer experience is the most important thing. And as long as you stay focused on that, while you’re building your inventory levels, while you’re launching new products, everything has to be built around making sure that the customer is gonna have a good experience. If you have a decision to make with the factory, that you’re making your product for a private label seller, let’s say your private label sellers. And you can either pick a cheap packaging that’s going to break in the mail, or something a little bit nicer that the customer is going to get and say not a good purchase. Don’t be cheap. eventually it’s going to bite you do it the right way. And as long as the customers are happy, leave you good reviews. Your product will stay at that top spot. You continue to get sales and do it the right way.

Eric Stopper 13:59
So that’s that’s One really specific example and thank you for that. So I talked with a seller this morning, who has they sell jewelry, which was the second that was the second market that Amazon ever mess with first was books and jewelry. And they have this like nice, it’s like a book, you know, it opens up and it’s got this little like card in there. And you can see the jewelry draped and it’s all nicely printed. But they also have these little pieces of paper, right that they can that they can pack them in. And it’s just like this little foldable envelope and they can put the earrings in there. So between those two, in your opinion, right, we should go with the really super nice one that that maximizes that customer experience. Because when I was talking with them, I was thinking okay, like let’s let’s walk through what the customer experience looks like for your for the people that buy your products. It arrives on their doorstep, right and what does everybody say? Hey, I think this is the blank that I ordered. Hey, I think these are the earrings that I They tell their significant other dog. They they rip it open this, you know, this nice Bubble Bubble Wrap pack, they rip it open, falls into their hand, and then they instantly will like open it up and then take the product out and then they’ll probably like wear it in that instant. Right? So, in all of that, are we really as as customers do we care that much about about the aesthetics of when we open that, that Amazon the box inside of the Amazon package? Or is the? Or is the fact that it came from Amazon a delightful enough experience? You know what I mean?

Joe Zalta 15:40
Yeah, that’s a good point. But I also think that, you know, we run into a lot of problems with people that have very high return rates and damages and things like that. And when I said packaging, I don’t mean spend extra money and put a you know, an extra print on a package or, or just, you know, increase your Of course for no reason I’m more talking about having that package secure and not have it get damaged in transit and making sure that it fits the product. I think that’s a very important part of of what I was saying because at the end of the day, imagine how many people get their product that they’ve been waiting for. Like you said it’s almost like Christmas every day now with Amazon people just wait on the side of the door for the boxes to pile up. And you open up that box and then your item is damaged or you know, dented or, or the bag exploded or you know, I’ve actually had it happened to me I bought a shampoo and the whole shampoo exploded in the bag. So I’m more talking about that but you made a great point. People want to open that thing put it on and just enjoy and they love the Amazon experience everyone does

Eric Stopper 16:49
in your mind. So there’s there’s been this long standing conversation about product inserts, and Amazon I know for a fact they think throw a fit about some of them. If it’s like direct link to your website or you know if it’s doing something blackhat like saying, Hey, you know, like, leave us a review and take a picture of it and all that stuff like that, that kind of stuff aside, do you think that those little marketing inserts get in the way of the customer experience? Or is there a way to make those an enriching part of the whole, you know, unboxing and using of the product?

Joe Zalta 17:24
I don’t think it’s super important. I mean, listen, I know Amazon frowns on driving traffic away from Amazon, which which they should you know, and I could tell you this for sure that especially since January 1, I’ve seen Amazon crack down more and more on anything to do with soliciting reviews, or sales, rank manipulation, or anything like that. So you know, guys beware really don’t play those games. There they are on it. But when it comes to these inserts, if it’s something that you feel could add value, but not pull business away from me I don’t have any problem with it.

Eric Stopper 18:02
Yeah, like mine is instructions, right? Like, it’s just got a simple like, Hey, this is how you use the thing.

Joe Zalta 18:09
But I will improve it that’ll improve your return rate. I’m always on how to use it.

Eric Stopper 18:14
I’m always thinking about the fact that like, a lot of people, I mean, I know I haven’t read all the instructions of every product that’s ever been sent to me. I’m wondering if there’s a way to make that easier, right is Do you have any recommendations for like, how to how to provide instructions for a product to somebody to make sure that they will actually read it?

Joe Zalta 18:38
Well, it doesn’t have to be instructions as a printout. What about adding a video to your listing? That’s been a very popular, you know, a very popular thing that I’ve seen recently on some of the larger sellers that we’re working with investing in a short video of your product or how to use can probably help with that. I mean, again, printing more things in the mail and more things in boxes. people throw that away. You You nailed it before. But if it’s something that you need to teach the customer how to use a product, I think a video or a really nice lifestyle picture or a PDF would be a great way to do it.

Eric Stopper 19:18
Yeah, definitely agree By the way, shameless plug, we will do all of those services for you Buy Box Experts. So, so come and hit

Unknown Speaker 19:25
us. We’ll do it. Well.

Eric Stopper 19:27
Yeah. And we and we have Pete we have these brands. And this is and this is a point that I think you can help me emphasize as well. In that a lot of people they just put they put their photos up on on Amazon and it’s like white background white background, you know, like they’re rotating the product and just like showing the different sides of it. And that’s a wasted opportunity. Right? That’s a waste of assets on on Amazon, if you can sell like if you were face to face with a customer and you and you can sell that customer by showing them all this Great marketing material and saying all the right things, why wouldn’t you do that? In your Amazon listing? Right? Like, why wouldn’t you put your best foot forward? I feel like a lot of people lack that. And I think it speaks very heavily to your emphasis on on this customer experience.

Joe Zalta 20:15
Eric, you nailed it. I mean, more and more, I’m seeing the people that stand out and really take that big leap forward with their business or brand building on Amazon, are the ones that are putting their effort and time and energy into their photos and into their content. You know, you said it before, if you had a chance to show someone a product, and you’re just a white background. It’s not exciting. You know, I think even having like a brand statement or like a mission statement, as one of the as one of the photos is a great thing to do. It kind of just legitimizes and validates the brand. I think lifestyle images are super important, especially if you know if they really relate To the products use. And then also if it’s a variation item showing all the colors and all the or sizes or whatever it may be, as one of the pictures as well, it’s kind of like a cross promotion. There’s so many exciting things that you could do with those seven image slots. And the ones that the people that are taking advantage of that are the ones that are winning.

Eric Stopper 21:22
So that’s that’s probably the perfect segue into a point that you emphasize to me before before episode, in that Amazon, Amazon is very much this, this channel for entrepreneurs to empower themselves right to become a legitimate seller of products to get into this arena and actually start changing their lives, right? I’ve seen people’s lives changed because of Amazon. And you talk about what it takes to be an entrepreneur in 2020 and on Amazon, and you’ve got three key points, innovation, creativity, in and trust. And he talks about the collaboration of those three things. Can you? Can you speak to that and give us give us some of your knowledge?

Joe Zalta 22:04
Yeah, absolutely. I feel very strongly about this. Now, when we started my partner and I, Leslie, when we started riverbend, we were going into a very niche market if, if you would even call it a market. You know, when I told some people that I was friendly with their mentors, I said, I’m going into the suspension business for Amazon sellers. They said, What are you talking about? for Amazon sellers? And I said, you’ll see, you’ll see the reason I, I knew there was a need because I needed it. And because of people that I worked with, needed it. And, you know, if you don’t believe in something, and you don’t constantly think about innovating, what you’re doing and being creative, and really expanding your mind and not just doing what’s right in front of you or what everyone else is doing. Then you’re never going to make it today. And it’s the same thing. With an Amazon seller, when it comes to products, if you’re if your only game is to just copy a product, and not improve it or not add something to it, you’re not gonna last very long. And it’s the people that are constantly innovating, and using their creative mind to to improve products and puked improve the function, or improve value. Those are the people that are winning. And it’s not only on Amazon, it’s, it’s an all business. You know, we’ve seen it time and time again. And then the last point that that I feel very strongly about is, is having a collaborative approach, you know, these days, but the amount of facts and knowledge and, and data that that’s out there, you’re not going to know everything. The smartest guy in the world doesn’t know anything. I mean, there’s so much out there. So the more you work well with people and use their strengths to your advantage and to speak to people respectfully and Get their take on things. It just makes your team and what you’re doing better and stronger. And I can safely say 100% that I wouldn’t be, our company wouldn’t be where it is today without that mentality. We’ve added amazing team members, our team over the last, you know, two to three years. And we’re only going as far as, as our team brings us. And the way we work together is, that’s what it’s all about.

Eric Stopper 24:27
There’s, again, man, there’s a lot to unpack in there. So people ask me, every day, every single day, what’s the next hottest thing on Amazon? Right? Like, what should I sell? And what I tell these folks is typically, hey, send me a list of products that you think you want to sell. And I can tell you what the market looks like for those very, very simple, right, like, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna go into the research for you. But let’s talk to those product developers for a second, right? These people that want to get into Amazon. No, you don’t go and source the same weighted blanket, right? You don’t go and source the same cell phone charger. You don’t you don’t source colliders. If anyone ever looks at a lighter industry on Amazon, it’s such a mess. And they’re all the same. So you talked about adding something, improving functionality. I’m wondering if if you could help come up with an example. And I know I’m putting you on the spot for that. But of someone that took a popular product category or even an unpopular one, and made some sort of little innovation to it that helped them take off. one that comes to mind for us, and I’ll give you you know, this chance to think about it is we have this this client of ours who sells a product called Smart swatter, and this guy he’s he’s a baby boomer and he invented this flyswatter that has these little grooves on the front of it that make it so that when you hit the fly, it picks it up for you and you can flick it into the trash. So when he advertises It’s obvious, right? Wow, this is different. And it’s maybe $1 more, but he’s only got one skew and the guy is just pushing mad volume. Can you can you think of any examples like that have brands that you’ve worked with that have really done a good job of that incremental innovation?

Joe Zalta 26:16
Well, I want to just take one step back, you said something about, you know, if you’re a if you’re a product research guy, and you’re looking for the next big thing, I think something that you’d be surprised that that could be an opportunity is even partnering with a brand. Because a brand is also going to set you apart from the rest of the market. So if you are looking for something and you and you want to launch something, and instead of doing it as a private label, Amazon seller, you may be able to align yourself with the brand and they might not already have that product. And they may be open to give you an exclusive right on that product with their brand. That’s going to help its search ability. It’s going to help with credibility. It’s going to help with a lot of things. So that’s just a little tidbit. I’d like To throw out there but um, back to your question, let me think there is an item that comes to mind. Recently I was searching on Amazon for puff fest. I’m actually wearing one today but I love that puff puff fest looked you know, yeah, so I was looking for a process and I saw something that came up all over the first page of processed and it was a puff fest with a heating mechanism inside the vest. They may have been around I just haven’t really seen them or heard of them much but it was like heaters built in electronic heater there’s like a button or just automatically heated up when you when you clicked it and I felt you know that’s a genius idea. There’s like hand warmers. You’ve heard of his toe warmers, but now you have a heater inside your vest. I just thought that was something cool and if that showed up on a test page, and that would make me buy something that I wasn’t planning on buying Yeah innovative product.

Eric Stopper 28:02
I I view Amazon is very much trade show, right and you’re and you’re dropped off in a particular part of the trade show based off of what you searched for it’s it’s kind of your entrance. And I mean, if you have the flashiest coolest looking easiest to understand product at the front of somebody search, man, you’ll get that sale every time. So yeah, no, I like that one. There’s a company called climate that has like argon gas that flows into their into their vests. You can look them up on Amazon, they do pretty well. So one one other thing that you’ve talked to me about in the past, is being nimble on on Amazon, and nimbleness. Right, especially for big sellers seems like something that is just, you know, infeasible, you know, how can I be nimble as this as this big, big company? So let’s talk a little bit about that. What do you what is it what is nimble Amazon management look like in this day and age.

Joe Zalta 28:59
So, You made a good point being nimble as a large seller usually means. Well, if you’re a large seller, you’re you’re buying a lot of inventory and you’re replenishing a lot of inventory. So it is difficult to be nimble. But what I mean by nimble is, if you’re, if you’re going to be able to jump on an opportunity that you see, that’s really where that’s where not being over inventory, not being tight on cash flow, those type of things are going to really take you and catapult you to the next level. You know, if you’re working with a brand, and you’re managing it well, and your inventory levels are not too high, and you know, you’re turning through your product, and let’s say they come to you and they say, No, I’m launching another brand. Are you interested in taking it on? Well, if you’re managing your first brand with them well, and you’re not over inventory, and you’re you have all the systems in place and a process in place to run that business, then you could do it on that second brand. You know, the same thing with private label sellers. If you’re working with the factory, and they’re giving you new ideas, you need to be able to jump on that next thing. And you need to be able to do that without destroying your current business, right? Or taking up too much time on the new project where your old project suffers. So, you know, that’s one part of it. I also think that you need to be open to, to kind of updating and changing the way you do things as you find and learn more about Amazon’s landscape. I’ve just noticed that especially the last three to four months, new things are happening with Amazon every day. And if you’re locked into doing things a certain way, and not willing to change with the times, you’re going to get hurt, right and you’re going to get left behind. So I just think that you always have to be changing with the times always listening like you, you know, to this podcast, or to other podcasts and reading articles. And, you know, being part of groups that have other sellers that they’ll, they’re telling you their experiences you need to constantly be learning. It’s like that in life. It’s like that in business and it’s like that an Amazon.

Eric Stopper 31:14
Where would you Where would you recommend a good group is for people that listen to this one to this podcast? Where would you send people to say, Hey, you know, this is a good community of people who’s going to be able to help you out?

Joe Zalta 31:25
I mean, on Facebook, there’s a lot of different groups. You know, I think depending on the type of seller you are, there’s like more specific groups. There’s million dollar seller group, there’s a few others for private label sellers. And then also just going to these conferences, you know, and events. You You network a lot. You learn a lot from people that have been there before and, you know, they learn from their own mistakes, and then they’re teaching you things so you don’t make those mistakes. I just think keeping yourself informed in any way you can. is super exciting. Up face.

Eric Stopper 32:02
So there’s there’s a lot of things that I want to ask you like selling to friends and families and you know what what to do when you suspect negative reviews are coming from competitors and I think that we should probably schedule another one and go after those topics. Um, but one thing that I want to I want to help people walk away with today is when when folks come to you, they have a problem. They you said the red flag is on their account, and they’re very much like their back is against the wall. And they’re and they’re in for the fight of their lives, right because something has gone wrong is disrupted their business. So you talked about how you evaluate these businesses, when they come to you. And you sit down with them and you try to understand you probably get access to their account, I’m assuming what are some of the, the like low hanging fruit that you check to make sure that an account not only gets unsuspended, but then stays that way? What are some of the critical artifacts In an account that you’ve been able to identify, say, like, okay, check, check, check, these are all good like you should, you should be good until something crazy happens.

Joe Zalta 33:09
Gotcha. So, the first thing we do, and like you said, most people come to us when they’re already in trouble. That’s usually how we, you know, we start communicating with people, they’ll tell us my account is suspended. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything. And then we do that what we call an assessment. We have one of our x Amazon, people do that assessment. So they’re looking at it as if it’s Amazon, right? So it’s a really good, you know, point of view. And then we start digging in and we’ll see a lot of old performance notifications that were not answered or handled properly, or ignored. We’ll see some customer feedback and you know, negative customer feedback that also tributes to that. And you know, whenever we start seeing inauthentic claims or You know, counterfeit claims, or even late shipments. Those are the type of things that we try to shore up going forward with our sellers. So obviously our first, you know, a first point of business is to get them reinstated, we write a killer appeal, we explain to them what they did wrong. We explained to them that you need to admit that you did these things wrong. And then we come up with a plan for them on how to get their account reinstated. And whether it takes one letter or two letters or three letters, we get it done for them. But then our job is not done and we don’t really we’re not ready to just kind of leave that customer alone, because they just went through, like you said, the fight of their life now to throw them out back into the woods is not a good idea. We try to to educate them and to give them the tools they need to succeed and stay on the platform and selling without Amazon looking at them as a risk. And what do we do we talk to them about basically what Amazon told them why they got to spend it in the first place. And we come up with solutions for them and plans on how they can prevent that going forward. And every one is different, right case by case. Yeah, case by case, something we’ve been seeing a lot of variation abuse, some of the largest sellers on Amazon, honestly, probably a few of the top 100, over the last few months have gotten suspended because of variation abuse. And, you know, they claim they didn’t do anything wrong, but when you when you really dig in and look at it, they did. And, you know, we explained to them, how the actual variations are supposed to be done, and what Terms of Service says and all that. So, you know, sometimes even the biggest guys need a refresher course, on the rules and that you still need to play, you know, in Amazon’s sandbox, you don’t just do what you want to do.

Eric Stopper 35:50
When I hear when I hear variation, abuse, I think I have one category of skew. And then I list another category. On that same listing, whereas if I’m if I have a shirt and I just put another color of shirt another size of shirt, that’s okay. Is that what you’re talking about like to talk to me a little bit more about category abuse

Joe Zalta 36:11
for the So, so variation abuse is so according to Amazon, you’re allowed to offer a secondary color third, fourth, however many colors you want, as long as it’s the same style, same product. And obviously you’re allowed to offer sizes, right? But let’s say in an example of a knapsack, right, you have this Nike knapsack, and it comes in three colors black, red, and silver. It’s the same exact style, the straps are in the same place the swoosh is in the same place. And then all of a sudden, you know, you you get a deal on a different knapsack where the swoosh is in a little bit of a different spot. The straps are in a different spot and the size of the bags a little bit different. But you want to take advantage of the rank and have visibility of the listing that’s doing great. So you create a variation called a different color or a different style. And you put it on that listing to benefit from traffic that it gets that variation abuse, okay? Amazon will will, you know, Amazon’s bots will not will notify, you know, we’ll see that. And they’ll basically close the listing and, and ping you and you get enough of those in your account goes down doesn’t matter how big you are.

Eric Stopper 37:29
That’s, that’s great. So those who are listening, right, obviously, Joe knows his stuff, his team knows their stuff. And there’s just so many different issues. It’s gonna be hard for us to cover it in just this one episode. So So Joe, how do I help people get a hold of you? What’s the easiest way for them to get in touch with your team?

Joe Zalta 37:49
So the best way to get in touch with us is just just go to our website riverbend consulting.com. You’ll see about all our different services and you could just Fill out one of the contact forms and click Submit. And someone from our sales team will get back to you. And then like Chris said, throughout the show, we’re very intimate with our sellers. We would get on a call with you or schedule a call with you and we’ll have your your problems out.

Eric Stopper 38:14
Perfect. Joe, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Joe Zalta 38:17
My pleasure. All right. Take care.

Outro 38:20
Thanks for listening to the Buy Box Experts podcast. Be sure to click subscribe, check us out on the web, and we’ll see you next time.

Meet the Speakers

Joe Zalta

Co-founder of Riverbend Consulting

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