How to Identify and Resolve Brand Abuse on Amazon
April 13, 2021
Chris McCabe is the Founder and CEO of ecommerceChris, a firm that specializes in helping Amazon sellers reinstate their accounts and save their businesses. Chris and his team are all former Amazonians with long histories of helping people on the marketplace. At ecommerceChris, they teach sellers how to think like Amazon, protect their accounts, and appeal listing restrictions and suspensions.
Prior to founding ecommerceChris, Chris was an Investigation Specialist at Amazon for several years. He has appeared on many podcasts and YouTube channels and his work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Chris McCabe discusses the brand abuse issues that are currently affecting Amazon sellers
- What sellers expect from Amazon versus what Amazon actually enforces when it comes to brand abuse
- How to identify brand abuse on your product listings and the steps to take to address it
- Chris’ tips for dealing with third-party attackers and reporting brand abuse issues to Amazon
- When should sellers bring in lawyers to resolve brand abuse cases?
- Chris shares his advice for preventing and preparing for future brand abuse problems
- What Amazon should do to solve loopholes and mitigate risks on the marketplace
In this episode…
Due to fierce competition on the Amazon marketplace, some unscrupulous third-party sellers engage in bad practices to get their competitors suspended from the marketplace. Also known as brand abuse, these practices—such as black hat techniques, fake reviews, and listing abuse—can be detrimental to the success of your business.
Because of this, it is critical that third-party sellers learn how to protect themselves from such attacks. According to Amazon consultant Chris McCabe, while sellers may be able to handle some brand abuse issues themselves, there may be cases when they need to bring the problem to Amazon, engage a lawyer, or reach out to a consultant. That’s why he created his firm, ecommerceChris: to help Amazon sellers successfully protect and save their businesses.
In this week’s episode of the Buy Box Experts podcast, James Thomson interviews Chris McCabe, the Founder and CEO of ecommerceChris, about his strategies for identifying and handling brand abuse on Amazon. They discuss the types of brand abuse you should be aware of, how to effectively resolve issues on your own, and Chris’ tips for preventing future attacks. Stay tuned.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Buy Box Experts
- Controlling Your Brand in The Age of Amazon: The Brand Executive’s Playbook For Winning Online by James Thomson and Whitney Gibson
- James Thomson on LinkedIn
- Chris McCabe on LinkedIn
- Chris McCabe on The Prosper Show
- Report all abuse: [email protected]
- Report general marketplace abuse: [email protected]
- Report reviews abuse or page abuse: [email protected]
- Report escalation of reviews abuse or ignored reports: [email protected]
- Disruptive Advertising
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 Experts 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.
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts Podcast. We bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e-commerce world.
James Thomson 0:18
Hi, I’m James Thomson, one of the hosts of the Buy Box Experts Podcast. I’m a partner with Buy Box Experts and the former business head for the selling on Amazon team at Amazon, as well as the first account manager for the Fulfillment by Amazon program. I’m the co-author of a couple of books on Amazon including the recent book Controlling Your Brand in the Age of Amazon. Today’s episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. When you hire Buy Box Experts, you receive the strategy optimization and marketing performance to succeed on Amazon. We also help investors with due diligence services. Go to buyboxexperts.com to learn more.
Before I introduce our guest today, I want to send a big shout out to the team at Disruptive Advertising. For off Amazon advertising, Disruptive Advertising offers the highest level of service in the digital marketing industry, focusing on driving traffic, converting traffic and enterprise analytics. Disruptive helps their clients increase their bottom line month after month. Check out disruptiveadvertising.com to learn more. Our guest today is Chris McCabe, CEO and Founder of ecommerceChris.com, a firm that specializes in assisting merchants on Amazon.com and other platforms, with their various selling pain points. Chris is a tireless advocate and support source for merchants in all e-commerce marketplaces. Prior to ecommerceChris.com, Chris was an investigation specialist at Amazon for several years. Chris, welcome. And thank you for joining us today on the Buy Box Experts Podcast.
Chris McCabe 1:51
No thanks for having me again,
James Thomson 1:53
Chris, Amazon launched Brand Registry 2.0 a few years ago, and that program was supposed to help a brand protect its content and intellectual property on Amazon. But I’m hearing seller complaints that these protections are hardly bulletproof. I’ve been hearing much noise about brand abuse issues affecting sellers. Can you tell us more about what this brand abuse is? And what different kinds of abuse are out there?
Chris McCabe 2:22
Yeah, and it’s typically good news, bad news, mostly bad news. But the good news is that there’s better awareness about it inside Amazon, and among sellers who are trying to get educated on this topic. In the past, in the past, there were wild things happening to you. You didn’t know why you called somebody like me, you called Amazon, you tried to figure it out by asking, you know, a bunch of crazy questions. Why is this stuff happening? I think now people understand that there is a concept called brand abuse. This is something that can be reported to abuse prevention teams. It’s still a new concept, the sellers mostly don’t understand it. But the fact that it exists in the, to the extent that it does in the forms that it takes, means that every brand looking to protect themselves has to understand this concept as thoroughly as possible as quickly as possible.
James Thomson 3:09
So break it down what, what are some of these examples of brand abuse that brand or trademark owner should be aware of,
Chris McCabe 3:16
a lot of it is a combination of dirty tricks, or people trying to manipulate loopholes or manipulate Amazon systems, investigation teams and so forth to take out their competition, that could take the form of using a black hat service to buy from a competitor and report terrible things about the safety or the products. That’s one, there’s also fake reviews, right? You can also either do that yourself sometimes or hire black hat service to buy and leave terrible reviews about the quality of the products to hurt their sales rank in the search ability of those items. Beyond that, there’s also listing abuse, right? where some people are finding keywords suddenly popping up in their back end that are getting the algorithms to take their listings down, their listings are actually suspended. We work on, I don’t know, mountains of these cases every week or month in terms of listing takedowns and asen suspensions for terms that the seller themselves didn’t put in there. And what does that mean? It means that kind of Brand Registry protection that you were describing a moment ago, doesn’t really exist. It’s not that it’s not bulletproof. It’s not really there. And unfortunately, it’s a problem Amazon knows about but hasn’t put the right tools or teams in place to fix.
James Thomson 4:31
So I’m a brand. I went and I got a trademark I went through and I got a Brand Registry. But now I am the victim of brand abuse. Amazon’s coming after me claiming that I’m violating intellectual property which might even be my own intellectual property. Right? Right. It’s easy for a seller to get very emotional when they get something like this from Amazon, especially after Amazon has rolled out the Brand Registry program specifically to protect against these very types of issues. Right. So How do you think the disconnect between what sellers expect on Amazon and when Amazon’s actually able to enforce today? How do you see that disconnect being addressed either by the seller or by Amazon short term long term, give me your thoughts.
Chris McCabe 5:14
Amazon itself expects you to use the low level tools that they give you, which they kind of know don’t really work. And you probably know if you’re a brand who’s tried them and failed, you know, they don’t work either. So that’s the first disconnect that needs to be addressed. We usually advocate sellers escalating things early and often away from those low level, open a case with support, open a ticket with Brand Registry to us, that’s something that works, maybe single digit percentages of the time at this point, almost no value, right? So the first thing you have to do is mentally switch off the idea that something terrible like this happens. And it certainly looks like it’s beyond just a glitch in tools, or even an Amazon investigator in competence. It looks like you’re the victim of an attack, you know, some form of abuse, you start with throwing away the idea that you’re just going to scribble out some email and send it to solid performance. That’s not what the world is like anymore. Do you open a case in two seconds? Just you can refer to a case number? Sure. Just so you can say to your account manager, or to whoever answers you later on from executive seller relations, or from another team member that responds to your abuse prevention case, just so you can say that you did the first step. Yeah, that takes two seconds. I’m not going to say don’t do that. Yeah, but don’t don’t spend any more time on it than that. I’m still hearing from sellers who are telling me they’re two or three weeks in, and they’re wasting tons of time they’ve already lost. God knows how many 1000s of revenue with the weeks that they spent on it. But they’re also spending that time in something that has a low likelihood of success, though they have to understand escalating is something you consider a roller earlier, not later.
James Thomson 6:55
How do I know that? I have been the subject or been the Yeah, how do I know brand abuse has happened to me versus there may just be a glitch in the system. So you talk about being aggressive in taking certain actions. But often it takes a few days to even realize what’s going on. And Amazon changed some algorithms and now there’s something wonky happening to my listings. How does a seller self diagnose that?
Chris McCabe 7:21
This is the big brand abuse problem. This is not just some little glitch. And we’ve had some people come to me just because they’ve seen articles I’ve written or videos I’ve done on this topic. And it sounds similar. But beyond that, sometimes it’s so obvious that you wouldn’t need me it would be obvious to you somebody is putting back end keywords in that are elicit terms that would just get you flagged and get your listing suspended. Sometimes referencing illegal products, for example. Yep. And you and I, you know, over the months and years have talked about that. But that’s listing abuse that’s really easy to accomplish, somebody is trying to overwrite your flat files with their content, the one means of prevention would be make sure you’re thinking with it, Amazon’s thinking up with Amazon’s API, and reloading your flat files multiple times a day to prevent somebody from tucking those elastic keywords into your back end. elicit terms into your back end, right? Yes, like anyone can see I didn’t do this. Your first question is, is this a mistake on my side and self diagnose? If you made a mistake, when you were loading a flat file where you were creating the listing? If it’s something you didn’t do, then and it’s been added by someone else, that means a competitor did it?
James Thomson 8:37
So I’m a brand This is the first time it’s happened to me. I am preemptively reloading my flat files. But I haven’t had enough time to diagnose what might be the root causes of this issue. Take me through what sequencing should I have for notifying Amazon that there may be an issue with my listings versus taking due diligence of stuff within my own operations? How do you see somebody who’s dealing with us for the first time actually sequencing out what they should do with the actions that should be taken in the immediate term? Okay,
Chris McCabe 9:11
I mean, the due diligence side can vary because we deal with sellers all over the map in terms of skill level and experience comes to compliance. Yep. First step is to have somebody that works with you or you, yourself are a listing compliance expert, who can go through your flat file to make sure nothing elicits in there, by your own hands, something that you added. But assuming you clear the first hurdle of making sure your own house is in order, and you haven’t added, you know, product detail page abuse type wording into a title or into the detail page content, or looking at something somebody else could have added. You’re appealing for reinstatement of that eyston but it’s a hybrid appeal. You have to think of those types of appeals as two different areas. One is reporting abuse. The other is a nascent reinstatement appeal. So essentially Using an appeal button, in most cases you can use it for the eastern reinstatement appeal. What I’m telling people to do is include language in the first paragraph or somewhere, you know, that will be caught by somebody reading it without too much trouble saying we are also reporting this to abuse prevention teams, we’re short, we’re certain that we did not do this. That means that somebody has attempted to mess with or alter our details in our keywords, and then get the abuse prevention guys on it indicate to abuse prevention that you appeal through Seller Central, you hit the appeal button, you submitted an appeal there, but you understand that unless both things happen, you may not get the lifting reinstated, number one, number two, you might get it reinstated. But it might go down 24 hours later, with the same kind of attack
James Thomson 10:45
for the benefit of our audience who doesn’t necessarily know what’s happening behind the scenes. Most of us have filed tickets to get a license reinstated or to get something changed, right? We don’t necessarily take action in complaining about there’s some nefarious activity going on. Amazon, could you please diagnose who’s responsible and take necessary action? Even if something does happen? Amazon will never tell us. But take us through that second part of complaining that there’s somebody else doing something to my listings, what is Amazon going to do if you report that part of the complaint?
Chris McCabe 11:22
Not in every case, but hopefully they’re going to track back and rundown who monkeyed with your listings and why and take action against that party. So part of what you’re doing is reporting it to prevent future attacks, not just the result, the one in front of you. Do you see you’re also trying to discourage your attacker, I’ve had to work on cases where listings went down between five and 10 times maybe it was a course of a month. So if you keep getting it reinstated, and they keep knocking you back down, at some point, it’s not worth the attackers time anymore, either. This is kind of the off Amazon thing that you’re trying to do or the off, you know, not dealing with Amazon teams, you’re dealing with the attacker, you’re trying to discourage them wasting their time on you, because they know they could be spending their time on somebody who doesn’t know how to defend themselves. Once you show the attacker, you know how to defend yourself and report abuse. And you can fix these within hours, they start thinking that they’re wasting their time and they find another target. That’s not a great answer for the other person who gets attacked. But that does help you with your situation.
James Thomson 12:20
You talked about filing that ticket with seller support. Is there a role for filing tickets with Brand Registry support in situations like this, we’ve got branded views,
Chris McCabe 12:30
you can do both. And you can do them very quickly. And you can reference those ticket numbers or case numbers, Brand Registry or support. But in this day and age, I’ve watched these teams for a long time now. Now I almost never see positive results from people doing that. It’s just a starting point for complaining somewhere else. Later on that you did do what Amazon tells you to do. But it didn’t create any. Right. Right? Okay, so it’s kind of an excuse just to say, just say that you don’t waste time on conversations or email threads later. Most likely an escalation later, you don’t waste time explaining why you didn’t start with a stellar support case or Brand Registry ticket. Fine. You want. You want me to start here, here’s my ticket. But beyond that, don’t expect that to solve your problem. What concerns me now, is that brands are burning days and weeks expecting results from those things. Yeah, yeah. And I suppose it’s just not popular to say don’t try those things. They’re not going to work. But that’s the situation. That’s the case, why put your head in the sand? Why not just address the reality that most of the work we do people like us who are abuse prevention experts, most of that is on the escalation level. It’s not, hey, we’re gonna open a case for you and solve this in the next, you know, 24 to 72 hours. That’s not how Brand Registry works. Now, maybe it wasn’t the first year. But most brands tell us that they’ve already done those steps. They’re hiring us because none of them.
James Thomson 13:55
So I’m a brand and my listing hasn’t been taken down. But I noticed there’s something going on with my listing. How can I bolster my case with seller performance or Brand Registry or seller support? When I’m the one flagging that there’s something going on with my listings? How do I start to document and communicate with Amazon before they actually pull down the listing, or even want to do
Chris McCabe 14:19
try to narrow down the timeline. I’ve interacted with different teams in Amazon that have given me some text when I was trying to solve this for sellers. A lot of times when you report abuse to them, unfortunately, they don’t seem to be great at backtracking changes in their tools and their systems. So if you can give them I know this sounds ridiculous to an extent. But if you can give them a narrow enough timeline, like I think this happened between three and 4am or 4pm, whatever, I understand that somewhat unrealistic, but we have overtime worked with sellers who are keeping track of this sort of thing and keeping an eye on it, because then they can try to go into their tools and see who went into your account or went into Brand Registry, so forth. And made those changes at the time, it doesn’t make sense for sellers to build a system that allows them to submit their flat file every hour, every two hours, every six hours. It’s starting to not be used to advise people to do that. But because Brand Registry has gotten to the point where you can’t rely on them for something that they should be protecting you from? The answer’s yes, that at this point, tellers should be investing in that. Because otherwise, they’re leaving a field vacant in their flat file, somebody else’s filling it with something, right. It’s all just meant to trigger an algorithm that suspends the account, like an automated action, right. And we’re not here to talk about, you know, the playbook for black hats and how they roll. But honestly, these things are so omnipresent. Now, we’re constantly hearing from brands every day. Now, this isn’t just a once a week thing anymore. This is something that any brand that sells any SKU, or ASIN with any degree of success, somebody is watching you, somebody is looking to take a shot at you. You just need to spend a lot of time on your prep, even if you haven’t lost the listing yet. It’s not suspended, let’s say, but you’ve got an abuse prevention report ready to go just because you know, you’re selling through that inventory. Yeah, yeah. It’s gonna cut your timeline on resolution, though.
James Thomson 16:19
Do you see people playing with aspects of the listing beyond just the content? Are people getting their prices manipulated?
Chris McCabe 16:27
Are they getting it? You said images, you don’t see you see mostly titles, then it’s mostly the back end keywords, of course, titles. We’ve seen specific details. Page text added things that were unflattering for the product, extremely unflattering, sometimes vulgar, right there in the detail page live on the site. Images we’ve all kind of heard about. Everybody heard about that federal investigation that led to the indictment. Last year, a lot of the people who were indicted were paying employees at Amazon to manipulate pages and take the images from the product image and put something offensive in there, right. And it was kind of like that was their way of giving a raised middle finger to the competitor, their competition. Things like that mean that somebody is inducing somebody to take to accept a change to your listing and help attack you. If you see something like that. You have to reach out to Amazon legal, you have to get a skill level or higher. Yeah.
James Thomson 17:27
So I want to talk about legal in a few minutes. But let’s talk a little bit more about the types of things your firm does. Your team specializes in navigating the abuse reporting process, right at the manager or senior manager level within Amazon. So you’re talking with teams, when the Brand Registry support or the seller performance support alone are not necessarily resolving the brand abuse issues? What advice do you have to brands that say, okay, Brand Registry support and seller performance support may not be the way to go to expect a resolution? Are there things that sellers themselves can be doing that may not necessarily involve hiring an expert like yourself to participate in getting a resolution?
Chris McCabe 18:13
Yeah, I mean, step one is know the email cues that you would start with and maybe we can kind of put some of them at the end, you know, down below, under this video, but or send an email if you know, blast out shorter words, so that they can have those specifics. But now the player is in the game. At this point. A lot of managers are known, publicly known, sometimes VPS are known they’d be there been in DC testifying in front of Congress are quoted in articles, lots of places, actually, some of them are very well known. I mean, they might be household names to people like us. But sellers know them too. I’ve heard sellers name drop a lot of VP level amazonians, or managers in conversations with me, I wouldn’t have even expected that they know who those people were, know who their teams are, know what they work on. Because if you escalate to people like that they delegate to their leads and their senior investigators. And those are the people who are reviewing these matters, and ultimately deciding to take action. Again, it helps if you’ve already sent the initial email to the proper queue, number one, so that they won’t complain that you’re, you know, coloring outside the lines or going outside of the process and using that as an excuse not to do anything which has been a problem in the past. Yes, no. But number two, it gives you a reference point like we emailed March 17, it’s been three weeks, nothing’s happened. over those three weeks, we’ve lost $77,000 in potential revenue versus this period last year, facts, data, things they can understand and review very quickly. For one reason, because they’re probably deluged with many, many, many of these, and also so that they can appreciate the pain you’ve gone through for something that is no fault of your own that you had no control over.
James Thomson 19:48
So let’s let’s come back to what you said earlier with regards to Amazon legal. Sellers get very frustrated when they see that their problem isn’t being magically resolved, right. And so I have many times been asked, should I just get an Amazon or get a lawyer and go after Amazon? And, you know, lawyer to lawyer, we can fight this.
Chris McCabe 20:10
So my question to you is, in what sorts of situations doesn’t make sense for a seller to bring a lawyer into the discussion, if there’s been a brand abuse complaint, in most situations, the lawyer can’t do anything. And there are self promotional lawyers out there saying that a letter from a lawyer has carried more weight and motivates Amazon to move. I mean, that’s mostly, you know, marketing stuff. If that lawyer tells you, I had an exact case like this, I wrote to a specific person, and Amazon legal, that person responded to me, and I have an ongoing back and forth correspondence or quote, unquote, relationship with them. And they’ve reinstated listings for this reason in the past, and they’ve got that kind of success story. And they’re not sugarcoating it. And they’re not vague about it, then fine. I mean, you know, if that’s actually going on, and it’s real, and they can show that to you or prove it to you in some way, then great. Any other case, it’s just smoke that they’re puffing. And they’re trying to reach into your wallet. So there’s no legal I mean, there’s no legal argument that you make, my brand is being abused. I’m suing Amazon, I’m not going to go to arbitration, I’m going to get Amazon into court, I don’t see any evidence of any lawyers approaching it that way, successfully. Now, if you’ve got evidence of some sort of sabotage, of a criminal nature, so it’s not even a civil penalty that you’re looking at, like damages. But you think you’re being sabotage where laws are being broken, then you could be speaking with an attorney with criminal expertise, who will write a letter to Amazon saying, we think there’s something criminal going on here that will involve, you know, federal agencies or law enforcement, that’s a totally different thing than writing a letter to Amazon legal about something that would have resulted in civil litigation outside of the arbitration.
James Thomson 21:55
So for all these brands that have gone and hired a trademark attorney or patent attorney to get some of that initial legal protection in place, that then led them to go to Brand Registry, those relationships with those attorneys are already in place and why lawyers obviously differ from one level of expertise to another. If I have a trademark now or I want a patent, and there’s something happening on Amazon where somebody is violating that, inherently, I can see that, you know, I want to get my lawyer involved and say go out for the infringement process. Yeah,
Chris McCabe 22:27
I mean, I’m assuming we’re talking about brands that are already trademark registered and Brand Registry and have set up their intellectual property accordingly. If you’re, if your rights are being infringed upon, then you should probably pair a letter from an attorney with an escalation saying, our trademark or trademark rights aren’t being enforced here by Amazon. If we pursued this through the channels, you gave us absolutely nothing’s happening, you do have a basis for an argument there. You just don’t have a basis to sue. Right? Then push you into the garbage. If you started sending letters to legal First of all, once you send certain letters to legal, all the other avenues closed off to you can’t escalate through other non legal channels, because legal, it becomes their purview and nobody else is going to respond to you. They actually have Amazon annotations on the account, you know, this is legal now. So don’t answer. Several people have said that over the years that once it gets to legal it’s done. And then your legal or nothing at that point. You’ve lost a lot of other Yes, yes. Be sure that that’s the way you want to go, number one. Number two, if you are working with an attorney, you want to make sure that they’ve written a good letter for you. I mean, there’s a lot of quality range and attorneys out there, right. I’ve seen terrible letters, I’ve seen good ones. There are some that I’ve, you know, written an escalation to go along with an attorney’s letter. But there’s been kind of a two part, the process and escalation and then referencing the lawyers letter. But obviously, I don’t take a case where I’m writing an escalation, saying, hey, Amazon, you didn’t review this, or you said you reviewed it, but there’s no evidence you did, or it was reviewed properly. By the way, here’s a letter from an attorney that’s attached. But it’s not very good. And it doesn’t really say anything. So you can’t just throw a legal letter at something of quality. Which brings me to kind of another point in terms of all abuse prevention and all abuse reporting. Don’t just worry about where it goes. Think about the quality of the report that you’re putting together. Because people have shown me stuff that they’ve said in that’s all over the place. You know, it’s like the written equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting, just completely scattered. No one would read it, no one would take it seriously. So spend at least as much time if not more time on what you’re writing down, how long it is, how clear it is, what data is in it, what facts are in it, and not so much like, well, should we send it to Jeff at Amazon, you know, because I understand sellers largely don’t know where to send things and that’s a real problem. But that can be solved. You can get that report into the right hands later. Make sure you’ve got a worthwhile appeal or escalation report.
James Thomson 25:02
So the picture you paint is not a particularly pretty one if a seller gets hit by brand abuse. So let me ask you, what can I do as a seller to either preempt the likelihood that I’m going to be hit with brand abuse? or What can I do to be absolutely prepared that when that horrible day comes, I’m in pretty good shape to be able to move quickly. And in the form manner,
Chris McCabe 25:26
I actually have several good news positive points to make. It’ll brighten things up. Great. One, just overall abuse prevention, like I said, in the beginning, much better understood now, both inside and outside Amazon. And you’re more likely to see action as opposed to somebody just reading something and throwing it away, like a year ago or two years ago. They’re aware that sellers and others know how to escalate these things. They’re more likely to take action these days than 12 months ago, or thanks. So that’s starting with the premise that if it’s done properly, you’ll see some action. Like you said, they might not respond saying, Hey, we failed this up, or sorry, we didn’t have your back, we fixed it. No, they’re not gonna say that. Sometimes they don’t message you at all. But they will fix it, if you approach it the right way. And if they don’t, the people who are responsible for it, you can go elsewhere and complain that abuse prevention teams are aware of the problem you’re facing, they’re just unwilling to act. So these things are fixable. You can ask about brand exclusivity, which is not a well known concept. It’s becoming better known, at least inside Amazon, not all amazonians. Now, we’re talking about brand exclusivity, most sellers, and most of us didn’t know about it until sometime last year. Brand exclusivity is something you should at least explore whether or not you can use it. It’s a program. You know, it’s not something that’s open to the public per se, it might be invitation only, but the bottom line is if you need that protection, it’s similar to people that used to try to get their brands gated right. So that no one else can sell gating of course being no one else can sell that. Yes, I Detail page brand exclusivity. So as it’s been explained to me, as it’s been told to me, no one else can overwrite your, your listings, your flat files won’t be overwritten by a competitor’s content. And you will be the only person making changes to your detail pages. So that
James Thomson 27:14
was that goes in through a single Seller Central account.
Chris McCabe 27:19
I’ve got some clients talking to their account managers about it. They’re saying strategic managers, others don’t have a Sam who knows much about it, but they talked to category managers about it. Which brings me to another positive point, which is account managers are at least a little heavier on these topics, they don’t necessarily take care of it for you the way you’d hope if you were paying them the monthly fee, right? But involve them involved category managers, if a category manager knows that you’re being attacked in a way that similar to the way seven of the other top sellers in their category that they are measured on and responsible for being attacked, you expect them to take some interest in that because that’s knocking down their bottom line and the the amount of revenue generating by managing that category. So category managers unless they’re, you know, putting the blinders on, are taking much more of an interest in this because it impacts their jobs. account managers are responsible for helping you sort problems like this. And if this does impact your revenue, even if you say, Well, I’m just in charge of your marketplace growth and your revenue growth. Yeah, well, this impacts your bottom line, if you’re losing 1000s of dollars a day when your listings are down. Whether it’s an si es ticket, right when you have the when you’re in the SAM program, and you do those si es tickets, again, that’s not the be all end all that is a starting point, you can reference an si es ticket when you do other escalations. We’re doing this all the time, every day, pretty much at this point, that works, too. So there’s a lot that works. Now, that did not work in 2020. and way more than what worked in 2019, when we were still kind of learning the best avenues and approaches.
James Thomson 28:50
How do you see Amazon, solving some of these blackhat techniques? You know, if you were in a position that you could go in, and you could close some of these loopholes, one of those one of those loopholes that you see, without explaining how everybody can go to blackhat,
Chris McCabe 29:06
right. I mean, Amazon needs to improve their tools and monitor them better. And they need to better they need to train up and better oversee how those tools are being used. And when they’re being abused, that needs to be flagged immediately. And somebody with knowledge, experience and insight into what’s going on needs to review it within 10 minutes, not 10 days. Yeah, that’s the real issue. The scalability, they still haven’t figured out the scalability and blackouts are taking advantage of that. They still haven’t, like you said patch the loopholes, blackouts know what the loopholes are. Within the blackhat community, some of the loopholes are gaping, and they’re obvious. Take advantage of them. Amazon has to take that seriously. Because at scale, this is impacting 1000s of sellers and sellers. And then on a higher level. I mean the good news, the potential good news that we have a new CEO coming in later this year, who will be at least partially aware of the news Are these problems, that means, hopefully have the ability to reallocate resources into the right places and get the right brilliant minds working on it, get the right engineers working on it. When I was working there, if we saw stuff like this, it wasn’t just me coming up with brilliant answers. With my colleagues, we would sit with engineers and talk about potential solutions, what were scalable solutions. And that meant something because then they could build a tool and come back and you tweak it, and you’d give them some feedback on it. And eventually, at that point, you’d launch some trial and error, you would be doing meaningful work at that point, until you get to that threshold, you’re just guessing, are you just stabbing in the dark or you’re playing roulette? When that happens, none of these loopholes get patched up, unfortunately. So I’m looking forward to Andy Jassy with his background and AWS, his some of his technical knowledge from his previous gig, contributing in ways that we haven’t seen yet in the marketplace.
James Thomson 30:56
Any closing thoughts, words of hope for Amazon sellers who are constantly looking out for potential attacker, they don’t know what’s around the corner,
Chris McCabe 31:06
the one the one thing that’s going to be tough, the words of encouragement, I just say stick to it don’t give up easily have a thick skin persevere, because there are people who fix a couple of these attacks, and then they’ll get hit the same way the next day, and their listing goes back down. Like I said, I’ve had people we’ve worked with, we’ve had to do it 10 1112 times. So that’s the part that’s a little bit disheartening is that Amazon allows it to repeat itself. So from what I can give you for advice, stick with it, make Amazon believe that you’re going to keep coming back with the same info about the same abuse reports. And if there’s a delay, or if there’s no action taken, you’re going to take resolution of your problem to a different team and tell them everywhere. You’ve been before that
James Thomson 31:50
Yes, though, you have to.
Chris McCabe 31:51
Yeah, you have to be resilient. I mean, this is a time where sellers, unfortunately, we’re in a kind of a limbo, where Amazon’s still catching up to the problem. And, you know, some sellers don’t understand what’s going on, there’s going to be a period of where you’re going to have to summon all your will and strength to continue going back. And you can’t just say I’m sick of this, I don’t want to report it anymore. I want to pull this face in and give up on it and do something else with my time. Don’t do that. I’d encourage you to keep your shoulder to the wheel, because eventually this will pay off. We’ve already seen great strides in this area in the last year.
James Thomson 32:27
Chris, thank you for joining us today on the Buy Box Experts Podcast. For those of you interested in learning more about ecommerceChris.com, please visit ecommerceChris.com. Now to finish today’s podcast, I’d like to share some final thoughts. For third party sellers to be successful on Amazon, a critical lever will be soliciting feedback from customers. We at Buy Box Experts are really big fans of the team at eComEngine, and its tools that help Amazon sellers to simplify the process of messaging customers of Amazon orders. To learn more, go to eComEngine.com. With that, I want to thank you for listening today and I look forward to joining you next time on the Buy Box Experts Podcast.
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