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Rachel Johnson GreerRachel Johnson Greer is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cascadia Seller Solutions, a successful Amazon marketing agency. As an experienced and strategic Amazon consultant, Rachel has delivered unique and highly successful solutions for clients across multiple account launches and marketing content launches on the marketplace.

Prior to Cascadia, Rachel worked as a Program Manager for Amazon, where she was responsible for product safety, direct import compliance, and testing procedures. She has spoken at numerous conferences, including the Prosper Show, Retail Global, and Global Sources, and her work has been featured in The Seattle Times, The Verge, Bloomberg, and more.

 


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

  • How Rachel Johnson Greer first started working at Amazon
  • The current state of product compliance on Amazon among third-party sellers
  • Rachel discusses the common challenges Amazon faces in terms of monitoring and evaluating product compliance 
  • Best practices for staying compliant on Amazon and being a more responsible seller
  • How Rachel and her team at Cascadia Seller Solutions use performance metrics and customer data to help their clients
  • Rachel shares the ins and outs of Amazon’s new live streaming service, Amazon Live 
  • When did Rachel realize that she wanted to help brands grow on the Amazon marketplace?

In this episode…

The Amazon marketplace is notorious for making frequent updates that affect its sellers and third-party brands—and it’s recent changes to product compliance are no different. Now, many sellers are required to provide a certificate of analysis issued by a third-party laboratory in order to certify that their products are safe for consumers. While this is the gold standard, it is an unusual practice for an industry that has previously relied on in-house accreditations.

According to Rachel Johnson Greer, the Founder and Managing Partner of Cascadia Seller Solutions, this update means that an entire industry will have to change in order to comply with Amazon. So, what is the best solution for handling these product compliance changes for your brand? As an experienced Amazon consultant, Rachel has some best practices and expert advice for staying compliant on Amazon while continuing to grow your brand to new heights.

In this week’s episode of the Buy Box Experts podcast, James Thomson sits down with Rachel Johnson Greer, the Founder and Managing Partner of Cascadia Seller Solutions, to talk about the steps third-party sellers can take to ensure compliance with Amazon’s policies. Rachel shares how her company helps sellers grow on the marketplace, the key performance metrics that brands must pay attention to, and why you should start taking advantage of Amazon Live today. Stay tuned.

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.

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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.

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 former business head of 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, a book on how brand executives can address channel governance and brand governance issues brought on by the Amazon Marketplace. 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. Buy Box Experts combines executive level advisory services with expert performance management and execution of your Amazon channel strategy. 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 Rachel Johnson Greer, Managing Partner of Cascadia Seller Solutions, an agency supporting brands on Amazon. Prior to Cascadia, Rachel worked at Amazon for several years dealing with direct import compliance including such issues as testing standards and product inspection. Rachel, welcome. And thank you for joining us today on the Buy Box Experts Podcast.

Rachel Johnson Greer 2:00

Thank you for having me.

James Thomson 2:02

So I got kind of a weird question to start with. In researching your background, Rachel, I’m curious how someone goes from writing a college thesis on Catholic nuns’ response to the reformation, to dealing with some of the ugliest seller behavior on Amazon. It’s a strange journey.

Rachel Johnson Greer 2:21

It actually is a lot more straightforward than you might expect. It’s actually because my first job at Amazon required German language proficiency. And so during this program, I had to speak and learn German, including German handwriting, which is terrible and difficult to learn. But my first time when I came back, I was looking around for jobs. And my cousin was like, hey, check this out. It looks like there was a job for a German speaker at Amazon. I was like, and it said near native proficiency. And I was like, Well, I’m not really a near native, but I’ll apply anyway. And, and my team leader actually said that I had the best German and so I was like, You know what, that’s a good lesson for me to learn to not ever put limits on myself. I didn’t think I was good enough. But then apparently, I’m the best German speaker in the group right now. So

James Thomson 3:04

I’m gonna guess at no point in college, were you saying I’m gonna grow up and be a product compliance expert?

Rachel Johnson Greer 3:09

No, no, I thought it was going to be a professor.

James Thomson 3:14

So although we worked at Amazon about the same time, it was only after we both finished working at Amazon that we actually met. And I invited you out to the Prosper Show to speak about product compliance issues. And in the past five years as more private label sellers and China, direct manufacturers have jumped into the Amazon Marketplace. I keep hearing horrible stories about products gone awry on Amazon. Tell me, what is the current state of product compliance today on Amazon among third party sellers? What does it look like?

Rachel Johnson Greer 3:44

Yeah, yeah. And actually, we did work together a couple times, because I was responsible for locking down some of the inventory from your FBA seller. A couple of emails, Hey, can we release this and like no, three calls? No, you can’t. So it was one of those things where we always were so strict about anything to do with anything that might even be recalled. But that was, of course, you know, anything that could be recalled when it comes to something like product compliance, where it’s, it could be legal to sell if these parameters are met, that’s a lot harder to manage, because the recall is simple. It’s either you can sell it or you can’t. And so those are always the easy ones. But when it’s, you can sell it if you have this piece of paper, and it’s dated within the last six months, and it has these line items on it. And it gets a lot more complicated. And I think that’s the reason why Amazon didn’t do it for so long is because it’s just a lot more complicated to make sure something’s compliant, and to make sure you’re legally allowed to sell that particular widget. So the challenges they’ve been lacking for so long are this year when they started really cracking down and started fixing a lot of the problems that they have. They started going very, very much the opposite direction and now they’re doing things that are not normal in the industry. We just found out just about a week ago from one of our clients, and then it started spreading to the rest. It’s like a fungus or something, the requirement for certificates of analysis, which is just a particular kind of certificate, it’s used for ingestibles and topicals, to make sure they don’t have heavy metal poisoning, or bacteria on it, or yeast growth, things you don’t want on your topicals. And you’re basically those who are usually issued by GMP, good manufacturing practice, facilities. And that’s typical, but it’s done in house by the Quality Manager, and they’re asking now for SEO to be done by a third party laboratory. And while I understand that, having it done by a third party laboratory is the gold standard, and you can rely on their accreditation, it does mean that now an entire industry is going to have to change to comply with Amazon policy. So those kinds of things are just like, wait, why do you want us to change everything, and then you gave us a week to do it?

James Thomson 6:00

Why are there only so many testing facilities out there? And now actually,

Rachel Johnson Greer 6:03

and most of these are done in house and they’re not done every six months, like you’ll do a testing in house, but you often won’t do the third party external testing, people will do that, but not at a certain frequency. And then you might do part of it externally and other parts of it internally. And it’s just like making sure that the entire CEO is issued by a lab is a totally different ball of wax. So that’s been interesting to me over this year that they went from basically, it was super easy to find unsafe, obviously, unsafe products on Amazon, to now doing things that the rest of the industry doesn’t even do in their efforts to be more compliant.

James Thomson 6:41

So when I think product compliance, one of the first things that comes to mind with third party sellers is they’re supposed to have product compliance insurance. They’re supposed to get things tested where they need to get tested. Amazon writes terms into the seller agreement that says you’re supposed to do these things. But the actual proactive monitoring of whether sellers are doing these things, subsequent to your example you just gave with some changes. Amazon is very much reactive, rather than being proactive on monitoring whether product compliance is actually happening. Where do you see things going here? I mean, with many things in Amazon, the pendulum swings far too much one way and then far too much the other way? Where do you see a stable state for product compliance monitoring for third party sellers.

Rachel Johnson Greer 7:33

So when we first started doing product compliance evaluations back in 2011, and we had brought it back in from where it had been done before 2011 2012. And we are evaluating imports at Amazon, we had to face the same question because of volume. If you actually do an evaluation properly, it takes you between 30 and 45 minutes per product. Wow. And if you think about that kind of volume, it’s like, okay, no, and then you have to be an expert in the product, or at least understand how to test reports, test reports are not standardized. A lab from Shanghai, in the same company may report differently than a lab from Shenzhen. And so it’s just it’s just such an inconvenient type of industry to work with. And so what we did was we switched a few of the very largest of the of the vendors that we worked with to what’s called a reasonable testing program, or RTP, is something that’s allowed under the Consumer Product Safety Commission rules, the CPSC, where if you follow certain requirements, and you have a procedure in place, that you therefore can test less often or not provide your testing in certain cases. Yep. And so it made our lives a lot easier to go through and evaluate the supplier level rather than the product level. And I really think that’s where Amazon needs to go with a lot of this is to start asking the questions of the seller. Okay, give us this information. But let’s actually walk through what you do so that we can feel confident in you. And then we don’t ask you for any more of this. Because from my experience, good sellers are good sellers, bad sellers are bad sellers. There isn’t like a good seller that for this particular one, they did a good job. And that one, they decided to just not do testing for whatever reason, it just doesn’t happen that way. Whereas bad sellers are always asking like, Oh, well, if I did it this way, can I get away with that? Right? And so if you actually had a process to evaluate the business that’s applying for the account and giving a designation to the business, I think they could save themselves a lot of time and effort and a lot of time and effort by evaluating the quality of the business, their onboarding rather than all these individual product reviews.

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Rachel Johnson Greer is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cascadia Seller Solutions, a successful Amazon marketing agency. As an experienced and strategic Amazon consultant, Rachel has delivered unique and highly successful solutions for clients across multiple account launches and marketing content launches on the marketplace.

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