Worst Case Scenarios for Amazon Sellers and How to Survive Them
It goes without saying that the world would be better off if COVID-19 had never happened. However, if you’re an Amazon seller, the pivot in consumer behavior to e-commerce since the pandemic began has probably been a silver lining.
That doesn’t mean Amazon is a picnic; it wasn’t before and it certainly isn’t now. Anyone who’s been selling in their marketplace for a decent amount of time has probably experienced firsthand how stressful it can be when things go wrong. The best you can do is be prepared for the worst-case scenarios that might happen. Let’s walk through four worst-case scenarios and talk about not only how to prevent them from happening, but also how to get through them without hurting too much.
Honestly, this is one of the most serious worst-case scenarios because it’s the hardest to rectify. Let’s talk about how you can be proactive, and then explore your options if this happens to you.
First, the reason you would get suspended is if you set off a red flag in Amazon’s system. This can happen for a million different reasons, but the underlying cause is always the same: Amazon has sensed that too many customers have been unhappy because of you. So, as a seller, constantly keeping up with your reviews and noting any potential sign of unhappiness from your customers is your best bet. The robots from “I, Robot” may have had three laws, but Amazon’s inner mega-robot only has one: the customer is always right.
So, you got suspended. What now? It’s time to comb through your reviews and figure out what might have been the cause. Compile a list of any remarks made by customers that weren’t glowingly positive, and try to figure out a trend. Once you think you have a good hunch, draft an appeal to Amazon with simple, clear language about what you have done wrong and how you are going to address it in the future.
(In this article about how sellers sabotage each other on the marketplace, one seller finally figured out that some buyers had complained that the shoes were too small. After promising to add a line recommending that buyers wear thin socks, his account was reinstated.)
If you do get reported, file an appeal and try to figure out why it happened. It often has nothing to do with the validity of the product, but rather how it is perceived by customers. So, comb through your reviews to find any possible mark against you and show how you will fix it. It’s possible you are in violation of Amazon’s policies without realizing it – like this seller who claimed to not know that offering a free product for review was classified as review manipulation.
Having a Counterfeiter Start Selling Your Product
These days, counterfeiting isn’t a super lucrative avenue for sellers on Amazon, but it is still something to watch out for. In general, customers are price-motivated, so they might be attracted by counterfeit brands. And if they do buy a counterfeit brand, you can take the blame if the counterfeit products aren’t good quality. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening, and to address it if it does happen.
First, file trademarks for all of your products and your brand, and then apply for Amazon’s Brand Registry. Once you’re registered there, you can create a warranty that only applies to approved sellers of your product. Then you can start sniffing out and eliminating counterfeit sellers by asking them to change their listing to “used” instead of “new.” If they don’t, you can file a listing complaint. It’s a lot of bureaucracy, but it can help protect you and your brand in a major way.
Going Out of Stock Because of High Demand
If you’re following best practices like optimizing product listings and tracking your competitors’ pricing, there’s a chance you’ll end up in the Buy Box. Talk about a dream come true, right? However, that’s when you might end up with a problem on your hands. All of a sudden, the increased traffic to your product page, plus maybe a fluky demand spike, results in even more sales than usual.
If you’re out of stock then you’re losing money you could be making, so keeping a safety stock and investing in a good inventory management system that will reorder for you is well worth the money.
There are even temporary actions you can take when you’re running low, like increasing prices. Using a repricing tool can not only help you maximize your profits, it can also assist in low inventory situations.
Fortunately, there is no penalty from Amazon for going out of stock. Other than getting your items back in stock as soon as possible, there’s not much you can do except prepare better for next time.
Fake Good Reviews
This is another potential cause for getting suspended, but there are at least a few steps you can take if you suspect you’re getting review-bombed. These days, competitors will pay review bots to leave good reviews that are obviously fake in order to sabotage the competition. If you get too many, the Amazon hammer will come crashing down on you. So what can you do?
Your best bet is to report the reviews as soon as they come in. If you suspect that a review is fake, report it, and consider that to be your warning shot to a competitor who is trying to take you down.
Amazon can be extremely lucrative and many sellers run their businesses successfully. Droves of consumers shop there every day. However, selling on Amazon will never be easy. As the platform grows, so do the rules to keep the platform running, and the number of bad actors trying to make some quick money. If you rely on Amazon, you need to invest time into understanding their policies and protecting your business from harm. Hopefully you’re reading this article proactively.