Registering Your Private Label Brand on Amazon
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News, March 2015 - Volume 16, Issue No. 6
Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Online Sellers
Something really sad and disturbing happened since my last newsletter. I don't know how many of my readers knew of Stephen Lindhorst. He was a former eBay employee and eBay Education Specialist and author of several books about selling on eBay. Although we were sort of competitors, after meeting him at eBay Live in Boston in 2007, we started working on some joint projects and I promoted a few of his books on Multichannel Surfer to my readers. My impression was that Steve was really smart and a super nice guy.
Well that all went away last week when I read the following article. I know that in our country we are all presumed innocent until convicted, but the alleged evidence in this case is pretty compelling.
I guess the lesson here is that no matter how nice and engaging someone is -you just never know what is in someone's heart.
Jason Tay is a prolific and successful Amazon seller. Last week he did an excellent blog post that we can all learn from. It is called - Comparing Amazon Sales From Jan 2014 and Jan 2015 - Results and Lessons Learnt and is well worth reading if you sell on Amazon.
If you sell on Amazon from overseas here is an email from one of my readers who does this with some really good advice for current or folks who want to start selling on Amazon USA from a foreign country:
If you are trying to get approval to sell in the clothing, jewelry or watches category on Amazon you know how difficult the process can be. Jessica Larrew is now offering a service to help you and she is offering a coupon for my readers:
Use the coupon below to take $200 OFF of the Clothing Approval Assistance! This is only available for the first 100 people, so make sure to take action today!
Valid through 04/15/2015
Must Use Coupon Code: APPROVED At The Time Of Purchase
Just a reminder that The Complete eBay Marketing System has been updated. To celebrate that I'm offering free US shipping through the end of March. (a $10 savings) You've got a few more days to take advantage of this deal.
Last item - If you sell any product containing chocolate in Amazon FBA, don't forget the last date to remove them is May 1st. If they are still there after that date Amazon will destroy them.
OK - Let's get started with our articles:
In a recent presentation I gave on private labeling, I pointed out that there are two ways to private label: Formal and Informal.
Formal private labeling is when you apply for, and get, a trademark for your brand and register your trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. This allows you to use the ® mark next to your private label name.
Informal private labeling is when you just come up with a brand name and start using it, but you do not trademark or register it.
It might surprise you but there is no law, or Amazon policy, that says that a brand has to be trademarked and registered. But, of course, the downside to this is, without trademark protection your brand cannot be protected.
However, interestingly, I have two informal brands (one of them is in the TM application process) that are not registered -and although I have been using them on eBay and Amazon for over two years, I have only had two persons try and poach on my listing. And, when I emailed them and said this was my brand, one of them ignored me and the other pulled his listing.
Not everyone knows that if you are a brand holder you can register your brand with Amazon, which gives you some protection from poachers. What I wondered was can I do this with an informal brand or would it have to be trademarked? So I asked Amazon and got a surprising answer.
If you are doing, or thinking about doing, any private labeling, be sure and read this response very carefully. Note - to see the links Amazon refers to, you need to first be logged into Seller Central. I didn't hyperlink these links so you will need to copy paste them into the URL bar once you are logged in.
Here is the response from Amazon:
That is really interesting. So yesterday I started the process to register my other two brands with Amazon in addition to the two that I already have both or which are already trademarked.
This is a guest article by Karon Thackston. Karon is offering a special deal for my readers of 20% off of her book, Amazon Advantage - Product listing strategies to boost your sales. Just use the special coupon at checkout - SKIP20. I have been using Karon's advice for almost a year now and I can tell you without hesitation, it has improved my sales.
Did you know that?
According to Amazon, these chronic violations have caused the e-commerce giant to roll out some serious changes.
I've had several conversations with Seller Support over the last four months or so about this topic, including a talk with a representative from the Leadership Team. She mentioned that they have been aware of these types of listings for quite some time and were working on a way of helping sellers be more aware of and compel them to work within the listing criteria. No easy task considering the volume of information available and the fact that not all of it is consistent.
Amazon's Contradiction & Confusion
Here's just how confusing Amazon's system can be. The maximum title character count you'll find in any of the Style Guides for any category is 150 (consumer electronics). However, the actual Product Name field in Add A Product has a small note that tells you the maximum is 250 characters. However, the field itself will hold much more than that. So, Amazon says one thing and does another in many cases. No wonder so many sellers are in violation without knowing it!
Regardless of what the website says, if Amazon contacts you because they have deactivated your listing, they will hold you accountable to whatever is stated in the Style Guide or their most current policy change.
Home Category Call-Out
The first category to be reined in is the one that Amazon identified as having the most listings in violation: Home. Starting gradually a few months ago, reports from our clients (and the Facebook groups we belong to) began to roll in.
Amazon had implemented forced character limits for titles and bullets/features in the Kitchen sub-category. As the weeks went on, more were added to the list. Not everyone is seeing these at the moment, but I've been told by Amazon that this will be a category-wide change to take place over time.
So far we have heard accounts of two situations: First, sellers have been notified that existing listings have been deactivated until changes were made. Second, new listings have encountered forced character limits in the Add A Product section of Seller Central and the inventory upload.
Since those original reports, I've heard about pretty much every home sub-category being affected, including:
I have also seen this expanding out into Crafts and certain select Sporting Goods sub-cats.
Where Do We Stand Now?
As it stands right now, for the Home & Garden category (and all sub-categories under it), the following character counts apply:
Short Copy Can Be Compelling
Since Amazon has put their foot down on exceptionally long titles and bullets, where does that leave you? Short copy doesn't have to be boring. Let's take a look at some practical tips and tricks you can use when whittling down your longer listings.
Here's an actual example from one of Skip McGrath's listings. Here's one way we can tweak it to comply with the new character counts while still being compelling.
The current title is:
Seven-Piece Premium Ceramic Knife Set, Advanced Zirconium Ceramic Blades, Non-slip Handle; Includes a Peeler, a 3" Paring Knife, 4" Slicing Knife, 5" Utility Knife, a 5" Santoku Knife, a 6" Chef Knife and an Acrylic Knife Holder
This equals 228 characters. (Yes, spaces count.) While it is an informative title, I wouldn't necessarily call it "enticing." It doesn't take much to capture attention. Sometimes just a word or two can catch the eye of shoppers and sway them to click on your product.
An alternate 100-character title Skip might try is:
Professional-Quality 7-Piece Ceramic Knife Set | Advanced Zirconium Blades With Non-Slip Handles (96 characters)
The terms "professional-quality" and "advanced" let Amazon visitors know that this isn't some cheapo knife set, but one that is of high value. I chose to skip the types of knives included because they can see those from the images. You can't see professional quality or that they have ceramic blades from a picture.
The types of knives and their sizes can easily be put into the Search Terms fields. The details can go into the bullet points and description sections.
The current bullets are:
All of these are under 156 characters (per bullet), but I'd make some changes to enhance readability and draw in home cooks even further.
Personally, I like to give a teaser/benefit at the front of bullets. So, instead of "Third Generation Ceramic technology - Advanced Zirconium Ceramic Blades," which is strictly a feature, I changed it to immediately connect with home cooks with a benefit:
I did the same with the rest of the bullets except for the list of items included.
If you give some thought to what the target customer really wants and make that the focal point of your bullets and title, you don't have to use a lot of words to entice and attract buyers.
This is a guest article by Appah Prince from a company called Veeqo. Veeqo is an inventory management system that allows you to sync your inventory in real time between Amazon, eBay, Magento, Shopify & WooCommerce and prevents over selling.
Here is Appah's article:
There 3 main reasons why Amazon might remove a seller's privileges. We're going to take a look at these reasons and provide advice on how you can avoid making the mistakes, which may lead to a suspension of your Amazon account.
The seller has not met Amazon's performance standards
When you first start out selling on Amazon, there are certain benchmarks you have to meet. If you are not meeting these, and if you constantly get poor buyer feedback scores and poor sales performance metrics, there's a chance Amazon could remove your seller privileges.
Amazon takes your performance as a seller into account and will send you a warning if your performance and metrics are falling low. You will be given an opportunity to improve these figures, so you should take action as soon as you are notified of your failure.
You should evaluate your selling practices on a regular basis to ensure that you are not on the road to buyer dissatisfaction.
Amazon states that:
All sellers should be working toward achieving and maintaining a level of customer service that meets the following seller performance targets:
Failure to meet these targets may result in the removal of your selling privileges.
If you are lagging in any of these departments, you need to identify the cause and take measures to improve yourself as a seller. Do your packages regularly arrive after the date you said they'd be there? If not, you could improve shipping process by using Fulfilment by Amazon. Do your orders have a high defect rate? Do you often find yourself out of stock for popular products? A good place to start is taking a look at how you manage your inventory. Using an inventory management tool could help you, especially if you have a large amount of stock.
You could also look at tools like Feedback Five, which help you prompt your customers so that they are more likely to give you feedback and improve your seller rating.
Amazon's selling policies may have been violated
If you have not familiarised yourself with Amazon's selling policies, it is possible that you could break the rules without even noticing. Amazon states that you must:
Attempts to divert transactions or buyers - Don't try directing sales away from Amazon
Unauthorized and improper business names - Business names must accurately identify the seller; can't be misleading; and must have the right to use it. It also cannot contain an email suffix such as .com, .net, .biz
Inappropriate email communications - Communications with buyers must be courteous, relevant and appropriate. Unsolicited email communications with other users, other than as necessary for order fulfilment and related customer service, and emails containing marketing communications are not allowed.
Direct email addresses - You cannot communicate with buyers and other sellers via your own email, you must use Amazon's Buyer Seller Messaging Service
Operating multiple Seller Central accounts - Amazon will allow you to have 2 accounts, but only for legitimate business reasons, and second accounts must be approved. To be considered for approval you must:
Misuse of the Amazon selling platform - Don't abuse the system in excessive or unreasonable way, because uploading an excessive amount of data repeatedly can create a disproportionate load on the platform and impair the ability of other sellers to easily access and use the platform
Misuse of ratings and feedback or reviews - Don't attempt to manipulate ratings, reviews or feedback. Don't offer payment for removal of negative reviews or feedback, and don't post feedback or reviews to your own account.
Misuse of the Amazon.com A-to-z Guarantee - Sellers who have an excessive number or dollar amount of A-to-z Guarantee claims are subject to termination, so don't misuse the A-to-Z guarantee.
You might be selling restricted items
Amazon restricts a certain number of products for varying reasons, for example products that are easily counterfeited or sold exclusively elsewhere.
Here is where we reach a sort of grey area as some items are completely prohibited, for example tobacco products, but some are restricted, meaning you could need pre-approval for example all alcohol is prohibited except wine, which can be sold by pre-approved seller, and clothes and jewellery items need to be pre-approved.
Additionally, some product types within allowed categories are restricted, which could mean that the type of item is permitted (e.g. makeup and cosmetics), but certain brands of that product are not (like Chanel, Lancôme and MAC), and only official sellers are allowed to list these items. You can find a full list of Amazon restricted products here, on Amazon. The best way to avoid selling restricted products is to familiarize yourself with Amazon's policies.
Amazon will usually warn you if they detect you attempting to sell a restricted item, and they will give you time to remove your listing. If you re-list that item, Amazon may suspend your account, and recovering it may be difficult, so don't ignore Amazon's warnings and make sure you respond to these appropriately, by removing any restricted products.
(Note: If you have trouble accessing some of the links in the article, try logging into Seller central first).
Well it's that time of year again when eBay makes their major policy announcements. This year is not too bad. One thing I noticed is that eBay seems to want to focus more on the auction format than in the past when they were really pushing fixed price. Maybe the new management is getting that old time religion.
Fees seem to change every Spring --and this year is no exception. In this announcement some fees are going up, some going down and some going away - so on balance its not too bad.
Let me just print the announcement and then I will give you my comments after each item in italics.
Starting May 1:
Some advice on these changes:
To increase the likelihood of selling your item in auctions, use auction-style listings for niche products or items with high buyer demand. Use fixed price listings when you can list your item at a set price so that buyers can purchase it right away. In general, fixed price is best for items that have a clear market value and you know the price wanted, whereas auction is best for items whose value may fluctuate, when price is unknown, or when there is intense buyer demand for a limited item.
Determine if an eBay Stores subscription will save you more in fees, especially with consideration to reduced final value fees. Subscriptions start AT $15.95 a month for a Basic Store. Here is a link to eBay store fees and services.
Choose longer durations: The longer a listing appears on the site, the more opportunities it has to be found by buyers: 7- or 10-day for auction-style-now with no feature fee-and Good 'Til Cancelled for fixed price listings. I have been using ten-day auctions for a long time and they do tend to work better. Now I don't have to pay the extra fee so that is good.
Remember many of these websites do not show wholesale pricing or ordering wholesale information. To get this info -or access to the protected part of the site, use the contact us form and send a polite email requesting wholesale information.
Mika Accessories sells a very nice line of jewelry and women's fashion accessories. Their website isn't very good, but you can email them Kenny@mikaacc.com for information.
The McStevens Wholesale Company sells a nice line of gourmet food gifts. You need a code and password to access the website. Code is mcstevens and the password is bmr124. Best of all their minimum wholesale order is only $100.
Fireside Coffee sells gourmet coffee, teas and coffee gift sets.
Everbright Trading sells toys and other products that it imports directly.
Just Funky sells a line of licenses funky and unusual gifts.
You Can Hide It sells a line of liquor flasks that look like ordinary objects such as an ice pack, hair spray, bug spray and so on to help folks sneak liquor into concerts and ball games.
Picnic Time sells a nice line of picnic sets and suppliers and their sister company Legacy sells a beautiful line of table serve ware.
Old Modern Handicrafts sells a beautiful line of models of vintage ships, sailboats, cars and runabouts. They also carry a nice line of globes that open up to become bars, chess sets or poker sets as well as reproduction old nautical instruments.
New Ray USA is a toy company that specializes in die cast metal toys, trucks, cars, trains and so on.
Red Cup Living sells a nice line of reusable (washable) red cups, mugs and beer steins.
African American Expressions sells a large line of African American themed gifts and other products.
Foam Fanatics sells a complete line of foam heads for sports fans licensed by all the teams.
That's it for now. See you again right after Easter. Let me take a moment to wish my Christian friends a happy and joyful Easter.
P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.
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