Say you’re selling your private label product on Amazon when you suddenly realize that you’re not the only one offering it.
You developed your brand from scratch and don't have any wholesale/reseller agreements, so how could this be? Who is this seller? How dare they profit from your hard work?
By the looks of it, you’ve been hijacked.
Hijackers have been cropping up more and more, posing a serious threat to marketplace sellers. Ranging from Alibaba suppliers to Chinese counterfeits, American scammers to bots, most hijackers aim to steal the Buy Box and sales from brand owners by selling counterfeit goods at lower prices.
In this blog, we'll cover three ways to prevent Amazon hijackers from sabotaging your branded listings, alongside three ways to handle them once your listings have been compromised. But first things first: let’s understand what we're dealing with.
How Does Amazon's Buy Box Work?
Amazon is estimated to have more than 2.5 million third-party sellers on their platform. Several sellers may compete for the exact same product under the same listing, using the same Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN). Amazon uses unique ASINs for each product to keep their catalog clean and prevent different sellers from listing the same product twice.
If you win the Amazon Buy Box for a specific product, you're the default seller. Any order will be sold under your store, meaning when customers click the “Add to Cart” button, their order will be routed to you unless they manually select another seller. This seldom happens. It's therefore important to win the Buy Box over your competitors.
As a brand owner who hasn't sold wholesale items to resellers, there should be no need to compete for the Buy Box in the first place. The product listing and Buy Box belong to you—the only legitimate seller of your product. By stealing it from you by acting as a reseller on your listing, hijackers are nabbing a primary sales channel from your ecommerce business.
Three Common Types of Amazon Hijackers
The first step to protecting yourself from hijackers is to clearly identify them. As a private label seller, this is not a difficult task. You should be able to quickly recognize your product listings. If you find two or more sellers with the exact same product under the same ASIN, odds are there might be hijackers involved. The exception here is Amazon Warehouse Deals, Amazon's secondary channel for selling returned or lost products found at Fulfillment Centers.
The Imposter: The product listing will look almost identical to yours—except for the Seller name. It'll likely be priced cheaper too since the hijacker wants to win over your customers and doesn't have to afford the operational costs of running or promoting a brand. If they are the supplier, they also have a much lower product cost.
The Counterfeiter: Another type of hijacker, The Counterfeiter, may try to rip off your brand name, logo, product images or content to sell a knock-off of your product. Counterfeits are harder to spot because they don’t show up on your listing. Rather, they create a second listing for customers to find.
The Saboteur: Competitive hijackers might not only go after your Buy Box. They could also sabotage your listing by changing your titles, product images, descriptions, and categories. The Buy Box winner is considered the listing owner and can change the content of the listing if your brand isn't registered. They could potentially use images of a totally different product on the listing. They may even alter your reviews by running bots that thumb-up bad reviews on your listings or pay for negative reviews.
Note: Sellers that appear on your listing with a high price may not necessarily be hijackers. They could be a distributor of your product or even a dropshipper. Understanding the distinction can help you determine what course of action to take.
How to Prevent Hijackers
1. Register Your Brand on Amazon
If you properly enroll your brand in Amazon's Brand Registry, you'll be able to prove your brand ownership against sellers knocking-off your brand . Amazon will, in turn, protect you with a quick and simple procedure. You need to submit a company website with your application. You also need to apply with an email registered at that domain. Amazon needs confirmation that you are the rightful brand owner and website and email proof is part of that confirmation. Amazon's Brand Registry program will also help you proactively identify intellectual property violations and ensure that your authored content shows up on the listing.
2. Visibly Brand Your Products
Always display your logo and trademark on your product, both on the physical item and on the packaging. Try to showcase this as much as possible in the product images in your listing to help the customers identify an authentic product on their own. Making your product as unique as possible will deter scammers from trying to counterfeit a hard-to-fake item and, even if they do, customers will immediately realize the scam and report them to Amazon themselves.
3. Constantly Monitor Your Listings
By checking your listings regularly, both on your Seller Central dashboard and through the customer’s perspective (via the Amazon search bar), you can quickly identify suspicious activity related to your listings. Your main focus should be on your top selling listings or listings where you may be losing the buy box the most. Ensure that your private label product is the only result that shows up. Doing a quick search for your brand name is one way to help identify duplicate listings. Quickly noticing a hijacker can make a huge difference in minimizing the damage imposed on your brand and sales.
How to Protect Yourself From Hijackers
1. Send a Cease-and-Desist Letter
The single most effective way to deal with hijackers is to confront them directly. Most of their operations rely on being unnoticed, and a letter calling them out can solve the problem immediately. Of course, any message just won’t do the trick: What you need is to write a cease-and-desist letter.
Write to them via the link on their Seller Profile and ask them to remove their offer. Tell them you are the owner of the private brand, and you have successfully gotten previous hijackers accounts suspended through legal action and Amazon complaints. This can help scare off hijackers.
2. File a Complaint with Amazon
The formal method to deal with a counterfeit listing is to file a complaint with Amazon. However, the process can look slightly different depending on whether you have or haven't registered your brand. Either way, you can complain to Amazon and gain their support against the scammers.
If you're already brand registered, you can fill a trademark infringement claim against counterfeiters. All you have to do is write two or three short sentences stating the problem and submit screenshots, evidence of the counterfeit and a link to the counterfeiter's storefront. Mark it as 'urgent' and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of days to get solved.
If you haven’t registered your brand by the time you notice the counterfeit, you can still report them by sending an email to Seller Performance. You can reach them by emailing email@example.com. Include as many pictures and details as you can, be exhaustive about the issue and this should do the trick. Although Amazon may take a little longer to solve the issue than if you were a registered brand, Amazon will usually support you, since fighting counterfeit goods is a huge focus for the company.
We prefer starting to combat hijackers and counterfeiters by using a cease-and-desist. An Amazon complaint typically takes longer to process. Cease-and-desist letters are easy to send and received quickly by the violating party. If your letter does not work, then you should open a complaint with Amazon.
3. Purchase From the Hijacker or Counterfeiter
If the counterfeiter or hijacker is still selling your product after you've issued a cease- and-desist and filed a complaint with Amazon, you need to start making test purchases to reinforce your case with Amazon.
When you receive the suspected counterfeit product, take pictures that prove that the product is fake and lacks your branding. Afterwards, call Amazon support as a customer and open a counterfeit case against the seller. You can even demand a full refund and Amazon will give it to you. Finally, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from your buyer account and complain to them. Attach the photos you’ve taken, the order number from your purchase and the link to the counterfeit storefront. This should help to get the counterfeit seller’s account suspended.
Amazon hijackers and counterfeiters attempt to ride on the coattails of your brand-building efforts, costing you time and money. Counterfeit quality might additionally hurt your customer’s perception of you brand and/or your product. They might even feel cheated and leave a bad review on your listing as opposed to the hijacker's.
Dealing with hijackers is an ongoing challenge, but you can prevent it with these three preventative strategies. If your listing has been compromised and hijackers are scamming your customers, using our removal tactics will further help you protect your brand. These efforts might sound exhausting, but there is no such thing as doing too much when it comes to protecting your business.