August 27, 2019

Just because the Amazon Selling Coach recommends items to sell, doesn’t mean they are safe to list

By: Lesley Hensell

Leon sells on Amazon in the Sports & Outdoors category. He hawks everything from outdoor lighting to basketballs to hanging baskets for plants. So when the Amazon Selling Coach suggested a line of kites that he should sell, he jumped on the opportunity.

“I’ve been selling on Amazon for about a year,” Leon said. “I’ve got about a half-dozen suppliers who provide me with a wide range of products, but what I really love is to find something that doesn’t already have tons of other sellers on the listing.”

Amazon Selling Coach is an automated tool on Seller Central. Analyzing other products listed in a seller’s inventory, it looks for ASINs in the Amazon catalog that have recent sales or search activity, but not a corresponding number of available offers. Third-party sellers can find the Selling Coach page here: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/hz/sellingcoach (login required).

Hand drawing a game strategy with white chalk on a blackboard to show Amazon Selling Coach

The Coach populates a series of ASINs for sellers to review and see if they can source the inventory. These are found on the “inventory recommendations” page.

Here’s the problem. These suggestions do not – in any way, shape or form – mean you are “safe” to buy this inventory. Leon will explain that to you.

“Based on the Amazon Selling Coach recommendations, I bought some kites,” Leon said. “These are licensed kits, with various cartoon and superhero figures on them.”

Not long after listing the kites, Leon was hit with multiple intellectual property complaints – both from the manufacturer of the kites and the owner of the licensed characters. A few days later, his Amazon seller account was deactivated.

“I’m still in shock,” he said. “I’m selling the exact products that Amazon said it wanted me to sell. I bought high-quality, new stock from my distributor. I’m not doing anything wrong.”

Here are several ways that buying recommended inventory can cause a seller problems:
  1. Just because Amazon recommends a product, the seller may not be ungated and able to list it. We see sellers blocked from listing recommended products at the category, brand and ASIN level. The same goes for topicals and other special gating types. If a seller buys the inventory before attempting to list it or check it in the Amazon app, they can find themselves with a bunch of inventory on-hand that they could not unload.
  2. A product that is blocked as a restricted product is part of the recommendations! Clearly, the Amazon Selling Coach isn’t updated as quickly as the Amazon catalog in general, since the ASIN’s listing no longer exists.
  3. Some brand owners are aggressive about filing intellectual property claims, even if a seller’s inventory is authentic and well-sourced. The Amazon Selling Coach will not take this into account – just ask Leon.
  4. I know sellers who see these recommendations, and move heaven and earth to find the specific items. If the items are discontinued, the seller purchases liquidation or gray-market inventory, just so they can be on a listing without competition. This is a dangerous practice. (See our blog about liquidation here: https://riverbendconsulting.com/2019/02/20/why-liquidation-inventory-can-be-3p-kryptonite/)

In summary, beware of the recommendations of Amazon Selling Coach. It’s a simple, data-driven tool that’s only concern is providing broader product selection on the Amazon platform. Not caring about you or your account.

Riverbend Consulting navigates online retail. Get your Amazon account reinstated, sell with confidence, and increase your bottom line. Contact us.

Lesley Hensell is Partner at Riverbend Consulting, she offers practical know-how to improve retail performance. Lesley’s experience with Amazon compliance gets accounts back up fast.