So you found the perfect product. Sales rank is stellar. The price is right. The listing has limited competition. What could go wrong?
I’ve got two words for you: product quality.
In years past, Amazon assigned the blame for many product quality problems to manufacturers. Sellers just had to be sure they sold new goods in pretty boxes without dents or dings. That is no longer the case. Account health starts with product quality.
Amazon now expects sellers to sell quality products that garner as few customer complaints as possible. The proof for this, is in the ever-increasing number of ASIN suspensions. These suspensions focused on everything from inauthentic to used sold as new, to safety incidents, and more.
Why has Amazon undertaken this strategy?
Knock-offs. Whether they are from disreputable sellers here in the United States or overseas, inauthentic goods have flooded the Amazon platform. To remain a trusted source for customers, Amazon had to combat this influx of fakes. Suspending ASINs with inauthentic complaints and demanding invoices as proof of authenticity is happening more than ever.
Warehouses bulging with cheap Alibaba goods that nobody wants. Amazon has been flooded with poor-quality goods that simply don’t sell. The company needs to get those out of their warehouses and out of the catalog. That’s one reason Amazon has become more aggressive with fees and policies for FBA long-term storage.
Irresponsible sellers. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Sellers have shirked their responsibilities. Far too often, a seller has high returns for a poor-quality item, but doesn’t act – or even notice.
If you have an ASIN suspended for product quality, does that mean you are selling fakes or acting irresponsibly? Absolutely not! But as most Amazon sellers know, the whole class gets punished for the actions of a few troublemakers. Amazon has ratcheted up enforcement on product quality, and it is now sellers’ responsibility to act accordingly.
You can combat product quality problems at three stages of the Amazon selling game.
Don’t just consider margins and sell-through rates. Look at the quality of the product. Read reviews. If there are only 3 stars and a bunch of unhappy customers on Amazon.com, consider passing on the buy.
If this is a high-volume wholesale or PL buy, do more extensive research. Ask about product testing, materials and more. Don’t buy something that might fall apart, break easily, or has poor directions.
Use the product. Try to break it. Consider how other people of different backgrounds might use and abuse it. This kind of thought process can reveal shortcomings and product quality issues.
Can your product arrive to the buyer in pristine condition? If not, you have a product quality issue. For example, some pressed-powder cosmetics are in flimsy boxes, leading to breakage. Without upgraded outer packaging, you will have many unhappy customers.
Shelfware, dented boxes, crushed containers – none of these qualify as “new” under Amazon’s condition guidelines. Empower your shipping team to remove less-than-perfect product from your shelves to ensure it isn’t sent out to customers. Each item should be in gift-giving condition – like a gift you would give to your prospective mother-in-law with OCD.
Padded envelopes are much cheaper than boxes. However, these envelopes also allow for much more damage to occur during the shipping process. If an item could be damaged during transport, consider upgrading to a box with adequate dunnage.
Run return reports frequently. Hardline items should have return rates of less than 3%.
Check the reasons for returns – even if your return rate is acceptable. Find out why your customers are returning items and what makes them unhappy. Don’t ignore these issues. Address them.
Read product reviews. Yes, there are difficult customers. But even cranky people can provide valuable feedback.
Assign someone in your company the duty of monitoring, measuring and acting on this data. Make it part of their weekly responsibilities. Don’t let it slide.
Lesley is co-founder and co-owner of Riverbend Consulting, where she oversees the firm’s client services team. She has personally helped hundreds of third-party sellers get their accounts and ASINs back up and running. Lesley leverages two decades as a small business consultant to advise clients on profitability and operational performance. She has been an Amazon seller for almost a decade, thanks to her boys (19 and 13) who do most of the heavy lifting.