Product variations – What are they, and how they can wreck your account
Amazon sellers have less than a few seconds to stop the scroll and compel shoppers to take action. To enhance the shopping experience, Amazon allows sellers and brands to create variations of a product. As a result, shoppers can find products with multiple sizes, flavors, colors, and scents for sale at the same time. This initiative allows shoppers to go through a product listing and have all variants in one place, creating a better shopping experience.
If you sell on the marketplace, product variations can also be a little-known danger lurking in your account. Product variations can be somewhat similar, but they may have different attributes in terms of size, color, flavor, and so on. These similarities are what can cause problematic issues for ASINs in your account.
In this article, we’ll talk about Amazon product variations, their potential risks, and how to mitigate them to maintain a healthy seller account.
What are product variations?
Variations can be described as product listing options on Amazon where a product has a chain of other products attached to it. Usually, the combined products are similar to each other, but they each have their unique selling points in terms of sizes, colors, flavors, etc.
Product variations have a parent-child relationship between products. The parent is the primary product, while the children are other affixed products. All products have their individual ASINs.
What does a product variation entail?
There are three relationship components of product variants on Amazon:
- Parent listing: The parent listing or parent ASIN on an Amazon product variation is the product that acts as a placeholder listing and establishes the relationship between the child products linked to it. The listing is only visible in Seller Central search results. For example, if you were to sell a pair of jeans in different sizes on Amazon, the first pair you post would be the parent product, while another pair (like a black color) would be the child product.
- Child products: The child product is a stem or branch of the parent product. It’s mostly similar to its parent product. You can have many child products connected to a parent product, but they are usually the same products with slight changes in color, size, flavors, etc. Child products offer shoppers more options to choose from when looking for a particular item. For example, instead of listing two dresses in different colors separately, you can offer them under the parent because they are related with only one significant difference. In this case, the dresses are child products to the parent listing.
- Variation theme: Since the parent-child product listing involves many child products, Amazon uses a variation theme to define the relationship between the different child products. A variation theme describes the relationship between a parent product and its child and the associated child products. The typical variation themes are size, color, flavor, scent, units/quantity, etc.
How are product variations dangerous?
Variations make it easier for sellers to combine similar products. They can improve a brand’s visibility and boost sales. How then are product variations dangerous?
Amazon has strict product listing policies that all sellers must adhere to – especially for variations. Many sellers don’t fully understand these policies, and some make mistakes because the process is somewhat complicated.
Ignorance is no excuse for Amazon. If you create a wrong variation, Amazon will take actions that are in line with their “enforce first, ask questions later” policy. At first, Amazon will let you know they corrected a violation. Sometimes, they skip this process and go straight to blocking the listings or suspending the seller account.
If guilty of continuous variation abuse or misuse, Amazon may go as far as suspending or deactivating your account for misuse of ASIN variations until you appeal – your sales may suffer.
To prevent account issues, you shouldn’t use unnecessary variations because Amazon considers doing so as manipulation.
Incorrect variations can arise when:
- A product category doesn’t permit product variations.
- Child products differ from each other or the parent products in a variation theme. In other words, if your variation item differs by size, your child ASIN can only vary by size.
- Child ASINs are outside the permitted variation theme.
- You list bundles as product variants.
- You list multipacks not produced by manufacturers.
How can sellers protect themselves?
Amazon sellers must abide by the Amazon product variation guidelines to maintain a healthy account. To protect your Amazon seller account, you should compare your product ASINs with what’s available on Seller Central’s Help pages. You can also contact the technical support team for more information.
Similarly, you should act on Amazon warnings from Seller Performance. Sometimes, these warnings can be wrong, but it’s best to reply to performance issues and perform due diligence. If you get a notification after setting up a variation correctly, you should review, find the root cause, and appeal the decision.
If you have breached Amazon’s variation rules, and Amazon is correct about the warning, take down both the parent and child listings from your catalog of inventory. Re-list the items individually after 24 hours. Amazon fully updates its system after this period. If the issue persists, consider contacting an expert who can help you navigate the product variations appeal process.
Amazon product variations are a great way for Amazon sellers to boost sales, get more traffic to their listings, and improve the overall customer experience. However, sellers must comply with Amazon’s product variation rules to make the most of variations.
Many sellers lose their accounts to ASIN variation misuse today because of avoidable errors due to negligence or assumption. Just because Amazon approves a listing doesn’t mean it’s been uploaded correctly.
To be a successful Amazon seller without variation issues, it’s imperative that you follow the steps mentioned above and also take time to review Amazon’s product variation policy. If you have other team members, ensure a standard operating procedure with the necessary information is in place, and supervise activities for each of your listings.
Ultimately, it’s your brand, so lead by example and be on top of every activity within your seller account.
Do you need help managing product variations in your Amazon FBA business? Riverbend Consulting can help! Contact us today for information about how we can help appeal your ASINs.
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 (21 and 15) who do most of the heavy lifting.
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