Amazon to Reveal Seller Details on September 1, 2020
Well, this has been a customer-friendly change long overdue — Amazon US has finally announced that it will begin displaying seller information on its seller profile pages as of September 1, 2020. While this is a welcome change in policy for the US business, readers should note that this has been the norm for Amazon’s operations in Europe, Mexico, and Japan for a number of years.
We expect communication with sellers to remain locked behind Amazon’s system, and any support directly from Amazon will continue to be managed through Brand Registry. This is just a change in its seller information policy — not takedown or brand protection. Remember… Amazon has always had this information, they’re now just feeling the pressure from multiple directions that displaying it gets them out of some difficult conversations with regulatory bodies in the US.
Why is this happening?
Amazon’s marketplace has increasingly been under the microscope during the COVID-19 crisis for sellers participating in price-gouging behavior which became illegal once a state of emergency was enacted in the US. Hot on the heels of Amazon launching its counterfeit crimes unit as well as 3M suing a major rogue seller price gouging N95 masks during the initial COVID-19 crisis – the timing of this announcement comes after a succession of multiple steps taken by Amazon to show it is putting in place systems to tackle rogue behavior on its platform.
Amazon has always been a customer-first business (which often puts it at odds with suppliers!). Ensuring that the authenticity and trust of its marketplace remain high is crucial for its continued success.
What are the watch-outs?
Expect Amazon to provide more clarity on the actual seller requirements as the September 1 date approaches. As this is written, Amazon will allow sellers to update information but does not always require verified information during sign up. Large sophisticated sellers will likely use this as an opportunity to go further underground under shell companies and P.O. boxes.
There are hundreds of comments from sellers in the Amazon Forums portal voicing concerns about the security of Amazon disclosing home addresses of individual sellers. Amazon does not require sellers to have a business entity and requiring individuals to register as a business would likely get push back, be bad PR for Amazon, and give them a disadvantage over eBay, Etsy, and Facebook marketplace, which do not require a business be set up to sell.
What Brands Should Do:
- Every brand should have a brand protection program in place to ensure their consumers have the best experience possible. With the recent shifts towards anti-counterfeiting and transparency of seller information, now may be a good time to approach your vendor manager (or bring it up during your next top to top) about how Amazon can help support your initiatives on cleaning up their marketplace.
- Link US seller information to Europe to identify cross-border distribution challenges — your Potoo dashboard does this automatically for you.
- Identify sellers who have offline-only limited distribution contracts and decide if you should cut off supply.
- Revisit the way your legal teams approach seller identification — does this make their lives easier or is there still insufficient data for it to become actionable?
Is this something new to Amazon?
Seller information was already required in certain Amazon regions including Mexico, Japan, and the EU. It is important to note that this change is just for brands and customers’ ability to see this data — Amazon has always had this information. Up until now, many brands have had to use the costly legal route to subpoena these records from Amazon itself to unmask those sellers. This change should render that methodology unnecessary.
Those brands using Potoo’s analytics platform will already have access to this data which has been compiled across all Amazon platforms and tie sellers across all platforms they sell on to help track multi-marketplace and cross-border sales.
Will this identify all sellers accurately?
Amazon is currently allowing sellers to self-update information vs. use verified information during storefront registration. We expect Amazon to provide more clarity on this to sellers ahead of September 1. Even if the information is required to be verified, sellers can register and mask businesses at P.O. boxes, and also start to register their operations in other countries while still selling into the US market.
Potoo expects this policy change to primarily impact smaller sellers or retail arbitrage/promotion flippers who may not want their home addresses shown or go through the hassle of setting up a business entity. Large, professional, and sticky/nefarious sellers may further entrench underground.
We have set up a tracking protocol that will see seller information changes between now and September 1 — this will allow our brand partners to see which sellers have updated their information. Your account managers can provide this information the week of September 7th.
How does seller information help me control my brand?
This seller information has been available in Europe, Japan, and Mexico for a number of years and has had little effect on Amazon proactively controlling sellers on behalf of brands. Brands will still need to leverage Brand Registry — Amazon’s portal for escalations and reporting of violations. Amazon takes no action based on distribution, pricing, or seller identity (Amazon has had this seller information all along). Sellers need to be prioritized by the impact they are having (sales price, sales dollars, inventory, etc.) then violations are found and escalated.
How will this help brands?
This increase in seller information will boost the brand’s ability to communicate with sellers via physical letters. Email and telephone are not required to be disclosed and the Amazon Buyer-Seller communication portal has limitations.
How will this impact my ability to cut off sellers?
- Large sellers, no impact. Those sellers are already well known by brands and will remain the hardest to cut off from selling on Amazon. Knowing the seller is just half the battle, with the bulk of the challenge around cutting off the supply of the product. Finding listing and product violations along with sample buys are the most impactful ways to remove those sellers that violate marketplace policy.
- Small opportunistic sellers, limited impact. They go in and out of inventory quickly as they are primarily sourcing products from promotions or liquidation sales. Those sellers need to be tracked and reported as they pop up so are discouraged from selling the brand or restocking product.
- Foreign sellers, limited impact. Finding and cutting out their inventory at the origin is essential — Potoo can track cross border impact from those seller by compiling listing data across all of the Americas, Europe, and APAC countries we operate in.
- Sellers on limited distribution agreements that are sourcing directly from the brand — highest impact. Many sellers have set up Amazon stores to sell products online that were only intended for in-store sales by the terms of the contract. Those sellers are known by the brand and if they pop up on Amazon they can be easily cut off from supply as they are in violation of their contractual agreements.
For any of our brand partners — we encourage you to reach out to your account manager with any questions.
For those interested in how Potoo can help you track, identify, and protect your brand – please book a free diagnostic here.