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April 1, 2020

Why Brands Need to Control Their Content on Amazon

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James Thomson has guest authored this post for the Vorys eControl Marketplace Solutions blog. James is a partner at Buy Box Experts and former business head of Amazon Services. He also co-founded the PROSPER Show, co-authored the book The Amazon Marketplace Dilemma, and co-authored the book Controlling Your Brand in the Age of Amazon: The Brand Executive’s Playbook for Winning Online with Vorys eControl partner and chair Whitney Gibson.

Whether or not a brand is already selling on Amazon.com, in all likelihood, unauthorized resellers have created product listings in the Amazon catalog under the brand’s name. If that has happened, the brand may find that the way its products are described through text and images is nowhere near what it would like customers to see and experience. Given how easy it is for nearly anyone to sell almost anything on Amazon, products are sold every day by sellers who are unconcerned with brand messages and care only about the units of product they are holding in inventory as a way to generate a quick profitable margin.

Many brands have invested millions of dollars to preserve and protect their brand equity. Now, because of online marketplaces like Amazon, brands must manage inaccurate, out-of-date, or incomplete messages on these marketplaces that have been generated by unauthorized sellers. A well-defined brand must be consistent in its messaging across channels, and accurate in describing what its products offer in terms of functionality, and emotion and human connection. When product listings for some items are created on Amazon without the care and attention that marketing teams put into creating consistent messages across other channels, customers may get confused and underwhelmed, and turn their attention instead to the wide range of better-positioned competitor brands on Amazon to satisfy their needs.

Often, at first, executives from major national brands cannot figure out why their brands do not sell as well on Amazon as they do in other channels. But when they examine the quality of their current listings on Amazon, they soon realize that they have a branding problem. No one cares about a brand’s image as much as its executives. These executives have to work as a team to solve this branding problem by focusing on optimizing product listings and removing any duplicate or incorrect product listings in the Amazon catalog.

To help with this, Amazon created a tool called Brand Registry that allows brands to lock down content on their listings so that other sellers cannot alter them. There are also inexpensive tools like Junglescout that can be used to find all of the listings in the Amazon catalog that use a brand’s name as the product listing’s brand name. However, having access to the tools is very different from actually using the tools regularly to monitor the changes that might be made to the Amazon catalog (such as creating duplicate product listings or adding counterfeit listings, to name a couple).

However, these tools alone are not enough. Regardless of whether a brand wants to see its products sold on the Amazon channel, the products are likely going to show up anyway. In order to ensure that the integrity of the brand is not lost, brands must consider their strategies for control. This includes evaluating how their products are sold and listed, and who is creating the listings.

While it is hard to measure the hidden cost of lost sales caused by poor listings, it is easy to measure the increase in online sales for brands that optimize their listings, control their brand messaging, and maintain a clean catalog. Brands that can do so are rewarded with disproportionately higher Amazon channel sales than their brand equity would otherwise generate in other channels.