Selling on Amazon is a complicated process especially when you receive an email about a suspension. Your sales are soaring; you have a clean history then suddenly you're hit with a suspension. Product suspensions or listing suspensions, on the other hand, are 10 to 50 times more common. If you handle one ASIN or more than one ASIN, a product suspension email is confusing with little else to offer. All-in-all, your product has an issue and needs to be addressed. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself as a seller.
Type of Product Suspensions
Understanding suspensions and the different levels of suspensions is the first step to help you protect your Amazon business. Here we go...
FBA Suspension: Products in the FBA warehouse are suspended and held. If this happens to you; transition to FBM, Fulfillment by Merchant. Amazon will not stop you, and your sales should not be affected.
Seller Suspension on an ASIN: A seller no longer can make an offer against an ASIN. The seller has either low ratings or has violations against them.
Full ASIN Suspension: An ASIN is turned off entirely, and the product is completely removed from the site.
Buy Box Suspension: A product is not fully suspended. However, sellers are not allowed to win the Buy Box until the lowest price is met. If you think you've won the buy box, yet, find you it’s not yours, the reason may be that a lower pricing exists on another E-commerce site, i.e., Best Buy, Walmart. Amazon follows and scrapes pricing information from numerous E-commerce sites to stay competitive. If they find a lower price elsewhere, they could punish you by taking the buy box away and giving it to a seller that will meet the lowest price standard. Plan of Action: You can drop your price to move product. You should research other E-commerce sites to match pricing and increase your chances of conversions. You can also sell-direct through every channel and make sure you position yourself to control cost. Alternatively, you can just ride it out and wait till the other seller runs out of the product.
Triggers for Product Suspension
Over the last few years, Amazon has progressed with more controlled means of monitoring Seller Accounts and products. The customer’s experience is always Amazon’s main priority. Because of this, they have taken a more proactive approach to methods to help police their system.
Automated Bots: A fully computerized method using bots to identify keywords product reviews. For example, a word about health and safety would trigger a suspension.
Andon Cord: The most direct method for a buyer to communicate product issues. Buyers usually speak with an Amazon support agent to file a complaint. A support agent then a has the power to force a suspension. This process is called Andon Cord; a term coined from Japanese assembly lines. The method allows to make corrects during construction instead of construction.
Statistics: Statistics review is the slowest method Amazon uses. After weeks of a product’s data is collect and review. A suspension may occur depending on the product’s ratings.
When a product gets flagged for a suspension, an Amazon employee will review the customer complaint, then compare it to the product in the FBA warehouse. A suspension is often based on the warehouse employee’s judgment.
Reasons for Product Suspensions and How to Protect Yourself
In each type of suspension, there are many levels in which suspension may occur. In the past, Amazon has had loose enforcement of regulations for product safety. Their extensive catalog has made it challenging to implement certain precautions due to the lack of means; Yet, recently Amazon has taken a more proactive approach to product monitoring.
Safety Suspension: Product safety is Amazon’s biggest concern. Defects in a product or a product risks to the consumer have caused an increase in suspensions. Devices are either misrepresented or create an unwanted byproduct resulting in an injury. Plan of Action: Always have the customer in mind when marketing and testing the product. Make sure to do extensive safety testing and research on your product, so you can be transparent with the buyer on product safety and usage. Use explicit directions on what is to be expected and what it can and cannot do. It can never be too much information!
Negative Review Suspension: Negative reviews are increasing which are causing suspensions. A support agent triggers a bot-hack that looks like an FBA suspension based on the customer complaint. Plan of Action: You can shift to FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant). You must protect your business from running out of stock so keep selling while an FBA suspension is worked out. Watch for negative product reviews, and help customers to update reviews before a suspension is triggered.
Negative Review Suspension: The numbers for negative review suspensions are increasing. When a customer has any issues with a product, they first try to return the product claiming that it was "not as described". Amazon's support agents could then trigger an FBA suspension and then do what they call a "bin check". This is the process of physically looking for the mismatch between the listing and the product in their warehouse. An email is sent to the seller letting them know of the suspension. But other than the name of the product ASIN that was suspended, there is little further information provided. Often times, the original report of "not as described" from the customer was actually because the product wasn't compatible, didn't fit, or they didn't like the color or style. So a physical check won't produce any additional helpful information. In these cases, opening a proactive ticket for your suspended product and explaining some reason return reasons and how you help avoid them in the listing, may help resolve the issue more quickly.
Return Rate Suspension: Return Rate monitoring is a new process Amazon uses where if return rates stay high over a specific time frame. Sellers can reinstate listing automatically through a correction process. If a product has a continuous return rate, the listing will be permanently suspended. Plan of Action: Make your product as transparent as possible to the customer. Describe everything a customer might experience from A to Z. Follow up with the review from the buyer if there is an issue. More often than not, problems will arise in incompatibility or customer confusion. Just be sure to be very explicit about what your product does and does not.
Used-Sold-as-New Suspension: Recently there has been an enormous increase in complaints about used items sold as new. More and more customers are returning product stating they have received a previously opened item. Plan of Action: Shift to selling only new inventory and explain to Amazon that you only offer new items. This process is a more expensive route, but it will only benefit you. The old method of returning unopened products into inventory based on customers report is no longer a validation for resale. Customers might be inclined to report incorrectly to receive free return shipping.
Intellectual Properties Suspension: I.P. Suspension has always been a challenge for small companies. Until recently, Amazon did not have the means to ask sellers that did not hold rights to their products to stop selling a product. Right holders would have had to go outside Amazon with little odds to track down validators. Now when Amazon receives reports of I.P. issues, a suspension is immediate, and two sellers handle the issue on their own removing Amazon’s liability entirely Plan of Action: Research your intellectual property before you fully commit to it. Taking your time to develop your brand or logo will save you money and time.
Go Ahead and Take the Blame
When in doubt, the customer is always right! This is especially true of the Amazon world. As a seller, you have no choice but to take responsibility (or blame) for all product performance and customer reactions, good or bad. When it comes to addressing a product suspension notice, taking a proactive approach and positioning your company in a positive light is your best bet. Even though you may not be at fault, it is important to reassure Amazon that you have a plan and are working on eliminating all root causes of the problem. Demonstrate to Amazon that you're a great seller with proper product procedures. Keep your paperwork and portfolio ready at all times in case you are asked to prodcuce evidence to support your case.
Product Suspension to Account Suspension
A product suspension can lead to an account suspension. If there are continual product suspensions, your account history will be reviewed by Amazon's support agents. Amazon agents are trained to react quickly and make the best judgment, but they must review pages of data in minutes. Meaning details of your situation might get missed, leaving you at the mercy of their evaluation.
Selling can be a daunting task with little guidance! There is no doubt that products will be suspended but keeping a proactive approach to your business and buyer reviews will significantly reduce the chance of a suspension. As a first step, understanding how Amazon's suspensions work is key. Next, make sure you are monitoring your products and reviews to avoid violations.The more you know about your product and the buyer's experience, the more you can grow a healthy business.