The ASIN Term that Amazon Hates the Most… GATED
I talk with a lot of people at companies that do big business on Amazon. One of the most frustrating issues that comes up is non-authorized third-party sellers. You’ve seen them, these are the sellers that somehow acquire your products and offer them on Amazon without your permission.
In my last job, we had a product that sold tens of thousands of units a year on Amazon. It was an item with high velocity and good profit for everyone in the channel. But we had less-than-effective control over where our wholesale products were going once they left our warehouse.
The reason it became such an issue on Amazon was that sellers were offering the product on the platform and we had no idea who they were or where they were getting it from. They did not respect our MAP policy nor did they even know we had one. We would buy our own products from these sellers and try to trace where they came from using secretly placed identifiers. We even invested in placing unique numbered stickers on the boxes but the sellers figured us out and removed them. In my opinion, defacing our package was a form of counterfeiting, but Amazon did little to help us. Then our factory placed trackable numbers “inside” the product. But the sellers disassembled the products and removed them. OMG… we couldn’t understand how it could be worth it.
No 3rd Party Seller Transparency
Because Amazon does not require these sellers to disclose who they are, these “non-authorized” sellers hid behind their fake names. We couldn’t serve them legal documents, like Cease and Desist letters. We spent a lot of time forensically trying to figure out who they were and how we could impede them from getting our products, but it was incredibly difficult and never really worked.
It was a nightmare.
Amazon takes no responsibility for this situation. Their objective is to provide an open marketplace for anyone to sell products and services, within reason. They also want their customers to have an excellent buying experience.
And herein lies the rub.
It’s hard to understand why Amazon thinks it’s a good experience for their customers to buy branded products from sellers that the brand owners don’t want and haven’t authorized. Does a manufacturer of lipstick want it sold by “Fred’s Mufflers and auto parts”?
Amazon protects the 3rd party sellers in these situations and it’s my single biggest criticism of their platform. I don’t see what the harm is in allowing a brand owner to define who sells their product on the platform.
Justification for Gating a Product
There are some types of products and brands that Amazon “gates”. Frankly, it’s almost impossible to get them to do this unless there are some substantial reasons. Having poor control over your product distribution is not enough of a reason. That’s an issue your company needs to resolve, in Amazon’s opinion.
Take a popular brand of shoe that has such huge sales volume it is being heavily counterfeited. In a case like that, Amazon wants to be sure that all the sellers of that product are legitimate. So, they “gate” it, meaning that there is a process to determine the legitimacy of the product and the seller. In some cases, they might talk with the brand owner and allow them to determine who the legitimate authorized sellers are. Once the seller is approved the “gate” opens and they can submit inventory and start selling.
You can always tell when a brand or manufacturer that has no control over their distribution. You will see their product on Amazon sold by dozens of sellers and the price is all over the place. From my personal experience, I have noticed that when the price across several sellers or websites deviates by more than a couple of percentage points, it will cause consumers to stall their purchase decision. They start to wonder if the super low price is the real product or counterfeit, or if the condition is less than new.
I have seen some articles from Lawyers and other Amazon support service providers who claim that they can help you gate products. I have never used them but it might be worth a try if the cost justifies it. In my last job we literally gave Amazon an ultimatum to gate our top 5 products or we would cut them off as a Vendor. They refused, we cut them off and moved to the 3P model. It sucked.
An ASIN, or an Amazon Standard Identification Number, is an identifier assigned by Amazon to your product for identification within its systems. From my experience working with Amazon personnel, I determined that the following are reasons for a gate to be applied to an ASIN:
- Substantial and verifiable counterfeiting
- ASIN’s that require government certifications
- Anything that could harm a customer, including foods
- Super big brands that have leverage with Amazon (like Apple)
If you think you’re going to get Amazon to gate any of your products, there must be much bigger reasons aside from the fact that you can’t completely control your distribution.