Category Listing Reports are one of the more useful tools available to sellers, and most don't know what it is! We use these reports to vet cases, identify abuse, all the way through to strengthening plans of action. Sellers should be using these to protect their accounts. BONUS: they can simplify your listing management.
Chris: [00:00:07] Hi, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Seller Performance Solutions. I'm Chris McCabe of ecommerceChris. Seller account, seller merchant consultancy. And I'm here with Leah McHugh, who's one of our consultants and our chief expert on listing compliance. E-commerce consultant extraordinaire, right? In a widening variety of cases that we keep encountering. Today talking mostly about a couple of things, right? Flat files and category listing reports, mostly because we're sometimes asking to review these for people and they say, what is it?
Leah: [00:00:45] I think, a category listing report in particular is probably one of the more useful tools available to sellers. And it's also probably one of the least well-known. Pretty much every time I ask a seller to send me a category listing report, I also have to send them instructions on what that is and where to get it.
Chris: [00:01:01] So maybe let's start there. Why aren't people using flat files more? Is it just easier for them to load things manually one at a time and that's really all this is about, or why aren't they more familiar with getting a category listing report in the absence of having flat files.
Leah: [00:01:16] So first of all, just for those who aren't familiar with flat files. Flat files are essentially, a CSV or an Excel file that you use to add or update ASIN's in Amazon's catalog. I think for a lot of sellers, it's just easier to them when they first get started to do it manually. And so then they never learn how to use a flat file. And so they just continue to do it manually, as they continue on their selling journey. It is a fairly large file. It does look a little bit intimidating if you've never used one before. But the reason that I recommend all sellers use it is, one, it gives you a record. So if you make a change manually in Amazon's catalog, you don't have any record of when you made that change or what change you made. And also it doesn't seem like Amazon actually tracks those changes on their end either. So if something happens later on and you contact the catalog team or seller support or whoever you're contacting in that instance saying, Hey, I changed this at this time. What happened? They can't see that in their system or if they can see that, no one seems to know how to do that.
Chris: [00:02:24] It's not necessarily public facing whatever they can see, which is what matters most to the seller. You can't see inside Amazon's tools.
Leah: [00:02:31] Right. But I mean, even if you need to make open a case to request something to happen. The person that is looking at your case, can't see those manual changes in seller central necessarily. So if you're using a flat file that gives you a batch ID, which you can then refer to in your case, which then makes it easier to get that change made. Or, the other side of this, is somebody makes an incorrect change to your listing, you then can see how you had had it previously.
Chris: [00:03:01] That's really important. Backtracking changes because it's more important now than ever where strange things are happening to listings. And if you can't look back at that record and reflect on why it might've happened, is it a mistake on your side? Is it something nefarious, a competitor might've tried to do, load it, their own flat files and, abuse your detailed page. If you have no idea, you're just looking around in the dark and you've got no way to go to catalog and tell them what happened. They might start suggesting what might've happened, but that means a slow resolution.
Leah: [00:03:34] Exactly. And also changes that you make by a flat file are also more consistent. Often times you go to make a change inside the back of seller central and that change doesn't actually push through on the listing. The flat files tend to be more consistently successful in pushing those changes through. So that brings us to the category listing report, because if you have a bunch of listings that you have created manually, you don't have any of those records. So the category listing report is a report of all of the ASIN's in your catalog as they are currently live in Amazon system. So you can download all of that information for all of your listings and you can also use that file as a flat file. So once you've downloaded the category listing report, if you need to make any changes to those listings. Instead of having to start from scratch and input all of your information into a blank excel or CSV, you can edit within the category listing report. And so then you only have to change the fields that you're trying to change to then upload that into Amazon's system. So it's a massive time saver that way. It also is a really good way of looking at all of your listings at a glance. So again, if you're having issues with any of your listings, instead of having to go through one at a time in the back of seller central, you can look at it as a file. Unfortunately, they don't put it in any particular order. So I often have to put it in the order to make it easier to look at variation families. Things like, did somebody add keywords into the back end of your listing that's flagging it as a pesticide or flagging it as a drug? It's an easy way for you to quickly look through all of your listings to see any information like that.
Chris: [00:05:20] Sellers can't afford to just avoid flat files because it looks complicated or scary anymore. It could be a technical issue. It could be an abuse issue. It could be a compliance issue. There's like at least three things that you should have access to a flat file or a category listing report, even just for showing Amazon or for reporting something that shouldn't have happened. So it's become a necessity. It's not just a nice to have, this is something everyone needs to do.
Leah: [00:05:46] And it's also a record of how your listing looks in Amazon system, which what your seeing in your back end isn't necessarily what Amazon's teams are seeing. So that category listing report gives you exactly what they're seeing. So again, for example, if your product is restricted for information on their product detail page being incorrect or flagged or whatever. If you make that change in seller central, it may look like it's gone through on your end, but when compliance looks at it on their end, it hasn't gone through on their end. So that category listing report again is showing you what Amazon is seeing in their catalog, which is again, useful for cases such as that.
Chris: [00:06:23] It's interesting because I never thought we'd get to this point where in 2021, we would still be talking to sellers who aren't using flat files out of necessity. I thought that would have changed last year, the year before. Whenever.
Leah: [00:06:36] That's the main reason why I started requesting category listing reports from sellers is because most of the sellers didn't have flat files to show me. So, again, it's also turned into a tool that we have our clients use for when we need to make changes because more and more we're having to make changes to their listing as part of the reinstatement or as part of the account review or whatever it is that we're doing. So it's also a good way for us to confirm that those changes are being done properly and being pushed through the system.
Chris: [00:07:07] So we won't dwell on the fact that we're scared that somebody people don't know what it is. As long as people start turning the corner on, they have them, they understand the need for it. And the variety of cases in which they'll need to use it.
Leah: [00:07:19] And we're also using it as a tool in our plans of actions. If your account suspension or bluff listing is to do with something to do with the information on the product detail page. As part of your plan of action for future prevention. That's a really great point that you're going to check the category listing report against your uploads on a regular basis to make sure that there hasn't been any incorrect contributions to that listing from other sellers.
Chris: [00:07:43] So due diligence point, and it's a good point that they'll think will make you more effective and more accurate. So they should accept that. Be more likely to accept the POA. I haven't seen a lot of that written into the POA's that the plans of action that people show us from prior to having us work on their cases. I don't remember seeing any mention of a category listing report, actually.
Leah: [00:08:07] No, and I think, generally speaking, we don't see a lot of sellers including other sellers contributions to their listings as part of their plan of action. But it's something that you need to address because, you don't own the product detail page. Any seller, unless you are, some major brand that has a special deal with Amazon. Any seller can make changes to that product detail page and Amazon holds you responsible for that content, regardless of whether you're the one that made it or not. So having some sort of plan or procedure in place to check your listings for other people's contributions is a really important step, not just in telling Amazon that you're going to do it, but also on your end. It's good to have a procedure in place to check your listings for incorrect contribution changes. Amazon doesn't really alert you very well to this. I know there is software out there, but again, rather than being pinged every time, there's a little change you can. Look at a file and look at all of your listings in one place once a week, once a month, however, often you need in your business.
Chris: [00:09:10] But everyone needs to be doing it more commonly now. Because brand registry, this is a myth that brand registry is alone enough to protect you from changes to your listing.
Leah: [00:09:21] That was true for about six months, a few years. Yeah.
Chris: [00:09:24] That's like two years old. I mentioned on another podcast recently, this concept of brand exclusivity, which we've talked about a little bit publicly, not much. It's not a well-known concept inside Amazon or outside Amazon, but it's not necessarily something you apply for. That's the only notion, even as a concept that we've heard of where you could keep others from making changes to your detail pages. So until that day, when that's common and everyone knows about it and you can apply for it, which we have no idea if it will even work as that concept.
Leah: [00:09:54] Well, and honestly, based on previous experience with Amazon's programs like this, I don't know if I would 100% just trust that that was going to work. Even if I did get it, I would still be checking my listings regularly to make sure that nothing had been done on them.
Chris: [00:10:07] That was my point. You're going to just stay on top of it daily, I would say. Whether that's sinking up to their API every few hours.
Leah: [00:10:14] We know some larger sellers who are doing that. They're just pushing through an API update every few hours or once a day to make sure that their contributions are always going through. Correct.
Chris: [00:10:25] We're going to do other episodes about abuse reporting and reporting listing, attacks and that sort of thing. We've done a little bit of that so far. We'll have another episode on that down the road. Any last thoughts on this particular issue that you wanna leave them with on the way out?
Leah: [00:10:41] Make sure you are getting those category listing reports and I will include some instructions on how to do that with this podcast.
Chris: [00:10:48] Right. Well, thanks Leah. Our listing compliance expert and thanks everyone for listening. We'll catch you next time.