Seller Performance Solutions
You Can't Just Change the Product Detail Page
February 17, 2022
We know it's tempting to update an ASIN to a new version of a product, especially when third party services promote it as a "hack." In this episode Chris & Leah discuss why this seemingly short term "boost" is detrimental to your long term account health.
[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody, welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions are wonderful podcast for Amazon sellers and Amazon businesses about the crazy world of Amazon. I'm here once again with Leah McHugh and we're here today talking about some client consulting we've been doing lately, some questions we've had regarding changes that people want to make to their private label, branded listings, product changes. The product is different, but they want to use the same ASIN because, of course, they have so many reviews there and they've got sales rank there. What kinds of questions do people start with when they approach you about this topic?

[00:00:49] Leah: Well, they tend to not approach it with a question. It usually is approached like, well, this is what we did, or this is what we're going to do, not realizing that it's not within Amazon policy. So if you're making a change to an existing product, that product is supposed to be listed as a new ASIN on Amazon, whether it's a new version of your product or you've changed the formulation, depending on what the product is, whatever the change may be, amazon wants you to create a new ASIN for that listing. Another one we see come up fairly often is like somebody has a brand and it turns out that brand can't be trademarked so they want to rebrand and they want to rebrand an existing ASIN. A rebranded product is classed as materially different by Amazon, which means that it needs to be under a new ASIN.

And this is something that we see a lot of sellers do and something we see a lot of sellers get in trouble for, or we see the listing gets changed back by Amazon to what it originally was. And then you're stuck in this position where now the detail page doesn't match the product that you're selling, customers might be complaining that they're not getting what they thought they ordered. And you now have stranded inventory if Amazon thinks that your product is not as described.

[00:02:05] Chris: Right. Tons of confusion among your customers, your buyers, among Amazonians looking at your listings and then your product packaging doesn't match.

[00:02:16] Leah: Well, there's like a lot of misinformation about this too, because I've been in conversations with people who are in the vendor program who are like, we're totally allowed to do this in vendor. And listing policies on Amazon apply to both vendor and seller. It's not, you don't get a free pass because you're in the vendor program.

You're ultimately hijacking your own ASIN in a way by changing the details of the product being sold on that ASIN. So all of the old reviews are about a materially different products and all the sales velocity are about a materially different product. So Amazon doesn't want anybody coming in and putting a different product under that and misleading their customers.

[00:02:56] Chris: Right. And by the way, we're aware and we've heard of the hack, if you want to call it that for this, there are some services out there, there's some sellers, finding loopholes, gaps in Amazon processes where they can make certain changes that they're policy pages forbid.

[00:03:11] Leah: Yeah I mean, it's not even a hack. Like it is absolutely possible to make these changes. What I'm saying is that it is against policy to do them. Even if you ask Amazon's catalog team to make the changes for you, it's still against policy. So just because somebody at Amazon made those changes for you, doesn't mean that that's been green-lit by the team.

[00:03:31] Chris: Well, it's the same thing as people saying seller support told me I could do XYZ, so that means it's okay. No, it doesn't. It means that the seller support person knew as much about the policies you do, which was nothing. And it didn't matter that they were an employee.

[00:03:45] Leah: and you can refer to that case to seller performance, but it's not going to make any difference.

[00:03:49] Chris: No to policy teams that work at Amazon that already knows support gives terrible advice all the time. That's meaningless info. You can show them what what's written in the case. And they'll say, yeah, yet another occasion where support has no training, no idea what they're talking about and gave a seller bad advice. That's nothing you can wave at them for the purposes of resolution or correction of this whole issue. And by then you might've already accumulated some policy warnings, and you're already being circled and flagged for detailed page abuse.

[00:04:18] Leah: And so that's the thing is that it's considered product detail page tampering, even if it is your own brand, even if it is, not necessarily affecting any other sellers, it's still product detail page tampering and Amazon is particularly sensitive to that, because that is a known black hat tactic of taking a product that already has lots of reviews and already has great sales velocity and changing the product information to a totally different product. Like they're already sensitive to this happening because it's happening all the time by black hat sellers. So even if you're doing it without negative intent, Amazon still views it as tampering and misleading their customers.

[00:04:55] Chris: Illicit merging of ASINs for the purposes of harvesting reviews and review abuse, is probably what kicked off a lot of these warnings that went to confused private label sellers that they were committing detailed page abuse and they would reply, I mean, I saw a lot of emails. I'm sure you did too, where they wrote appeal saying how do we abuse our own brand? We're not abusing our own brand. We're not committing detail abuse against ourselves. They didn't even understand the nature of the offense. So they kept repeating it. And then as we saw last year into this year, I suppose some of them were suspended account wide because of it. And they still didn't understand the fundamental principle that they had violated.

[00:05:35] Leah: Right. I think a lot of brands either forget or don't really care about other sellers that are selling on their listings, but from Amazon's perspective, if another seller is selling on that listing and then that product gets completely changed, I mean, yeah, it's going to negatively affect the other seller, that's not really what Amazon cares about, but it's going to negatively affect customers because customers, customers may come back to reorder the same product and get a completely different product. Or that old inventory is still in the warehouse or will be sent into the warehouse and now they're getting a product that is not what they thought they ordered.

[00:06:11] Chris: So you're creating grief for the buyer, bad buyer experience, but also headaches for Amazon, more work for Amazon. So to me at least, this isn't that difficult to understand, but we still encounter a lot of sellers who are confused by this.

[00:06:25] Leah: We've got a lot of people coming in and asking us to help them make these changes. And when I say that that's not allowed, we get the usual response of well, everybody does it.

[00:06:34] Chris: Well, there's a work around as if there's no risk to the work around.

[00:06:38] Leah: Right. I know how to make these changes, but that doesn't mean that you should be making them or are totally within policy because it's possible. There's a lot of things that are possible to do on Amazon that you should not be doing.

[00:06:51] Chris: Oh, I mean, it's possible to forge documentation and edit or manipulate invoices and slide it by, there's probably a percentage chance that that'll get through any day of the week. It doesn't mean anyone should be doing that .

Right. I probably don't need to remind anyone that we at ecommerceChris are a white hat shop. We play by the book, by the rules. We're not interested in helping people fabricate things or create work arounds that are probably only going to work temporarily and be reversed by Amazon later, like Leah was saying.

[00:07:22] Leah: That's the thing in terms of like a long-term strategy, you're better off creating a new ASIN now, getting the sales velocity going in the route now, rather than waiting for a year for Amazon to stop you from doing what you're doing and now you're starting from scratch again. You're much better to do it correctly early on so you're not having to fix things later on.

[00:07:43] Chris: Right. It's the one thing sellers don't want to hear from us, the kind of take your medicine today, feel better tomorrow stuff. We understand that these hacks exist. But like you're saying, you accumulate all these reviews for the next 12 months, and then you'd have those thrown away. In addition to the ones that you'd be losing today. What's the point of that.

[00:08:04] Leah: We see it a lot as well with Amazon. If Amazon flags your product as maybe hazmat or flags it as containing a restricted ingredient or restricted component, that's often where we see a lot of sellers being like, well, I'll just remove that component and then this'll be fine on the same ASIN. No, that's a materially different product. You can't ship something with a component and then start shipping it without that component and call it the same product. It's not the same product at that point. It needs to be on a new, different ASIN.

[00:08:34] Chris: And I understand that some sellers are only interested in short-term not long-term because some brands are looking to sell to an aggregator.

And they're like well, if it happens 12 months down the road, that's their problem not mine. I'll be sold by then in bot. You're probably in breach of whatever agreement you have with the aggregator if you don't disclose things upfront that could cripple the business they buy from you later on.

[00:08:56] Leah: Or maybe that aggregator is hiring somebody like us to go in and do a risk assessment on the account.

[00:09:04] Chris: Yeah, we identify these things. Most of the people we consult are long-term players. They're looking to grow a business and create new brands. But there are some people who are in it for the short haul. So I think some of the people that contact us are just thinking like, ah, I just need to get through the next few months. Some people actually tell us that.. I'm just trying to get through the next three, four months so if this'll hang on till then, what do you think?

[00:09:26] Leah: And it's also, you know, even if you're removing whatever information that Amazon doesn't like from the listing, it's potentially still going to be listed in the reviews. So if you're removing a item that's restricted or an item that's hazmat. Potentially, there's going to be pictures of that item in the reviews, because potentially people are going to be talking about that in the reviews. And Amazon does look at review content when they're looking for restricted products, hazmat, all of that information. So even if you remove it from the product detail page, your product could still be flagged for those things because of old content from the original product reviews. It's a high risk strategy for multiple reasons to change an ASIN into a different product.

[00:10:09] Chris: And we're sympathetic that there are certain third-party services out there, quote, unquote experts telling sellers to do these things. Those people might be ignorant of the policies, they might know what the policies are, but they see this as a good side hustle or a good gimmick and they're basing their business on it. You can't use finger pointing as an excuse. If you get caught doing some of this stuff, Amazon won't let you blame some service provider that you hired. I've talked to an email with a few sellers recently who are like, well, We've decided to do this for now. And then we're going to throw the third party service under the bus. If we get caught and we'll simply solve this by telling Amazon we don't work with those people anymore. Guess what? Amazon faults you for not properly vetting that service, it's still a strike against you and you're making yourself look bad. So don't expect to get out of jail free card just because you think you can throw some service provider info at them and say, well, it was these guys and they told us on their website they were TOS compliant and we saw some other examples of this on the site. The same principle applies as the people who show us the seller support case info. It's no different.

[00:11:21] Leah: And it's also a ticking time bomb because there's not a real way to correct it once you've done this, outside of deleting that from your catalog, it's something that could potentially take down your account at any point, because changing it back isn't necessarily an easy thing to do either. And now you've just doubled up on the product detail page tampering, creating a new listing after you've already made the old listing look like the new product, now you're looking like you're doing duplicate listings, which is yet another policy violation. So doing this in the first place is very hard to clean it up after it has been done. It's not something that you can just go and fix later if Amazon starts cracking down on it. So it's potentially something that could take down your account at any point, once it has been done and there's not a whole lot you can do to fix it.

[00:12:13] Chris: I'm continually amazed that some business owners are willing to stand up and wave and get red flagged. Just to get some sort of revenue temporary or longer-term boost out of it because they are risking their whole account simply because they see other people doing it. I get the I'm losing, my competition, they're gaming the system and I'm not, I mean, I still understand that, but we're talking about account suspension events.

[00:12:37] Leah: But most people that are doing this don't realize that they're breaking policy when they do it. That's the thing. And that's why I wanted to talk about it today because for whatever reason, not a lot of people have read in detail the listing policies at Amazon. And this is a big one and yes, there's like one sentence in the policy that talks about this, but it's a big point to know. And I will link to the policy page in the show notes of course.

[00:13:02] Chris: Policy pages are vague, sometimes badly written. We know that. I mean, that's part of this conversation. It's part of any conversation we have about policy pages in seller central, but no, I'm more referring to the service provider whispers in the ear of the seller. Like, hey, we figured out a little gimmick here. A little side thing. Don't tell your friends, don't tell other sellers. This is just like something we're telling you about. It's a known loophole. You can exploit it, you can use it. It works. I'll show you how it works. They never talk about the consequences.

So I'm more talking about the people who are told this whisper in the ear style, but don't understand that they could be risking things.

[00:13:39] Leah: Any loophole that you find in Amazon, you have to think if everybody did this, would this be good or bad for Amazon customers? And if the answer is that it would be bad, then you probably shouldn't do it because Amazon is not going to like it.

[00:14:01] Chris: And for Amazon. Are you making friction for them more work for them? Amazon can be very selfish in terms of you're hurting us. You're hurting buyer experience, that's our main goal here, but you're making life miserable for us. If you make life miserable for us, we don't care how many million you do per month or per year, we're going to drop you down a deep dark well, that's their perspective and they have a long track track record of doing that with some very lucrative brands that we've seen.

[00:14:26] Leah: And then just, you know, like final thought is I think I've also said this before, listing violations are one of the easiest violations for your competitors to find and report. So just keep in mind that anything you're doing on your listing is public facing and very easy to track and report. So it's entirely possible that your competitor could be keeping track of any changes you make to your listing. And if they see that you're listing an entirely different product on the same ASIN, it's very easy for them to report that to Amazon and get you in trouble. Something you should keep in mind with everything you do on Amazon is that a competitor can see it and report it. But listing in particular, they don't even really have to do anything. They don't have to do a test buy, they don't have to like dig in to find additional information about you or your business. It's right there for them to see and for them to report. So keep that in mind.

[00:15:20] Chris: And sellers are better at reporting abuse. They're more sophisticated about how they do it and they know more places to do it. They might even know some of the VPs in charge of those teams at this point because it's been discussed more, because it comes up at conferences like the Prosper show or our Seller Velocity Conference sometimes, or blogs or videos or podcasts or whatever, sellers know how to point these things out.

[00:15:46] Leah: Or they know how to hire us to do an abuse report for them.

[00:15:50] Chris: Right. We've been talking about it so even just email queues are better known for this sort of thing now, which seems like low-hanging fruit, but people didn't know they would open seller support cases, they would go into report a listing violation in seller central, and it would disappear into the ether and that was the old way. That's not today, 2022 that's 2020 and 2019, whatever. So it's just likely that somebody who knows anything about Amazon now, who competes with you can get in a successful report against you if you do it. Anyway, you got any more questions on that-- reach out to us at ecommerceChris, and of course through the Seller Performance Solutions podcast. Thank you again for listening and thank you Leah for yet another scintillating conversation.

[00:16:39] Leah: Thanks Chris.