Season 1, Episode 75
Insights from the Sell+Scale Summit by Helium 10
[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m Chris McCabe of eCommerceChris, I’m with Leah McHugh, my podcast companion. How are you doing?
[00:00:16] Leah: Good, thanks. How are you?
[00:00:18] Chris: Good.
[00:00:18] Leah: We are each coming to you from different hotels in, in different countries right now.
[00:00:23] Chris: Yes. Yes. I know it’s late for you, where you are, but I just wanted to run down what we did in Las Vegas at Helium 10’s Sell + Scale Summit. Number one, because it’s the first one they’ve ever done. And number two, because we both had rewarding Q and A sessions and back and forth with our audience, we got some great questions, which doesn’t always happen at every conference we go to, right?
We got mostly relevant questions, number one and secondly, the questions themselves were good and I think they were indicative at least, you know, I’ll speak for myself here. They were indicative of concerns brands have, not just in Q4, since we’re sitting in the middle of that now, but just going forward into next year in terms of concerns about their brands, how they can protect their brand, how they can fix things that break either on the Amazon side or things that break when a competitor attacks them. Do you think was represented in your session as well?
[00:01:17] Leah: Yeah, and I think what was, what stood out to me was that all of the questions were from brands. Like we weren’t really getting questions from resellers or from arbitrage or drop shipping sellers and most of the conversations that I had at the conference were also with brands, which I think you can see the shift in the industry as a whole going more towards brands rather than the other business models that were maybe a little bit more popular a few years ago.
[00:01:45] Chris: Yeah, it’s nice. It’s not a hospitable place. The marketplace that Amazon has is not a hospitable place for reselling anymore unless you’re the brand registered agent, right? You’re designated by the brand. We’re not gonna sell ourselves, We’re not going to manage this, you’re going to manage this because you’re our chosen reseller. I still had a lot of brands saying, We have nobody’s jumping on our listing, how do we get them off our listing, how do we get brand gating, like that is still persistent. But I think that also comes from not just somebody showing up on their listing who may or may not be selling their branded product.
I think it’s also the frustration at others messing with a brand’s ASIN contributions, right? And messing with their listings and getting their listings suspended, which we expect tons of in Q4, unfortunately and I wound up talking a lot about this. What’s the internal Amazon jargon– brand exclusivity, right? There are a couple of Amazon reps there at the conference and I brought it up with them and the meetings we had in terms of–
[00:02:42] Leah: And they were like, how do you know about that?
[00:02:44] Chris: Well, they, they do call it brand exclusivity on the inside. They kind of confirm that, but on the outside, people call it brand priority, whatever. The concept is the same, which is why can’t I dominate control and exclude others if they’re not the brand from getting my listings taken down by overriding my flat file contributions overriding or inserting bizarre and ASIN contributions just to get my listing suspended. That was a huge topic at Sell + Scale.
[00:03:10] Leah: Yeah. And I think the part that I found that maybe the most interesting, particularly because it sort of has been mirroring some of the intake and cases that we’ve been getting through the website as well, is that it seems like at this point you almost can’t launch a product on Amazon until you’ve registered the trademark because of all of these different analytics tools that are out there right now, if other sellers see that, whatever you’ve launched does well, they’re going to copy it immediately and without that trademark being fully registered, you don’t have the ability to submit infringement claims. And then you’re just stuck in this limbo of fake versions of your products being sold on Amazon, and you really don’t have a whole lot of recourse because they’re not technically counterfeits. They’re just basically copying your brand.
[00:03:59] Chris: Copying design and patent too. I mean, we’re seeing a rise in those types of IP claims for a reason. Somebody already saw your success. Somebody’s trying to copy your success. Right? And most brands, at least, most of the people I spoke with, I mean, they were very intelligent business owners and competent brand managers, but most people I talked to just get stuck very quickly and they don’t know what to do when someone else drives up alongside them and starts messing with their business and their sales on Amazon. They still open seller support cases. I was kind of alarmed and confused that there’s still so much reliance on seller support. And then also, I mean there is a slight increase in people calling into account health, but no one seems adept at pushing account health reps for real answers.
They just sort of sit passively on the phone and. Make one statement about their problem or their complaint and they get generic reading from a script or just kind of the shrug. I don’t know, that’s not us answer, and they sort of leave it there as opposed to meaningful, you know, I need to understand whether or not somebody added something to my ASIN contributions, whether or not there were complaints that I can’t see on my account.
I mean, there’s some transparency improvements on Amazon’s side, but not enough in terms of why listings get taken down. That’s the way I see it at least.
[00:05:17] Leah: Yeah, and you know, again, it’s sort of across the board. In terms of lack of transparency with how the teams are operating or not operating.
We also spoke to quite a number of sellers who did get either incorrect notifications from Amazon’s teams or incomplete notifications where they had failed to fill in the template that they had sent before sending them, which made it right, basically impossible for them to even begin in an appeal if they don’t know what it is they’re appealing.
[00:05:46] Chris: Right, Right. That came up in my Q and A session. I got a message. It doesn’t tell me what to do. It doesn’t tell me what happened and it just baffles me that Amazon can’t read these messages themselves and see this doesn’t really say anything. This is just going to result in more questions, more seller support cases and the IP claims, especially for some reason lately, intellectual property complaints. If it doesn’t have the complaint ID and it doesn’t have the email address of the complainant, the rights owner, it really doesn’t say what happened at all. It really doesn’t even tell you what to do aside from like appeal it using the appeal button, but it doesn’t even tell you the nature of the offense.
[00:06:25] Leah: Well, and some of the potential IP complaints were a potential IP infringement. It wouldn’t even tell you what IP they thought you were infringing on so you had to like try to figure out what they thought was somebody else’s trademark in you’re listing,
[00:06:38] Chris: But that’s what I mean. Yeah. There’s no reference to even the nature. It doesn’t even specify trademark, copyright. Like they haven’t even done the first rung of the ladder of like, What are you messaging me about? And what’s the first thing? I mean, Amazon’s smart enough to know what are people going to do? They’re going to incessantly call support and say, What is this for? Give me more info. Support’s going to copy and paste message back to death, or you’ll call Account health and you’ll have to spend, you know, 40 minutes on hold having them scrounging around for account annotations that they can’t tell you much about, but just to get a kernel of information.
All of that could be avoided if they just brushed up the messaging. I mean, I made a point of saying like, Hey, when I worked there, we didn’t send out language that was nearly this murky, nearly this generic, nearly this misleading and useless. But by the same token, even when I was there, the messaging wasn’t as robust as it could have been.
[00:07:35] Leah: Yeah. And it was nice that Amazon was there and we had some good conversations with them. But yeah, I mean, per the usual the push seemed to be, look at these new things that we have to offer instead of. Look at how we’ve fixed what isn’t working.
[00:07:55] Chris: What’s already in place. I’m glad you brought that up because Amazon’s conference was a week before the Helium Conference. The seller support escalation button was the hot topic. I assume if we, if we had had a booth at Helium, we would’ve just had a steady stream of comments just about that because that sort of made the news very quickly after the conference in Seattle. But that’s the shiny new object, right? The new, we’re going to have a veteran, seasoned, experienced investigator.
[00:08:22] Leah: I already know it’s gonna be terrible.
[00:08:25] Chris: Well, I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt for a very short amount of time.
[00:08:29] Leah: The escalate button in Brand Registry does pretty much nothing, so.
[00:08:34] Chris: Right, right, right , and people brought that up when we talked to them about escalating brand registry issues outside of the brand registry teams, simply because we have to because those teams weren’t competent enough to review the info and send the proper info.
But the seller support escalation, I don’t think this is a panacea. Maybe it’s true that you will get to somebody who’s not low level first week on the job support. That part might be true, but will they have any authority, the key piece or takeaway here, will they have the ability or the authority to fix something or are they simply going to comment to you on what they think you should do next to fix it?
[00:09:11] Leah: Well, and I think it’s gonna be bad on both sides because one, that button is gonna get immediately abused by sellers and two, Those seasoned seller support people are going to be so inundated with cases so very quickly that the quality of their work, assuming that they have the same metrics as everybody else, they’re not going to be able to keep up and do quality work at the same time. If they’re having to do speed, speed, speed, speed, speed through all of the cases, as most Amazon teams do.
[00:09:45] Chris: But those are the teams that have actual headcount. That’s why they’re steering everything that way. That, and also people in managerial and VP level position are getting tons of escalation emails directed to them.
[00:09:55] Leah: Yeah. Cause they’re systems don’t work
[00:09:56] Chris: Because the teams that report directly to them aren’t really being reviewed,
[00:10:03] Leah: It’s so funny that they’re complaining about people emailing them and it’s because like, sellers don’t want to be emailing them. They’re emailing them because they have no other options because nothing is working. So complaining about the number of emails you’re getting without doing anything to fix the problems is ridiculous.
[00:10:20] Chris: Right, right. It’s kind of like time to admit you have a problem. You’re not admitting you have a problem, you’re creating a solution to some other problem that isn’t the issue. It’s amazing that they’re not understanding that they need to review the quality of the work of their direct reports. They need to understand that the teams that they manage, some of these people, especially if they’re on stage in Seattle at these types of conferences, Amazon does, they manage multiple teams like this.
They are responsible for the quality of that work. And if there is no quality of the work, then of course they’re going to get inundated with emails. I mean, that’s just logical.
[00:10:54] Leah: Yeah, I thought that was so funny. That they were complaining about the number of emails they were getting.
[00:10:58] Chris: Yeah. And then you had a session. I just kind of wanted you to chime in with any last thoughts on the, the, the barcode, you know, GS1 type stories you heard from brands I know it’s case by case with a lot of that stuff, but any other insights or questions you had from your session that would be benefit towards?
[00:11:16] Leah: I think a lot of brands are still struggling with the, they have old GTINs from before the policy change, and they have no way of updating them to correct GS1 GTINs and Amazon has no way of doing that either because they changed the tools.
Yeah. So yeah, not a lot of great answers there. Unfortunately. It’s waiting on Amazon to make that process.
[00:11:43] Chris: We’re looking forward to next year’s Helium conference. Maybe again in September. I think we’re kicking around ideas in terms of what next year’s going to look like in the conference landscape, because there are multiple new conferences from this year. I enjoyed the interaction with people, not just in networking sessions. Some of the networking sessions were in outside or in places where we couldn’t necessarily hear each other but the give and take back, back and forth questions in the sessions themselves, because you can go to conferences where there’s just a bunch of PowerPoint slides, right? And then there’s Q&A at the end. And I guess my biggest takeaway from the conferences, That I finally, people understand you don’t have to do it that way.
You don’t have to just be looking at slides and holding up your phone and taking pictures and then queuing up for a giant line to do Q&A at the end of a session. You can have that interaction during the session. You can maybe handpick some questions that’ll apply to everyone in the room, not just to one person, but maybe sellers and attendees themselves are getting better at understanding which questions are similar to what other people are experiencing and which ones just speak directly to them. Is that just wishful thinking on my part?
[00:12:55] Leah: No, I really like that they had multiple formats for the different sessions at the conference and no, I do think that in general, all of the questions that we answered and all of the questions that I heard asked in other sessions were really good, in previous years, people would get a little too specific in their questions and so the answer would literally only apply to them, whereas in general, I think people are getting a lot better at asking the more broadly applicable questions in these sessions.
[00:13:22] Chris: I think there’s a solution. I think when they have to submit the question through the app, they’re likely to write less. Like when you’re in person and you’re talking, you just talk on and on and on, and then we did this, and then we did this, and then we did this.
[00:13:32] Leah: But I also had good questions in person too. So I mean, you know. Yeah. It’s bit of both.
[00:13:39] Chris: And then also things we’ve seen at other conferences. People love panels, and that was the takeaway I had in terms of experts talking to each other on stage, experts giving feedback on each other’s comments and on questions from the audience, which in the case of Sell + Scale, it’s a brand conference, right? You’re not really getting a general population of sellers that might include resellers. It’s mostly, you know, small, medium size, some big and still growing brands, so yeah. Looking forward to the next one and looking forward to talking to you soon. Thanks everybody for listening to Seller Performance Solutions.
If you were at helium’s conference in Las Vegas, from the 19th to the 22nd of September. Let us know if you have any questions that we didn’t answer when we were there with you, otherwise ask us whatever you need to know for Q4. We’ll answer as quickly as possible. Talk to you soon.
Hosts & Guests
Extreme ASIN Merging
Season 1, Episode 96 Extreme ASIN Merging Question from an Amazon Seller: How should sellers approach the 'extreme merging' of a lot of ASINs together (which results in a single ASIN with a whole group of UPC's)? Who is doing the merging? Why is it happening? Are...
Selling on Amazon Japan with Gary Huang
Season 1, Episode 95 Selling on Amazon Japan with Gary Huang For Amazon sellers, expanding into international marketplaces is a significant and indispensable step for the growth of your business. In this episode, we discuss with Gary Huang, who is known for organizing...
At the recent Sell + Scale Summit by Helium 10 there was an abundance of relevant questions regarding brand protection and the ongoing struggle with contacting Amazon’s teams. In this episode Chris and Leah delve into a few of the main topics brought up during their Sell+Scale Q&As.