The Merge Nightmare
Glenn is a reader and regular commenter on Tamebay and sometimes he writes for us, sharing his experiences as an ecommerce trader. Today he shares his experiences of merged listings on Amazon:
Anybody who has ever bought or sold on Amazon will be aware that many products are duplicated and that identical or very similar listings often exist for one product. There are several reasons for identical listings, some legitimate and some not. Apparently if a product is ‘Manufactured’ by a different manufacturer then the product listing isn’t considered duplicate.
When I listed an item of nightwear on an existing product page I received a rather snotty email from the company director stating that although my product might look like theirs it was not the same product, because their product had their own brand label and was manufactured solely for them. Civil action for breach of “intellectual copyright” i.e. the photographs was threatened and I backed down and created a near identical product listing. The product was identical in every way except the label and their photographs were ten times better than mine. I would have loved Amazon to merge the two listings, but apparently they are considered to be different products.
There are however hundreds if not thousands of duplicate listings where a seller has decided that the existing listing isn’t for them and they create a new product page. When you see the quality of some listing which include text like “Free postage”, “No returns allowed” or other totally inappropriate wording in the title you can understand why a seller might wish to create a new product listing page.
There are also many duplicate listings which Amazon decides to merge and therein lies the problem.
I have experience of one product a ‘Fruit of the Loom’ shirt being merged twice with another ‘Fruit of the Loom’ product and it took about 6 emails and several telephone calls to get the products unmerged. This product was merged, unmerged and then merged and unmerged again. Time and effort I could have used more productively.
Unfortunately things aren’t much better when two identical products are merged. Ideally the other product is merged with yours, but it could easily be the other way around and your product is merged with somebody else’s. If you are not happy with any of the text or images or any other part of the merged product be prepared to write emails to Amazon requesting they amend or correct matters.
The most common fault in my experience is that a products size or colour variation is shown twice i.e. your size and colour and also the other person’s size and colour. A potential buyer looking to select a particular size and colour is given two options and either option will only contain the product of one seller.
One solution is to permit sellers to create new product listing in “draft” and that the listing doesn’t go live until approved by Amazons catalogue team.
Though I appreciate it may be frustrating when a seller asks you to remove your listing from theirs it is equally as frustrating when a seller lists against a listing you’ve created and worked extremely hard in getting up the ranks.
We sell unbranded products which we import ourselves and then re-brand as our own using our own labels and each product has a bar-code which we pay for.
After all the time, effort and money that goes into this it’s extremely frustrating when another seller comes along and lists against your branded product, undercutting you on a product you’ve got to the first page of Amazon and taking over the buy box. Though I appreciate this is how the Amazon catalog can work I do also believe that branding your own product is more than enough to differentiate it.
Please let me address a number of issues with your comments:
Paying for a Barcode does not equate to ownership. Any listing and any photograph attached to that listing belongs to Amazon and provided a seller has the exact same product they can list against it. I have paid for well over 2000 barcodes and in no way does that give me any additional privileges concerning any product.
Purchasing unbranded products and attaching your own label is very different to producing products under your own label. The only difference between products branded with your label and the same products unbranded is your “label.”
Do you really think that a different label justifies a different listing and price?
If every seller adopted the same practise there would be multiple listing of identical products and the only difference would be a different coloured/ designed attached label. The question then needs to be asked as to what constitutes a label. Does a brand label need to be attached to the product or can a brand label be attached to the packaging? I mention packaging because I recently needed to contact Amazon support regarding a competitor selling a product against one of my listing which was NOT identical and the evidence I provided included particulars of the packaging.
If a simple stick on label on the outside of a bag or box is sufficient to elevate an unbranded product to ‘Branded’ then everybody will be doing it and Amazon will look more like eBay than Amazon.
I really don’t think attaching a label to an unbranded product justifies you claiming that it is your own brand.
By the sounds of Craig’s post his point he is trying to make is that those who create listings take a considerable amount of time taking photos, editing, having to populate the data, create descriptions etc. Often companies will have hired staff to specifically do these jobs, only for other sellers to buy stock and list against the listings they’ve created. Because they don’t have to pay staff they are able to undercut the initial seller. Surely you can understand the frustration, and why these sellers are taking steps to make sure their hard work is for nothing.
Unfortunately you’ll find that a lot of sellers are unhappy with those who jump on listings, you’ll be able to see the seller forums full of sellers complaining and trying to look for advice to get rid of those who jump on their listings.
As a buyer on Amazon however, I would much prefer that the catalogue is condensed which increases competition and drives down price. But as a seller it just penalises those who puts in the hard work.
Its something Amazon need to look at, and find a suitable solution before the marketplace gets flooded with duplicated listings.
Another thing to consider is that if you go through all the effort and get your item to the top 100 you will without doubt have people jump on your listings. They may then provide a sub standard service which affects the reviews left considerably. I’ve seen a lot of times where products have gone from 4-5 star to 2-3 quickly because other sellers sent a different product, sent faulty items or just didn’t bother sending anything and was rude to the customer. This hurts the initial seller considerably as well as the other sellers on the listing. Perhaps if reviews also pointed to which company the item was purchased with it would help.
In regards to Amazon support merging/unmerging listings I often find that Amazon support are not too helpful. Usually you will ask them to change something but then their system will just change it back automatically. When you ask them about this they usually give an excuse, or say that its part of the system they have and it is intentional. They are reluctant to really make changes and if they do try and help it could take weeks or months till you get the desired result.
“When you see the quality of some listing which include text like “Free postage”, “No returns allowed” or other totally inappropriate wording in the title”
From my understanding if you have the buy box you are authorised to request changes to a listing through the support. It might be worthwhile giving it a go. I’m sure Amazon will gladly remove anything which highlights no returns and also punish the seller who put it there.
I do agree with you completely about efforts sellers go to branding isn’t really “true” branding. But unfortunately I don’t think there’s much that can be done about it.
Here is a link to the “Product Detail Page Rules” https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/help-page.html/ref=ag_200390640_cont_scsearch?ie=UTF8&itemID=200390640
Might be worth giving it a read.
Firstly, I am aware that payment for a barcode does not equate to ownership. I was simply saying that this is an extra expense we pay to get our products into Amazon’s catalog. It really makes you wonder if the listing had not of been there in the first place, would these other sellers have gone through the expense and hassle of purchasing a barcode and creating a new catalog listing. All I am saying is the system can just be a little unfair at times.
Secondly, Yes I do believe that branding your own products with your own label is enough to differentiate. We all have to start somewhere in creating our brand and I will do all I can to protect that. Taking your fruit of the loom example the only thing that defines the t-shirts as the fruit of the loom is also a label, albeit a label attached to the t-shirt, yet I certainly wouldn’t list a plain unbranded t-shirt against a fruit of the loom t-shirt.
The other problem is when you are trying to build up reputation for your brand and someone comes along and lists a sub-standard product which is no where near the quality of yours. The listing clearly states my brand name so the buyer will therefore associate this poor quality with my brand. I had this happen recently and politely requested the seller to de-list but my messages went ignored. The only option I had was to make a test-purchase of their product and provide the evidence to Amazon which eventually led to them being taken off.
I accept you point that there are many sellers who never create products and simply wait until somebody creates it for them, and ‘Yes’ the system is unfair many times.
I also understand the importance of building a brand, which I why I take so much time and effort trying to maintain the best feedback score I can. There have been numerous occasions when a buyer has purchased from me when a different seller has offered the same product cheaper. I believe that my feedback profile, which is not dissimilar to a brand won the sales. In my opinion price doesn’t have the same importance on Amazon as it does on eBay.
I have also needed to make test purchases of a competitor’s product in order to prove that their product listed on the listing I created is NOT the same product.
Amazon really need to do some quality control to rectify several issues concerning listing.
I truly do appreciate Craig’s frustration. As a seller who has created hundreds of new product pages on Amazon I also get frustrated when a new seller comes along and undercuts me. As a VAT registered business with office premises we have numerous overheads and my lowest sale price is always going to be higher than a part time seller working from their spare bedroom. I hate it when the time and effort I put into creating a quality listing is ‘high jacked’, but that is the way Amazon works. As a seller of clothing I often have many variations in size and colour of my parent product and listing takes time and I would love to say “This is my listing only!”, but it doesn’t work that way.
I honestly don’t think that attaching made up labels to unbranded products justifies selling them as ‘Own Brand’ products and claiming exclusivity of a listing.
I would like Amazon to provide some protection for sellers and the quality of listings to be improved, but don’t hold your breath.
Thank you both for contributing.
The problem is that many sellers assume that the product is generic and they have a right to sell under that listing. I manufacture my own products and I’ve been targeted a number of times. I have threatened legal action against sellers as is my legal right.
Many sellers know full well that they don’t have the same product, but are willing to trade off the reputation of another product/ company and avoid paying the Pro Seller fees to create listings and spend time and money on creating a good listing. It’s so inviting to hi-jack a listing with hundreds of five star reviews on page one and undercut the original seller.
Even if it is an actual generic product; regardless of it being solely created for them, the seller will have attached a brand name to the listing, some more obvious than others, but it’s still a trademark/unregistered trademark infringement. The original seller may have spent money marketing and advertising the product, so they will be very protective of that listing.
On the other hand I don’t want to have to wade through 100 pages of generic fake ipod cables! I blame China for all this mess!