Getting on the wrong side of Amazon’s terms of service can drastically impact your ecommerce revenue. One specific area of contention surrounds product packaging. Does Amazon allow various parties to sell slightly different versions of the same product? Or does everything have to be uniform?
In today’s article, we address this problem, point out which sellers should be most concerned, and outline how brands should be thinking about maintaining packaging consistency on Amazon. Read on!
Same Product, Different Packaging
The below hypothetical situation is a major pain point for thousands of brands selling on the Amazon marketplace.
- X is the brand owner. They sell a garlic press on Amazon – their version comes in black packaging.
- Y is an authorized reseller of X’s product line. They sell X’s garlic press on Amazon too, but their version comes in white packaging.
- Despite the different packaging, both products share the same UPC.
The question: can both parties continue to sell both versions of the same product on Amazon?
All packaging needs to be genuine
Armin Alispahic, Team Lead at Bobsled, has encountered this situation many times before.
“Amazon’s terms of service says that packaging needs to be genuine,” he says. “In other words, the packaging should match what the manufacturer has and what is displayed on the product page.”
“In theory, brands could get away with inconsistent packaging if no one complains. But if customers or other parties report the packaging to be inconsistent, this could lead to the listing getting flagged or suspended. Even though it can be a logistical nightmare to solve, if you are facing this issue, I would recommend ensuring that your product packaging is consistent as soon as possible.”
According to Armin, certain products are more at risk compared to others.
“There are two types of products I would say are in more danger of negative customer feedback than others. Number one would be products with a high price point. Number two would be gift items where there’s a strong emphasis on the unboxing experience. In both of these instances, a customer may think they’ve received a knock-off version of an expensive item if the packaging doesn’t match the Amazon listing.”
What happens if your products get flagged or suspended because of inconsistent packaging?
Amazon will give you the opportunity to share information and a resolution plan. Ultimately, Amazon is most concerned about the customer experience, so keep that top of mind when communicating with them.
We have written extensively about how to handle compliance issues, check out the articles below:
- Amazon Product Compliance Issues – How To Appeal
- Amazon Suppressed Listing Troubleshooting Guide
- Amazon Account Under Review – Recovery Guide
Amazon’s product packaging TOS creates a unique brand protection opportunity
Many brands have been dealing with pesky unauthorized Amazon sellers for years. Kiri Masters, Bobsled Founder & CEO, says that Amazon’s product packaging terms of service could be leveraged to help brand owners gain more control over their catalog on the marketplace.
“Creating ‘Amazon specific’ versions of SKUs is a very interesting form of brand protection for brands to consider,” she says. “Want to know where there are supply chain leakages with your distribution partners? Or have concrete grounds for getting unauthorized sellers booted? Produce your product in different color variants, and instruct resellers that they are not permitted to sell certain versions on Amazon. If they do, it will be very straightforward to find out, and you will have clear evidence that you can present to Amazon proving your point.”
Jordan Ripley, Operations Manager at Bobsled, agrees that this could be an effective way to protect your Amazon catalog.
“This concept is similar to the idea of using lotting or other traceable production run signifiers to track products back to specific resellers. This would obviously involve changing production and incurring additional operational costs, so it would only really be useful for brands that were determined to get more inventory control on Amazon.”
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