After pushing through the Black Friday blitz you may think your brand is set for the year, but are you watching your brand protection through the full holiday season? The increased shopper traffic and excess of sales make this time of year extra enticing for devious ecommerce activity.
Roll call: Do you know what your brand is actively doing to ensure MAP compliance across marketplaces? What about leaking distribution—do you know exactly who is getting access to your product and how they are getting it? And how is your brand being represented online—are your product images high-quality, in-line with your style guide, and do they portray your brand vision?
Brand protection comes from safeguarding your product, pricing, and branding against sneaky ecommerce schemes that are, unfortunately, heightened during the holidays.
The plethora of deep discounts on quality products combined with the influx of holiday traffic create a goldmine for shady sellers. And thanks to internal pressure to have record-breaking sales and the hard reality that most ecommerce teams are running lean, these shady sellers can sneak in through your record-breaking numbers and wreak havoc on your brand.
For example, unauthorized sellers looking to make an easy profit can 1. buy-up your discounted inventory at your reduced, holiday-sale price, 2. hold the inventory until the sales have passed and prices return to normal, and then 3. list your product at a slight discount from your normal price and 4. steal your sales.
Shoppers are always hunting for the best deal, and if they see the same product for a lower price they will almost always opt to save a few dollars, not thinking about the who or why behind the discount. These unauthorized prices can lose your brand the buy box, halting your advertising abilities, and giving away your sales and profits.
Without brand control during the holiday shopping frenzy, there are 3 main facets of business that can be impacted for months to come—price control, future discounts, and listing consistency.
Your products are strategically priced based on competitive research, production cost, and a fair valuation, but unauthorized sellers are choosing a price based purely on profitability. By listing your product at a lower price they can erode consumer trust in the worth of your product, undermining your brand reputation and setting incorrect expectations for future purchase prices.
Unfortunately, not having brand protection during the holidays doesn’t just affect your brand during the cold months, the cold front can continue throughout the entire year as unauthorized sellers continue to undercut you and your authorized sellers.
But there’s more—by listing your product below MAP policy, unauthorized sellers damage your relationship with other distributors. Without control of the lowest available price, other distributors will be forced to lower their prices to compete. Then those distributors may have a hard time making a profit and can eventually choose to stop carrying your product altogether.
Bad actors love the craziness of the holidays, because it allows them to fly under the radar. Not protecting your brand during this crucial time can mean dealing with the consequences for months going forward, and may even hurt you in the next holiday shopping season.
Not only are your regular prices hurt, your plans for future promotions are also down the toilet. On Amazon, for instance, there are often minimum-discount policies when you want to run a deal—the catch is that the minimum discount is based on the lowest listed price for your product within the last 90 days. This is the lowest listed price from any seller—not just you.
This means that if an unauthorized seller lists your product for $75 when you normally list it for $100, and you want to run a 10% off deal, Amazon will expect your price to be 10% off of $75, not 10% off of $100. This forces your brand to run a promotion for a price of $67.50 instead of the anticipated $90. And even if you get the unauthorized seller removed, you’ll still have to wait out the set time period before you can run discounts your way.
Another way future promotions can be upset is by undercutting the promotions themselves. If the unauthorized seller holds the inventory until the next holiday season and takes advantage of the Turkey 5 frenzy, all of the hard work that went into designing promotions, procedures, and product listings can be ruined. Without protection your brand may lose the entire weekend to unauthorized sellers at unauthorized prices.
Not only can the unauthorized seller steal the buy box with their lower price, they can also mess with your hard planned branding. By selling the same product they will share your Amazon listing and can submit changes to your image stack, product description, and even listing title.
So if an authorized seller is sitting on inventory they want to get rid of, they could change your polished, on-brand title to a click-bait, unprofessional headline to help their endgame. And don’t get us started on the unsavory images they might add to offload your product. Listing control is another way shady sellers can hurt your brand reputation, but tools like Amazon Brand Registry can help you fight back.
The #1 tip we have for brands around the holidays is to ensure they’ve set purchase limits on discounted products. Without purchase limits an unauthorized seller looking to make an easy profit can buy-up your discounted inventory at a reduced price, hold the inventory until your prices return to normal, and then list your same product slightly discounted from your normal price. Setting a purchase limit greatly deters shady sellers looking for an easy score.
We know of a brand who reported massive—and suspicious—purchase quantities flying off the shelves. Luckily they quickly found purchase limits and dropped the purchase limit to 100. Unfortunately, the suspicious activity continued, albeit slower. But when they dropped the purchase limit down to 2, suddenly sales volumes returned to normal.
Keep in mind purchase limits don’t have to be a single item per order, you can choose to allow 2 products, 5 products, or however many products you see fit. But the lower number, the more an unauthorized seller is turned off to the work it will take.
We also recommend getting registered with Amazon Brand Registry. This allows you to remove suspected infringement of your brand and control your product listing with confidence.
What happens if you’ve already lost control of your brand? If you’ve been a victim of leaky distribution or high-volume holiday purchases, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Working with Pattern and our trusted legal partners will give you the tools you need to monitor, identity, and regulate the unauthorized sellers hurting your bottom line.
Brand protection matters year round, but gets especially tricky during the holiday shopping season. For more information on keeping your brand safe, get in touch today.
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