As valuable as Amazon.com can be for helping brands reach more customers, expand their retail network, and boost their bottom line, the world’s biggest online marketplace can also create challenges for these companies as well.
One of the most serious and prevalent threats brands face on Amazon is that the marketplace is so vast, sellers find it both easy and lucrative to list products at prices that violate the brands’ Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies.
And unfortunately, Amazon itself is rarely willing to help. In fact, in some cases the company makes the issue even worse for the brand. Here are a few ways Amazon lets brands down when it comes to their MAP pricing, and what you can do about it.
1. As a general rule, Amazon does not help brands enforce their MAP policies.
When they spot retailers violating their MAP pricing policy on Amazon.com, and ask the marketplace to remove the offending listing, brands are often surprised to find that Amazon refuses to get involved in these disputes.
There is some good news here. If the violator is also an unauthorized seller, and is using your company’s intellectual property without permission to list your products, you might find Amazon’s Seller Services more receptive to helping you remove that retailer’s listings. They don’t want to be named in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
But if your issue is strictly a MAP violation on Amazon, you’re probably going to have to solve the problem on your own. Chances are Amazon won’t help you.
2. Amazon might actually point shoppers to retailers violating your MAP policy.
As if Amazon’s refusal to stop retailers from violating MAP on its marketplace wasn’t frustrating enough, Amazon might also actually direct shoppers to the offending listing.
When there are several retailers competing to sell the same product, Amazon favors the sellers with the lowest prices. That means the lower-priced listings tend to earn the top spots on the page that consumers see. It’s also one of the most heavily weighted factors in Amazon’s algorithm for determining which retailer gets the “buy box.”
And because Amazon doesn’t care about your MAP pricing policy, they will often give favorable placement in search results—and maybe even the buy box—to a seller who’s advertising your products below your MAP price.
(Note: the lowest price isn’t the only factor in the competition for the buy box. Amazon weighs other details such as delivery options, whether or not a retailer has the item in stock, and whether or not the retailer is using Fulfillment by Amazon. But price is a major consideration for Amazon, which is one reason many retailers are so tempted to violate their suppliers’ MAP policies.)
3. Amazon Retail itself won’t even necessarily honor your MAP policy.
There are many benefits to the Amazon Retail program, where Amazon buys your brand’s inventory and then sells it directly to consumers. Among the biggest benefits is increased customer reach and access to a world-class retail and distribution operation for your products. But although the Amazon Retail team agrees to honor its brands’ MAP policies, the company leaves itself one big caveat.
The Amazon Retail team scans the internet constantly, 24/7/365, monitoring the competition for all of the products it sells. If the team finds another retailer offering the same product for less, the company reserves the right to lower its own listing to match or beat that price.
This is true even if the other retailer’s price is below the brand’s MAP-approved level. In other words, Amazon Retail gives itself permission to violate MAP prices anytime it finds another retailer doing so. And keep in mind, with its sophisticated tools and unparalleled industry expertise, Amazon is as capable as any organization in the world of finding a retailer violating MAP anywhere online.
4. Amazon Retail won’t necessarily show you where it found the MAP violation that prompted it to lower its own price of your product.
Now imagine you’re selling through Amazon Retail, and the company finds another seller offering your products online for below-MAP prices. According to the terms of its agreement with your company, Amazon Retail will probably drop its own listed prices for those products—meaning Amazon will now be in violation of your MAP policy too.
Even more frustrating, if you contact Amazon and ask the company where their retail team found this other MAP violator, in most cases they won’t tell you. And even if you’re able to track down the offending listing yourself and persuade the retailer to remove it—a tall order all by itself—Amazon Retail still won’t necessarily return its listing prices to your MAP-approved levels.
So, what can you do about this?
As bad as this situation seems, there are a couple of useful tools to help you deal with it.
First, sign up for Amazon Brand Registry.
This program is free for brand owners, but it requires an application and review by Amazon. Assuming you’re accepted into the program, Amazon Brand Registry gives you greater control over how your content appears on Amazon, and it lets you tap into Amazon’s proprietary search tools, to help you catch unauthorized sellers listing your products.
Remember, a retailer listing your products below your MAP-approved prices won’t be enough by itself to persuade Amazon to remove the listing. But because there’s often a lot of overlap between MAP violations and unauthorized sellers, Amazon Brand Registry can help you indirectly to enlist Amazon’s help removing those MAP violators from the marketplace.
Next, roll out an online MAP-monitoring solution.
This next tool is a more direct approach than the Amazon Brand Registry for protecting your MAP policy online. The right brand protection app will include an automated digital enforcer monitoring the internet at all times for any MAP violations—whether on Amazon.com or anywhere else.
In fact, rolling out the right MAP-monitoring and enforcement solution, one that watches all the websites consumers and Amazon itself can find selling your products, can help you address all of the Amazon MAP challenges we’ve discussed here—not to mention the many other ways pricing violations could be harming your business.