Now that you’ve drafted and published your minimum advertised price (MAP) policy — ideally with the help of antitrust attorneys or brand protection experts — you are ready to launch the next phase of your pricing protection strategy. It’s time for MAP monitoring.
You will obviously need a reliable effective MAP monitoring system so that your final phase — the automated platform for MAP enforcement — can work effectively. You can’t address violations of your pricing policy if you aren’t able to catch them in the first place.
How MAP Monitoring Works
1. MAP monitoring program compiles your product data and determines your preferred search criteria for tracking that information online.
The first step in developing your MAP monitoring process is simply to build a comprehensive set of identifiers relating to your product info.
This might include a wide range of product-specific numbers — SKU numbers, ASINs (for Amazon), ePIDs (for eBay), GTINs, UPCs, your own unique manufacturer’s serial numbers, or any form of identifiers you use to label and track your products.
You might also have specific trademarked text, proprietary imagery or videos, or other product-related intellectual property that helps you quickly spot your product represented in an advertisement or on a reseller’s sales page. And speaking of resellers, perhaps you also have a list of authorized dealers or retailers.
You’ll want to gather up all of this data, and use it as the basis of your MAP monitoring program.
2. Establish a structure, cadence, and set of resources for checking the Internet for MAP violations.
Now that you have the data sets you’ll be using to monitor your products across the Internet, you’ll need to establish a structure for how to most efficiently and effectively search for that information. You don’t simply want your team to randomly type in the names of a handful of your products or a few ASINs whenever they have a few free minutes to look for possible reseller pricing violations. That process would be neither systematic nor effective.
So you’ll need to think this through. You’ll want to consider questions like these:
Do you want to repurpose an employee, or several, to monitor the Internet at specific times of each day?
How do you want these in-house team members actually conducting their monitoring? Should they view each authorized reseller’s own eCommerce pages each day? More than once a day? And at what times of the day? What if a reseller pops up somewhere new in an Online Marketplace and your team misses it or they change their pricing throughout the day? It can be very challenging to run a MAP monitoring program manually.
3. Make sure your MAP monitoring process is designed to catch any type of violation specified in your policy.
Let’s say your MAP policy states that your company will consider retailer strategies such as offering a “Click for best price” offer — which brings the price below your MAP-approved level — to be a violation of your policy. Your MAP monitoring process will need to include searching for these harder-to-catch violations as well.
So you will also need to build into your instructions for your employees — or set instructions for your automated price protection platform — to check each site featuring your products not only for advertised prices on the main sales page but also for that “best offer” price hidden behind a click.
As you can see, these added steps make manual, in-house MAP monitoring even more time consuming and less efficient.
4. Establish a system for documenting violations.
The next logical step in creating your MAP monitoring strategy is to decide how you want to document a violation.
This step should not focus on how to actually deal with the violator — that will be a function of your MAP enforcement strategy. Here, you’re concerned only with making sure that any time your team (or your price monitoring software) catches a violation of your MAP policy, you have a systematic approach to gathering up the evidence you’ll need either to 1) approach the violating reseller, or 2) use to support your legal action against the reseller, if it comes to that.
At a minimum, we recommend taking a screenshot of the offending page (time-stamped, if possible) to prove the MAP violation took place. We would also suggest an immediate check of all of that reseller’s other pages and of the major online marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, etc.) where they might have a presence. If they are violating your MAP policy on their own site, there is every reason to believe they are doing it elsewhere as well or will shift their activity once they know that they’ve been found out.
The smart, simple strategy for MAP monitoring
This is just a high-level overview of the steps you’ll want to consider when setting up your MAP monitoring program. There are many additional considerations to take into account, most of which will vary depending on your products, your existing resale channel, and the specifics of your MAP policy itself.
Our advice, though, is not to try implementing a MAP monitoring system manually. It can quickly consume far more resources than you are prepared to devote to the task — and manual price monitoring is far more likely to miss violations because there is simply too much ground to cover.
Instead, we suggest deploying a fully automated platform for MAP enforcement.