It’s a jungle out there. The jungle we’re referring to is the Amazon jungle that helps you pay your bills. If you’ve been selling even for a little while, then you’ve heard about hijacking—a feared result of selling on Amazon.
Unfortunately, hijacking seems to be a growing problem. Hijackers simply want to make as much money from your listing as they can for as long as they can. It is not a longterm strategy. Luckily for sellers playing the long game, the branding and marketing tactics that can help you increase sales can also help protect your listings.
What is listing hijacking?
When someone has hijacked a listing, it means that they are selling a private labelled, branded product as a second seller of that item.
Amazon is an open marketplace, meaning anyone can sell anything, so there are often multiple sellers of an item. But if you know that you have not given your manufacturer permission to provide your custom product to anyone else and you have never resold your products wholesale to resellers, than that means that any seller also selling your private labelled product is actually selling a counterfeit item.
The person doing this is piggy backing on your listing because they have noticed your success and want in on the sales.
How does hijacking happen?
Another seller simply lists that they too are a seller of your product, and they either ship the inventory to FBA or merchant fulfill.
But where are they getting the item? They might be having a different manufacturer copy your product as closely as possible, or they may be sourcing your product from your manufacturer. If you didn’t have your manufacturer sign a clear exclusivity agreement (either about the use of your product mold, brand name, or some other facet of the product), then your manufacturer could be the one supplying hijackers with the product.
More often however, hijackers are having it created as closely as possible by a different manufacturer, in which case the item is counterfeit.
The really bad news, is that the product is likely of lower quality and could result in negative reviews of your listing.
What can sellers do to protect themselves?
Fortunately, there are ways you can make hijacking less likely to occur.
Private label sellers are encouraged to register their brands with Amazon. This allows you to have control over your listings, making it harder for someone to change them and also giving you more credibility if you ever have to file a claim about a counterfeit item.
Registering your brand can only protect you so much. Amazon is notorious for letting sellers fend for themselves, and if you can’t prove that the item is counterfeit (if the other seller is actually selling your real product) there will be little you can do.
When you bundle your products, you make it much harder for someone to source all of them and put them together the way that you do. This could be a set of related items, or an item that comes with special accessories or a carrying case. The more complex your offering, the harder it will be for someone to reproduce it.
Creating a product mold
In this podcast episode, Amazon seller Scott Voelker discusses a tactic used by his friend Dom Sugar. The idea is that rather than just printing your logo on the product and the packaging, that you also have it in the product mold, so there is some sort of embossing in the actual product. Then, you have your lawyer include in your terms with your manufacturer that the use of this product mold is exclusive to your company.
This level of branding makes it much harder for someone to counterfeit your products—meaning it’s easier to catch them in the act should they try.
Take branded photos
The more places you include your logo in your product photos, the more you will deter hijackers. They will see a well-branded product that is difficult to recreate.
The trick here is to show hijackers that it will not be easy to ship customers the exact same offering. Maybe your logo is embossed in a metal handle, part of a velvet travel case, and on a user guide. Whatever branding you have working for you, make sure to show it off in the photos. Hijackers will choose easier projects instead.
What should you do if your listing does get hijacked?
If this does happen to you, don’t completely panic. There are a few things you can do.
One smart tactic that many sellers swear by is also the easiest: sending a letter. Contact the seller directly and let them know that you have not sold your product to any resellers and that they should take down the listing immediately if they don’t want to be reported to Amazon. Here’s a template that will help you get started.
You can also file a claim with Amazon. First, you will need proof that the hijackers are selling counterfeit items. It will be especially helpful if you can detail the ways that the counterfeit items are of lesser quality, because Amazon wants to protect the customer experience.
You might try having a friend file an A to Z claim instead. Your friend could order the product from the hijacker and then you can help them draft a claim from their account as a customer, detailing that the product they received is a counterfeit. Fortunately, these claims get answered quickly and the seller will likely be removed within a matter of days.
In the meantime, it’s generally advisable that you lower your price to win the Buy Box as much as possible. It’s not JUST about not missing out on sales. This also means that fewer people will receive an inferior product, thus protecting your listing against poor reviews.
It’s hard to gauge exactly how likely the average seller is to have a listing hijacked, because some sellers never encounter this, while others have to battle it constantly. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent it from happening and ways to handle it responsibly and quickly should it occur. If you have your own experience with hijacking, let us know in the comments below.
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