The following is a guest post by Andrew Buss at Retail Bloom.
At first blush, you may look skeptically at the title of this post and say (to yourself, of course…), “Yes, what do Amazon Advertising and brand protection have in common?”
Before I dove into the world of ecommerce and Amazon, I would have done you one better and mumbled, “Who knows, and who cares.”
Let’s take these questions in order:
- What they have in common: Brand protection and Amazon Advertising are, for better or for worse, tied at the hip. Let’s call them ‘married.’
- Who knows it: Amazon and the innumerable number of third-party sellers competing with your brand for the Buy Box know it.
- Who cares about it: You and your boss care (even if you don’t know it yet).
You are likely familiar with Sponsored Product Ads on Amazon. They are the three or four first search results you typically see when you search for a product. You might also understand the concept of ‘bids’ which determine which product ads get served for competitive keywords that are sought after by multiple brands and products. Brands and other Amazon sellers compete for these ad slots by bidding on key terms that are relevant to their products. This all sounds pretty straightforward, right?
Here’s where the wrench gets thrown into the equation—your Sponsored Product Ad will only serve if you, as the brand, own the Buy Box for that item. You might make the most beautiful ad, have a great bidding strategy, get everything teed up for snagging that wandering customer, and then lose out on your ad placement and, ultimately, your sale because of poor brand protection.
Even worse, spend from other ad types, such as Sponsored Brand, Amazon DSP, and offsite channels will continue, regardless of the Buy Box, so your brand will still be paying for the traffic, even though you’re losing out on the sale.
What is Brand Protection?
What do you we mean by poor brand protection? It’s really pretty simple. No doubt you’ve noticed the tens (possibly hundreds) of third-party sellers offering your branded products on Amazon. These might be brick-and-mortar retailers who took it upon themselves to start selling online with or without your knowledge. They may be distributors who also operate as Amazon sellers to take advantage of their extra margin. Then again, they may simply be a guy in his garage who shops deals and runs an Amazon store on 15% margin. The bottom line is that they aren’t you—they are not the brand itself. In fact, they are actually competing with you for the Buy Box and sales.
Ultimately, you as the brand are responsible for managing third-party sellers.
Brands need to create and enforce a legitimate authorized reseller program. At Retail Bloom, we’ve been approached by brands with this problem over and over. Fortunately, through our comprehensive approach to brand protection, we are able to help clean things up.
The key to a legitimate and effective clean-up project is your brand’s intellectual property—specifically, your trademarks. Leaning on established principles of trademark law, you can craft a tailored and enforceable reseller program for your brand. For example, your brand could utilize Retail Bloom’s TrackStreet partnership to set up, operate, and, if helpful, automate your customized MAP and third-party seller enforcement process.
Impacts of Brand Protection
Here’s a common scenario: a customer, let’s call him Bill, hops online to shop for a pair of sneakers. He’s super excited to grab the newest pair of Adidas. He searches for “Adidas running shoes” and clicks the first result he sees. It’s a sponsored product served into his search results by Amazon. He may or may not notice this fact, but it’s secondary to our point here.
Next, he picks his color and his size. He loves the price, as it’s $5 lower than what he just saw in the store the other day. He quickly pays and completes his checkout.
Several days later the sneakers arrive in a slightly damaged box with no brand markings and none of the typical “shoe packaging” (you know—the crumpled up paper we all sometimes forget to yank out of the left shoe, so we hit it the first time we slide it on).
Bill is concerned. He goes on Amazon and leaves a review noting how vague the packaging was and asking whether the shoes are legitimate Adidas. Now Adidas’ rating goes down, people read the review and move on to other shoes, and, to top it off, Adidas never even realized full margin on that sale because it was a third-party seller who had the Buy-box.
Negative reviews are especially painful for a number of reasons:
- Amazon reviews are used by shoppers to understand the credibility of the brand.
- Only products that have a 3.5+ rating can be advertised in sponsored ads, so poor ratings and reviews can prevent a product from being advertised.
- Getting a negative Amazon review can lead to a loss of sales on other platforms and retailers, since Amazon is the most trusted site for reviews.
Don’t let Bill down—or your brand. Make sure you are making the most of your advertising dollars on Amazon by legitimately controlling who is selling your product and how many sellers you are competing with for the Buy Box and, consequently, your ad dollars.
One other point worth noting for marketers looking to make the most of every penny: Losing out on ad space due to uncontrolled Buy Box issues is really a three-fold loss:
- Your company misses out on the sale and revenue.
- You lose the Sponsored Product ad space and visibility to consumers.
- When your company reallocates its advertising budget by assessing overall sales, you’re shooting yourself in the foot each time the Buy Box is lost because, as you miss the sale, you are missing out on driving up that overall sales number that yields your advertising budget.
What I’m trying to say is this—be in control of who is selling your products on Amazon. In the words of Michael Scott from The Office, it really is a “win, win, win.”