“I woke up to see many of my products completely altered, reviews missing, page titles changed.”
These are the cries of an FBA seller who had their product listing hijacked! What exactly happened?
When an Amazon listing is hijacked, a third-party seller claims to have the same product as yours and, therefore, should be entitled to sell it through your listing. Usually, the hijackers’ product is offered at a lower price to attract sales but lower quality. When shoppers buy the hijackers counterfeit version, they will generally respond by leaving negative reviews on your listing, affecting your brand and future sales.
Though Amazon has recently ramped up its efforts to combat the sale of counterfeit goods, you still need to remain vigilant to protect your online store.
So can you deter hijackers away from your listing? When should you be more vigilant than others? What is the difference between hijackers and resellers? And how do you stop your listing from being hijacked? In this article, we are going to go through all of this and more!
If you expect Amazon to send an official email warning you about hijackers taking over your product listings, think again. The art of amazon listing hijacking is subtle. It usually begins when a product starts to gain traction without sellers noticing. By the time the original owners become aware of hijackers, damage to both sales and brand rep has already been done.
You see, it’s not easy researching hot products to sell on Amazon, building a positive brand image, getting in touch with quality manufacturers, and ranking a product—all of this requires time and effort. That’s precisely why when a product begins to generate sales and climb up the rankings, it becomes a prime target for these piggybackers to leech onto to make easy money.
Hard work is the bane of a hijacker’s existence. They operate by creating replicas or knock-offs and attach themselves to your listings. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the average buyer cannot distinguish between sellers selling the same product—they only see your listing.
Unlike you, a hijacker is least likely to pay attention to product quality; they aim to generate as many sales as possible. To do this, they lower their product price to retain the buy box for as long as possible. When a customer purchases your product, they’re actually buying a low-quality counterfeit item from the hijacker.
The frustrated customer will most likely leave behind a negative review that appears on your listing and ends up deterring future buyers from purchasing your product. All of this happens without any fault on your part!
Sometimes, listings get hijacked with the sole purpose of getting the original seller in trouble. This is done by altering product listing content to include words or phrases that go against Amazon seller policies. Statements such as “100% results guaranteed” or “cures XYZ disease” are picked up by Amazon’s search bots and eventually result in suspended listings and/or seller privileges.
Note: Q4 is a crucial time for most sellers. This is also the time when hijackers are most active! Protect your listings beforehand by implementing the preventive measures mentioned in this blog.
Now that you’ve understood how grave the consequences of Amazon listing hijacking are, let’s quickly determine whether hijackers have attached themselves to your product listing. Let’s assume that the Kitchen Scissors shown in the image below is your product.
Seeing as how you’re a Private Label seller, there shouldn’t be anyone else selling the exact same product as yourself. But one day, you notice the section highlighted in red, “New (3) from $3.99”. This means that additional sellers are offering the same product as you are.
That’s odd—you don’t remember granting anyone permission to resell your product. Upon clicking on the new offers, this information pops up on the right-hand side of your screen:
It’s at this point you realize that “NNKKUS” and “CoKo-US” are two sellers that have hijacked your product listing!
If this hypothetical scenario is similar to what you’re experiencing right now, act fast! Ignoring Amazon listing hijackers puts your brand image at risk!
Disclaimer: This scenario serves only as an example. It’s possible that both “NNKKUS” and “CoKo-US” are two certified resellers operating with the approval of the original seller.
A hijacker is someone that attempts to create cheap replicas of an existing product to sell them at a lower price on Amazon. In the process of attaching themselves to a product listing, they may also alter the content like bullet points and product images.
A reseller, on the other hand, purchases a product and then proceeds to resell it. Even though this creates additional competition for the original seller, it is not illegal per se. There’s not much you can do to prevent this unless you have a trademark and are Brand Registered on Amazon (more on this later).
First, let’s talk about the various strategies you can use to ward off Amazon listing hijackers.
The next time you’re looking to buy something off Amazon, spend some time observing how sellers brand their products. As you go down the ranking pages, you’ll notice a few things:
If you’re offering just another run-of-the-mill product, attracting buyers will always remain an uphill battle. Branding isn’t just to differentiate yourself from the competition (although that is one of its main goals) but also to reduce the risk of hijacking. The most effective aspect of branding in this regard is your logo. Take a look at this image:
Techkey—a company that produces wireless connectivity hardware—ensures its logo is clearly visible on each product. Doing so deters hijackers from creating cheap replicas that can easily be identified and reported to Amazon.
Similar to branding, the benefits of creating a website are two-fold:
Creating a website builds customer trust and strengthens your case against hijackers. E-commerce platforms like Shopify enable sellers to establish an online presence and generate additional revenue outside of Amazon. If you cannot afford building a Shopify or WooCommerce store, a simple website without eCom functionality will suffice.
The main aim of this strategy is to build credibility and let Amazon know that you are the rightful owner of your products on Amazon. We recommend creating similar content for both your website and Amazon product detail page as well as a separate section highlighting your SKUs for authenticity. Also, mention your website’s URL within your complaint to speed up the removal process.
Up until now, we’ve discussed points that help sellers differentiate their offerings and mitigate the risk of Amazon listing hijacking. Another strategy that’s especially useful for generic products is by creating bundled product offers.
Products that lack variations are encouraged because they feature reduced manufacturing costs and fewer inventory management protocols. The lack of complexity, however, makes such products easy to replicate and end up becoming prime targets for hijackers. Bundling products together act as a powerful deterrent as it makes a hijacker’s job that much more difficult.
If you’re not quite sure how to bundle products, simply go through your competitors’ listings to the “Frequently bought together” section. This will give you a good idea of how to create the perfect bundle offer!
Note: Creating bundled offers can be quite confusing for new sellers. Check out our blog on Amazon Virtual Bundles to know the A-Z of creating product bundles.
Obtaining a trademark and subsequently applying for Brand Registry should be a matter of top priority for all sellers. These two aspects combined offer the greatest protection against IP infringements and Amazon listing hijacking.
To put it simply, a trademark offers legal protection for your brand image and prevents other sellers from stealing your identity. Trademarks are of two types: text-based and image-based, and the approval process takes anywhere around 9 to 18 months in the U.S (the process can be sped up considerably by taking advantage of the IP Accelerator program).
The trademark application process is different for each country. Suppose you’re selling on Amazon.com, head on over to uspto.gov to begin the process. Just remember to apply for a trademark within the region that you’re selling in. For example, an Australian trademark is needed for those selling on Amazon Australia.
Note: Having a trademark or being in the approval process for obtaining one is a prerequisite for getting Brand Registered on Amazon.
The Amazon Brand Registry program offers seller protection from hijackers and IP infringements. Enrolling in the program also opens up ample opportunities for brand building and advertising (including the ability to run Sponsored Brands and Display). You will need to submit the following information to successfully enroll in the program:
Once registered, you can file a complaint to the internal team regarding IP infringements and hijackers that have taken over your listing. Amazon is usually quick to resolve such concerns and help sellers continue doing business without having to worry about bad actors.
Note: Amazon Brand Registry does not prevent hijackers from attaching themselves to your listings in the future. It does, however, get them removed once you file a complaint, so remaining vigilant is crucial.
Amazon Transparency and Project Zero are only accessible once you’ve gotten brand registered. The Transparency program is a product serialization service introduced back in 2017 and is currently available for sellers in the following marketplaces:
As the title implies, sellers have the option to be more ‘transparent’ about their products to further build customer trust. This is done by including details such as the manufacturing place, date, and other unit-specific details.
The other—and more desired—benefit of Amazon Transparency is to prevent the sale of counterfeit products. Under this labeling system, a unique code is applied to each product which undergoes an authenticity check before being shipped out to the customer. Should an item fail the test, it becomes subject to investigation.
Customers also have the option of downloading a Transparency app and scanning the code to determine whether the product is genuine or counterfeit. Amazon Transparency is open for both FBA and FBM sellers, and to enroll in the program, you must:
Amazon Project Zero adds convenience to the hijacker removal process. Instead of informing Amazon every time a hijacker latches onto a listing and waiting for a response, members of this program can use a self-service tool to remove hijackers themselves. Additionally, sellers can sit back and relax as Amazon’s machine learning programs take preemptive actions against suspected counterfeits.
All in all, enrolling in both programs is a smart move to make if you can afford the associated costs. Doing so eliminates the risk of counterfeits and allows you to focus on growing your business.
All the steps we’ve mentioned up till now focus on preventing Amazon listing hijacking from happening. But what if there’s a hijacker (or hijackers) on your listing right now? Use these strategies:
The urge to send a profanity-filled letter can be strong, but it’s best to do things professionally. The first step is to send a cease and desist letter to the hijacker warning them about the legal consequences of their actions. Many hijackers tend to back off in fear of getting banned from the platform.
Your letter should include these details:
To send this message, visit the hijacker’s Seller profile and select ‘Ask a question’.
Note: The steps mentioned above do not constitute legal advice; consult your lawyer to learn more about IP infringements. For more details on how to report infringements, visit the official Intellectual Property for Rights Owners Amazon page.
After sending the Cease and Desist letter, report the matter to Amazon immediately. To strengthen your case, purchase a product directly from the hijacker’s buy box.
Show how the counterfeit item violates trademark laws, is deceitful, and is a low-quality product that’s bound to attract negative feedback.
The more evidence you gather and show to Amazon, the faster they’ll get the hijacker off your listing. Act quickly to minimize damages to your brand and prevent a flood of negative reviews from rolling in!
Sellers have a lot of questions related to Amazon listing hijacking. Let’s answer a few.
Technically speaking, there is no way of stopping sellers from hijacking listings. There are, however, numerous ways to kick them off once they attach themselves to your product listing. These include sending a cease and desist letter, filing a complaint to Amazon, and enrolling in the Amazon Brand Registry program.
There are plenty of ways to protect an Amazon listing. Some of them include obtaining a trademark, enrolling for Amazon Brand Registry, creating an eCom website, offering bundled products, and making sure your products have unique branding all of which makes it difficult for lazy sellers to steal your intellectual property.
The longer you sell on Amazon, the higher the chances that your Amazon listing will be hijacked. Unless you’re Brand Registered and have Transparency codes applied to each product (which isn’t feasible for most sellers given the costs involved) continuous monitoring is the smartest way of tackling this problem.
As a seller, your time is far too precious to spend time each day finding out whether someone is leeching off your sales. The solution? Try out a product listing monitoring tool like ZonGuru’s IP Monitor.
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