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Ep. 022 Keyword Podcast: What Is Amazon Tracking with Kelly Johnston from Cascadia

March 20, 2017
Ep. 022 Keyword Podcast- What Is Amazon Tracking with Kelly Johnston from Cascadia

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What information is Amazon tracking about third party sellers? And how can you use that information to evaluate your own performance?


How much do you think amazon knows about you? Probably a lot right? How much does Amazon track about it’s Third Party Sellers? More importantly, what does it do with that information?


We’re talking about not just what Amazon tracks about you but what information you should be tracking too so you stay on Amazon’s good side.


This week’s “Amazon Insider” is Kelly Johnston of Cascadia. She spent the majority of her time at Amazon, nearly ten years, working in Seller Performance.



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Show Notes:

What Is Amazon Tracking with Kelly Johnston from Cascadia

What information is Amazon tracking about third party sellers? And how can you use that information to evaluate your own performance?
 
How much do you think amazon knows about you? Probably a lot right? How much does Amazon track about it’s Third Party Sellers? More importantly, what does it do with that information?
 
We’re talking about not just what Amazon tracks about you but what information you should be tracking too so you stay on Amazon’s good side.
 
This week’s “Amazon Insider” is Kelly Johnston. She spent the majority of her time at Amazon, nearly ten years, working in Seller Performance.
 
“I wrote a lot of the warnings that are still used in some form today,” Johnston says.
 
Kelly now works for Cascadia, a company that consults Third Party Sellers. You can find them at www.thinkcascadia.com.
 
Kelly’s basically doing the same thing now that she was doing for Amazon, but in reverse. She helps with account reinstatement, ASIN reinstatement and helps sellers understand the basic general Amazon policies too.
 
“It’s a very complex, deep ecosystem to work in and it’s never more so than today,” says Johnston, “Ten years ago it was getting more complicated, today it’s unrecognizable.”
 
This week’s episode topic actually comes from someone who emailed me, requesting we do an episode on what Amazon is tracking on Third Party Sellers. So we sought out Kelly, since she knows a lot about Seller Investigations and we asked her.
 
“Is there stuff that Amazon tracks about Sellers?” Kate asks.
 
“The question is probably more, what don’t they track,” Kelly says.
 
So the short answer, Amazon is tracking anything and everything it can about Sellers.
 
“Anything you put into their website is trackable and that includes where you’re sign in from and what kinds of products are you listing, what kind of products are you browsing, are you buying frequently?” Kelly says.
 
It makes sense that Amazon would be tracking all this. There’s things that you can track in your own account that can tell you if you’re on Amazon’s good side or if they may start investigating you.
 
There’s a couple things you should follow when it comes both to performance and policy.
 
First off, let’s look at performance.There’s three parts of your performance you should look at:

  • Negative feedback
  • Chargeback
  • And claims.

 
“Those three are strong indicators they used to be separate and then Amazon realized that they could get a really comprehensive measurement of the Seller’s performance by actually doing a ratio of those three things,” Kelly says.
 
Amazon actually holds itself to the same metric, looking at negative feedback, chargebacks and claims and they strive to only have defects in one percent or less of orders.
 
“So that’s the gold standard. That’s the number one thing you have to pay attention to from a performance standpoint because if you’re doing poorly in any one of those three things you’ll know about it,” Kelly says.
 
The second thing you need to be tracking is policies. Depending on what you’re selling there’s a whole list of policies you have to be compliant with.
 
If one of your products is non-compliant, Amazon will notice it and your listing and possibly your account will be in jeopardy. If you’re selling in any of the Consumables Categories,  Health & Personal Care, Grocery, Beauty, Baby. There’s lots that you need to be in compliance with and keeping up with any policy changes or updates.
 
“There are a lot of regulatory issues that Amazon. They comply with the law and sometimes they’re more strict than the law and you as a seller, if you’re selling in those areas, particularly, you need to know where they’re more strict or where they may not be because if you don’t if you’re not aware of those things, you can run into some serious problems because you will inadvertently violate a policy,” Kelly says.
 
There is one specific part about performance that you can track and if you watch it, it can warn you of a possible investigation by Amazon.
 
“Returns I think are the canary in the coal mine for most sellers particularly FBAsellers that are not being analyzed enough or often enough by sellers,” Kelly says.
 
Kelly’s analyzed hundreds of seller accounts over the past two years. She says she’s spotted a trend when it comes to quality related returns.When customers have picked:

  • Product not as described
  • It’s defective
  • It’s damaged
  • Or another similar issue

Kelly found that if there is an increase in returns, Amazon usually gets involved and starts investigating.
 
“You can extrapolate that Amazon is obviously reviewing returns as well and that buyers are complaining about things,” says Kelly, “There could be a huge problem with their stock in the FCs.”
 
But if you track your own returns, you can prevent any investigation by Amazon before it happens by fixing the problem first. Most sellers don’t think about returns, especially if they’re using Fulfillment By Amazon, because the issue is out of sight, out of mind.
 
“I always recommend to sellers that they have a process in place, however it works for them, whatever frequency works for them where they’re monitoring these returns and looking at the trends,” Kelly says.
 
You should know that most products should have a return rate of less than three percent.
 
“If you’re experiencing a high rate of return on that something is wrong, either because the item doesn’t match the detail page, anymore or there’s a problem with the product that’s damaged, returns are being put back into saleable. There’s a whole host of things that can happen,” Kelly says.
 
Items like apparel and jewelry will have a higher rate of return but you should still monitor returns so you can stay ahead of any problems.
 
FBA sellers can choose in their seller settings where returns are sent. If you’re not seeing any abnormal activity, you should have products sent back to the Fulfillment Center. But if you notice a lot of your product being returned, you need to figure out what’s happening.
 
“That return data represents legitimate buyer complaints, so you as a seller have to be willing to investigate those and chase those leads down and figure out what’s going down because if you don’t you risk enforcement action from Amazon,” Kelly says.
 
When you’re investigating your own product you need to pull your listing,  then issue a removal order to audit the product.
 
“If you get a bunch of damaged stuff back chances are a lot of your stuff is damaged and that’s why people are complaining,” Kelly says.
 
Sellers are often unwilling to pull a listing but think of this if you leave the listing up and Amazon launches an investigation before you solve the problem, you’re then stuck trying to get your product and ASIN back. Pulling your own listing in advance gives you more control.
 
“If people paid attention more and actually analyzed that data a bit I think they would find that, oh wow, there were signs ahead of this warning that maybe something wasn’t as it seemed,” Kelly says.
 
If you have a product that has constant returns and complaints, and you can’t seem to fix it, it may just not be a good product. You’ll need to look at getting out of the product and create or find a better product. You don’t want to risk your seller account over a bad product.

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