We all know the complaint, “I can’t compete with Amazon!” Of course, you can’t. You’re not Amazon and you’re not trying to be. You have displays, testers and educated staff to help the customer buy the right product for them, not the trial-and-error method of Amazon.
Below you’ll find tips to identify products and sellers on Amazon in order to validate your pricing and assure the customer.
Knowing how to read Amazon, beyond the price, is key to communicating to in-store shoppers.
We’ve all seen it. A customer approaches you with a cellphone and you see the Amazon logo and know what’s coming. They want the item for the same price or they want a discount because the item is less expensive elsewhere.
Rather than getting mad immediately, you really should take a close look at the item the customer is viewing: the seller, the shipper, the description and the price.
Identify the Parties.
Who is the seller and who is the shipper?
For example, there are independent sellers that use Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). How can you tell? It is shipping from Amazon, but Amazon is not the seller. You can find out more info, including the seller’s business name and address, by clicking on the seller name.
Products can also be sold and shipped by Amazon, which means that Amazon bought the items from the manufacturer and is selling their inventory. These items are likely legitimate, but don’t take it for granted though; look at the brands, too.
Now that you know who is selling and shipping, what about the products?
Is the product displayed really the same item that you’re selling? Here are some clues:
What is the brand shown? Is it Cloud 9 Novelties, Doc Johnson, Evolved Novelties? Those are valid brand names. What if it’s “Cloud Nine,” “Dr. Johnson” or “The Evolved?” Those are not valid brand names and the item being sold is suspect.
What are the images? Are they showing the known packaging with a product that doesn’t match the description? Does the seller-provided description match the description you already know? Any of these things give you an idea if the product is legitimate or not.
Know your manufacturers. Many prohibit third-party sellers. If you see an item you know is restricted, then it is a bad seller or fraudulent product.
What about the price? What is the MSRP on the item? Is the Amazon price shown impossibly below that? Manufacturers often set a Minimum Advertised Price policy equal to MSRP. This is to aid retail stores from being undercut by online sellers.
There are several combinations of sellers, brands, text descriptions and other details that let you prove to the customer that the listing is a fake or the seller is “fly-by-night.” Here are some elements to watch out for:
- Symbols mixed with text. This slows the Amazon bots down from finding and deleting them.
- Text that looks like nothing but search terms such as brand names that aren’t related to the item.
- Brand names that are incorrect, but the images match the real products.
- Brand names that are correct, but the image is not the real item.
- Sellers with a name and address that make no sense. They might have no real name, just letters strung together. The location is an offshore address.
- The seller just started business.
- The seller has no ratings or has poor ratings.
What can you do?
Let your customer know that the Amazon seller is not selling the same/actual product you carry. If you want to help the cause, report the listing to the manufacturer’s brand ambassador, your salesperson or your distributor. Be sure to provide all of the detailed information — ASIN, item or seller. A link is helpful, too. When you can take the time to alert the brand owner, you help everyone.
If you are shown an item priced at MAP by a long-time seller with good ratings, it is likely a valid product and good seller, but you have an advantage: “The Amazon item is priced without me, my experience and my beautiful store. I’m here to help you make the best selection, make sure the product is working correctly and I’ll be here after the sale. You can also take this baby home right now.”
Here are some more ways to encourage customers to shop in your store:
- “While this product is probably the real deal, you need to be careful with Amazon and pleasure products. There are many problematic and fraudulent sellers.”
- “If the price seems too good to be true, you may want to think twice about ordering it.”
- Unless the customer is using Prime, they might be paying for shipping. Shipping coupled with the price of the product isn’t far off from the in-store price. “At Amazon, you’re paying for the product and the shipping. At my store, you don’t have to pay shipping.”
- “They are shipping you a product from XYZ country. It may arrive in a few days or maybe six weeks.”
- “Check the seller refund policy. You might find you have no recourse if it’s defective, never shows up or if you get a different product. You can complain, but that doesn’t mean you’ll receive a full refund.”
Amazon sellers don’t just sell bad items though. There are many legitimate sellers just like you who are trying to make a profit. They have their challenges to maintain Amazon seller standards.
Amazon customers can always file a complaint if the product isn’t what they ordered, or is broken or defective. Too many complaints will get the seller shut down. However, that doesn’t help the customer right now. You are the one that helps the customer right now.
Customers will show you good sellers with lower prices. That’s true of any business. How would you handle a customer that said, “The store down the street has this for $5 less?” You might say, “Yes, they do. We have differences, we aren’t a franchise of the store down the street, and we are not a catalog.” Or “They do. I can match their price today if you show me the item and price.”
Be a trusted advisor. You aren’t trying to compete with Amazon. No one can compete with Amazon on price alone. You have an entirely different, customer-focused business. They are volume; you are about the lifetime value of your customers.
What if customers use you as a showroom and then buy from Amazon? No one can stop them, but you can discourage it. Be your most helpful self. You’re educating, recommending and upselling. You are not using an algorithm that may or may not show related products that people bought together. Plus, they get to take the item home today, not in three-to-five business days.
There are many strategies used by retail stores to maintain and increase customer engagement.
Store “dollars” have been popular because they work. For every $XX.xx the customer spends, they get $X.xx in Store Dollars.
Hosting events is another strategy. Try hosting funny or educational events like a beginner BDSM class, or a comedy night or fashion show.
We all live in an Amazon world, whether it’s AWS Servers, Amazon Pay, Amazon sellers, and on and on. It is not possible to be all things to all consumers from your store. But it is possible to market your differences!
Amazon: Adult Retailer Tips for Staying Vigilant by Ann Houlihan originally appeared in XBIZ