Are unauthorized third-party sellers a big deal? If you want to protect the integrity of your brand – not to mention your margins – the answer is yes. In the era of online reviews and SEO, the impact of unauthorized ecommerce sellers ranges from lost revenue to damaged relationships with authorized sellers to questionable brand integrity.
But how do you take action on this problem? The first step is collecting the basic facts about these ecommerce sellers: Who they are, what they’re doing and where they are operating. In short, brand manufacturers first need to figure out who the seller is and how to reach them. Of course, this isn’t always a simple task. Here are some helpful tactics for starting a search of this kind.
Your first area of focus should be the Amazon storefront. Even if a contact name isn’t readily available, that information can often be found by searching through vendor FAQ, returns and refunds, shipping, policies, individual products or reviews.
Search carefully for any information that might help narrow your search, such as states available for shipping, or which locations are subject to sales tax on transactions. Negative reviews can be especially telling, as the vendor will often provide contact information such as an email or returns shipping address right in their response.
Personal Information (PI) Request
If a thorough search of the Amazon pages fails to yield any useful information, you can try submitting a personal information (PI) request to Amazon itself. It also pays to look into other sales platforms for PI possibilities. Ecommerce sellers often operate accounts on multiple platforms, and if you’re able to connect them back to an eBay account, for example, eBay can provide contact information from a PI request that may move your Amazon investigation along.
Don’t discount the humble search engine, either; even a very small amount of information can be used to find a viable trail. Google, Firefox, Safari and any other search engine will use different algorithms and deliver different results, so it pays to try multiple ones. In any case, the best results are achieved using a variety of search terms. If you have partial information like a seller ID number or address, try searching for those as well.
If you’re able to get a domain name for the seller in question, the threat investigation website domaintools.com is also an excellent resource to tap into. The service is often able to track multiple websites and brands that are reselling your items back to a single individual. The domaintools.com premium service also offers historical domain registration information even if the owner put up privacy settings at a later date. This is invaluable in the case of a seller who is actively trying to cover their tracks.
Once you have a good idea who the ecommerce seller is you can try to secure the final piece of evidence by making a product buy. This is as simple as purchasing and then returning an item. If you’re purchasing through Amazon though, make sure your order isn’t Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). Amazon fulfillment acts an intermediary, so your purchase won’t provide you with any additional information, like a return address.
On a more basic level, be smart about your purchase. Buy something low cost and small and make sure to use an anonymous form of payment. Purchasing from a company credit card with your name and company name, for instance, will tell the unauthorized seller exactly who you are and may tip them off. Using a prepaid card or gift certificate is an easy workaround for this issue.
These are just a few helpful tips to help brand manufacturers begin to identify and subsequently stop unauthorized sellers. While it may seem harmless on the surface, these unauthorized sellers can cause real issues including stealing revenue and tarnishing the brand image. Additionally, these types of sellers can multiply quickly, so it’s vital to stay on top of the marketplace and seek out these unauthorized sellers regularly.
This is an ongoing endeavor, but one that is vital to maintaining brand integrity and positive relationships with both authorized sellers and customers.
Anthony Capozzoli is a Global Sales Executive with PriceSpider