The Web Retailer News Digest for February 12th, 2021

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Amazon has launched many initiatives to fight against the fakes being sold on its marketplace. So many, in fact, that it’s hard to keep track. There’s Brand Registry, Transparency, Project Zero and more.

That’s lots of programs and lots of rules but, so far, still lots of fakes. Amazon boasts that 99.9% of products have not received a valid counterfeit complaint, but with around 340 million products available to buy on the marketplace that leaves over 300,000 which have had reliable counterfeit reports.

Why aren’t all these initiatives having a greater effect? One thing most of these programs have lacked is teeth. It’s all well and good to monitor, prevent and report, but if a “bad actor” manages to bypass all the systems and still sell counterfeit products on the Amazon marketplace, what will happen to them beyond having their listings pulled and account suspended?

The announcement of two new lawsuits this week, on top of at least four more in progress, might show us the answer. These people will be dragged through the courts, at great personal and financial expense. Is that enough of a threat to make future potential fakers think twice?

Amazon steps up the fight

On Wednesday, Amazon and Dutch Blitz filed four joint lawsuits against six defendants for selling fake versions of the Dutch Blitz card game. Unlike the big brand names normally associated with counterfeit products, Dutch Blitz is a small business, owned and operated by the Fisher family in Pennsylvania. Businesses of that size don’t have piles of cash and big legal teams to fight fakes, and others like Dutch Blitz have been crying out for help with this for many years.

The next day, Amazon announced that it had filed two more joint lawsuits, this time with Italian luxury fashion brand Salvatore Ferragamo. This lawsuit, against seven defendants, alleges that they worked together to use Ferragamo’s trademarks and mislead customers into thinking they were buying genuine products.

Both cases appear to have come out of the work of Amazon’s new Counterfeit Crimes Unit, a team of former federal prosecutors, investigators, and data analysts established in June 2020.

If this team is able to bring weighty cases against those faking the products of big brands and small businesses alike, then that is a very encouraging development indeed. Defensive programs like Brand Registry have a big role to play, but sometimes you have to be willing to go on the offensive too.

Read more at Amazon about Ferragamo and Dutch Blitz.

Other Amazon news

Amazon wants entrepreneurs to start trucking companies

Amazon is looking to repeat its success with the Delivery Service Partner (DSP) program, but this time with a scheme aimed at container haulage.

The DSP encourages people to start their own businesses delivering Amazon parcels to customers. It operates like a franchise, recruiting those who want to build companies with up to 100 employees and setting up deals to provide vehicles, fuel, uniforms, devices, business systems and more.

The trucking program has not been officially announced, but based on an internal Amazon document, it will work in a similar way, providing training and loans to entrepreneurs to start trucking companies and then transport cargo exclusively for Amazon.

Amazon’s use of contractors and third-party companies to build its delivery network has allowed it to scale up very quickly. Critics point out that it also means it can operate at arms-length from these companies, and take little responsibility for low pay and poor working conditions. With Amazon setting up all the rules and providing much of the equipment and systems, and apparently demanding exclusivity, perhaps they have a point.

Read more at FreightWaves.

Echo Dot is the first product to get one million reviews

Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speaker has become the first product on Amazon to gain over one million reviews, says Marketplace Pulse.

The explosion in reviews, however, is down to the new “one-tap” system which allows customers to submit star ratings without a text review. The Echo Dot received fewer than 100,000 text reviews in the first three years since it launched, but is now receiving 100,000 new ratings per month.

Graph from Marketplace Pulse

The downside of these ratings, of course, is that there are far fewer full reviews for potential buyers to read and discover the true pros and cons of a product – which is often much more useful than simply an average rating. It also provides no opportunity for the seller to understand why a negative rating was given, and makes fake reviews harder to identify.

Read more at Marketplace Pulse.

Label and prep services for Small and Light in Europe

In the UK and Europe, Amazon is now offering the FBA Label Service and full FBA Prep Service for products that fall under the Small and Light program. Prices range from €0.09 for labels to €0.70 for bubble-wrapping and €0.90 for opaque bagging.

Sellers were quick to point out that they were not previously required to label Small and Light products, and Amazon simply added the labels themselves without charge. So the real change is that labels are now required, and that sellers can choose to add them themselves or pay Amazon to do it, as with standard size FBA products.

Read more at Seller Forums – UK Announcements.

eBay news

Certified refurbished program launches in the UK

UK sellers can now apply to eBay to use a new item condition of “certified refurbished” in their listings. To qualify, sellers need to be the manufacturer, or approved by the manufacturer, and have inventory which meets condition standards.

The program was launched in the US in October last year. It aims to regulate the quality of refurbished products and give buyers more confidence in buying them. If the program works as intended, sellers should also benefit from better prices and higher sales.

Read more at Community Announcements.

Walmart news

Walmart+ has eight million members

Walmart’s Prime-like membership program, Walmart+, now has around eight million members, or 14% of Walmart.com shoppers, according to a study carried out by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners and reported in Forbes magazine.

Despite the comparisons with Amazon Prime, Walmart+ seems to be mainly driven by grocery shoppers. Still the fast climb to eight million members provides a base to build on, and perhaps leverage to grow online and marketplace sales. Amazon Prime has around 142 million members in the US, nearly 18 times the number signed up to Walmart+.

Read more at Forbes.

Webinars in the week ahead

February 16: Try out eBay guru Danna Crawford’s “Let’s Talk eBay” session (register here).

February 17: eComEngine is running a webinar on how to increase customer lifetime value on Amazon (register here).

February 18: Amazon Small Business academy with “Bold Stories of Entrepreneurship” (register here).

February 18: Learn about expanding to the new Amazon marketplace in Poland (register here).

UK sellers have a Brexit FAQ webinar with Amazon next week (Feb 15), a webinar with OnBuy CEO Cas Patton (Feb 16) and a session about how to navigate the Amazon account verification process (Feb 16).

For everyone, Amazon advertising’s global webinar program rolls on with 23 webinars scheduled, covering Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, reporting, optimization and tips.

And finally

Last August, the surprise ban of Chinese-owned social media app TikTok was followed by the even more surprising announcement that Oracle and Walmart would buy and take over the US version of the app.

As the world puzzled over why a boring database company and a supermarket chain would want to buy an app where nine-year-olds video themselves dancing, the political world turned and President Trump graciously bowed out of office. Well, let’s pretend it happened that way.

Amid all the reversals of environmental and immigration policies, the executive order banning TikTok has quietly been shelved as well. The result? Tweenagers can get back to “Corvette Corvette” and “Renegade” and online sellers no longer have to cringe at Walmart’s awkward attempts to run video shopping sessions on TikTok.

Read more at ZDNet.

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