If you’re looking to become an Amazon seller, you’ll quickly learn that research plays a huge part in your success. From product viability to profit margins and keyword research, you’ve got a lot to do. One aspect a lot of first time sellers don’t think (or know) to research is Amazon gated categories.
Millions of products spread out over hundreds of categories are available to buy and sell right now on Amazon. From electronics to baby products and supplements to snacks, the possibilities are endless.
But not all categories and products are created equal. Some fall under gated or restricted categories. And before you source your Amazon FBA product, you need to be aware of what these categories are because they require special approval to sell.
If you don’t do your due diligence and source a product in a gated category you could be stuck with a ton of inventory and no way to move it.
To make sure you avoid this mistake, let’s dive into gated categories.
What Are the Amazon Restricted Categories?
The Amazon ecosystem is constantly in flux, but right now there are around 20 Amazon restricted categories and subcategories. The list of categories/subcategories that have some sort of restriction or approval/ungating process includes:
- Automotive and Powersports
- Clothing, Accessories, Shoes and Luggage
- Collectibles (Books and Coins)
- Entertainment Collectibles
- Fine Art
- Fine Jewelry
- Gift Cards
- Grocery and Gourmet Foods
- Kindle Accessories
- Sexual Wellness
- Sports Collectibles
- Textbook Rentals
- Toys and Games (during the holidays)
- Video Media (DVDs, Blu-ray)
Have you committed those to memory? There will be quiz later. Just kidding, but it would be a good idea to keep this list in mind when you’re perusing potential product ideas.
The next question we should probably answer is:
Why Does Amazon Put Restrictions on Certain Categories?
It’s pretty simple really. Amazon’s main goals, as is the case with any business (or it should be at least), is customer satisfaction and brand perception. Now with almost half of all sales on Amazon coming from third party sellers, the company has to have a way to protect its reputation. That’s why Amazon adds restrictions to categories which are susceptible to issues with safety, quality or counterfeiting.
While these restrictions are great for Amazon and in turn the shopper, it can make life difficult for sellers. That’s why you have to make sure you’ve done your research to figure out if that goldmine product you’re about to source would fall in a restricted category.
If it does and you’re fine with a few extra steps, these next parts may be for you.
How Do you Start the Approval Process?
Ok, so let’s say you’ve decided to sell in a category that requires an approval process. How do you get started down the path to getting approved to sell? Fortunately, this part is pretty straightforward. Typically, to get the ball rolling on the approval process you will follow these steps:
- Head to Seller Central, then click the inventory link and select “Add a Product.”
- Perform a search and look for any product you know that is listed in the specific category.
- Once you’re in the search results, click the link that says “Listing Limitations Apply.”
- Choose “Request Approval” and begin the application.
While some sellers get approved automatically or within a few hours, don’t worry if it take a little extra time for you. For some, getting approval can take up to a week. To check the status of your application all you have to do is go back to the Add a Product section of Seller Central and look for the “Selling Application Status” on the page.
What Does the Approval Process Entail?
Like a lot of things on Amazon, the answer is – it depends. While the approval and “ungating” process can vary from category to category, there are still a few blanket things you want to do to make sure you stay in Amazon’s good graces and increase the chances of getting approved. Some actions that can influence the approval process include:
- Pro Selling Account: For nearly all restricted categories you must have a Professional Selling plan or agree to upgrade to a Professional Selling plan within a certain amount of time, typically 30 days after your application is approved.
- Good Standing: In addition to having a Professional Selling account, Amazon also wants to see that your account is in good health. So keep your late shipment rates, defect rates and pre fulfillment cancel rates and returns as low as possible to increase your chances of getting approved. Unless there are quality issues with your other product(s), this aspect mainly applies to FBM, because if you’re selling FBA you should be hitting these metrics easily.
- Invoices: In some categories, like Grocery and Gourmet food, Amazon requires that you provide them with acceptable documentation like product invoices and any other information they request about your products.
- Images: For the Automotive and Powersports category, Amazon requires sellers to have compliant product images that can either be reviewed on an independent website or image hosting site.
- Questionnaire: Some categories, like Sexual Wellness and Jewelry also require you to fill out a questionnaire in addition to providing images.
- FDA Review: Some products are subject to FDA approval and may have additional requirements, like listing guidelines that you must adhere to.
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As you move through the approval process Amazon will indicate what of the above aspects it needs from you as the seller. Because this is done online with areas to upload or enter information, having all pertinent documents and info ready to go will help speed up this process.
Keep in mind, all categories will be different when it comes to what it takes to get approval to sell. For instance, sellers wanting to break into the Grocery and Gourmet Foods category have to follow specific guidelines.
Here are some of the guidelines straight from Amazon for the Grocery and Gourmet Foods category. As you can see from the image below, there are requirements for a number of aspects including packaging, labelling, shipment dates and much more.
Then, as you might imagine for food products, Amazon also requires sellers to maintain proper temperature control, as you can see below.
Final Thoughts: Should I Avoid Selling in Restricted Categories?
Hopefully after reading this blog post, you have a little better idea of why restricted categories exist and what the process for getting “ungated” entails. Now, if you think the process for getting approval to sell in one of the gated categories is too complex and time-consuming, (especially if you’re a new seller) that’s perfectly fine. However, if you’re willing to go the extra mile, this could be a good strategy for you.
Think about it this way: There is a ton of competition across all categories on Amazon, right? But wouldn’t it make some sense to think that categories that require these extra steps and work, might be a little less crowded for the reasons I mentioned above?
What I’m saying isn’t necessarily profound, nor is it sure to make you instantly rich. That said, you don’t have to avoid restricted categories like the plague just because you can’t open an account and immediately start selling.
These are the types of decisions that you’ll have to make throughout your selling journey. To set yourself up for success, you’ll need to make sure you’ve done plenty of research and have gathered the right data.
Here at Viral Launch, we want to provide you with all the information you’ll need to become a successful Amazon seller. For more on Amazon selling strategies, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, check out our Youtube channel, and listen to our Follow the Data podcast.