Dispelling Myths: Fear of Suspension (Follow the Data Ep. 6)

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October 26, 2017
Follow the Data: Fear of Suspension

Follow the Data Episode 6: Dispelling Myths: Fear of Suspension

Account suspension is every Amazon seller’s greatest fear. But how much sleep should you really be losing over fear of suspension? Viral Launch CEO Casey Gauss and co-host Cameron Yoder talk about what it really takes to get suspended and how frequently FBA sellers have their accounts shut down.

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • Feedvisor’s 2016 Amazon seller survey reported that over 60% of sellers fear Amazon taking away their seller privileges, and while we can’t speak to the quality of the survey sample, we know that many sellers are worried about suspension.
  • Amazon prohibits sellers from operating multiple accounts unless they are approved for a legitimate business need. If you want to have multiple Amazon businesses, forget using VPNs and VPSs to access your accounts. Save yourself the suspension stress and set up separate business entities for each. Check out this blog post by Chris McCabe for more on the subject.
  • Amazon is not out to get Third Party Sellers. In fact, Third Party is a huge part of Amazon’s success to this point, with 44% of all Amazon items, worldwide, coming from Third Party Sellers. What is true is that Amazon will do whatever it takes to create a positive shopping experience for their customers. Make sure your products are contributing to that experience, and you have no reason to fear suspension.
  • Want to be on the show? Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590

 

Podcast Transcript

CASEY GAUSS:

Getting an account shut down is one of the largest fears of Amazon sellers, with over 60% claiming to fear Amazon suspension in a recent seller survey.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s not uncommon to see sellers dip, dive, dodge and duck through all kinds of hoops to avoid the Big Brother-esque appearance of Amazon suspensions. I’m Cameron Yoder.

CASEY GAUSS:

And I’m Casey Gauss, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 20,000 product launches and our experience working with 5500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CAMERON YODER:

These first four inaugural episodes of Follow the Data are all part of our Dispelling Myths series in which we explore topics that have garnered a lot of conversation among the Amazon seller community recently, but have not proven or disproven using factual evidence.

CASEY GAUSS:

We’ll talk about why these Amazon theories make sense and what the data is actually saying about what’s happening.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, Casey. We’re talking about dispelling myths again, Episode 4.  It’s the last episode in the series, and we’re talking about account suspension.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, man. So I mean I totally, totally get it. It’s everywhere. You know, according to that survey 62% of sellers fear suspension. To be honest I don’t know why that wasn’t 100%.

CAMERON YODER:

So yeah, many people of other fears, of course, in Amazon. But okay, talking about account suspension, what makes people so afraid? Like what are they afraid of?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean for the majority of sellers – we’ve kind of already talked about this – 90% plus of their business is on Amazon, and so the possibility of Amazon shutting down your account and saying hey, you can never sell on Amazon again is extremely intimidating. Let’s say you’re making $10 million a year. That’s a lot of money for a lot of people, and for Amazon to be able to say hey, you’re not allowed to do this anymore, is extremely intimidating.

CAMERON YODER:

Right, even for a short period of time.I mean many people, many sellers have now moved their primary method of income to Amazon sales. That’s a scary thing.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah. And probably even scarier is that Amazon is of the shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality, and so that is that much more intimidating.  And some of the things that throw flags, you know, could be competitors saying that your product is, you know, used but you’re selling it as new, or you’re selling a supplement and it came with the seal broken. You know, it’s so easy for competitors to kind of play these tricks on you.

And you know, so the biggest suspension that I’ve seen, or the most costly was a friend of ours, and he was suspended for, I want to say like 7 to 10 days, and the reason he was suspended – he has like thousands of SKUs. The reason he was suspended is because the title in one of his listings still said “holiday sale.” Now it should never say “holiday sale,” but this is like May or so, and yeah, his entire account was suspended because one listing had the phrase “holiday sale” in it, which for those of you who don’t know, you should never be using temporary language in your listing. This is how you get suspended. Anyways, yeah, just insane. So again, I completely get it. But I kind of want to dive in a little bit deeper.

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CAMERON YODER:

Well, let’s – let’s go back when did this fear really start popping up? Do you know? Like how far back, or has it always been present kind of since the beginning?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, you know ever since I’ve been around it definitely has. I have not noticed it as much. I think as Amazon continues to step up and kind of rope in what is and is not acceptable, some practices that people would expect to be acceptable are not. You know, namely including a URL in your email follow-up sequence or saying hey, click here if you had a good experience or click here if you had a bad experience and leading them to different places can get you suspended. So you know, I think that potentially the fear is fear of the unknown, right? Is that I think that I’m doing everything right or appropriately, but then Amazon says well, actually you know we want to interpret things this way, or we think that you’re doing this thing that you shouldn’t be, so you’re going to be suspended and we can talk about it in a week.

CAMERON YODER:

You talked about diving deeper. Let’s dive a little bit deeper into everything. Let’s talk about – let’s talk about loopholes and kind of the above and beyond that people are going to out of a fear of suspension. Casey, touch on that a little bit.

CASEY GAUSS:

At the end of the day we kind of want to talk about the things that are limiting your ability to succeed. And so I would say, one, you need to make a decision based on what you believe and how you interpret the TOS, and at the end of the day you need to feel comfortable with how you’re operating your business. It is your business, of course. But again, we’re just here to show you kind of what we’re seeing, what is the data telling us so that hopefully you can make the best decision possible for you and your business.

So anyways, just wanted to state that. Sellers not sending email follow-ups has got to be the number one thing that we’re seeing people avoid to try to avoid suspension. We don’t know anybody that has had a solid email follow up sequence that has gotten suspended. You know, obviously we don’t see everything, but that’s one of them.

You know, there are so many sellers setting up all these VPNs and VPSs to access their multiple accounts. While I definitely get people being over precautious, again, so Viral Launch, we have access to a lot of accounts, and all through legitimate means. We have one account, and of the clients that we need access to their seller accounts, they just give us access through Amazon seller permissions. And so we’re not violating any terms of service so we don’t need to be hiding anything. You know I have a friend that he sets up hundreds of accounts. They’re all through legal manners. You know, every account has a different LLC. It’s a different entity. And he accesses them all through Amazon seller permissions, no VPNs, no VPSs. I’m afraid that when you are trying to not look suspicious that is when you are looking suspicious, and so that is how you most easily slip up.

But you know, those are just a couple of examples. We see people that are afraid to run any kind of promotions externally. And I’m not even talking in reference to Viral Launch. I’m talking, you know, doing small discounted promotions on Facebook because people are afraid people are going to leave reviews, and they’re afraid that they’re going to get suspended because of that. So those are just, you know, what in my mind the most white hat things you could be doing, and again this is not necessarily to sway you to do any one particular thing but kind of just to give you an overview.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, some people seem to think that Amazon, or have a fear I guess that suspension is correlated with Amazon’s perspective of third-party sellers, right? When you think about third-party sellers on the Amazon platform, what do you think their stance is? Are they gunnin’ for the third-party sellers necessarily, or is that an overemphasis of what people are actually afraid of, which is just being suspended?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, no, that’s a good question. So I do think it’s important for sellers to understand. But of the 5500+ brands that we’ve worked with I’ve only seen one account actually get banned, and these guys thought they were too big to fail. They thought, you know, we’re doing – they’re doing over 30 million a year, right? And from their perspective they’re like we’re so big Amazon can’t possibly shut us down. And so these guys are just pushing the envelope in so many ways. They’re just getting suspended so many times, or they’re getting so many policy violations, and they just never quit. And so what that resulted in is being banned from Amazon’s platform. And so Cam, going back to your question –

CAMERON YODER:

Sure.

CASEY GAUSS:

– you know, let’s say they’re selling an iPhone 6 case. Well, Amazon doesn’t necessarily care if that seller’s iPhone 6 cases are on page 1 because there’s tens of thousands of other iPhone 6 cases that will gladly fill that hole. And so they’re not missing out on any customers. They’re not missing out on any sales by that seller not being there. So Amazon’s ultimate goal is to provide the best customer experience possible. And if you’re doing something to violate those terms, you’re gone. And again, because there’s thousands or tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of sellers or products that will take your product’s place. So you are never too big to fail. Please never think that.

CAMERON YODER:

Well, and you said, I mean, like you said before, I mean it took a little, a little bit for them to get fully suspended, but they were asking for it, right?

CASEY GAUSS:

Oh yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

Like they were clearly doing things that were against TOS, and they weren’t automatically suspended from selling right off the bat. It took a little bit. But they were clearly violating Amazon’s policies, and that of course led to the suspension.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, it took a lot of bit.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

No, it was a lot. And so again, so kind of the point here, is that I really don’t think that you should be as scared as, you know, you probably are. Again, of the 5500+ brands that we know, I’d like to think that we have a fairly ambitious subset of the market that we are aware of, and only one of those accounts has ever been banned. And again, it wasn’t like these guys thought that what they were doing was okay and they just happened to get banned. You know –

CAMERON YODER:

They were clearly – they were clearly violating.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, they were clearly violating the terms like multiple, multiple times, and they got suspended over here, and then they got suspended over there. And you know, it seemed like everything that they were touching ended up as a policy violation. And so that’s why they were suspended, not because you know they accidentally did this or they accidentally did that. So again, you know, at the end of the day, just make sure that you’re being smart about Amazon’s terms of service. You know, if you are suspended make sure that you’re honest, and make sure that you learn from these mistakes and that you don’t repeat them because that’s how you get banned. You know, at the end of the day I think that Amazon wants to create a great selling environment. They just have to be, you know, overcautious for the sake of their buyers. And if you’re not willing to learn from your mistakes and avoid those same activities, that’s how you really get into trouble.

CAMERON YODER:

And just avoid breaking TOS in the first place. Like you shouldn’t be intentional about that. But just emphasizing, emphasizing the data, once again, because this show is all about the data, right? The data is pointing to kind of the fact that it’s not as common as people think to get suspended, right?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, not only to get suspended, but really to be banned, right, to never be able to sell on Amazon. Are you going to get suspended? Possibly.

CAMERON YODER:

The piece of advice that you had given before I think is very applicable to a lot of sellers here, which is to, yeah, if you do get suspended, again, that’s not really – the data is showing that it’s more uncommon than people think, but if you do to pick yourself back up and to learn from that experience and to say okay, I know this about Amazon now, and I know that what I was doing was violating that TOS. Maybe you knew about it and maybe you didn’t. But regardless, moving forward is the most important thing if you want to – if you want to continue selling.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and you know, the one sensitive area Amazon has is reviews, second being counterfeits. So in the private label space just make sure that you’re being straight up with reviews and how you’re obtaining them. You know, I can’t encourage you enough there.

CAMERON YODER:

Well, that’s all for this week. Thank you so much for joining us on Follow the Data. For more reliable information about what’s really happening on Amazon subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at viral-launch.com.

CASEY GAUSS:

And don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you liked the podcast. Even if you didn’t we love your feedback. We really appreciate everything that you guys do for us, and we just want to be able to do more and show more people. So the more reviews we get, the higher we rank, and the more people we can help as Amazon sellers.

CAMERON YODER:

This wraps up our Dispelling Myths series. We’ll be back with more trends and tips and data points to help you navigate the world of Amazon FBA. And one last thing; if you want to be featured on the show feel free to leave us a voicemail and tell us your thoughts on today’s episode or ask any of us your Amazon questions. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

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