Amazon’s Nail in the Launch Coffin

November 22, 2021 Anthony Lee

Amazon’s Nail in the Launch Coffin

Rebates and search-and-find campaigns have long been the way we grow our brands on Amazon. With this news, it's time to get back to basics!

There’s never a dull moment for Amazon sellers, as the marketplace behemoth continues to expand upon its terms and rules for selling on the platform.

While we sellers are used to the cyclical winds of change, this month has been particularly tumultuous. As I reported weeks ago, things began to get shaky when Amazon sent out two consecutive emails that reached the broader seller community.

One was to inform users that a couple of very popular services were going to lose access to Amazon’s MWS data, an essential component for their software to continue to operate. This also meant they would be removed from Amazon’s app platform.

As soon as the Amazon-selling community began speculating on the reasons why, an Amazon forum moderator posted a stickied message in the US Announcements forum board clarifying Amazon’s stance on rebates, search-find-buy, and certain URL structures.

The forum post explicitly stated that rebates, SFB and super URLs were against Amazon’s Seller Code of Conduct. This was the most direct language ever used by a representative of Amazon before, and many doubted its legitimacy. After all, it was only posted in the forums, and employees have misinterpreted Amazon’s rules before.

Why Was This News So Talked About?

For anyone that may be brand new to the private label Amazon business model, you may not be aware that rebates, keyword embedded URLs, and search-and-find campaigns essentially define the way that most marketers grow their brands on Amazon today.

These are iterations of coupon blasts and other such marketing tactics of the past. Tactics like these have proliferated throughout our community over the years and have become the standard operating procedure for many sellers.

The Official News Announcement

Ok, now we’ve established that these marketing tactics have been heavily relied upon for the visibility that is crucial to the success of an Amazon listing.

As such, there are a LOT of Amazon sellers that have a vested interest in the forum post clarification being one hundred percent wrong, or at least misguided or misinformed. Among many, it became a mantra that the forum moderator does not represent Amazon as a whole.

So, much to their chagrin, Amazon recently posted an update in the Seller Central News section…

In this news update, Amazon specifically states that as of Nov 26th (Black Friday), the new language in the Seller Code of Conduct will be enforceable. They also state that the new language specifically addresses keyword search manipulation (first time search manipulation has ever been named).

Meanwhile, in the background, the actual Code of Conduct was being updated…

Updated Amazon Seller Code of Conduct

The important changes have been highlighted here:

Both “external discounts and refunds” as well as “keyword manipulation” have been addressed. This appears to vaguely cover just enough to make rebates, as well as search-find-buy against terms of service, with a little interpretation left over to possibly even encompass super URLs.

Certainly speculation will continue, right up to Amazon taking specific action against sellers who violate these unclear terms. While the language used still seems murky at best, one thing does seem clear as glass:

This is a message from the top of the Amazon mountain that Amazon does not like manipulation of their carefully curated customer browse experience.

Ok. If Amazon just obliterated the most tried-and-true new product launch strategy in existence, what are we to do?

Launches Moving Forward

A lot of my advice on this will seem like the usual ‘back to the basics,’ but I’m still amazed how many sellers don’t pay enough attention to these principles.

From this point, if you decide to heed the warnings AND avoid the old launch strategies, you will still be able to drive external traffic that Amazon likes (i.e. Google Ads). However, there’s plenty you can do ON Amazon as well.

  1. Get rid of wasted ad spend. If you’re savvy with PPC then this should just take a thorough audit. If not, CANOPY Management can help. You’d be amazed at the budget sink-hole created by wasted ad spend and how optimizing that can really make your ads turn more profit.
  2. Use Amazon sanctioned promotions. Buy-one-get-one, Coupons, Virtual Bundles…all these allow you to provide awesome deals that are likely to be just as attractive as a rebate but are 100% white hat and within Amazon’s terms. Our Amazon Creative Services team can even help with setting up your Virtual Bundles for you.
  3. DSP! Amazon’s Demand Side Platform is one of the most underutilized and under-priced ad real estate options available. With the degradation of the “cookie” and the rising costs of CPC’s in Sponsored Products Ads, DSP is a fantastic opportunity for growth. AND it provides an outlet for outside traffic (which we know Amazon loves).

Take it from someone that has been rolling with Amazon’s punches and their TOS updates for 7+ years, the sky is not falling. As marketers and brand owners, we simply need to embrace the change, and use it as opportunity to grow.

Get Back to the Basics With CANOPY Management

Have questions about how to take the next step? CANOPY Management is here for you.

CANOPY Management has helped a large number of Amazon sellers become very successful by doing all the little things right. We’re focused on making sure that you have the basics completely covered.

We leverage our experience from across all corners of the Amazon industry to help you scale your business and gain market share. This allows you to keep your hands on the wheel of your Amazon business while at the same time benefitting from the wealth of experience and expertise of the CANOPY Management team.

One thing that’s for sure, Amazon is not going to stop with the changes. CANOPY will be here to make sure that you’ll be ready!

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Anthony Lee

Anthony is an Amazon Subject Matter Expert at Canopy Management. He leverages his experience as a brand owner, consultant, and executive at a number of popular Amazon software services to share content, training, and education that help sellers take actionable steps to grow.