Keeping control of your brand in e-commerce marketplaces
You can sometimes come across some very poor brand images browsing the internet. You’ve just seen one you can’t get out of your head. It’s small, low resolution, badly lit and …oh no, it certainly doesn’t comply with your brand guidelines! In fact, didn’t you discontinue that particular pack variant in 2009?
Product images for your brand can proliferate on online market places such as Amazon and eBay which are now significant sales channels. Not only can they damage the hard work you’ve put into developing and managing your brand, they can also damage your (and your distributors) SEO due to the massive weight given to online market places trumping your own brands organic results. this type of intense pricing competition drives down your RRP and can in turn devalue your brand. What’s worse, if listings link back to you (I’m looking at you, Ebay), they can generate hundreds of spammy links that further impact on your Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERP’s).
But don’t despair – this is a situation that you can actually control. It just takes a little extra vigilance and a more detailed knowledge of how online market places operate. After all, it’s no more in their interests to have brands badly represented on their platform than it is yours.
First you have to make a strategic choice about your brand reputation management in market places and on the web in general.
Do you want your brand to appear in online marketplaces? After all, in a competitive marketplace, you may feel a presence on these channels is a must for your brand while allowing your distributors to sell here supports their business models.
But just because you’re happy for your brand to appear in online marketplaces doesn’t mean you need to lose control of it – you can manage how your valuable Intellectual Property (IP) – AKA your Brand – is presented by resellers.
Amazon enables brand owners to register IP over their brand. This lets you control all Amazon listings for your products and the barcodes associated with them. You can ensure that multiple listings of differing quality does not emerge for your products, and you can dictate which images and copy are displayed. You still need to be vigilant and put in place regular monitoring to ensure new ASINs are not generating with your brands products/EANs…but at least Amazon will take swift action when you identify any misuse of your IP.
However, on eBay, there is no central listing for each product so it is much more difficult to control listing quality. It is also a less transparent platform in that you cannot find detailed information on sellers and contact them. This is my suggested methodology for controlling re-sellers activity on Ebay:
• Compile a list of known resellers and contact them ask them to enforce brand guidelines. Be ready to provide images and content for each listing in order to support the reseller in meeting your guidelines.
• If retailer doesn’t respond and does not amend listings, report to Ebay’s VeRO programme as infringing your IP.
On the other hand, perhaps you’ve decided that you don’t want your brand to appear on online market places at all! This is an easy situation to deal with as all market places are geared up to help you protect your IP and you can act very quickly. However, in order to maintain good relationships with resellers, you should contact them advising them you’ll be withdrawing your product from listing on specific platforms (eg Amazon, eBay). You should also provide a timescale within which this will take effect.
Once you’re ready to remove your brands from key platforms, you need to submit a formal request through their IP departments. For Amazon, this takes the form of an infringement of IP request listing all ASINs which infringe your IP, supporting this with trademark registration details. For eBay, it takes the form of a submission to the VeRO programme, cataloguing all Ebay listings which infringe your IP, again supporting this with trademark registration details.
Whichever route you choose, it’s vital to put in place monthly monitoring to ensure that new listings featuring your IP are actioned as soon as they appear.
…and don’t forget, while you make these Strategic decisions about how and where your brand appears, these decisions will impact on distributors and resellers. You must ensure wherever possible they understand and comply with your guidelines, preferably before they make a commitment to marketplace selling. For instance, ensure that your terms and conditions to resellers include clauses enabling you to restrict their right to sell on online market places.
Now you should be able to sleep at night, knowing that your brand is safe!