In this episode of PriceSpider’s podcast, E-Commerce Connected, our global sales executive Anthony Capozzoli sat down with David G. Howell, founder of David G. Howell and Associates, a full-service online brand protection and marketplace channel management strategy consulting agency, to discuss how brands can uncover the identities of unauthorized third-party sellers.
There are many reasons why brand manufacturers want to identify and protect themselves from unauthorized third-party sellers. A seller that is not connected directly with the brand is most likely also not sharing revenue with the brand. While retail partners will provide reporting and profits to manufacturers, an unauthorized seller flies under the radar and keeps profits to themselves.
Sellers outside of the structured distribution channel have no incentive to follow pricing guidelines, frequently making products available outside of minimum advertised pricing (MAP) and Minimum Resale Pricing (MRP) policies. Unauthorized sellers also don’t have any motivation to comply with brand quality guidelines and will often send damaged, lower-quality items that should have been removed from circulation. Sometimes, these unauthorized dealers will even send fake or knock-off products, truly tarnishing the brand image. Finally, those retailers that are complying with MAP, MRP and quality control guidelines don’t appreciate being undercut by unauthorized sellers.
In order to combat unauthorized third-party sellers, manufacturers first need to figure out who the seller is and how to reach them. That’s where Howell and his team come in. They help manufacturers investigate and track down responsible parties for these unauthorized sellers. In the podcast, Howell explains five of his 10 tactics that help brands narrow down their search. To get the full 10 tactics click here.
* Focus on the Amazon storefront – Even if there isn’t a contact name readily available, sometimes information can be found by searching through vendor FAQ, returns and refunds, shipping, policies, products and reviews. search for any information that might be helpful to narrow down your search, such as states available for shipping, or what locations are taxed. Negative reviews can be especially telling, as the vendor will often provide contact information such as an email or returns shipping address right in their response.
* Submit a Personal Information (PI) Request – Sometimes sellers have accounts through multiple platforms. If you’re able to connect sellers back to an eBay account, eBay can provide contact information from a PI request.
* Use multiple search engines – Each search engine will deliver different results. Chrome, Firefox, Safari and any other search engines you like will all use different algorithms and deliver different results. Try multiple search terms, or if you have parts of information like a seller ID number or address, try searching for those as well.
* Domaintools.com – If you’re able to get a domain name, this website is an excellent resource. You might be able to track multiple websites and brands that are reselling your items back to one person. This premium service offers historical domain registration information even if the owner put up privacy settings at a later date.
* Product Buys – The near-final step! Once you have a pretty good idea who the seller is, you can try to secure the final piece of evidence by purchasing and then returning an item. If you’re purchasing through Amazon make sure orders aren’t Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) because that won’t provide you with any additional information. Also, be smart about your purchase. You don’t even have to buy your product! Buy something that is low-cost and small and make sure to use an anonymous form of payment.