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The latest news from Amazon is definitely very juicy. From potential fraud on Amazon and the ways to protect yourself from Amazon hijackers and phishing expeditions, to Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to shareholders, to the incredible rise of third-party sellers on Amazon within the last 20 years, to the process by which Amazon is working to protect customers from piracy and counterfeit goods, to the emergence of the “click and collect” shopping models, the latest breaking news from Amazon is sure to interest and inform all FBA sellers.
In episode 21 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Success Manager, Bradley Sutton welcomes his former Ask Me Anything (AMA) partner in crime, Matt Benton, Helium 10’s Marketing Manager to discuss all of these hot, news-worthy topics:
- 00:55 – An Amazon Seller Receiving A Suspicious (Phishing?) Call From An “Amazon Representative” (Potential Scammer)
- 02:00 – Details Of The Suspicious Phone Call
- 03:15 – What This Suspicious Caller Requested – Red Flags
- 05:05 – The Steps This Seller Followed To Investigate The Call
- 08:20 – Other Ways To Protect Yourself From Amazon Fraud (Phishing)
- 10:10 – Jeff Bezos’ Annual Letter To Shareholders
- 10:30 – The Continued Rise of 3rd Party Sellers + Strong 3rd Party Sales
- 13:00 – How Amazon Investigates Counterfeit Products And Piracy Problems
- 14:30 – Amazon 3rd Party Seller Revenue & Growth – Opportunities That Exist
- 17:00 – “Click and Collect” Models – Target and Walmart Programs
- 18:25 – Amazon’s “Click and Collect” Program – How Will They Embrace This Model?
- 21:05 – Closing Thoughts
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Bradley Sutton: Find out today about a crazy phishing technique that’s targeting Amazon sellers you need to be aware of. Also, what does click and collect mean? And what did Jeff write in his annual letter to the shareholders?
Bradley Sutton: What’s going, everybody? Welcome to another episode of The Serious Sellers Podcast. I’m your host Bradley Sutton, and I’m joined by my old partner in crime from the AMA Episodes. Matt Benton, the marketing manager here at Helium 10. Matt, how’s it going?
Matt Benton: Hello, hello. Good morning, Bradley. Thanks for having me on.
Bradley Sutton: Alright, good to be on air with you again, missed you here and I’m sure all of our listeners did too. And today we’re doing a what’s going on in the world of Amazon as far as news goes. I want to hop right into this because this I think is potentially something very serious that sellers need to know what is going on. This link was sent to us. It’s actually a link to the Amazon services seller forums from a seller who was just giving a kind of a warning to everybody to let them know what almost happened. And I’m reading this, I bet you 9 out of 10 people they would have got these people, but this guy is like super, super smart here and was able to detect, this treachery here. So our listeners have no idea what I’m talking about. So, Matt, why don’t you give them an overview? We’re on this post right now and looking at it, this is something you guys can search for on the seller forums, but give us an overview of what happened here with this sagemaiden. I don’t know what the real name is, but that’s what their name on the board is. So what happened to him?
Matt Benton: Yes. So this one’s interesting and it’s kind of scary if you read through it. And like you said, the gentleman had really good precautionary measures in place. But what happened was one of his employees approached him and said that someone from Amazon had been calling, saying that there was a multitude of different things and issues with their account that they needed to address. So what really happened was Amazon called about suspicious activity. And when I say Amazon, we’re not sure if that’s Amazon. Right.
Bradley Sutton: Alright. So I’m looking here and the first one was, it was interesting because the call– do you notice who the caller ID was from? Where the location was?
Matt Benton: Yeah, it said it was from Washington State, but the gentleman said that they had a Ukrainian accent and he had been living overseas for about the last 6 years. So that’s how he picked up on that. But his English was pretty good. And so that’s kind of a scary thing, but that’s how you picked it up first.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. And even said that the English of this gentleman was better than any Amazon overseas rep. So that was not a red flag to him. No, that wasn’t a red flag because this one, this individual could speak English better than most of the Amazon Reps. But when he called the boss now, I’m assuming, okay. So, the first employee, he couldn’t figure out what was going on. So, he told “Amazon Seller Central” to call him back and now the boss answered the phone and he told them, the supposed Amazon reps said they have detected suspicious activity and wanted to send the cellphone associated with the account, a special code to validate the account. Now that’s crazy because did the boss give them the phone number? No, right? So basically for me, that would have been like, okay, this must be legit. How would he know my phone number to send as? This is pretty cool. Right? But how dangerous is that? So then he literally got the text, right? And then it said Amazon Account Review, please click on the link below to sign in your account. Now when he clicked on that link, what did it bring him to?
Matt Benton: Yeah, after he clicked on the link, it brought him to a standard Amazon SC login. Except this site is shown as a long URL. So that was red flag number 1 for the business owner.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. It was Seller Central-Trust-Amazon or something like that. So he was, okay, I think a lot of us might not have noticed that, but he did. So that was his first red flag. And then when he questioned that, what did this so-called rep say?
Matt Benton: It sounded like the rep was cool, calm and collected. Right? And he had probably done this before.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Most of these guys who do these scams are like professional. We make fun of it sometimes. We get these, I am a prince from Wakanda and you just inherited $10 million, and you think these guys are posers, which they are, but they do this for a living so they know. They probably have a list of like things that they can say and what to say. So he was calm, cool and collected. What was the second red flag for them?
Matt Benton: Yeah. So what he noticed, it’s funny, this guy sounds like he’s really dialing and he noticed there was no security certificate on the site.
Bradley Sutton: Do you even know how to do that? I don’t know how to do that.
Matt Benton: Yeah. Sometimes it will show up in a search bar with a little lock or site authenticated or verified sites, something like that. So I guess he noticed that that wasn’t there.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Alright. So that was red flag number 2. So the next thing that he did was he asked the rep to wait while he Googled that domain and to see if there are any scam reports. I’m guessing for that seller central trust one, and there was nothing there. So, but then he found one, who is, I think that allows you to like look into who’s registered this domain. And then, a bunch of information came up and then basically like the creation date on this website that he was given was just barely up a month before. So he’s, okay, there’s another red flag right there. There’s no way that Amazon just registered this website. And then he looked into. Who had registered it? So then after this, he’s, okay, now there are 3 red flags. He asked the caller to verify he was from Amazon. Now, this is the scary part. What did the seller do? He was basically– right after he said, he was, no way this is Amazon. And so when he said, Hey, verify if you are, what did he say?
Matt Benton: He said, okay. And he told the gentleman the amount of his last payment and then it gets even crazier. The guy says, next, I asked him to tell me how much I was paid on March 4th and the rep from Amazon did.
Bradley Sutton: Alright, that’s just crazy. So, this guy is like, okay, it seems scammy, but how in the world did this guy know this information? So basically, I feel uncomfortable going further. And then he said that he was going to open a case through his seller portal to complete the verification, but that he wouldn’t be able to continue to use seller central until sometime tomorrow until they wanted to complete the process now. Alright, so then he said, no I want to do that. And sure enough, actually seller central was still available to him. So now he hangs up with him and so he’s going to go back and he’s full of these red flags. Right? So, how does this pretty genius seller, how does he kind of investigate more? What’s going on?
Matt Benton: Yeah, so I’m just going to read this short paragraph that explains it really well. He says, I called my employee and had him walk me through the call that he received. He talked about the guy needing to validate the account, sending him a text and he logged in. Ding, Ding, Ding. So–
Bradley Sutton: Yup. So here, it looks– probably was an FBA. It looks like he was talking to him. It is just a regular employee from his office? And he actually did login. So the employee had one of the sub-accounts. Now, with sub-accounts, as we all know, have visibility on some things, but what did it he have access to?
Matt Benton: Yeah. So you didn’t have access to the most important thing, which is the bank account. So no bank account info.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Yeah. So, that would have been my question too. Maybe that’s why if he got in under my employee’s sub-account, he just probably looked at the bank info and that’s how he was able to see, how much I was paid, and when I was paid. So at first, I actually read this wrong, so he wasn’t able to view or change the bank account info, but I believe those sub-accounts still tell you what your amount was. So what your amount was, hey on this date you are paid this, but you don’t know to what bank account or anything. So that’s how he was able to verify it. So can you imagine here, what was this guy saying here? What could have happened if that subaccount had more access? What could have happened in this situation?
Matt Benton: Yeah, it sounds like what the guy was going for is just direct access to their bank account, right? So this business owner had really good precautions in place, limited his employees’ access, and that ended up paying off in the long run.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. So this is super scary because first of all, some points I take from this is, if you have other employees handling stuff on your account, don’t give them admin access. Don’t give them the ability to change the bank account because what this other seller could have done as soon as he accesses his account, they’ll change the bank account to his own bank account and now all his money is going there. So that’s the first thing that happened, right? But guys, make sure your employees are trained to not to click on links, not to allow yourselves to be duped over the phone by these people. This was a very sophisticated person here who really knew what they were doing. So I’m sure they do this. This is not the first time and only time. There are probably other sellers that are trying to get out there. So guys, make sure to stay vigilant, make sure that your employees, your VA’s, whoever has access to your account, know about this kind of thing because you could just imagine what could happen if this happens to you.
Matt Benton: Yeah, and I’ll say one last thing. We always get super flustered and kind of, I guess nervous when Amazon or someone reaches out to us. It sounds like this business owner handled things very calmly. At one point he even said he was flustered and he said, he wasn’t comfortable moving forward. So just remember, things are on your time. It’s your business. Again, if this business owner would have given up his bank account information or something on the spot who knows how much money he had in his account and it could have been wiped out. So handle things on your time. Take your time and I guess reaching out to Amazon and directly if you really have any issues.
Bradley Sutton: Absolutely. So that’s good advice for everybody guys. Make sure that you guys are aware of these things and take that advice to heart. Now let’s go to the next article here. This is from last week. It’s just an article about the annual letter to the shareholders from Jeff Bezos and he said something strange and remarkable happened over the last 20 years. And from what percent to what percent as third-party sales growing from?
Matt Benton: This is incredible, I love this article. So, from 3% to 58% is the third party seller growth.
Bradley Sutton: That’s crazy. Yeah, 58% and so how does he summarize that?
Matt Benton: He says to put it bluntly– and the article has a Jeff Bezos with his big laugh and smile, but he says, to put it bluntly, third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt.
Bradley Sutton: Absolutely. Now, this is something that I think some were concerned about last year because they notice a big influx of Amazon brands selling things. Because it’s not just Amazon. And we’re not talking about Amazon basics. Amazon has tons and tons of brands that are Amazon brands, but I’m looking here at this chart and it’s still gone up, as far as third-party sellers. So I don’t think that there is this trend that some are worried about. Amazon’s trying to take over the entirety of Amazon with their own brands and we third-party sellers are screwed. No, even last year when we saw the boost of Amazon brands of all time, we also had the most percentage of a third party sales here. So what kind of– just throwing out to numbers here. In 1999, what kind of numbers did Amazon do it and physical gross merchandise sales?
Matt Benton: Yeah, 1.6 billion in physical gross merchandise sales compared to 100 million by its third-party sellers. And last year, Bradley, I’ll let you–
Bradley Sutton: First of all though, the hundred million third-party sellers, I know some sellers now by themselves, one seller who does over a 100 million, a couple of them we’ve had here on the podcast. But then, this year or last year, Amazon’s direct sales were 117 billion over a hundred x what it was, but at the same time, the third party sales are 160 billion. So we can see what has happened with that ratio. And it says, talks about independent sellers are moving everything from diapers to diamonds and now collectively sell more things on Amazon. That Amazon, it does. Now a lot of people are taking– like in Germany, they talked about people pulling their products from Amazon and a lot of people in the fashion industry in the US are like hating on Amazon and what’s the reason of that?
Matt Benton: Yes, so that talks a little bit about sellers ignoring the code of conduct, kind of suffering from piracy, maybe hijackers, things like that. So it’s nothing that is new to us. We see this from time to time, a lot in the Facebook groups and we see people worried about it.
Bradley Sutton: Here is a paragraph here from the– I’m not sure if it’s from the article or from the letter to their shareholders. Let me see, Amazon has measures in place to fight these problems onsite about counterfeits, etc. We invest tremendous resources to protect our marketplace from inauthentic goods. The company said in a reply to the move by the US Fashion Group, noting that it has a global team working on these issues around the clock, it added that investigated, and acted on 95% of the infringement notice it received from its brand registry within 8 hours. So many people know that SBI, it’s probably investigated but acted that almost implies that they’ve taken action. But nonstop, I hear from the sellers and say, Hey, I submitted in an investigation or report that somebody hijacks me or they’re selling counterfeit goods. And all I got was an automated reply. You’ve heard that a million times at the message boards. Right, man?
Matt Benton: Yeah, and they said 95% here. So for the 5% of folks who are listening who haven’t gotten replies comment below or let us know, I’m sure there’s plenty of folks listening.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. I think we’re going to see that this 5% is actually a lot more than 5% but, at least they’re trying. And, that’s important. That the thing that happens with Amazon is when they get bad press about something, they do take action and they are getting bad press about the– they got bad press about the reviews, a couple of years ago. That’s why they took action and change their terms of service. These days they’re getting a lot of bad press about piracy, about counterfeit items and infringement. And I think we’re going to see them make a move and the other direction. Alright, last article today. This is from the Seattle Times.
Matt Benton: Real quick.
Bradley Sutton: Go ahead.
Matt Benton: Real quick, Bradley, I want to go back to kind of those revenue numbers. So last year in 2018 Amazon, we said was doing 117 billion first the third party sellers doing 160 billion. You hear a lot of folks worried about Amazon taking their business or selling the same products. I just don’t see Amazon killing off a fraction of their business doing 60% of their revenue. It’s just not going to happen. They don’t have the manpower for it. And like we always say, you have to have a real business and build a brand to succeed on Amazon nowadays and that’s just not something that Amazon is willing to do. When someone buys your product, one of the first things that they do, or at least I do, is whether or not they have a great insert or the marketing within Amazon is great. I’ll still go to that person’s website or store and check them out and see what they’re about. So one way or another, people are going to find your brand, find your company and try and connect with you in certain ways. So I try and do things that Amazon can’t do themselves. Right? If you go to Amazon basics or one of their other brands, you don’t feel a huge connection to it. And just from a marketing standpoint, you really want to make that connection with your customers and talk about pain points and things like that. Something that Bradley always mentions and when he’s building the listing is pain points in your bullets and benefits that your product solves. So I’d really just again, focus on building a brand and a company. And the last thing is for the folks that are concerned about Amazon’s growth and Bradley and I are looking at a chart here that just shows Amazon’s growth of third-party sellers and their first party program just skyrocketing. I don’t see that ending anytime soon. And I really view Amazon as like an unmerchandised store. So picture Walmart, that’s three fourths full, right? So it still has 25% of it is empty. And that’s kind of how I view Amazon. So you still, nowadays will search for products on Amazon and not find them. And that spells massive opportunity for sellers who are listening.
Bradley Sutton: Yup. That’s great. Great points guys. So if you hear something about like the sky’s falling just because Amazon is trying to push their own brands more. Yeah, they are pushing their own brands more. But I don’t think it’s any cause for concern as far as an immediate end of third-party sellers or anything like that. Now though this last article here, we’ll just spend a little bit of time here. It’s from the Seattle Times and it’s entitled, Walmart is beating Amazon in a business worth $35 billion. And it’s basically talking about how Amazon’s dominating the voice activation game, online shopping obviously. But the one part where they’re not dominating on is this method called, or field, or whatever called click and collect. So what does click and collect mean, Matt?
Matt Benton: Yeah, that’s a kind of a new phrase. It’s a hybrid of online store and physical shop. So basically you placed an order online and you go pick it up at a physical location.
Bradley Sutton: Yup. And so the ones who they say are really killing it right now are the target. This is offered up to about a thousand stores and will be in all stores by the end of 2019. And for example, Walmart’s grocery pickup program is available at 2,100 of their stores and we’ll be at 3,100 stores by the end of the fiscal year. And actually, both of these retailers have an additional click and collect programs that allow customers to pick up online orders at a counter in almost any store. Those numbers I’ve just mentioned earlier were about like the groceries. Now, Amazon has something. They’ve got the Amazon fresh pickup in Seattle, two locations and then what’s their grocery store chain that they’re starting to do something with.
Matt Benton: Yeah, Whole Foods. So I’ve seen they’ve got a truck sometimes parked outside of the Whole Foods near us here at the office. It’s called the treasure truck and hasn’t stopped by to see what it is. But it’s interesting.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, it’s interesting. And, that’s probably one of the reasons why they bought Whole Foods because they can see this click and collect is actually going. They’re losing market share. Perhaps on it. One thing, if you are a third-party seller, or for example on Walmart, you fulfill your own products, you got to ship it to the customer. But, let’s say you get to actually sell your products to Walmart and they sell it on their website, well now all of a sudden those products actually have a little bit of an advantage over a Prime or Amazon, because there’s an option for those where you can actually pick it up in a store within a day. And, that’s something that Amazon– Amazon yet has locked lockers and stuff. But have you personally ever pick up something from Amazon locker?
Matt Benton: I haven’t, but I was just about to ask you. So I saw this weekend, this past weekend has been Coachella were out here in California. We see a lot of stuff on social media. And a lot of folks are out there. I saw on Friday on Amazon’s want to say Instagram, they had lockers actually out at Coachella. So I don’t know if you saw that Bradley but crazy. So, it’s funny. It seems like this article was pitching it as Amazon kind of has their back to the wall and they’re trying to catch up. But I think it’s actually the opposite. I think these physical retailers like Target and Walmart are the ones that are trying to catch up and get creative.
Bradley Sutton: And because they obviously know that they’ve lost at the Dotcom game or online sales. So there, wait a minute, what do we have that Amazon doesn’t? And Walmart’s, shoot, we’ve got 3,100 stores that millions of people go to every week. And so, let’s double down on that. And so now Amazon is trying to figure out, because me personally, I mean I’ve ordered 500 items from Amazon probably in the last few years. I don’t think once I’ve ever gone to a locker because that’s just inconvenient. It’s going to come to me in two days anyway. Why would I go to a locker? But then with Walmart it’s– you might be going to Walmart anyway. Right? And there’s a Walmart usually, in that most of the major cities right around the corner. So it was if you know you have to go to Walmart to get your milk, or actual groceries, we’ll just make sense. Hey, let me pick up my garlic press at the same time that I ordered. And so I think that is something that Amazon is going to be looking into. How can they start capitalizing on the click and collect game because they don’t have an infrastructure outside of whole foods that really allows for that? So that’s something maybe third-party sellers can be looking out forward. In 2020 maybe we’ll have something completely new. You can go to every whole food and pick up your Amazon order or maybe they’re going to buy some huge chain like Best Buy, or I thought that they’re going to buy Toys R Us and make all the Toys R Us’ warehouses where they can pick up their stuff. I mean something like that I think is coming. Who knows? We’ll see. All right. Matt, any last words of wisdom for our listeners here?
Matt Benton: No, I think just in terms of the last article with Amazon and Walmart and Target, I think Amazon is really just probably trying to service a small number of customers. Whether someone who still wants to go to a physical store or a grocery store and pick up their items, that’s fine. But I think you’ll continue to see either eCommerce and online sales grow. Anyone who’s come from digital marketing or, I guess digital background knows that optimization is key. And one thing that Amazon’s great about that doesn’t really get touched on is how often they’re constantly optimizing their pages, and their listings and rallies touched on it a lot in different trainings and the ASS: Amazon Search Shuffle method. Right? That’s basically just Amazon constantly split testing these pages to make sure that they’re converting well. So, you can rest assured when you’ve got a product on Amazon, you don’t have to split test your Shopify store, Amazon in your listing. They’re constantly split testing for you so that more customers buy. So yeah, that’s it.
Bradley Sutton: Alright. Thanks a lot again, Matt for joining us. Hopefully, we can get you back on a couple of these AMA’s in the future, and all your raving fans are missing you. My partner in crime, Matt Benton everybody. Thank you very much. And we’ll see you guys on the next episode.
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