You may have heard this term before and you may even have been a victim of it. With more and more PL sellers jumping into the marketplace, people are coming up against some dirty competition.
In this article, I break down all the types of hijacking you’ll see and tell you how to beat them. Remember, forearmed is forewarned.
WTF is a listing hijack?
Hijack one – The retail arbitrage jack that isn’t really a hijack
The most common type of ‘hijack’ looks like this:
Some other seller starts selling your PL product using the listing you created - usually at a lower price than you. Because of the lower price, they usually end up winning the buy box (if you are really new to Amazon and don’t know what the buy box is, you can read all about it here) and, as another bonus annoyance, you will not be able to run PPC (because you can only run ppc if you have the buy box).
Why this isn’t really a hijack:
Someone has simply bought your product and is re-selling it to make a profit - this is called retail arbitrage and it’s still a very popular way for a lot of US sellers to make money on Amazon.
Why PL products are particularly vulnerable to this type of retail arbitrage.
The vast majority of PL sellers are taught to run blast promotions at $1 when they launch a new product to spike their BSR and get an influx of reviews.
Naturally, the agreement is ‘you get my product for a dollar and leave me a review’. Most reviewers are fine with this and there are people, kind of like couponers, that live to get free Amazon stuff.
BUT there are also people that abuse the terms of that sweet dollar deal. Instead of buying 1, they’ll buy 10 units (or more if they are real assholes), and then flip that item right back on Amazon at a lower price to make a profit.
What can you do to stop the retail arb jacker?
Not much! They bought it and they have the right to do what they want with the item. Kind of like when your auntie buys you a terrible sweater for Xmas and you secretly return it. If they are winning the buy box and you can’t run PPC, the best thing to do is just buy up your product from them as quickly as possible to get them off their listing.
They can’t have that many units, so buy them out, get the buy box back and move on. It’s a pain, but it’s a risk to blast promotions.
Hijack two – The generic product hijack
So you decide to test the market with some unbranded units from Aliexpress or something, or maybe you decided to go all in for a big order, but you decided to leave the branding for later to save on costs. Then, like in the previous example, you see your PPC isn’t running and you’ve lost the buy box to one or more sellers, selling the exact same item as you.
What you can do:
Not much in this case. You decided to test silicone oven gloves and found your supplier on Alibaba – someone else did the exact same thing and went there too. Because you don’t have any branding or you have a standard model, other sellers can sell it on the listing you probably spent time creating.
If they have the same product, they can use your existing listing and there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, that’s how Amazon likes it because it keeps the shopping experience ‘cleaner’, unlike the cluster f*ck that is Ebay.
How to protect yourself from ‘generic jack’
The only way you can do this is by having some kind of differentiating factor to your product, something as simple as a logo will do. If you have a logo’d product, other sellers can’t list their very similar item under it, if they do, you can get Amazon to remove them.
Another way to set your listing apart is to add something simple like an Ebook with it. It enhances the perceived value of the product (for some people at least). If they don’t have an Ebook too, they can’t use your listing. And, if you think ‘wow, there’s no way I’m paying some Indian guy on Fiverr to write an Ebook for me’, don’t worry, you can just Google ‘private label Ebook’ and find something relevant.
Hijack three: The Straight up rip-off
So, you did your research, maybe even registered a Trademark and have a somewhat unique PL item for sale – maybe it’s logo’d, or maybe you made some substantial changes. And then, one day you see someone else on your listing, selling your item.
If you think they are ‘arb jacking’ follow the steps listed above. If you didn’t run any big promos or you see the seller has a lot of inventory you are probably dealing with someone who has just copied your whole product. So, copyright infringement.
Smash the copy cat
If this is the case, the first thing you can do is send them a scary-looking cease and desist letter.
If the scary letter doesn’t work or they ignore it, you then have to purchase one of their products and send Amazon video or image proof that they are illegally selling your brand. At this point, it is a case of persuading Amazon to shut down the hijacker.
Hijack four: The only real type of hijack
In a word, a seller jumps on your listing selling something similar, but different (yes, people are lazy and do this), then then change your whole listing and use it for their product. You will usually notice when you start getting negative feedback complaining that it doesn’t look like the listing image, or you’ll start seeing returns marked ‘item not as described’.
If you have a great selling product, with a good amount of reviews and nice BSR, you are going to be a target.
Someone can come along, say they are selling the same item, then completely edit your listing, rewrite the title, change the images - the whole works.
This is because they will then get to enjoy all that rank you've built up.
How to get this guy off your listing
In this case, if you know that someone is leveraging your listing to selling something similar to your product, you will need to contact seller support asap and report them. You will have to prove that their UPC doesn't match the original UPC.
This is the kind of situation that you need to prepare for in advance.
Protection 1: listing your UPCs on your website
You should have a simple, quick website for your brand at least, even a quick free Wix on will do. On that web site somewhere, have a page with a simple uploaded Excel file showing your UPC/EAN, product title and, if possible, image.
In case of a hijack, you can point Amazon to that page and prove your item with the registered UPC is tied to a different product.
Protection 2: Sneaky package
inside Have something printed on the of your packaging - something as simple as a single word or number. Why? Because it's another easy way to differentiate. Plus, if someone tries to copy your listing and product / images, they won't know there is anything on the inside so that will help you prove to Amazon that you are the legit owner.
Protection 3: Bundle
If you sell a garlic press, why not bundle it with a velvet garlic clove pouch? Having two distinct items together, from different factories puts up a big barrier to hijacking because, frankly, it's just much more of a pain in the ass to organise the logistics
Brand registry: another way to protect your listing
You can use brand registry to give yourself and listing even more protection from sly competitors. Rather than explain it here, have a read of this article telling you about it and how to sign up for it.
It won't make you 100% safe, but it will make problem resolution easier!
Other handy resources…
Listing Eagle: The faster you realise you have been a victim of a hijacking, the faster you can stop it.
For this, you can use Listing Eagle - Listing Eagle monitors your SKUs for possible hijacking and lets you know via text as soon as something happens. Not only that, it also comes with message templates that you can use to try and shut down the hijackers as quickly as possible. I currently have it running for my UK and US products.
I wrote a pretty detailed review of Amachete here - and while it's mainly a product research tool, it does also come with hijacker alerts, although as of right now, doesn't have the advanced functions (like sms alerts) that listing eagle has.
Unlike Listing Eagle, it does work for all the EU marketplaces tho, not just US and UK
Amazing Seller Podcast No. 147
The Amazing seller had an excellent podcast with an ex Amazon employee all about hijacking and how you can protect yourself.
Go listen to it right away!
Now go crush those hijackers!