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How to Survive the Current Wave of Amazon Variation Suspensions

Many Amazon sellers are currently facing a new challenge: a wave of variation suspensions. This can take sellers by surprise: since Amazon is often inconsistent about enforcement, variations families that have been together for years without any issue can suddenly be split apart, a warning can show up on the account health dashboard, or worse. This article aims to help you understand the current enforcement trends and provide practical advice on how to navigate these suspensions effectively.

What Are Variations And Why Is Amazon Cracking Down On Them?

Amazon periodically intensifies its enforcement of specific policies, catching many sellers off guard. This latest focus is on variation listings, where products with different sizes, colors, or materials (to take a few examples) are grouped together under one product detail page (the parent ASIN). In essence, Amazon expects variations to be able to share the same title, to be virtually the same product, apart from the variation value. For each category, Amazon has a list of valid variation themes, and only items varying according to that theme are seen as consistent.

Amazon has strict guidelines about creating and maintaining variations, and for good reason. Good variations together allows customers to easily view different versions of the same product, to have a clear sense of how other customers enjoyed the product. Adding inconsistent child variations makes it more difficult for customers to objectively assess whether the product meets their needs. Unclear variations may cause the customer to end up with a product they didn’t want or which is fundamentally different than the parent ASIN.

Finally, Because variations aggregate reviews and rank according to the most popular variation, many sellers create inconsistent child variations in order to share reviews or promote visibility for less popular items. Amazon sees this as a form of review manipulation, called review aggregation.

Variation Police Flashback: Summer 2020

While Amazon has steadily flagged and broken apart bad variations in the last few years, the last significant enforcement wave occurred in the summer of 2020, leading to numerous account closures. Sellers were suddenly held to stringent standards regarding their variations, resulting in the breakup of longstanding variations, the loss of shared reviews and visibility, and even suspensions. The current situation mirrors that period, emphasizing the need for vigilance and compliance.

Key Issues with Variation Listings

When Amazon flags your variation listings, it usually means that there is a violation of their policies. Here are the primary issues that can trigger suspensions:

  • Changing the Product’s Detail Page to Become Fundamentally Different From the Original Product Listed: Occasionally sellers will attempt to put a new product in place of one that isn’t working out right. This is also a violation of the Product Detail Page Rules. If it’s a new product, it needs a new listing. And if it’s a new model, it cannot be in a variation with the old models.
  • Changing the Parent Product’s Detail Page So It Does Not Match the Children: If you want
  • Inconsistent Child Variations: Amazon might identify variations that do not logically belong together. For example, if you list different flavors of chips, and try to shoehorn in different sizes, Amazon will see this as inconsistent. Flavors do not include 16oz, 32 oz, etc., and these would not be considered true variations of a parent product varying by “flavor”. Furthermore, pairing with a beverage (or even a bundle) would be inconsistent with the parent, which only varies by
  • Adding multipacks variations to an already existing parent. Thus, say you are selling a brand of soda that manufactures only a 6-pack and a 12-pack. You cannot add an 18-pack to this variation, nor any other multipacks.

Amazon provides a list of prohibited actions according to their ASIN creation policy. Violations include creating variations that confuse customers or misrepresent the products.

Common Missteps

The worst response to a notification from Amazon telling you that they split your variation is attempting to reassemble it exactly as it was. Amazon will likely break it apart again, and you risk facing multiple violations. Instead, take a strategic approach to address the issue.

How to Respond to Variation Warnings

When you receive a warning on your account health dashboard, it’s crucial to handle it correctly:

  • Understand Amazon’s Policies:The first thing to do is understand why Amazon broke apart the variatno and document it. Read the ASIN Creation Policy, the Variation Policy you can find in it, the help pages about variations, and, for good measure, the Product Detail Page Rules. These are essential. You can also check out Amazon’s Seller University videos on YouTube or in your Amazon account.
  • Keep a Record of Why You Were Enforced: Once you understand why your variation was enforced, make a note of it. What was the variation theme? What exactly went wrong?
  • Check Your Other Variations: Now that you knowwhat Amazon is looking for, ensure all variations are compliant, and correct them if necessary.
  • Acknowledge and Appeal: .Amazon has recently automated some of this process, but they may still want you to provide the appeal. Show them you understand the policy and what went wrong, how you have taken steps to ensure all other variations are compliant, and how they will be compliant going forward.

Remember that you will still see violating variations all over the place, even amongst your competitors. These are not a guide, and Amazon will not be interested in hearing about how these variations are still up—pointing this out tends to make them stop reading your appeals, from what we’ve been able to gather.

Practical Steps to Compliance

  • Review Your Listings: Regularly review your variation listings to ensure they meet Amazon’s guidelines. Pay close attention to how you group products and the attributes you use.
  • Use Flat Files Correctly: In the context of Amazon selling, a flat file is a CSV spreadsheet used to manage and upload product listings. It includes detailed product information such as title, description, price, category, and variations. These files are crucial for sellers, particularly those with large inventories, as they allow for bulk updates and ensure compliance with Amazon’s guidelines.
  • Although flat files can be complex, they are essential for maintaining compliant listings. Understanding how to use them correctly or seeking assistance from experienced sellers or consultants is important.
  • Stay Informed: Amazon’s policies can change, so staying updated is crucial. Regularly check Amazon Seller Central and the Seller Forum for any policy updates or announcements.

Seeking Professional Help

Given the complexities involved, consider seeking professional assistance if you are unsure about your listings. Our Amazon legal experts and compliance experts can help you resolve these challenges and prevent future issues. We also have a podcast on this subject that can help you understand variations.

Conclusion

Navigating the current wave of Amazon variation policing requires a proactive and informed approach. By understanding Amazon’s policies, reviewing your listings, and using resources, you can protect your account and maintain compliance. Remember, the key is to respond promptly and strategically to any warnings or suspensions to minimize disruptions to your business.

Legal Disclaimer: The articles published on our platform are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice in any form. They are not intended to be a substitute for professional legal counsel. For any legal matters, it is essential to consult with us or a qualified attorney who can provide advice tailored to your specific situation. Reliance on any information provided in these articles is solely at your own risk.
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