“The bottle was open, and the seal was broken. I’m terrified!”
“These pills aren’t the same color I remember from last time.”
“This didn’t work for me. I may as well have been taking sugar pills. It’s a fake product.”
Welcome to the wonderful world of selling supplements on Amazon. Pitfalls abound. ASINs face suspension for deserved – and undeserved – reasons.
Fortunately, sellers who embrace simple, proactive strategies can minimize the most common ASIN suspensions for their supplements.
Keep in mind, it is impossible to prevent all ASIN suspensions – especially in this challenging category. Buyers tend to be aggressive about logging complaints when a supplement disappoints them or the packaging isn’t pristine. That is why sellers should take a vigorous, hands-on approach to preventing these problems whenever possible.
When Products Don’t Appear to Be New
When supplements are suspended for “condition,” buyers have made complaints that the product they received was not in brand-new shape. This could mean:
- Interior or exterior seals were broken
- Customers expected an exterior box, but there was not one
- Interior cotton was not present
- Powder from capsules or oily residue from liquid gels was present inside the container
The question for sellers is, what is the root cause of these problems? For FBA sellers, there is a distinct possibility that Amazon accepted a return and resold it – something that is not supposed to happen with supplements, but frequently does. Boxing the product – while it adds some cost – helps dramatically with this issue.
In some cases, there is a problem with the manufacturer of the product. I’ve seen instances where manufacturers failed to adjust the tolerances and settings for wax sealers, for example. Buyers received products where overheated wax looked “burned” and created nasty brown residue on the bottle and lid. If you are a supplement seller working with a contract manufacturer, find out how often they calibrate and test their equipment.
The Real – and Fake – World of Restricted Products Suspensions
When Amazon suspends a supplement as a restricted product, it can mean:
- The supplement includes ingredients that are illegal or prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one or more states, etc.
- The supplement includes ingredients that Amazon has deemed too risky for sale on the platform
- The listing detail page makes prohibited claims; for example, it claims the product will cure a disease
- The listing detail page includes keywords that are not allowed on Amazon
Unfortunately, there are a large number of restricted product suspensions that are based on false positives. Amazon’s technology deems a supplement to have violated the rules, when in reality it has not.
To prevent these suspensions and maintain account health, Amazon supplement sellers should:
- Stay on top of rules changes at the FDA and other regulatory agencies
- Ensure that all ingredients in their products are allowed on Amazon
- Carefully monitor their ASIN detail pages, including changes made to those changes by other sellers
- Have a reputable compliance firm consult with them on regulatory changes, product updates and the like
Is it Expired, or is the Buyer Confused?
One of the toughest challenges associated with selling supplement products on Amazon is managing expired inventory at the FBA warehouse.
Buyers are quick to complain that inventory is expired – even if it is well within the expiration window, with plenty of time for use. Complaints for expired can result from:
- Hard-to-read expiration dates
- Missing expiration dates
- European format expiration dates that buyers do not understand
- Lot numbers that buyers do not understand
- Expired inventory that was lost in the warehouse by Amazon FBA, and then sold
What can a seller do? If your product has expiration dates that are not absolutely clear, add a sticker to the product displaying the date.
To solve FBA issues, it’s critical that sellers rotate SKUs and clear out older inventory on a regular basis. Do not trust Amazon to manage your expiration dates for you. They will not.
What about Terrifying “Safety Incident” Strikes on my Amazon Account?
Few notices from Amazon are more frightening than the “safety incident.” This is where Amazon tells the seller that their product resulted in an injury, a fire, or some other horrific event.
For supplement sellers, many “safety incidents” or “food safety complaints” look something like this:
- “I broke out in a rash all over.”
- “I ended up in the ER.”
- “I had terrible stomach cramps that wouldn’t stop.”
Unfortunately for the seller, just one instance of these kinds of severe and scary complaints can result in an ASIN being suspended.
There are very few proactive steps a seller can take to prevent these kinds of suspensions. If your product has been properly tested and is safe, be sure you have all the testing documentation required by Amazon – on hand, no more than a year old, at all times.
The Total Confusion of Negative Customer Experience Reports
Amazon added a somewhat useful dashboard about customer experience (CX) to the seller account. This dashboard shows sellers whose ASINs are falling down on the job because of complaints, returns, and other bad experiences.
Sadly, the dashboard and the NCX metrics don’t distinguish between true problems about a product and other complaints. For example, a customer who says, “I thought I ordered the 180-count bottle, but I accidentally ordered the 90-count bottle,” will count against the seller in their NCX ratings.
Because of size variations, brand confusion, and other common problems, NCX issues can hit supplement sellers particularly hard. To stave off these complaints, have a plan of action that includes reviewing your product detail pages frequently to ensure they are correct.