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Is Amazon Controlling My Sales? No Matter What I Do, They Stay Flat

By Matthew Ferguson

Matthew Ferguson explains how following “the data brick road” and embracing change can prevent your Amazon sales from flatlining.

Is Amazon Controlling My Sales? No Matter What I Do, They Stay Flat

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Mark Hetherington

I’ve heard all of this before, the questions and the replies – I deliberately didn’t say “answers” – yet there is a lot of evidence that many sellers on both ebay and amazon have experienced similar scenarios.

In my case, and that of many others, the issue is on ebay, where sales not only plateau but actually fall off that plateau, and in many cases overnight. You read about these cases and you think those people are doing something wrong and not doing enough research and so on, then it happens to you and you realise it’s very real.

I don’t sell a great deal these days, but as a minimum I expect 4-figure sales each week. I research my products, I research my competitors and their products, I have used Terapeak and other programs to follow trends and so on. And to be honest it’s never made a great deal of difference. I’ve found sellers with far lower feedback reputation, poor listings and anything else you care to name selling the same products at a HIGHER price than I am, and doing well while mine are sitting there gathering dust.

The main reason for this on ebay is because their Best Match algorhythms doesn’t work. I know for certain that it doesn’t work because when searching for one of my own products it came up second. In a list of two. The FIRST item wasn’t even related to mine, and I was the only seller of that particular item. I could quote you many other examples – search for a Samsung phone and get a Nokia in the top 3 results for example – but it doesn’t come any clearer than being the sole seller of an item then seeing it come second in a search where there should be no other results.

Other issues are constant site errors, pages not loading, reports of people not being able to add your product to their basket and so on, but the killer is sales just stopping. For no reason your research can find? Can anybody explain how sales drop INSTANTLY from £1400 a week to under £150? Across a range of goods? Then, if you’re lucky two or three weeks later, start up again? Sorry but in the real world that doesn’t happen.

I’ve also experienced adding new products, products that I have researched and that should do at least OK and struggled to sell anything. I threw several grand at stock for ebay a couple of months ago to try to boost sales, after researching over 30 new products for over a month. With a couple of exceptions I’ve sold nothing. Sorry but in the real world that doesn’t happen.

Generally the more you stock the more you sell, that has always been the case, just by sheer numbers. People ALWAYS talk about searching for products but always forget that a large percentage are bought by browsers, not searchers. Otherwise there really would be little point in selling anything but top sellers. Nothing new would ever come to market because you would have no chance of anybody ever finding it (I’m not talking about the big name brand products here).

I’ve read all the theories like this one over and over again. But nobody has ever explained properly what is really going on when sales that should happen just don’t. That’s why I said “replies” rather than “answers” at the top, because anybody can speculate but I’ve yet to hear anybody come up with an answer, including ebay and amazon’s own support staff.

Matthew

Hi Mark,

Would gladly pick this up directly with you offline. Ping me if of interest.

In general its the problem of visualizing the macro to all this. Why items dip in sales, then pick up again is virtually impossible to determine because its in many ways the famous butterfly effect. (A butterfly flaps its wings in Africa and a Hurricane forms over the Atlantic as a result a month later).

We’re talking about hundred of millions of buyers, tens of thousands of sellers, millions upon millions of SKU’s, stock adjustments, pricing adjustments, supplier changes, account health metrics, conversion rates, PPC / Sponsored products negative / positive keyword associations, bid adjustments, currency rate changes, sales taking place on websites or at malls, internet coverage and connectivity issues / speed changes… the list goes on. And all these variables add up into a vastly complex equation which may result in traffic going up or down at any given time for any given seller on any given listing on any given channel.

Strange things happen. Some people never win a dollar on the lottery, while others hit the jackpot twice in a lifetime. Think of it this way – you statistically have a better chance of dying by coconuts than airplane accidents, yet you will always naturally assume one is more dangerous than the other. What may seem logical to us naturally can in fact not be logical mathematically, and vice versa. Probability is a interesting topic to research for geeks like me, and I hated maths during my studies. Go figure.

The real world is full of chaos, and the human desire to make sense of it is only in our heads. Chaos reigns in nature and the Universe. Order is just us making sense of it, or trying to.

This is a generic reply, sorry. But I just don’t think the absolution to this topic you seek exists, or ever could. Even if eBay admitted they alter the algorithm at times to allow other sellers to gain traffic, that would still just be a tiny piece of the complex interwoven puzzle that produces the final sales tally each week.

In my humble opinion, you wont ever gain control over this topic. So instead focus on what you can and do control. Plan for the worst, expect the best.

Mark Hetherington

Agreed, there are no 100% certainties with online selling but I think many of us feel there are things that don’t work as they should and need fixing by the main platforms.

What many of us do not understand is why sales drop off a cliff overnight, not just a few product lines but everything. That’s not “standard procedure”. Personally I would be happy these days just to keep them reasonably steady. PM sent.

John

There is indeed an Amazon throttle. It’s called sales velocity, based partially on your seller performance, over the last 90 days.

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