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How to Protect Your Private Label Brand on Amazon

By James Thomson, Last Modified
Jul 25, 2018
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> Business Basics

As one of the tens of thousands of private label companies that sell through the Amazon channel, you know it’s only a matter of time before your successful private label brand gets mimicked by other sellers. The ease with which companies can find one another’s products on Amazon, and then create their own versions, has shortened the expected Amazon lifecycle of most private label products to less than a year. New competition quickly eliminates most of the available margin through increased competitive alternatives.

While another seller can find your private label product on Amazon, there is another practical issue. The other seller also needs to identify the right manufacturer to produce a comparable product. While it is possible to find practically any kind of manufacturer on sites like Alibaba, one of the most common paths for private label sellers is to use sites like Panjiva.com and Importgenius.com. These sites help find the customs records of other sellers whose products the new company wants to copy. These customs records provide valuable information about the source of the product, including the name and contact information of the overseas manufacturing facility. Such information obviously accelerates a competitor’s ability to contact that same manufacturer directly to see about getting a new “version” made to compete against the current listing on Amazon.

Preventing such important details from being visible for your company is what we view as the first step to protecting your private label brand on Amazon. If competitors can’t figure out exactly who made your products, then these competitors will have to find an appropriate manufacturing plant themselves, before going down the rocky road of validating the manufacturer and its products. Clearly, this becomes difficult and gives your business an edge. The longer you can hold off competitors, the more likely you will have adequate time to file and be granted a design patent, which further pushes away competitor interest in your products.

Fortunately, there is a way to stop competitors from accessing critical data on your customs records. Thanks to the Privacy Act implemented after 9/11, all a company needs to do is contact the Department of Homeland Security through vesselmanifestconfidentiality@cbp.dhs.gov. Your company needs to provide your Tax ID number and instructions on not sharing your shipping information publicly. Then, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not disclose the importer’s information, so businesses can hide their shipper’s information from their competitors. It’s a free program and there is no paperwork involved. 

Sending this email doesn't have to be complicated. Sample text for such an email can be as simple as:

Our firm, [INSERT NAME OF FIRM], is requesting assistance from CBP to block importer information.

Below is the company information:

[INSERT COMPANY NAME] [INSERT TAX ID#]

[INSERT COMPANY ADDRESS]

In addition, we want to block all shippers information.

We appreciate your assistance and attention in this.

The request is good for two years, so remember to mark your calendars and plan to renew every two years to protect your sourcing and import data.

As stated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on its website, "Requests for renewal should be submitted to this office at least 60 - 90 days prior to the expiration of the current approval. Renewal requests may be sent by regular mail addressed to: Privacy Officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 90 K Street, NE, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20229-1177, by facsimile to: 202-325-0154, or by email to: vesselmanifestconfidentiality@cbp.dhs.gov. CBP requests that you submit your request by one method only."

Follow these simple steps to protect your private label brand from potential competitors. 

 

James Thomson
James Thomson
See James Thomson's Profile
James Thomson is a partner at Buy Box Experts, a consultancy supporting brands selling on Amazon. He recently published a book with his business partner, Joseph Hansen, called “The Amazon Marketplace Dilemma: A Brand Executive’s Challenge Growing Sales and Maintaining Control”. It examines strategies used by brand executives to control what happens to their brands on the Amazon marketplace. James is the former business head of Amazonservices.com, Amazon.com’s portal for recruiting new third-party sellers. He developed the original FBA opportunity nudge program and served as the Category Manager of Amazon’s Sports third-party business. Get your copy of The Amazon Marketplace Dilemma here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998484601
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