Matt Ellsworth, Sr. Manager, Marketing & Demand at Wiser Solutions
Brand protection managers often feel like they’re being forced into a game of Whack-a-Mole when trying to keep rogue sellers from hijacking their products on Amazon. How can companies compete? We outlined several tools to combat the problem in our eBook, “How to Find the Right Tool(s) to Protect Your Brand on Amazon”. One of those tools is Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) Enforcement. We’ve invited our partner from Wiser to tell us more about the power of MAP monitoring and how it helps to defeat unauthorized sellers.
Your Brand is Everything
Who are you without your brand? It’s who you are, it’s who you want to be, and it’s how customers perceive your company. On a tactical level, your brand contributes to the prices you can charge, the partners you make, and your overall sales.
These are some reasons why it’s so important to manage your brand. That includes protecting your brand reputation, of course, especially by limiting gray market sellers and ensuring that a customer who buys from you is actually buying from you. But there’s another area where a little brand protection can go a long way: with your prices.
What is a Minimum Advertised Price?
At Wiser Solutions, we help brands manage their minimum advertised price policies, both with monitoring for compliance across resellers and also assisting with enforcement once a violation is identified.
Backing up a bit, we define minimum advertised prices as “a pricing agreement between a manufacturer or brand and its resellers to not advertise the price of a specific product below a predetermined price. MAP pricing is not legally binding, but rather a mutually beneficial agreement to price products at or above a set price.”
MAP monitoring, then, is the process of tracking your products’ prices as they are sold across a variety of resellers, typically on eCommerce marketplaces. If you have MAP policies in place, you have to monitor compliance with those agreements in order to get all the benefits possible under MAP.
What Are the Benefits of a MAP Policy?
In order to understand why MAP monitoring is so important, it helps to first look at why brands want minimum advertised prices in the first place.
Naturally, the biggest reason is sales. You want to increase sales, get your products in front of the most shoppers possible, and drive profits. A good MAP policy can help with that because the minimum advertised price is one you’ve set using sales data—you know it’s the right price for that product to achieve your sales goals.
Beyond that, MAP pricing is a key contributor to brand protection. Without a policy in place, resellers may be tempted to list your products at a lower price than you want. A too-low price can erode your price position, setting unrealistic (and unprofitable) expectations with shoppers. It can also entice competitors to drop prices, kicking off a price war and a race to the bottom. This can be especially harmful to luxury or premium brands, but it’s not good for anyone, regardless of what and where you sell.
In addition, MAP monitoring can help you identify gray market sellers or other unauthorized sellers. You have MAP agreements in place with your authorized vendors, so in the process of monitoring your prices across marketplaces, you notice a too-low price. Digging into that, you don’t recognize the vendor, and you’ve quickly found a new unauthorized seller to address, mainly off of the routine act of monitoring for MAP violations.
These are just a few of the benefits of a MAP policy, and there are certainly others depending on your business model, number of resellers, and other factors.
What to Look for in a MAP Monitoring Tool
At its core, a good MAP tool should monitor product pages for potential MAP violations. It’s that simple.
There is more, though, that you should look for if MAP monitoring sounds like something you need. For starters, you need to monitor prices on the marketplaces that are most important for your business. Many brands want to do this on Amazon, of course. Other online marketplaces include eBay and Walmart, or a retailer’s own website. The same goes for browsers—you want a MAP tool that works in the biggest web browsers, like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. The last big consideration is the number of SKUs (the Wiser tool can manage up to 15,000 SKUs in our app, for example).
On top of these core capabilities, a good MAP tool can also bring some added benefits to the table. At Wiser, we’ve found brands greatly benefit from several complementary features.
Unauthorized Seller Monitoring
If unauthorized sellers are a concern—and they should be—your MAP solution should identify unauthorized sellers and listings, identify the number of violations by unauthorized sellers, and even support you in identifying these sellers and tracking down their actual contact information, business address, and other details.
Robust Business Intelligence
How you see and engage with the MAP data is important as well. You’ll want a solid foundation of business intelligence that makes data visualization easy, obviously displaying violation count by status (whether open, pending, flagged, or resolved, for example), violation history over time, top violators by product, and more.
MAP Enforcement Features
Identifying MAP violations and unauthorized sellers is only half the battle. You also need to take corrective action, enforcing your MAP policies, and working to prevent violations in the future. A good tool can help with that. You want your reports to come with violation timestamps, list prices, seller names, and other key details. At Wiser, we also help brands create violation templates to send to sellers that make it easy to communicate with them about your MAP policies.
What Happens Once You Find MAP Violations
The right tool is all well and good, but your brand needs action. What happens after you find all these MAP violations?
As noted above, we recommend communicating quickly, clearly, and directly with the seller. In many cases, the violation is not malicious. It’s a simple oversight that can be easily corrected. Or, if the seller is unauthorized or gray market, finding out their actual contact information so you can communicate with them or escalate the issue into a legal matter.
At a high level, you should focus your enforcement efforts on:
Asking nicely, since you may not know why the violation occurred without information from the seller.
Creating reasonable punishments for repeat violators, not bringing down the hammer right away and threatening to cease distribution. Smaller penalties often work better, such as a warning or removing MAP pricing holidays for that specific seller.
Maintaining compliance consistently across sellers. Don’t favor one over the other with regard to enforcement—be fair, but above all be active. Don’t let MAP policies lapse or ignore violations for years before speaking up.
For us at Wiser, the future of MAP is a combined effort between monitoring (visibility) and enforcement (action). It has to be a strategy that works well for all parties involved, both brand manufacturer and retailer. And it has to be a realistic, fair policy that is grounded in achievable penalties. MAP pricing is simple in concept, and with the right resources and planning, it can be simple in practice as well.