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Sales & Ops
3P Variants: The Whack-a-Mole of E-commerce
July 23, 2021

Ask any e-commerce team about their most time-intensive tasks and they will undoubtedly put managing third-party (3P) variants on the list. Variants occur when 3P sellers take advantage of a brand’s own Product Detail Page (PDP) to drive sales of their 3P listings. Identifying and extinguishing them is a full-time job that requires daily monitoring to ensure that no other ASIN variants appear and taking immediate action to remove them. It’s like playing a game of whack-a-mole – eliminate one, and three others pop up. This is a recurring problem as the sellers can be relentless. This is a classic case for automation, where brands are best served by a machine-based approach like CommerceIQ. 

Now let me share some examples of how automations can help in maintaining digital shelf sanctity. Take this “kinetic sand” listing for example. All of the hard work this brand did to gain the number 2 organic search listing goes by the wayside and instead benefits this rogue 3P variant that has positioned itself within the listing. These listings are very hard to find manually. CommerceIQ does deep crawling of product categories and applies machine learning to find these listings and match them with a brand’s 1P catalog. The most common action through the automation route is to submit merge requests so that these listings cease to exist. Some of our customers also take action against these sellers as this violates Amazon policies. 

Similarly, variations are a huge part of the Amazon shopping experience providing shoppers with visibility and buying options. When certain variants break away, it can have a huge impact on sales. CommerceIQ audits each variant group on Amazon every single day and detects any changes. If the changes are not in line with what was set up, a ticket can be automatically submitted to get that rectified and prevent revenue leakage.

How Bad are 3P Variants?

Unauthorized 3P sellers of products are a key source of revenue leakage that reduce conversion of your product offers. Based on data we’ve collected, more than 2% of revenue is lost due to this phenomenon as it leaks glance views and conversion to sellers. CIQ automatically detects all such cases on a  daily basis, creates tickets and gets them removed from the page. We see a success rate of 90% through automation.

3P variants also introduce branding problems that come with them, as we saw during Covid with price gouging issues and unfulfilled product complaints. While this would never happen on the physical shelf because retailers themselves would intervene, the digital shelf is an entirely different animal. By virtue of being an open platform Amazon doesn’t have a very clear policy towards them nor do most e-commerce marketplaces despite the negative impact to shoppers. Instead, the onus is on brands to manage them. E-commerce teams must proactively report and merge the appropriate ASINs and remove duplicates. 

The ROI of Automation

With 3P variants, there’s never been a more compelling case to make for automation. They hurt brands by stealing sales, representing products poorly and creating price inconsistencies in the market. By automating the process of stopping them in their tracks, the ROI is easy to prove. The time savings alone justifies the investment by freeing up team members who would otherwise be spending all of their time manually managing variants. 

We solve many of these problems through large scale automation, including the following:

  • Always-on monitoring finds ASINs where 3P sellers are adding variants to PDPs. 
  • Prevents revenue loss by merging 3P duplicates into existing PDPs where rogue listings rarely win the Buybox.
  • Stops 3P listings from lowering overall click through rates (CTRs) to your PDPs
  • Protects brand equity from inaccurate or poor content on 3P duplicates

Request a demo today or read how CIQ Sales can reduce unauthorized 3P activity for your brand.