Your brand may be considering changing the color of your labels, branding mark on your jeans, or possibly new packaging. Sometimes the slight changes that you make frequently in stores may present different and unique challenges online.

In a traditional brick and mortar environment, retailers that are transitioning to new labels or product packaging will typically flow in the new packaging or have the new branded items sit next to the other old items and live in a mixed inventory environment. This can allow the old inventory to run through while the new inventory starts to sell in (i.e., a soft transition). Customers can clearly see this rebrand happening because they are physically in the store witnessing it being sold by the retailer. They are able to see it and touch it and experience the brand change firsthand. Shoppers can also direct questions to the in-store sales associate, which can help reassure them that the brand is the same.

The challenge of rebranding in e-commerce…

Unlike in brick and mortar, in e-commerce, that direct flow of information is not available. The newly branded inventory sits in a warehouse and the ability is lost to let your shoppers view and touch these new labeling or packaging changes in-person. The only way for shoppers to know if there is a change in packaging or labeling is if this is listed on the product detail page.

If you do not take the opportunity to notify your audience in advance on the detail page, customers may think that they have received something incorrectly due to the slightest change, leading to:

  1. An increase in returns
  2. A decline in Seller Ratings
  3. Possible listing suppression

In some situations, customers may even think they are receiving a counterfeit item, especially with a label color change. Returns will likely increase when shoppers unexpectedly receive an item that is even slightly different than they purchased, which can also affect your selling rating. Amazon listing suppression can also occur if the same customer receives the same item incorrectly twice, or if two separate customers report the same incorrect item. If Amazon does suppress your listing, you will be notified and the listing will not be available until your catalog details are fixed, which ultimately results in lost sales.

To avoid these situations from happening to you, consider these 3 strategies when rebranding:

  1. Get new images
    • Take photos of the new label change or new packaging and upload to the product display page
  2. Update your product details
    • Adding “Packaging May Vary” to a bullet point
  3. Consider how often your company is rebranding
    • Determine project scope and timelines in advance

You do not want to rebrand too often for a variety of reasons, but especially if you are using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Rebranding Challenges

Although FBA can prove to be a very reliable fulfillment method, there is a drawback when it comes to rebranding. If you are a seller using FBA, you can potentially have mixed inventory for years.

This is because as an Amazon seller on FBA, you cannot control what an Amazon employee chooses to pick out of the bin in the warehouse to ship to the customer. Even if you maintain the same UPC, there is no guarantee.

For example, if your brand chooses to change the box style that your product is packaged in, while you have old inventory already stored at the Amazon Fulfillment Centers, a shipment of your products with new box packaging may arrive at the fulfillment centers. While purchase orders are coming in, Amazon’s packers are using your UPC code to pick items to be sent out, in addition to an algorithm that reflects FIFO methodology and distance to the bin. However, to drive packing efficiency, Amazon’s system will optimize the route between items in the same order. This means that packers will grab the item that is closest to the other items in the order, resulting in some orders being packed with the newest items (LIFO), and other orders packed with older inventory.

Best Practices

Here are some options that can be applied when considering rebranding in e-commerce.

  1. Keep UPC the Same – This is used to maintain reviews, sales, search
  2. Before flowing in your new inventory, simply update a bullet point with “Packaging (or labels) may vary” and add a new image to the listing. This will allow you to maintain search relevancy, sales data, reviews, rankings, and not start over completely. It is the preferred method, especially if the product is a high priority, popular product. You may go from the first page of search results to page 20.
  3. You can also take an additional step if the packaging or label change is significantly different by uploading images of the old and new and layering on text indicating the new packaging.
  4. Create a New UPC – This is used for inventory purposes
  5. If your item is significantly different, and your team would like to have a clear line of sight into differences in inventory both in your own warehouse as well as Amazon warehouses, create a new UPC and ASIN. After creating this, you can attach it as a colorway variation to the old parent ASIN. Attach images to each colorway variation, so when the color is clicked, the images on the product display page will change as well. You can only use this method if your item does not change materially.
  6. Change UPC – This is used for legal reasons
  7. This is the recommended path if you need to change the name of your product or for any other trademark infringement reasons. Start by creating a new UPC and ASIN to have complete visibility into your inventory. This way, when you are ready, you can take the old units out of the warehouse and have them shipped back. The truly best practice is to Return to Vendor (RTV) the old items and start over anew if at all possible. However, the seller will lose inventory and sales this way.

Sometimes brands think rebranding in e-commerce can be done just like brick and mortar. However, the issues outlined above can have implications for a year or longer! If possible, it is always better to think ahead. If you do this from the beginning, you may decrease the risk of customer confusion and large volume of lost sales.

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