The sad truth: Your scanning app isn’t showing you many FBA offers. Here’s why.
I don’t want to break any hearts here, but if you’re a Fulfillment by
Most sellers know this. What surprises me is that many sellers don’t.
Here’s the story.
Everything changed on September 1st, 2012
That’s when all
Prior to this date, FBA scanning apps displayed the lowest 5 or 10 FBA offers.
Then (mostly) quietly one day in September, 2012, the lights on FBA data went dark. FBA offers stopped being displayed on scanning apps – unless there was an FBA offer in the lowest 20 offers.
I was there when this happened, and a lot of sellers had no idea this change had even occurred. And it would have a massive affect on my
So what happened?
Why did all FBA scanning apps suddenly stop showing (most) FBA data at the same time?
The answer is
To understand how this happened, you have to understand two things:
- What an “API” (application program interface) is.
Amazondoesn’t want us pricing our items high.
API’s: This isn’t very interesting, but basically API’s are how
And in 2012,
Now I’m going to tell you why…
Warning: Some of what what I’m about to say is not proven fact, but me reading between the lines. I’m not a real journalist, so I’m allowed to do this.
What I believe to be true: When we price our Fulfillment by
One of the biggest enablers of our high-pricing habits were scanning apps that showed us exactly what other FBA offers we were competing against.
So if I scan a textbook ranked 30,000, and I can see there are a hundred penny offers, and the lowest FBA offer is $35, then I know I can sell that textbook at $35. And I will.
Wait a minute Peter: When I scan some items, I do see FBA data, sometimes. So what are you talking about?
You will see FBA offers, sometimes. But hardly any.
The only time you’re seeing an FBA offer is if it’s in the lowest 20 of all offers. That’s
I know most of you know this already. But a lot of you don’t. And it’s probably hard to hear. But it’s 100% true.
For example, here’s what FBA Scan (the app I use) has to say about this, buried in their user agreement:
“For each item,
Amazonwill get 20 lowest prices in both used and new condition, then sort them into different groups based on condition, fulfill channel (FBA or merchant), and seller rating. Amazonwill then return only the lowest price from each group back to our program. So our program will only display lowest price from each group.”
This is a little vague for me. And I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how forthright the scanning apps were about this (massive) change when it happened.
What I found particularly disingenuous was the attempts of at least a couple apps to spin this restriction as a “positive,” when it clearly wasn’t.
Here is an excerpt from the FBA Scan site, describing the “advantages” of the new API restrictions:
FBA sellers don’t care about getting “jammed” with “lowballs,” or getting a “broader” look at the market. We just want to know our FBA competition. That’s it.
I’m not saying the scanning app companies are lying, but…
…they’re not exactly putting these details front and center.
And I get it. You put a lot of work into building a software product to help
And I would probably do exactly what they’re doing. Be open about the new restrictions, but not exactly put it out there front and center, and not exactly yell from the rooftops that as a user of their product, you’re not seeing all the
They don’t want to provoke a mass exodus of users. I get it.
And if you started selling post-2012, all of this might be news to you
I’m noticing a ton of newer sellers (possibly most) have no idea about any of this. They take the data displayed on their scanning app at face value, and assume if the FBA column is blank, there are no Fulfillment by
Then of course, they find out the hard way that’s not true when they go to list. But they’re still not sure what’s going on, or who is to blame.
I don’t know how these data blindspots can’t be anything other than totally obvious. I mean, if you make a book purchase assuming there’s no FBA competition, and you get home to list and find there are 20 FBA sellers, you’d have to figure out what’s going on pretty quickly, right?
Well a ton of sellers I’ve talked to insist the app they’re using is showing them all the data. And it’s simply not.
With FBA data, no scanning app is better than any other
There’s no need to play favorites here, or make claims that any particular app shows more data than any other. They are all restricted from
I’ve spoken with developers about this, and no one gets any preferential treatment from
So don’t wait for a “better”
Is there a silver lining to this?
I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but I suspect that when apps stopped showing Fulfillment by
So what are Fulfillment by
There are a couple of methods (one crude, one more advanced) that
The simple one: When all other data checks out (sales rank, etc), we click through from the app to
The more advanced one: Through trial and error, some of us have learned a cool trick using some advanced math to determine if a book has a high probability of having no Fulfillment by
This is probably a topic of a future post, but the basic idea is: The better the rank and the fewer the merchant fulfilled offers (things FBA scanning apps still show), the better the likelihood of there being no Fulfillment by
Like I said, I’ll save the details for a future post. But you get the idea. And this works.
To end on an empowering note
If you’re savvy, you can still get the data you need.
It’s a setback, but like all setbacks, they present opportunities. And the opportunity is:
If you’re a part of an FBA forum or Facebook group for