What to Do If Amazon Has Marked Your Products 'Nonessential'
Christian Hassold | March 31, 2020
Amazon has stopped issuing purchase orders and is severely delaying shipments of “nonessential” products due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While most agree that Amazon is making the right decision to prioritize the fulfillment of essential products, there is ambiguity and confusion around what products are considered “essential.”
After conversations with several Salsify customers, the source of this confusion is likely that even within a specific category, not all items are considered essential. Some items within the same product category show widely different shipping times.
These differences are likely the result of an automated classification process that may have inadvertently classified some products as nonessential. For brands facing this issue, here are the three steps many of our customers have taken to successfully get essential products reclassified on Amazon.
1. Break Down the Definition of ‘Essential’
According to a March 21 email from Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, essential items include “household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies.”
Our research has further identified six essential product categories on Amazon:
- Health and Household
- Beauty and Personal Care
- Industrial and Scientific
- Pet Supplies
While the Amazon policy states that items outside of these categories are considered nonessential, these categories are fairly broad. This opens up the possibility that an item could be incorrectly classified as nonessential.
In these cases, we believe Amazon is listening to both consumer and vendor feedback and making necessary adjustments.
2. Identify Incorrectly Classified Products
While these determinations can be subjective, it is possible to have vital products reclassified from nonessential to essential on Amazon to help get them to those who need them.
Here are two recent examples from brands that were able to change their product classifications on Amazon:
- Healthy food options: A cereal bar sold in Europe in the “snack food” category was initially deemed nonessential. The brand was able to have the item classified as essential because it was a “healthy snack” option for quarantined consumers.
- Face mask alternative: A running scarf, which is an essential item for cold-weather runners, was previously listed as a nonessential sporting good product. Due to the limited supply of face masks worldwide, however, many people are using running scarves as an alternative. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed scarves and bandanas as a “last resort” substitute for face masks. This CDC recommendation allowed the brand to reclassify its product to help provide an emergency alternative for a product in short supply.
We want to be careful to point out that we are not advocating for brands to argue for reclassification unnecessarily. We only want to highlight that honest errors are occurring that are delaying the delivery of important goods for consumers.
3. Contact Your Amazon Vendor Manager
Understandably, Amazon managers have had their workloads increased substantially by the crisis and the heightened increase of ecommerce activity. Many of our customers, however, have stressed that Amazon is responsive to requests for reclassification of items from nonessential to essential.
If you believe that Amazon has incorrectly classified your product as nonessential, you have the option of contacting your vendor manager to request reclassification. When communicating with your vendor manager, identify the specific product that is incorrectly classified and reason why the item should be considered essential.
These examples could include food staples that are in low supply at local stores, which may otherwise seem nonessential, such as healthy snacks or protein bars. They could also include products that are suitable CDC alternatives to hand and face protection products, in light of stock shortages for medical face masks and gloves.
If your products are indeed nonessential, there is still hope. We have heard through the Amazon partner ecosystem that based on consumer demand or availability of logistics capacity, Amazon has reissued or issued new product orders for products in nonessential categories.