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A potted guide to product piggybacking

online-sellerA potted guide to product piggybacking

To piggyback is to become an ‘additional seller’ of a popular, fast-selling product on the Amazon marketplace. It means, quite literally, jumping on the back of an already-proven item’s success.

Piggybacking involves finding items on Amazon that are consistently selling well, then sourcing and selling those products (which must have the same ASIN -Amazon Standard Identification Number) at a lower price.

Why would you piggyback?

Piggybacking offers a short-cut route to the ‘big sellers’, as it is based on ‘usurping’ the proven success of popular, fast-moving items. As such, it eliminates much of the trial and error you would have to go through normally in sourcing and selling new items.

It is easy and cost-effective to piggyback onto existing Amazon listings as there is no major start-up effort or investment required: additional sellers piggyback on the original seller’s listing, advertising the item using the same image, title and description and so benefitting from not having to spend the time/money needed for that initial setup.

Piggybacking can be a particularly effective strategy when you are selling into a new international market – or moving into a new product area, as you benefit from someone else’s prior investment for your success. It offers a ‘toe-in-the-water’ approach, allowing you to get a feel for the potential success of your products as you go into new product or geographical markets. This means less risk as well as limited cost.

And it gives the opportunity to get exposure for your business and to bring sales and ratings to your account, so it can also be a good way to build your own brand and improve your ranking in Amazon ratings.

Is there a downside?

One possible downside is that when you piggyback, you tend to be relying on buyers who are experienced enough to search through ‘other sellers’ - and sufficiently price-motivated to buy from an unknown, unrated seller as opposed to an established seller displaying a good ratings track record.

Is piggybacking legal?

This depends on how the piggybacking is done.

In the case of ASIN piggybacking, researching and identifying popular products, sourcing these exact same products at a cost that will allow you to undercut competitors and still make a margin is legitimate – even though most of us probably appreciate that to piggyback is to benefit from someone else’s marketing investment and up-front costs. You just need to look in online forums to see what some sellers have to say about the practice when their product has been piggybacked –particularly when it is their supplier who is doing the piggybacking.

So while it is legal, whether it is wholly ethical is perhaps more open to debate. Certainly, many accept it as a sound business practice.

What is definitely not legal is to piggyback a product by using the genuine ASIN number and product details then supplying a counterfeit product to customers. This is damaging to the original product owner’s reputation, is in any event unlikely to sustain long-term customer relationships for the ‘piggybacker’ – and it undermines the whole integrity of the Amazon marketplace.

Amazon have put in place measures for reporting instances of this practice, but it is apparently quite a cumbersome process for victims to have to go through.

How do I do it?

It is a comparatively straightforward process:
  1. First of all, you need to identify a popular item in your chosen category that is selling well consistently. And bear in mind that piggybacking obviously wouldn’t work for unique items such as hand-made jewellery or artwork.
  2. Locate the ASIN - it is listed in the product details section of the product listing.
  3. Identify a source for the product – possibly by going direct to the manufacturer - Amazon usually lists the manufacturer below the item’s title.
  4. Negotiate the best purchase price with the supplier/manufacturer; then factor in shipping costs, plus any other applicable costs.
  5. Using the current Buy Box price as a base line, work out whether or not you can sell the product for fractionally less than the Buy Box price but still make a worthwhile margin.
  6. If you can, then you can piggyback successfully, still make a profit and start to build up your customer base.
  7. If you can’t, move on to the next potential product on your list and repeat the selection process.
  8. Once you have found your ideal piggybacking product, you need to get it on to Amazon. This involves feeding the selected ASIN, title, price, and condition to Amazon directly through Seller Central or from your listing tool feed. Amazon automatically tracks the information from the ASIN and matches it to the relevant listing to setup the piggybacking.

To piggyback - or not to piggyback?

The main thing to bear in mind is that to keep your piggybacking legitimate and compliant with Amazon’s standards, you must source and ship exactly the same product: the same brand name, SKU number and manufacturing code.

The hardest part of the process is identifying the right product for piggybacking - and making sure that you can source it at a price that will enable you to undercut established sellers.

But if you are looking for an easy, cost- effective and lower-risk way of selling in a new geographical market or product category, then piggybacking is definitely an option worth looking into.

For a cost-effective and low-risk way to enter a new market or product category piggybacking could be the answer 


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