This post is by Chris McCabe, owner and founder of ecommerceChris, LLC, an Amazon seller account consultancy.
Amazon has rolled out a pilot program that uses video calling in an effort to improve upon the cumbersome seller account registration process.
Amazon touts this as a modified screening process that will help root out fraudsters on the way in, before they begin abusing policies or sabotaging other sellers. Perhaps given past controversy over Amazon’s plans to use automated facial recognition software, Amazon now prefers to have human beings check over documents – in real-time – to verify a seller’s identity.
Even though the program is in pilot status, many sellers are hopeful that Amazon will implement it quickly. Identifying bad sellers before they can enter the marketplace will benefit everyone, IF the system is implemented correctly.
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Now our task was to go through one of the last stages of verification of an Amazon seller account – Amazon seller identity verification.
What’s wrong with the way Amazon verifies sellers now?
Sellers who intend to join the Amazon marketplace need to make sure they fully understand all parameters and moving parts to make sure they get it right the first time. Otherwise, they risk long-term pain and frustration of the kind we see daily with the current Amazon seller registration process.
As things work currently, any mismatched information or hiccup could result in weeks of silence of the kind that could kill a business before it ever starts on Amazon. Sellers receive general denials that don’t mention which documents were not acceptable, nor why.
Numerous sellers have simply given up rather than struggle with the canned, generic messages Amazon sent asking for the same things over and over. In many cases sellers receive no response at all, and have to decide if they should wait weeks for an answer or begin the registration process all over again.
Under this video screening pilot, Amazon makes it clear that they want to see what you look like and what documents you can show them, to register a new seller account. They promise to walk you through how to register with the help of an Amazon representative.
We hope that the new process will result in instantaneous decisions. If anything requires clarification, you’ll have a chance to find out what it is, or even provide it right then, on the spot, to avoid any nightmares.
It’s good to see Amazon’s newfound willingness to confirm identities of incoming sellers in a manner other than automated checks or a cursory manual review of submitted documentation.
What are sellers saying about video verification so far?
I work with several agencies who help businesses set up on Amazon. I asked Jason Boyce from Avenue7Media for his thoughts on this new pilot program. Given the frustrations his clients have experienced getting started on Amazon, I spoke with him about the current seller registration process and the roll out of the new program.
As an agency with a client who is part of the pilot, Jason is hopeful that more of his clients will have this option in the near future. He would like Amazon to go back to other sellers who were rejected in the past, and vet them on video so that they may be approved retroactively.
One worry is that Amazon will have other snags in the system that could halt a registration elsewhere, even if sellers pass the video call. With the current system, we’ve seen numerous seller accounts apparently verified without problems, only to be closed down an hour or a day later.
After speaking with Jason’s client who has navigated through the video vetting system, I can see several benefits, but also possible shortcomings, with the application of the video screening program.
According to the seller (who requested anonymity):
The seller didn’t find it jarring to share their passport with the Amazon rep, because it’s Amazon’s own software, and they think it highly unlikely that someone outside the company would be able to get access to it.
I was also told that sellers do not have to rely on the Amazon employee to accurately enter their information. The Amazon rep tells the seller what to do, asking them to share their screen so the seller can enter the info themselves. This is optional, however, so if the seller is reluctant to share the screen, they’re free not to.
I asked the seller if any reason was given for the video call being required, or if it was just a random test:
After the ID verification, the Amazon rep told the seller that the registration process was complete and that any follow-up information would arrive by email (which it did).
The only remaining step was to enter their tax information within Seller Central, after which their Amazon account became fully active.