Gating, and Why Amazon gates certain categories
Amazon professes to be the most customer-centric company in the world. As a former Amazonian, I can assure you -- they take their customers very seriously! As a third-party seller, you will need to navigate through Amazon’s customer protections, and these protections can be tricky, constantly changing, and seemingly inconsistent. Luckily, we’re here to help! This post will help you get through Amazon’s process of gating, which is something that many new sellers encounter when trying to sell products in certain categories.
Gating is one of many features that Amazon has in place to protect the customer’s experience on its website.
If you’ve just started selling on Amazon or are thinking about starting, you may have encountered some roadblocks as to what you can and cannot sell. Specific products, brands, conditions and even entire categories are deemed “restricted” or “gated” by Amazon. Some brands are restricted by Amazon when Amazon has found that they are more vulnerable to fraudulent or questionable selling practices by third-party sellers. These may include sellers selling counterfeit items to customers, or third-party sellers offering products in a different condition than claimed (such as selling a used toy as “New”). In order to protect the customer--Amazon’s obsessive priority--Amazon does not allow just anyone to sell these certain brands on its seller platform. However, restricted brands is its own topic for a different post. This post will tell you about another form of vetting that Amazon does for some categories and products called gating.
So, what is gating?
Gating is the process of blocking third-party sellers from selling products in certain categories until they have gone through Amazon’s vetting process. Or, to put it in Amazon’s own words, “sellers must meet additional qualifications to sell certain brands [“restricted”] or list within certain categories [“gated”] on Amazon.” Ungating is done by an application process (I’ve outlined the steps below).
Gated categories represent about a third of the categories on the Amazon marketplace. On the other hand, there are many categories that are automatically open to all new sellers. So why go through the extra effort of selling gated products? There are several reasons why it’s well worth the time and energy.
Why get a category ungated?
The first reason does not have to do with Amazon specifically but rather where you are sourcing your products from and which products they offer. Ungating may be beneficial simply because you may have the best margins for a product that is in a gated category. In that case, it will definitely be worth your while to get the product ungated. Not only will you have the best potential returns, but because of the next two benefits from ungating, you’ll be set up to have few barriers between you and successful selling on Amazon.
Two other benefits of ungating are lower competition and more stable pricing on items. Because of the gating process, there are fewer third-party sellers and therefore generally less competition for gated items than for non-gated products. This makes sense - many people are going to take the path of least resistance and only sell ungated products on the Amazon marketplace. After all, it is easier--and quicker--to just sell ungated items, since you can start selling automatically and don’t have to wait for your request to process. However, when you are able to get your product ungated, you’ll likely face fewer competitors and so there is a greater chance that customers will buy your product just on sheer numbers.
Many people are going to take the path of least resistance and only sell ungated products on the Amazon marketplace.
Another added bonus of having fewer competitors for ungated products is that there is more stability in the pricing. Less sellers in a category means generally less volatility in the pricing, so you’ll be able to better track and adjust your own pricing models to maximize your profits. So, if you’re able to get a smoking deal from your supplier on a gated item, do it!
Before we get into the ungating process, here are some general things to note about gating:
Don’t pay for a service that guarantees ungating for your product!Though it may require some tenacity, getting your product ungated yourself is totally doable, and it will be worth the effort you put in. Plus, you’ll be able to better understand the process the next time you need a product ungated, so it will be that much easier the next time around. And you’ll save money - it’s a win-win!
Another VERY important thing to note about these services that offer ungating is that they can be reckless and cause your account to get banned. They don’t have as much to lose as you do, and if their behavior causes Amazon to become suspicious (like if they submit fraudulent documents on your behalf), it could have serious consequences for you (and none for the service company!). It is always better safe than banned.
- Your 4 P’s: Be patient, polite, persistent, and prompt! I know you’re probably eager to get selling, but it is worth the wait to get ungated. You may hear “no” many times before you get that (very satisfying) “yes.” If you are getting antsy to sell, see if you can source another product that is not subject to gating while you complete the process. However, make sure you don’t take your eyes off the process for too much time or get distracted by your other products -- as you’ll see, your attention to detail and promptness can make the process go much more quickly! Remember, Amazon’s first priority is always going to be with the customer, not you. While it may be frustrating to deal with multiple people about the same issue, it’s Amazon’s game, so you have to play by the rules they give. Maintaining a polite and prompt approach while staying persistent will tell Amazon that you are professional and will help you with the vetting process.
- Pay attention to Amazon’s policies, and expect them to change without notice. Part of the reason that Amazon is so big and has so many employees is because it is constantly changing to meet the needs of its customers. Shady sellers are always looking for new ways to get around Amazon’s policies, and Amazon is very responsive to step in a protect the customer. This means that things can (and will) change with little or no announcement or predictability. It may be frustrating, but again, Amazon’s priority is with the safety of the customer, not with making your ungating process easy. That said...
- Always follow information given to you by Amazon. They will provide you with the most up-to-date information that they have. Amazon will often give you very detailed instructions on how to submit any missing or incomplete information during the process. Also, make sure you always check Amazon’s Seller Central page for the most official information. While there is a lot of information about Amazon’s policies on the internet, always honor the information that is given to you straight from Amazon, including on Amazon’s website and in any correspondence you will have with them. Other websites may promise to have a secret way around a certain policy, but you can be sure that if you can find it on Google, Amazon can too, and Amazon will work to quickly to close any loopholes that may impact the customer. That said, sometimes you will follow Amazon’s provided instructions and still be rejected. Not to worry -- see Troubleshooting below for some tips on how to deal with that scenario. Regardless, it is always the right decision to follow what Amazon tells you to do. They want to make sure you’re playing by the rules, and following their instructions is a great way to demonstrate your compliance and your trustworthiness as a seller.
Now that’s I’ve given you some broad things to keep in mind about Amazon’s ungating experience, let’s talk about the nitty-gritty: what categories are gated and how to get a product in that category ungated.
Remember how I told you that Amazon restricts the selling of some products based on condition? I’ve put a * next to the categories that only allow “New” products to be sold (so no “Used” or “Refurbished” conditions allowed).
- Amazon Device Accessories
- Automotive & Powersports
- Cell Phone & Accessories
- Collectible Books
- Collectible Coins
- Entertainment Collectibles
- Grocery & Gourmet Food*
- Independent Design*
- Industrial & Scientific
- Major Appliances
- Sports Collectibles
- Video, DVD & Blu-ray
- Amazon Kindle (Used only)
- Baby Products (excluding apparel)*
- Books (New and Used, not Collectible)
- Camera & Photo
- Consumer Electronics (some restrictions)
- Fine Art (limited applications for new sellers)
- Health & Personal Care*
- Home & Garden
- Kindle and Amazon Fire TV Accessories
- Musical Instruments
- Office Products
- Personal Computers
- Pet Supplies
- Software (certain products may be restricted)
- Tools & Home Improvement
- Toys & Games (restrictions for certain times of year - New and Collectible only)*
- Video Games (certain products may be restricted)
This list is current as of this writing, but do check Amazon’s Seller Central for the most complete, up-to-date information!
What You’ll (Likely) Need for the Ungating Process:
The process and requirements vary from category to category, so again, follow the instructions that Amazon provides. Two things you should be prepared to provide in the ungating process are:
- An invoice from your supplier for multiple items (at least 10) in the gated category you wish to sell in. A receipt from a retailer (like Walmart) is NOT an invoice.
- The product ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) on Amazon’s website.
The invoice requirements for ungating tend to change as Amazon responds to fraudulent sellers. However, people have had good results with invoices that is/has:
- A physical copy (NOT an email invoice - your supplier should be able to provide a paper invoice with your order without any trouble). You will need to take a picture or scan it for best results.
- Recent (within the last 90 - 180 days)
- Complete, clear information about the supplier (including business name, address, phone number, email, and website)
- The exact same information about your business as it is listed in your Amazon account (including business name, address, phone number, email, and website)
- Clear information about the product ordered (including the name and quantity)
- At least a quantity of 10 of the item ordered
- The ASIN noted clearly (either handwritten or typed - preferably handwritten) next to the product name
To find the product on Amazon to get the ASIN, lookup the product on Seller Central (Add a product). Basically, you want to make it as clear, complete, and easy for the person reading your application! Also, you don’t necessarily need to have an invoice for the actual product you will be selling on Amazon, just an invoice for products in the category you wish to get ungated. However, I’d recommend going for the actual item you will be sending, so you aren’t wasting money on purchasing random products that you won’t be selling.
Steps for Submitting Your Request for Ungating:
1. In Seller Central, click the inventory link and select Add a Product.
2. Run a search for the item you wish to sell.
3. In the search results, click the Listing limitations apply link across from the item.
4. Click the Request Approval button to begin the application process.
If you want to check on your application status, go to the Add a Product tool and click the Selling application status link (near the top of the page).
So you’ve tried the process above and your request has been denied. You’ve followed the instructions to a “T.” What next? Here are some tips for troubleshooting if you have completed the steps above and still haven’t gotten your product approved/ungated.
- Make their job of ungating your product as easy as possible. As we said before, Amazon’s Seller Services team is large, multi-layered, and full of...people! These people are going through tons of other requests just like yours--or even multiple requests just from you--and it is in your best interest to make the approval process as easy as possible for them. If you’re having trouble getting ungated, as yourself, is my documentation as clear as it could possibly be? Have I really provided everything they’ve asked for? Is it visually easy to read? Do all the addresses and names match exactly? It may seem silly to go back and spell check or labor over every detail, but you really want to eliminate any possible reasons for them to reject your application, no matter how small it may seem. Remember, they want to make sure they’ve done their job as well - if for some reason a shady seller is able to make it past the “gate,” it leaves an undesirable mark on their own record. Just make it easy for them and it will make it easier for you!
- Re-submit your application even if it sounds like the decision to reject your product is final. If you’re sure you’ve done all the proper steps and made everything as clear as possible, and you still get rejected, resubmit! It may take several times--and several different sets of eyes on your request--to get your product ungated. If they give you reasons that you believe you have already accounted for, tell them just that! Again, these are large teams made up of lots of people at Amazon. One person may have just considered your application too hastily, and re-submitting it and getting in front of another person may be your ticket to ungating your product.
- Be mindful of the time of day and day of the week that you submit your request. If you’re still getting rejected, check what time of day you’re applying, and what day of the week it is. Amazon’s core corporate employees generally work standard business hours during the business week, so submitting your request between 7am and 6pm, Monday through Friday will likely place your application in the hands of someone who is well trained to handle your request. Amazon outsources some of its customer service features during off hours, so submitting your request outside of normal business hours may introduce a number of additional factors that could result in the rejection of your request.
- Make sure your seller metrics are good. Again, this whole process is in place so that Amazon can make sure you are providing a good product and good service to its customers. If your seller metrics aren’t steller, that may be the reason you’re getting rejected. If you’re selling through FBA, you don’t have to worry about this aspect. If not, then work on getting your seller metrics up before reapplying.
- Provide an invoice from a domestic supplier. Word on the street is that Amazon rejects a LOT of invoices from suppliers in China. If you’re getting rejected and you’ve done all the steps above and your seller metrics are good, try finding a product domestically and ordering at least 10 of an item from them to get a new invoice to provide. At this point, Amazon does not check invoices past the ungating process, so if you’ve been ordering from a foreign supplier, you may consider simply getting the category ungated and then going from there IF you are confident about the quality of the product you’re sourcing from overseas. Remember, Amazon will always protect the customer, so if you get around the gating process but get complaints about the product you are selling, you could potentially get your account suspended.
There are no guarantees for the ungating process. After ALL this information, you may simply submit your application and BOOM! -- get approved immediately (it has been known to happen!). If you do get push back from Amazon, just keep at it, keep calm, and come back to this post if you need some extra help!