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The impact of Amazon's third-party image policy and how to defend your brand

March 21, 2024
Mike Black
Written By
Mike Black

Brands generally assume they control what content is featured on their PDPs, but thanks to recent changes on Amazon, this is no longer entirely the case. In late January, Amazon notified sellers in hardline categories that they intended to supplement non-compliant listings with images from Amazon or even other third-party (3P) sellers. 


                          Source: Amazon


This shift to a more hands-on approach from Amazon is significant. Hardline brands may need to generate substantial quantities of PDP images to avoid having rogue 3P photos appear in their carousels. Other verticals should follow these changes closely – Amazon could easily expand this program at any time. 


What was the status quo? What changed? 


Amazon asks brands to include at least three PDP images with their listings: one image on a white background, one image with the product in an environment demonstrating a use case, and one image with product specifications such as size & fit. PDPs in hardline categories that don’t include these three types of images are now at risk of being automatically supplemented with 3P images. 

This change will only affect images, not other PDP content – at least for now. But in another recent change, Amazon has enrolled some brands in their AI content creation tool, where AI-generated bullet points will be automatically added to PDPs. Brands can review and reject these suggestions, but the onus is on them to opt-out. 

Whether Amazon will notify brands when 3P images are added to their PDPs is unclear. If no notification is provided, the only way to detect the change would be through digital shelf monitoring tools. 


Why is Amazon making this change? 


Amazon didn’t provide a reason, but this isn’t the first instance of a retailer pulling non-brand images into the PDP carousel. For example, Target adds user-generated images to the end of carousels, after brand-created images, as shown below:




Amanda Wolff, an eCommerce consultant at FirstMovr, believes that Amazon’s goal is to enforce a higher baseline quality of PDPs across verticals:

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How will brands be impacted? 


If Amazon pulls a 3P image into your PDP, there's no guarantee the image will match your brand’s tone or content quality benchmarks, or even that it will accurately represent the product. 

The accuracy of 3P images, in particular, should concern brands from a liability standpoint. If an electronics or automotive brand, for example, fails to upload a PDP image with product specifications, a 3P image featuring incorrect claims about power usage, dimensions or compatibility could be pulled into their PDP. Buyers who operate the product based on that inaccurate information could be at a safety risk. And if this policy is expanded to CPG categories, brands selling health products will need to be extra vigilant about monitoring images for accuracy. 

What about sales impact? This depends on several factors which should become clearer as these changes roll out. For example, will Amazon only pull in high-quality 3P images? Where in the image carousel will they be situated? (Wolff notes that this will impact whether the brand’s selling proposition is adversely affected.) 

Even high-quality, factually accurate 3P images could create a confusing experience for shoppers, potentially leading to negative reviews that could in turn discourage new buyers.


What can brands do now? 


Between 3P images and auto-enrollment in Amazon's AI bullet point tool, brands are at risk of having their PDPs modified by Amazon without their knowledge. At a bare minimum, every brand should have a system to track the content on their PDPs and receive timely alerts about any unauthorized changes. And, to quickly restore affected PDPs, brands need an organized digital content source of truth integrated with a PIM/DAM solution such as Salsify. 

Automated content management tools such as Profitero’s Autopilot will flag PDP changes and attempt to replace them with the content source of truth. However, if the source of truth doesn’t meet Amazon’s content requirements, brands should expect Amazon to continue pulling in 3P images. 

Brands with non-compliant PDPs should allocate or redirect resources to content creation in order to ensure they maintain control of their brand story. With Amazon’s policy change live as of January 31, time is of the essence. Amazon’s mobile view displays the first 6 images (or 7 if the product doesn’t have a video), so Wolff recommends that brands set a minimum target of filling out those image spots for each product. 

Getting to 6 compliant, high-quality images for each product could constitute a significant effort for many brands. David Feinleib, founder and CEO of IT’SRAPID, an AI retail media & PDP content generation solution, helps brands significantly speed up the image creation process. This empowers brands to expand beyond the “80/20 rule” in which they typically focus on high-quality content creation for a few critical SKUs. 

A nice bonus of optimizing content across the assortment is that brands often discover hidden gems in their eComm portfolio. Feinleib has seen firsthand how deprioritized SKUs can quickly climb the bestseller rankings once brands unlock the resources to optimize those overlooked PDPs. 

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For brands confident that their images are strong and compliant but still concerned about Amazon intervening, they could consider raising the topic during Amazon vendor negotiations and discuss gating specific images or ASINs to prevent changes.

A third option for some brands is to observe from the sidelines. If your brand’s PDP quality and compliance are low and you don’t have the resources or buy-in to improve them, you might want to see whether the images Amazon adds to your PDPs are acceptable. Still, because of potential liability concerns from incorrect product claims on 3P images, these brands must systematically monitor their product content to know when those changes occur.


Is a large image creation & optimization push worth the cost? 


If your brand could benefit from more and better PDP images but is hesitant about the investment, think about the cost in relation to how much budget is dedicated to media spend. As Colgate-Palmolive’s Todd Hassenfelt puts it: 

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The takeaway


Whether or not your brand is affected by this change, now is the time to make sure your portfolio’s PDP content is compliant and high-quality. If your team could use guidance on creating impactful digital content, check out this report I co-authored with the Digital Shelf Institute, Defining Content Effectiveness. We conducted some fascinating interviews with digital brand leaders and created a few frameworks that can help your teams focus on efficiently improving content with a focus on driving shopper conversion. 


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