This is a topic I’ve written articles on before, although you’ll see none of those attributed to me per my agreement when writing them. Regardless, it is an interesting topic when it comes to the Amazon Marketplace, even if it is a slightly dated.
That topic of course, is 刷单 (Shua Dan), which roughly translates as “Brushing Orders”. The general idea behind the term is the practice of creating orders out of thin air by the stroke of a brush. The idea originated on domestic Chinese marketplaces like Taobao before it eventually migrated internationally to other marketplaces such as Amazon.
Before I get into this process, I want to stop for a second to explain how Amazon works, for the less experienced.
Amazon listings work very much like the search results on Google. When a customer searches a particular keyword, there’s a potential that your product shows up as a result. If a customer not only chooses to view your item, but also purchases the item, this is a notification to Amazon that your product not only matches that keyword, your item sells on that keyword.
It becomes an issue of having the cart before the horse, in the sense that the more successful your item is at selling, the more Amazon pushes your product to potential customers. I’ll eventually write a more detailed article as to more specifically how this all comes together, but this should work as a general idea for now.
The principle idea behind Shua Dan is that you’re creating orders for the products you are selling, so as to trick Amazon into thinking your listing is important. The methodology is in fact very simple and involves the following steps:
- Have a random customer’s shipping address
- Have a fake Amazon buyer account
- Use the fake Amazon buyer account to purchase your own product
- Ship a random cheap product to the address in Step 1
From the customer perspective, if you’ve ever personally received a bunch of random widgets from a seller, this is why. The seller needs to physically send a product to an address in order to provide that shipping confirmation to Amazon.
By controlling the buyer account, the seller can input whatever shipping address they choose, typically this will never change, meaning the “victims” of the Shua Dan campaign will get repeat packages. Some of you may be thinking that getting a constant flow of free items is a good thing, but you may reconsider that once you have piles of random cheap junk that you need to dispose of.
As stated previously, the premise of a Shua Dan campaign is easy enough. However, the reason I said this article is dated is because of the difficulty in successfully running this type of campaign. This is mostly in part due to Amazon’s efforts to prevent this type of behavior from sellers.
Amazon is tracking every single event and action that occurs on their site. Some of these may be a bit obvious to the more technically savvy, but I want to ensure we’re all on the same page.
Amazon is looking at you from the moment you load their site, here are some example metrics:
- Were you already logged in?
- If no, did you type or paste in your password?
- Have you logged in from a similar geolocational IP?
- Have you historically logged into this IP before?
- How far is this IP from your billing address?
- Shipping address?
- How long has it been since your last purchase?
- Have you ever looked at similar items?
- Have you shipped to the same address before?
When considering some of the above examples, you begin to see some of the difficulties that come with running a Shua Dan campaign. The first and most obvious is you can NEVER log into your seller account and fake buyer account from the same computer, let alone IP address. Amazon will track the above and many more metrics and if you’ve ever had the opportunity to look at their backend system, they are constantly trying to connect accounts. Not only as a countermeasure, but they are also linking family members, coworkers, and friends.
Target had figured out the man’s daughter was pregnant through her buying habits before her own father.
There’s an old, but famous story in terms of marketing. It was making the rounds at conventions 6 years ago. The story from the NYT is that Target had successfully figured out the buying habits of women who were getting ready to give birth. They wanted to capture this demographic, so they would start sending marketing materials out to these women.
The father of a teenage daughter was furious when Target sent marketing material meant for pregnant women to his daughter. Target had figured out the man’s daughter was pregnant through her buying habits before her own father.
When the New York Times story on Target’s “success story” broke, it was coveted by every major corporation. Amazon has had 6 years and much more data to refine this type of system.
This really clarifies the picture when considering the necessary resources to not only be able to run a Shua Dan campaign, but how to scale the project.
Not just from the resources required, such as multiple computers or virtual servers, multiple proxies that relate to your buyer accounts, multiple buyer accounts, or even the different payment methods. The precision of never making a mistake is an undertaking that most if not all are incapable of.
I’m aware there are some “solutions” available in the underbelly of the service industry that cater to Amazon sellers. The purpose of this article is not only to educate people on what sellers may be doing, but also to prepare sellers who may decide to go down this path. Know what is required and know what questions to ask. Building an Amazon seller account is not an easy task, if you are willing to take the risk in attempting to Shua Dan for your account, be fully aware of the risks.