Having your brand on Amazon’s Vendor Central platform is exactly the same as any other wholesale relationship with a retail outlet. Or is it?
While some elements of the vendor relationships with Amazon look like they would with brick-and-mortar retailers, there are some differences that actually put more control back into the hands of the brand. Your brand may be surprised to realize that VC is not just a set-it-and-forget-it situation, and that’s a good thing.
If you suspect that your Amazon VC account has been “asleep at the wheel”, there are a few things to look out for to confirm if that’s the case. You can also use these tips to start managing your VC account more actively, and ultimately, drive more sales.
How optimized are your Amazon Marketing Services campaigns?
Vendor Central brands have access to Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) and will want to take advantage of the platform to help promote their listings. If your brand hasn’t even touched AMS then you’ll want to keep reading.
AMS gives brands the ability to create paid advertising campaigns to help promote their product listings. Sponsored Products, Headline Search Ads and Product Display Ads can all be created and managed through this platform. AMS also provides powerful reporting to see how shoppers are finding your products, so you can use that data to create even better campaigns (and product listings).
AMS is a powerful tool that Bobsled recommends all Vendor brands use in some capacity. You can learn more about the platform and ad types in our previous blog post. This should give you a good idea of where to get started on the path to better promoting your product listings on Amazon. There’s no need to be intimidated by AMS, because your brand has total control over all campaigns at all times.
The more sales you can generate through AMS will help improve both the Best Seller Rank and total number of product reviews, which in turn will drive more organic sales (sales generated without any paid advertising). Therefore, at Bobsled Marketing, we recommend brands try and reach the point of diminishing returns with their AMS campaigns; speculating just the right amount on PPC advertising to achieve optimal total results.
Are you using Promotions?
While Amazon determines the selling price of items sold through VC, brands can create promotional offers and bundles to drive awareness and sales.
It’s likely that your company already runs promotions across some sales channels. If there’s an existing offer that’s generated profitable results in the past, you can attempt to replicate that offer on Amazon. For example, if your product sells well in bundles, you can create offer that right on the detail page and make it easy for customers to ‘buy more, save more.
Many brands have had success with Flash Sale-style promotions on websites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Did you know you can run similar short-lived promotions on Amazon, which creates the same sense of urgency? Amazon calls these types of promotions Lightning Deals.
The trade-off with many of Amazon’s Promotions is that they can squeeze profit margins, therefore they may only be suitable for a select subset of your product catalog. If your brand hasn’t tried using any of these tactics, now may be a good time to investigate further.
Are your product listings optimized?
Just like with ranking algorithms on popular search engines, Amazon also has its own ranking algorithm called the A9 which is constantly being tweaked and updated. If you created a product listing months (or even years) ago and haven’t kept track of any updates, you could be missing out on sales because of poor listing optimization.
In this Bobsled blog post you can find some tips on how to build your listings to ensure they are set up for success within the Amazon ecosystem. You’ll want to be as descriptive as possible in your titles and descriptions, without misleading shoppers. You’ll also want to keep track of your sales rank and make periodic improvements to stay ahead.
If you’ve been looking at your product listings and thinking they could use a boost, they probably could. Things like poor quality images, uninspired product copy or limited keyword usage could be hurting your sales, so these things are better dealt with sooner rather than later.
Who is taking care of operational tasks?
Running an Amazon store isn’t all advertising and algorithms. There are also some operational elements that often get neglected. You should be on top of PO (Purchase Order) status compliance, product submission status, case logs, promotion recommendations, reviews, inventory, and reporting.
In some ways, Amazon will do a lot of the work for you, by suggesting opportunities for promotion, items to add to your catalog, and detail page aspects that should be improved upon, such as more images. However, it’s ultimately your responsibility to sift through and implement any recommendations.
Amazon may also charge you a penalty called a chargeback if you fail to meet their compliance standards. You can fight these charges if you believe they have been unfairly given, so you’ll want to watch out for them and assess each situation to determine whether you want to fight the charge or make some operational changes to avoid similar charges in the future. Chargebacks are one way Amazon brings inefficiencies to a brand’s attention, so it’s in the best interests of both parties to fix the issues they highlight.
Does your brand negotiate with Amazon?
Amazon is in the business of helping shoppers find what they want and need. They are also in the business of turning a profit. This means that they are not particularly loyal to any brand and are prone to asking for a better deal from vendors (just like any brick-and-mortar retailer out there).
You, the brand, need to be prepared for Amazon to ask for discounted bulk orders, and then you need to push back! As a vendor, you do not have to simply agree to the terms and prices that Amazon has put forward. You can negotiate, but you need someone that is familiar enough with your brand and how it fits into Amazon’s landscape in order to do that negotiating. Without that person you’ll likely be stuck with whatever price and terms Amazon presents.
Every year Amazon sends updated terms to the vendor. With Amazon's ever advancing technology, they are increasing MDF (Marketing Development Funds) at a higher rate than ever. It will help you in your negotiation tremendously to understand the reasons behind the increase and request a meeting to discuss terms. Leveraging Bobsled’s negotiation tips will help prepare you for for a successful, and mutually beneficial partnership with Amazon.
Are unauthorized resellers beating you to the buy box?
If you’ve just been letting your VC account run itself, then you may not be on the lookout for other sellers promoting and selling your products. If you have authorized third-party resellers selling your products on Amazon, then you probably have this covered.But if you don’t,and another seller is undercutting you or simply promoting their listings first, they could win the buy box without you even knowing it.
Some Vendors are not even aware that certain products they do not wish to be listed on Amazon are being sold by other third-parties. Often times there are issues with the product listing content and price-point of such products, creating serious brand-perception issues.
Considering the sheer volume of loyal Amazon customers, it’s in your best interest to stay on top of unauthorized sellers and authorized resellers that list your products before you do or sell at a sharper price. We’ve developed some tips on how to handle this brand management process.
Is there someone in the driver’s seat?
If your Amazon VC account is suffering from some (or all) of these issues, it could be that no one in particular is in charge of them. If your brand is selling on Amazon through Vendor Central, but no one is really paying attention to what’s going on, you are likely losing out on a lot of potential sales.
In order to get things moving a little better, you’ll need to put someone in the driver’s seat. Someone who understands your brand, product line, and the marketing and operational elements of an Amazon vendor account.
As a start, there are great resources in your Vendor Central account you may not even know exist. Once signed in, under “Help,” you are able to browse various topics for more information and even watch short videos that provide an overview.
In addition, we’ve developed a free Bobsled Marketing Vendor Central training course.