9 January 2018
By Drew Smith
Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Volo and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.
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Selling through Amazon means learning a lot of new information specific to the marketplace platform. To help, we've built this continually updated guide to commonly used terms so that getting through the jungle of content becomes a little easier, and you should find yourself asking "what does [insert acronym here] mean?" just slightly less often.
For more straightforward, up-to-date information, check out our overview of Amazon (for both Vendor and Seller Central).
Amazon Retail / First Party
Amazon's retail arm - whereby Amazon is the seller of record, owning inventory and fulfilling the order. This appears as "Dispatched from and sold by Amazon" on a listing.
Amazon Vendor / Vendor Central
Vendor is Amazon's buying programme. Through Vendor, they place wholesale orders of products from manufacturers and brands in order to sell them through Amazon Retail.
Vendor Central is the online portal where a manufacturer's account with Amazon is managed. From here, businesses manage onsite advertising, content, orders and payments.
Seller Central / Third party
Selling on Amazon as a third party means creating a standard seller account on the marketplace portal - Seller Central.
The business behind the seller account becomes the merchant of record responsible for any transactions through the marketplace. In this model, the third-party business becomes the retailer and manages their own listings, orders from customers, and so on.
ASIN - Amazon Standard Identification Number
Amazon Standard Identification Numbers are the unique identifiers for products in the Amazon catalogue. Each product listing is based on an ASIN, and anyone selling this product will be listed against the same ASIN and therefore the same listing.
The Buy Box is the area at the top of an item listing in Amazon where the product image is shown and the button marked Add to Basket sits. Many item listings on Amazon actually have a range of sellers vying to be the ones whose offer is in this place.
The winner is algorithmically determined based on a number of factors including the seller's track record of performance, Prime eligibility, and price. The idea is to give customers the best value possible at all times. With over 80% of sales coming from the Buy Box, it's clearly essential to own the Buy Box whenever competing with other sellers of the same product.
This image highlights a third-party seller owning the Buy Box for a specific ASIN. If a shopper clicks "Add to Basket", the order will be received by the third-party seller.
In this instance, the third party is using Amazon's "Fulfilled by Amazon" or FBA program - see below.
FBA - Fulfilment by Amazon
FBA or Fulfilment by Amazon is a program by which third party sellers can send consignments of inventory to Amazon Fulfilment Centers, where it is then picked, packed and dispatched to buyers using Amazon's own logistics. The key advantage, besides not having to fulfil individual orders, is that selling via FBA confers Prime status on the listing, which increases the odds of owning the Buy Box.
FBM - Fulfilment by Merchant
Fulfilment by Merchant (FBM) is where third party sellers fulfil orders themselves from their own warehouses. This does not give the seller the Prime badge - but it is still possible to own the Buy Box with FBM offers. The algorithm includes seller metrics in its working, so having strong fulfillment capability is essential to capture the Buy Box.
SFP - Seller Fulfilled Prime
Seller-fulfilled Prime (SFP) is like FBM in that the third party seller still handles the pick and pack, but Amazon's courier will handle last-mile delivery. To be eligible for SFP, the seller must have extremely consistent metrics (more on those later) and fast handling times, in line with the delivery expectations of Prime customers.
AMS - Amazon Marketing Services
Amazon Marketing Services is a suite of marketing and advertising tools available to brands selling through the Amazon Vendor program. Not to be confused with AWS (see below).
AMS offers three types of on-site advertising to Vendor users. Sponsored Products (which is also available to Seller Central users), Headline Display (the same principle as Sponsored Products but ads display above search results) and Product Display, where products are advertised on relevant product detail pages.
Item specifics are product data points used to offer detailed product information to shoppers on the Amazon platform. They are also tied to search results and relevance. For example, shoppers can filter search results by colour, size or brand. To be fully search optimised, product listings need to have complete and detailed product data in the item specifics section.
A9 is Amazon's search engine, which powers all searches on the platform. It's also used by some third-party sites. Debuted in 2004, the technology has been refined constantly, and staying on top of best practices for Amazon search optimisation is essential for success on the platform.
Amazon measures seller performance obsessively, and has guideline targets for all third party businesses to hit when it comes to three key metrics.
Failure to achieve the targets can result in account penalties, suspensions and even removal.
Order Defect Rate refers to the percentage of orders which received any of the following: a negative feedback, an A-to-z Guarantee claim or a service credit card chargeback.
A pre-fulfillment cancellation is any order cancelled prior to shipment confirmation.
A late shipment is any order not marked as shipped by the expected ship date.
Read more here for the official Amazon statement on metrics.
Lightning deals are a subset of "Today's Deals", daily price discounts highlighted on a dedicated page. Today's deals are 24 hour time-limited, whereas Lightning Deals are limited to shorter time periods.
Third party sellers can create Lightning Deals from their Seller Central accounts. Vendor users have no control over Amazon's pricing, promotional or otherwise, of their product.
Amazon Sponsored Products is Amazon's PPC (pay-per-click) advertising program. Adverts appear on listing pages, in search results and elsewhere on site. Just like PPC in search engines like Google, the higher the bid the more likely the ad is to be served. Other factors include conversion and the relevance of the keyword the seller is bidding on to the product listing they're advertising.
AWS - Amazon Web Services
Amazon Web Services is a widely used cloud hosting service. It also happens to be by far the most profitable section of Amazon's business as a whole, posting $1 billion in operating profits in Q3 2017. Effectively, AWS subsidises minimal returns/losses in other business areas.
AWS is a separate business from both Amazon Retail and Amazon Marketplace.
Brand Registry is a service enabled for trademark owners, giving them access to search tools to self-police trademark and intellectual property violations. It also includes more flexibility with regards to product listing information on any ASINs registered to your brand - meaning that the brand has control over the information that appears on the product page (which third party sellers do not have by default.)
Enhanced Brand Content
Available to 3rd party sellers who are Brand Registry users, Enhanced Brand Content allows brands a more sophisticated description on listings. This includes images and offers brands the opportunity to highlight their USPs. Here's an example of what that can look like.
A+ content is similar to Enhanced Brand Content, with the benefits of adding multimedia such as video. However, where Enhanced Brand Content is designed for 3rd party sellers, A+ content is available only to Vendor Central users.
In January 2018, basic A+ content became free to use for Vendors. There are various packages above the free tier depending on the manufacturer's design and requirements.
Amazon Business is the B2B marketplace platform, where business purchasers get the same shopping experience as Amazon's typical B2C customer, but with the benefits of bulk buying.
It's currently free to set up Amazon Business and sellers can offer discounts for bulk purchases, display VAT-exclusive prices, generate automatic VAT invoices and receive payment by invoice.
Automated Pricing / Repricer
Amazon's algorithm is constantly scanning the site and determining who owns the Buy Box, and the situation can change very quickly and very frequently. Repricing enables businesses to earn the Buy Box more of the time, as the automated pricing tool allows them to automatically reduce the price until they own the buy box (within set limits), or raise the price when they own the Buy Box and competitors are out of stock, for example.
A-Z Guarantee & Claims
The A-Z guarantee is provided by Amazon and refers to all purchases through Amazon sites and certain 3rd party sites when paying via Amazon Pay.
It states that Amazon guarantees an item's condition and the timely arrival of the order. Customers can make a claim if a purchase is not as described, or arrives late or not at all. There are various conditions customers must fufil in order to make a claim - Amazon sets them out here.
No, Amazon aren't resuscitating Twitter-owned video-sharing site Vine. Amazon Vine is a review-incentivizing program whereby the "most trusted" reviewers are sent free products to test and review them, sometimes in advance of the product's release.
Vine was set up in response to problems where reviewers could be incentivised with discounts to leave ratings for sellers and products, which threatened to delegitimize the review process.
Flex is Amazon's Uber-esque delivery service where "Delivery Partners" apply, download an app and then are given deliveries to make. The program is controversial as drivers claim they're effectively paid below minimum wage, competition for routes is intense, and drivers are labelled self-employed.
These drivers then deliver orders - these can be Amazon Retail orders, 3rd party orders where the 3rd party is using FBA, or Prime Now orders with 1-2 hour delivery times.
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