Insights

A Tactical Approach to Managing the Amazon Marketplace

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PART 1: THE QUESTION MOST AMAZON EMPLOYEES HAVE DIFFICULTY ANSWERING

Amazon occupies some serious real estate in the e-commerce world. Every week, we’re hit with stats and articles that reiterate the same message: the marketplace is too big to ignore and too relevant to work around.

Whether you like it or not, you’re playing Amazon’s game. We all are: brands, businesses, manufacturers, and sellers. Because of its reach, interaction and communication are necessities.

Some of you might be wondering what to ask when it comes to your brand or store. The short answer: everything.

Here’s the long answer.

UNDERSTAND THE PLATFORM

When thinking about Amazon as an organization, there are two important points to consider:

1. Amazon is disruptive and innovative by nature.

There’s never been a more disruptive platform that has impacted so many industries and categories. It has changed the game. To use an extreme example, think of Amazon as the Big Bang, a game-changing spark that has given birth to a new universe.

2. Amazon is an enormous organization, made up of hundreds of departments.

Like our own universe, Amazon is constantly expanding. When you’re communicating with Amazon, know that logistically, it would be very challenging for someone in Amazon Marketing Services or Technical Account Management to fully understand the link between their department and Category Merchant Managers, Warehouse Associates, Software Engineers, or Merchant Managers, all of the time. There is simply too much distance between them.

Hang on to these two concepts as we discuss communication with Amazon, how essential and mutually beneficial this is, and what you can do to ask better questions.

HITTING BARRIERS

As a company that partners with brands to proactively manage their presence on the marketplace, our job is to expect (and be prepared for) the unexpected. Part of managing the expectation of constant change is asking questions. Lots and lots and lots of questions. Every day. It’s the only way to stay ahead of the game. Things happen too quickly for us to leave any stones unturned. Working with Amazon is how we get this done.

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that any interaction with Amazon is mutually beneficial to their organization. Just as we’re trying to map the universe and understand how each department is connected, Amazon is trying to do the same thing by working with committed sellers. A very large and significant part of the marketplace is us: sellers, manufacturers, brands, et al. As much as we need their help, they need ours.

When you speak to employees at Amazon, you’ll always deal with passionate, dedicated, intelligent people who do their best. As a company, they’re doing an incredible job of balancing their technology with great employees. In our experience, everyone is doing well to gather as much information from us as we are from them, which makes the interaction challenging on both sides.

Throughout the course of our 10-year relationship with Amazon, there’s only been one question that Amazonians have struggled to answer: why?

Whether you’re addressing a content, marketing, packing, or operations issue, you’ll inevitably end up at a point where you can’t get the next piece of information. At this juncture, do not expect a straight answer. They’ll either say they don’t know, or they can’t tell you. This is an all-too-common refrain through no fault of their own; it’s simply a result of the two points that we highlighted earlier.

This is where the challenge is passed back to us. If you’re hitting a “why” barrier, it’s time to move on to the next department and figure out the connection on your own. It’s also a good sign that you’re on to something important.

To use another analogy, think of Amazon as a mass of information and your questions as search terms. When you hit a dead end, you need to refine your search. This is a dynamic platform that requires perseverance and persistence to get the results you need.

SURVIVAL BY SUCCESS

Like most things in life, you get out of Amazon what you put into it. That’s not a bad thing. It’s up to you (brands, sellers, manufacturers) to map out the “why’s” that you don’t get from individual departments. You have to see changes and trends coming by digging for answers where none exist. That’s how you get in front of their innovative processes and survive by successfully writing your own handbook for managing the marketplace. With over 20 million products available on Amazon Prime alone, there’s a high risk of unengaged brands and sellers fading into the background.