Amazon is called the 800 pound gorilla and an unfeeling machine, but the fact is they are a group of very smart people led by a unique individual with a unique vision. They have changed the world with their passion, technology, and hard work. Working smartly, you too can benefit from this amazing online marketplace. But you must treat Amazon as a customer.
1) Understand your customer: Read articles, stock market filings, Industry analyses to understand the unique nature of their size, scope, and goals. Have clarity on their weaknesses as well. They do not work like any other Bricks and Mortar Retailer you work with. Know where their fulfillment centers are and where new ones will be built.
2) Respect Amazon’s time: Your Vendor Manager (buyer) manages 300+ vendors and has to closely manage their time. The typical VM will prioritize by impact on their business. Don’t expect an immediate response to a question and be prepared to not receive an answer at all if it’s not business critical. Use the Contact Us system for most Amazon correspondence–you’ll get to a solution faster.
3) Speak their language: Amazon isn’t a Bricks & Mortar company. Internally they don’t use terms like “shelving”, “endcaps”, or “flooring out”. Entire concepts that you may use in B&M have no relevance at Amazon. Read up on e-commerce concepts and terminology. Amazon is continually paving the e-commerce highway–the way they speak is the way most big e-commerce websites speak, will speak, or should speak.
4) The customer is always right, until they aren’t: Amazon will teach you about eCommerce if you let them. It’s all about the end Customer. They will constantly work to reduce prices, cut costs, eliminate waste and secure more margin, all the while adding every single competitor you have to the Amazon marketplace. Collaborate with Amazon every chance you get, however ensure that you make decisions that are profitable and benefit your brand in the long run. These decisions can potentially result in you saying “no” to Amazon for good reason. Don’t anguish about saying “no” to Amazon.
5) Be patient: Amazon’s Retail Business Services group handles all of the Contact Us tickets (thousands of them). If the person who processes your ticket can’t action it right away, they will escalate to the appropriate team. Depending on the complexity of the request, some get resolved right away, some take a few days, and some may take a couple weeks. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get an immediate response or resolution. More than likely they are actively working on your request.
6) Don’t take it personally: Amazon isn’t out to get you. They want to sell your products and maintain a positive relationship with your company. However, they abide by a set of constantly-evolving business practices that are applied broadly across entire categories. Your brand is one of thousands affected by any changes and most of their processes are automated.
7) 99% of success is showing up: For all of the automation, technology, “giant mechanized gorilla” aspect of Amazon, the reality is that it is run by people. They eat lunch, worry about their vacation time, have whopping student college loans, and are challenged daily by their managers to do amazing things. JUST LIKE YOU. If you can get their attention, show up in Seattle and meet your Vendor Manager. Listen very hard when they explain how you can be successful. If you can’t show up, consider securing a professional navigator of Amazon to create that connection on your behalf. Woody Allen was right; 99% of success is showing up…in the lobby of Amazon Retail Team’s building called Arizona.