The Importance of Amazon Supply Chain Management 

Inventory issues can tie up your Amazon sales, harm short-term and long-term marketing performance, and erode profitability, all of which makes inventory management a critical piece of a healthy Amazon business.

Kaspien’s supply chain network spans 9 countries across 3 continents and includes access to warehouses, distributors, freight carriers, product prep facilities, and marketplaces. Our logistical infrastructure is supported by data analytics from over billion data points processed daily and machine learning algorithmsOur retail partners benefit from our enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, warehouse management system (WMS), listing tools, and other integrations.

To put it shortly, we know a thing or two about optimizing the Amazon supply chain. In this post, we’ll share a little bit about what goes into managing Amazon logistics successfully.

Managing the Amazon Supply Chain Effectively 

Managing Amazon inventory effectively requires a combination of proactive and reactive strategies, leveraging tools that are directly related and adjacent to supply chain management. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s dive into some of the most important pieces.

Accurate Inventory Forecasting

Accurate inventory forecasting is essential because it protects brands from running out of stock without severely overstocking. Amazon’s fulfillment centers charge storage fees and fulfillment fees. When manufacturers ship too much inventory into FBA centers, inventory stagnates, driving up storage costs that erode profitability. 

When brands send in too little inventory, they run out of stock. In addition to losing sales, out-of-stocks have other implications as well: 

  • Marketing performance suffers. When a product is out-of-stock, product rank deteriorates. Because product rank influences both organic and paid marketing performance, running out of stock harms sales, even after inventory is replenished. 
  • Market share decreases. Shoppers turn to competitors when a product is out of stock. This compounds the impact to product rank, with competitors improving rank while your rank deteriorates. As a result, competitors are well positioned to seize and retain market share. 

At Kaspien, we combine historical data from $1 billion retail sales, proprietary algorithms, and human expertise to ensure optimal inventory coverage.  

Maintain Inventory Control with Distributors 

Too many brands have learned the hard way that allowing anyone to sell their product can erode their brand integrity in both digital and physical spaces. Any seller carrying a brand’s product can list their inventory under the brand’s listing on Amazon. Once in the listing, the seller has free rein over listing content, including text and images. These can lead to inaccurate and low-quality content that tarnishes your hard-earned brand image.  

To protect against this, brands should (re-)negotiate contracts with their distributors that limit to whom they can sell product. By maintaining an active relationship with trusted authorized sellers, brands retain inventory control and through it, control over their brand’s online representation. Brands currently facing difficulties with unauthorized sellers can leverage our price & seller tracking software or take more aggressive steps through unauthorized seller removal. 

Brands should also enroll in Amazon’s Brand Registry program, which grants them access to additional marketing and brand protection tools, including specifying which sellers have approval to edit listing content. 

Prepare Products Compliantly for Amazon’s Fulfillment Centers 

Over 85% of top Amazon sellers use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), and with good reason. Products fulfilled through FBA are able to offer Prime shipping, which can be 2-day, 1-day, or same-day depending on location. Fast shipping speed is one of the most important factors for online shoppers, and FBA provides sellers with the infrastructure to provide it. 

Of course, Amazon’s FBA centers have specific and stringent product preparation requirementsFailing to satisfy these requirements can result in inventory being refused, returned, or repackagedThis is a simple, yet essential step for selling successfully on Amazon. 

If your brand lacks the capability to prep products compliantly, there are many FBA product prep providers able to assist. Kaspien offers such product prep services as well for FBA, WFS, and DTC.  

Keep Inventory Moving 

Amazon marketing is another key ingredient for maintaining healthy inventory. Marketing helps keep inventory moving, which grows sales, minimizes storage fees, and reduces unsellable inventory. Amazon advertising is the go-to tool for driving sales, but Amazon DSPcoupons, and Deals are all exceedingly useful tools for moving large amounts of inventory quickly.  

Remove Unsellable Inventory 

Speaking of unsellable inventory, it’s really not great for your account’s health. Unsellable inventory includes product that has been damaged, expired, or is otherwise unable to be sold. Unsellable inventory is a greater issue for products that are fragile, seasonal, or have a short shelf life.  

To maintain inventory health and reduce storage fees, it’s best practice to proactively remove unsellable inventory. When an inventory removal order is requested, Amazon processes and ships the specified inventory within 14 business days, though this can extend to 30 business days during peak shopping seasons. 

These practices are reactionary. Leveraging previously mentioned tools, like inventory forecasting and Amazon marketing, can greatly help to minimize unsellable inventory in the first place. 

Amazon has penalized sellers for exploiting removal orders to send product to customers and influencers. Penalties include accounts being blocked from requesting removals in the future and even account suspensions. 

Identify Inventory Reconciliation Cases 

Amazon’s fulfillment centers regularly mishandle inventory without reimbursing sellers. While Amazon catches many of these errors and automatically reimburses sellers, they don’t catch all of them. Sellers who don’t want to lose money unfairly to Amazon’s mistakes have to manually identify and file inventory reconciliation cases. 

You may think these errors are few and far between, but they quickly add up. On average, our inventory reconciliation softwareChannel Auditor, reimburses FBA sellers 2% of topline channel sales. Especially for sellers moving a large inventory, 2% of topline sales is no small figure.  

As such, inventory reconciliation for FBA is absolutely essential for sellers looking to maximize their Amazon channel profitability and optimize their inventory management. 

Diversify Fulfillment Solutions 

We’ve talked a great deal about FBA so far, but another critical piece of managing inventory effectively is having supplementary fulfillment solutions.  

In early 2020, thousands of sellers were caught off guard when FBA buckled under the strain of the surge in online sales. Amazon restricted non-essential categories from shipping inventory into FBA, and the great titan Amazon was proven to not be indominable.  

Sellers learned then the importance of having other fulfillment solutions. Those capable of fulfilling orders through Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) or dropship were able to continue to meet consumer demand, while those who depended entirely on FBA were scrambling to find new solutions. 

Similarly, sellers who use “just-in-time” inventory were also put at risk. While the practice minimizes fees and thereby maximizes profits, it left such sellers exceedingly vulnerable in what proved to be a surprisingly fragile supply chain. Holding larger storage volumes would have helped shield them from the worst of the disruption, as would having back-up fulfillment solutions. 

Diversification is a long-proven tactic for risk mitigation, and it applies just as readily to ecommerce fulfillment as anywhere else. 

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Amazon is never idle, but after a global pandemic, the ecommerce leviathan is experiencing one of its most intense growth phases yet.  

Snapshot: The State of Amazon 

  • 38% Growth 
    in annual net sales 
  • 66% Growth 
    in annual advertising revenue 
  • 1.3M 
    sellers joined Amazon in 2020 
  • 19 Countries  
    with Amazon marketplaces 
  • $3 Billion  
    invested in Amazon brand acquirers as of March 2021 
  • “S-Team” Changes 
    Jeff Bezos, Jeff Wilke, and Jeff Blackburn exit their roles 

Like what you’re seeing? Download the complete State of Amazon: 2021 Report. 

Key Updates from 2020 

Amazon Sales Soar  

Ecommerce sales reached between 14% and 21% penetration of all retail sales in 2020. US ecommerce sales grew to nearly $800 billion in 2020, accelerating ecommerce growth by over 2 years. 

Amazon was a major winner in this ecommerce growth, reporting annual net sales of $386.1 billion in 2020. Amazon’s annual net sales grew 38% year-on-year, a massive figure for a company of Amazon’s size.  

As the ecommerce titan grows, having a brand presence on Amazon is becoming less of an option and more of a necessity for brands who want to remain competitive.  

Amazon’s Competitors Ride the 2020 Wave 

Amazon’s fulfillment issues in late spring and early summer allowed competitors to secure a stronger foothold in the space, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down. WalmartTargetShopify, and more posted double-digit and triple-digit growth in 2020. Amazon still dwarfs all of its domestic ecommerce competitors, but 2021 may present the greatest challenge to its dominance seen in the last decade. 

In a survey, Kaspien found that 43% of respondents ranked Target.com as the online marketplace that they are most interested in expanding to within the next 1-2 years, followed by Walmart at 41%.  

Read our breakdown: Walmart vs Amazon 

Walmart vs Amazon: How the two companies compare

Amazon’s Share of Ecommerce Shrinks? 

Competitors’ success may have eroded Amazon’s market share in US ecommerce. According to Digital Commerce 360, Amazon’s market share diminished from 44% in 2019 to 31% in 2020. However, eMarketer reports contradicting numbers, estimating Amazon’s market share grew from 37% in 2019 to 39% in 2020. 

Whatever the reality, Amazon’s subscription service retains a comfortable lead ahead of competitors’ subscription services. A January survey by PYMNTS shows that 64% of respondents have Prime memberships, while only 21% have Walmart+ memberships. 

Amazon is irrefutably the dominant marketplace in the US, but the reduction in market share indicates that other online marketplaces are gaining steam. Brands would be wise to plan for an omnichannel approach to ecommerce for the coming years. 

Amazon Facing Antitrust Scrutiny 

Even before the global pandemic, Amazon was facing increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies. On March 2, 2020, the SHOP SAFE Act was introduced to Congress and referred to the US House Committee on the Judiciary. The act would hold Amazon and other online marketplaces accountable for counterfeits sold on their platforms.  

Jeff Bezos also testified before Congress in July of 2020, and Amazon submitted written answers to follow-up questions in September. In October, the committee published a 450-page report with their findings from a 16–month antitrust investigation recommending antitrust actions be taken. 2021 may see some of those actions introduced to Congress.  

Jeff Bezos Passes the Reins 

In addition to potential legislation, the year will also witness several major changes in Amazon leadership. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos stated that he will step down from his role to become the Executive Chair in Q3 2021. He will be replaced by Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Jassy has been with Amazon since 1997. 

Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, also announced he would retire in Q1 2021. Wilke was replaced by Dave Clark, who has a background in operations. A third Jeff on Amazon’s senior leadership team announced his departure in February 2021. Jeff Blackburn, who served at Amazon for over 20 years, is leaving the company.  

As reported by Geekwire, Blackburn’s and Wilke’s departures will enable new CEO Andy Jassy to reshape more of the Amazon leadership team. 

Third-Party Seller Services Grow 

These changes in senior leadership suggest that Amazon will shift its focus to expanding and improving its platform instead of growing its direct retail relationships with brands. Expanding its platform would increase its value proposition for third-party sellers and advertisers operating on its marketplace, which generated $300 billion of Amazon’s $490 billion GMV in 2020, according to Marketplace Pulse 

If this is the case, all but the largest brands will be expected to sell on Amazon as their own seller or through third-party sellers. This shift has been trending for some time, with third-party seller services growing 57% year-on-year in 2020. 

Amazon also acquired a Shopify competitor called Selz in January 2021. Like Shopify, Selz serves as a central hub through which sellers can manage multiple ecommerce sales channels. Amazon’s acquisition of Selz, especially after Shopify’s stellar performance in 2020, demonstrates Amazon’s continued investment in enabling brands to represent themselves on the marketplace. 

Interested in the Unabridged Report?

Download the complete State of Amazon: 2021 Report!

Amazon Expands Advertising Services 

Amazon’s advertising revenue has been one of its fastest growing segments for the last several years. In just Q4 2020, ad revenue grew 64% year-on-year, reaching $7.95 billion! Amazon also continually expands its advertising capabilities, releasing new features and ad types to Seller Central in recent years. 

Brand Acquirers Raise $3 Billion 

Over $1 billion were invested in companies focused on buying and growing brands on Amazon in 2020. By March 2021, total funding in this space was over $3 billion. Thrasio, Perch, and Heyday practically became household names in the ecommerce industry. Taliesen Hollywood, founder of Hahnbecktold Digital Commerce 360 that brand acquirers typically pay 2.5 to 4.5 times a brand’s EBITDA. 

Consolidation is a natural part of business lifecycle in emerging industries, and it seems Amazon has finally reached that stage. The impact of brand acquirers is yet to be seen. How many will be able to successfully grow brands? Will their immense funding translate into brands becoming share leaders? How many will flounder? 

International Marketplaces 

Amazon’s international net sales grew to $104 billion in 2020, up from $75 billion in 2019. Amazon currently has 19 active marketplaces, having launched Amazon Netherlands and Amazon Sweden in 2020 and Amazon Poland in 2021. Latin America also drew much attention, growing ecommerce sales by 37% in 2020. However, the biggest winner in the region has been the online marketplace MercadoLibreaccording to Euromonitor. 

Amazon advertising also saw strong growth in international marketplaces. In 2020, Kaspien drove strong year-on-year growth in advertising sales in multiple marketplaces, including:

  • US: 55% increase YOY  
  • CA: 201% increase YOY
  • UK: 1,434% increase YOY

Winning Categories 

Certain product categories saw particularly strong sales growth in 2020 as the global pandemic influenced buying decisions. Online grocery sales soared, with eMarketer reporting 2020 sales reached $89.22 billion, an increase of $30.86 billion.  

Online grocery sales are expected to continue to climb, with estimates predicting online grocery sales will reach nearly $130 billion by 2023, accounting for nearly 10% of total grocery sales in the US. Euromonitor forecasts higher growth than eMarketer, predicting that food and drink ecommerce will expand by 8% in 2021. 

Kaspien also saw other categories benefit from the wild year. In particular, Pet Supplies, Sports & Outdoors, and Toys & Games each grew substantially. All of these categories involve entertainment and recreation, suggesting shoppers looked for respite from an exhausting year. 

Download the Complete State of Amazon Report 

We’ve only scratched the surface. Download our State of Amazon: 2021 Report to learn about other significant changes in 2020, as well as insights into what 2021 will bring. 


Kaspien Now Selling on Target Plus Marketplace

We are excited to announce that we are active on Target.com! Kaspien is one of the only third-party sellers currently approved to sell on Target.com. We are selling on Target.com as Target Plus partner. 

“The average revenue per listing on Target.com during Q4 2020 was 9x what we saw on Walmart’s marketplace.” 

What is Target Plus? 

Target Plus is a third-party company that sells and ships items directly to customers through Target.com and Target’s apps. 

Target launched the Target Plus Partner program in 2019 to thoughtfully expand their product offerings in popular categories, like home, toys, electronics, and sporting goods. Unlike other marketplaces, Target hand-picks the sellers and brands, rather than allowing any seller to list products on Target.com 

As a result, “Targets’s invite-only marketplace has less than 300 sellers, despite traffic on the website growing more than 50% last year,” according to Marketplace Pulse. Subsequentlybrands selling via approved Target Plus partners like Kaspien experience virtually no competition on this fast-growing marketplace.  

Promising Results from the Target Marketplace 

We were invited to the selective program in early 2020, and we’ve worked closely with Target Plus to confirm the brands and products approved to sell on Target.comWe have been taking a strategic approach, carefully testing each approved category for opportunities. We currently represent four brands that span 30 product listings in the baby, pets, sports and toys categories. 

“I’m extremely excited about what the initial results we’re seeing on Target.com means for our brands,” said Megan Lauterbach, General Manager of Retail at Kaspien. The average revenue per listing on Target.com during Q4 2020 was 9x what we saw on Walmart’s marketplace, an early indicator that Target will be a very meaningful platform for eligible brands in 2021. As we continue to ramp up our Target.com efforts, we have many brands that have expressed interest, and I look forward to continuing to strategically expand our catalog in partnership with Target’s product selection team.” 

As eCommerce continues to grow, so does the need for brands to diversify the platforms on which they sell. 

How to Sell on the Target Marketplace 

Because Target Plus is a gated platformpartnering with approved sellers like Kaspien is one of the most direct routes to sell products on the marketplace. In addition to gaining access to the marketplace, brands also benefit from Kaspien’s easy fulfillment solutions and marketing expertise.  

When selling products on Target Plus through Kaspien, brands ship their labeled inventory into our third-party logistics network, which packages and ships the products as orders come in. We handle all customer returns. 

We also draw on our 13 years of marketplace experience to adapt proven marketing tactics for the Target marketplace For every Target.com listing, we implement optimized listing titles and content, upload a variety of images to showcase the item, and promptly respond to shopper questions.  

Any brands that are interested in partnering with Kaspien to sell on Target.com should reach out here. However, due to Target Plus’s category restrictions and stringent requirements, brands should understand that it is only possible to onboard Target-approved products onto Target.com. 

Read the press release here.

Amazon Agency vs Amazon Retail

Expansion into Ecommerce has Accelerated 

Before 2020, ecommerce had been steadily growing its share of all retail. But when the coronavirus hit and countries around the world issues stay-at-home orders, it forced consumers and businesses to turn to online sales channels in numbers never seen before. As a result, we’ve seen an acceleration in brand and consumer adoption of ecommerce.

Road Bumps Along the Way 

But, 2020 also saw brands face many hurdles on online marketplaces. Amazon struggled to keep pace with the surge in purchases, and they had to restrict which types of products they would accept into their fulfillment centers for a time. Amazon’s first-party (1P) division, Amazon Retail, and third-party sellers (3Ps) alike struggled to remain in stock as supply lines locked down, manufacturing was interrupted, and consumer demand skyrocketed for products well outside of their typical peak season.  

Charting a New Course 

After the turbulence of 2020, many brands are reconsidering their approach to ecommerce. To help brands make an informed decision, we’ve put together a list of the key factors that brands should consider when deciding if they should work with an Amazon retailer (1P or a 3P) or transition to working with an Amazon agency.

Should You Work with an Amazon Retailer? 

Now that we’ve covered the primary options, let’s dig into key factors for making a decision about working with an Amazon retailer, an Amazon agency, or transitioning from one to another. 

What is an Amazon Retailer? 

Starting from the top, when a brand partners with a retailer, the retailer buys product from the brand at wholesale prices, then sells it for retail prices on Amazon.  

The brand’s profits are payment for their product, minus the cost of manufacturing. The retailer’s profit is the consumer’s payment for the product, minus the wholesale expenses and channel management costs, which includes things like shipping, storage, fulfillment, commission, and marketing fees. 

When it comes to Amazon, brands that sell through a retailer can partner with Amazon directly (first-party or 1P) or with a third-party seller (3P). Learn about their key differences in our blog post, Amazon 1P vs 3P. 

Many brands choose to sell through a retailer because it provides cash up front, and the brand doesn’t have to get involved in the hassle of actively managing an Amazon channel. 

Pros of an Amazon Retailer 

Let’s start with the pros for partnering with an Amazon retailer (1P or 3P): 

  • Paid upfront via a retailer’s purchase order, which can be useful for funding manufacturing costs 
  • Not responsible for managing consumer-facing sales channel (fewer infrastructure costs) 
  • They handle online sales tax 
  • They are already registered for international value-added taxes (VAT), making international expansion much faster 
  • They provide the expertise and resources  
  • Perhaps the simplest way to start selling on Amazon 

Cons of an Amazon Retailer 

Now for the potential cons of working with an Amazon retailer (1P or 3P): 

  • Limited control over your brand’s representation online 
  • Limited control over product pricing 
  • Limited visibility into channel performance 

It’s worth noting that some of the cons of working with a retailer can be mitigated by partnering with a trustworthy partner. If you’re interested in this business model but concerned about the cons, seek out a retailer that’s committed to building a healthy relationship with your brand. 

Costs of an Amazon Retailer 

As mentioned, in a retail model, the retailer pays the brand for their product. However, retailers may ask for various discounts from the brand so they can pay the numerous Amazon fees (commission, shipping fees, tiered storage fees, and fulfillment fees) while still having some margin left over to generate revenue for themselves.   

Making a Decision 

Work with an Amazon retailer if: 

  • You want to focus on the manufacturing and brick and mortar side of your business, while they handle taking your products to market 
  • You don’t want to be responsible for paying shipping, storage, fulfillment, and commission fees 
  • Your business’s cashflow model relies on large purchase order payments 
  • You want to expand sooner rather than later into foreign markets 

Should You Work with an Amazon Agency? 

If you’re not interested in starting with a retailer or you’re working with a retailer and want to take more ownership of your Amazon channel, you may consider working with an Amazon agency. 

What Value does an Amazon Agency Add? 

Now, let’s say a brand doesn’t want someone else representing them on Amazon; they want to sell their products themselves. That’s an increasingly popular decision, and one that we’ve seen more and more brands transition to in recent years.  

However, there’s a challenge in representing yourself. Managing an Amazon channel requires three things that can be hard to come by: 

  1. Personnel: You need bodies dedicated to managing your Amazon channel. If you’re using existing personnel, what projects are you pulling them off of? If hiring new personnel, you need the budget for salaries and benefits. 
  2. Expertise: At over 25 years old now, Amazon is a mature marketplace that requires complete attention. With millions of sellers on the platform, you must enter the platform with a strong understanding of the landscape and strategies if you want to succeed. 
  3. Time: If you manage your brick-and-mortar relationships, do you have time to also manage your ecommerce relationships (and critically, keep the two in balance so that one relationship doesn’t sour the other)? 

 

If you lack in any of the above, then you may need outside help to fill in the gaps. That’s where Amazon agencies come in.  

What is an Amazon Agency? 

Amazon agencies can typically offer services in two ways: complete Amazon management or selected services. The former means that they provide everything needed to run every aspect of your Amazon channel. The latter means they provide only a handful of services that you specifically need help with, such as managing your Amazon advertising campaigns, while you handle the rest. 

Pros of an Amazon Agency 

Pros for partnering with an Amazon agency: 

  • More control over your brand’s representation online 
  • More control over product pricing 
  • Increased visibility into channel performance 
  • Your profit margin may exceed that of a retail model 
  • They provide the expertise and resources 

Cons of an Amazon Agency 

Cons for partnering with an Amazon agency: 

  • You’re paying the agency instead of having a retailer pay you 
  • You may be responsible for inventory and supply chain management (some agencies offer this service, but not all) 
  • Since you are selling through your own Seller Account, you are responsible for collecting and remitting online sales taxes 
  • You’re also responsible for VAT in international markets, slowing your ability to expand internationally 

When determining if you’re willing to pay for an agency’s help, think of it as an investment. If you pick the right investment, it may set you back at the start, but soon, it will pay for itself and then some. 

 

Costs of an Amazon Agency 

In an agency model, the brand pays for all the Amazon fees themselves (commission, shipping, storage, fulfillment, marketing), but you have more margin to work with. Because the brand holds the inventory risk in an agency partnership, the agency fee can be significantly lower than the retailer’s margin. The agency then collects either a monthly retainer or a commission. 

Making a Decision 

Either start by working with an Amazon agency or transition to one if: 

  • You want more control of your brand’s representation online 
  • You want a greater share of product margin 
  • You need additional personnel, expertise, time, or resources to effectively manage your Amazon channel 
  • Your budget allows for you to pay a retainer or commission  
  • Your business’s cashflow model can adapt to using revenue from end-consumer sales 

Should You Sell Yourself (Direct to Consumer)? 

If you want to represent your brand yourself on Amazon and you have the personnel, expertise, time, and resources to do so, then you don’t need to partner with a retailer or an agency.  

This route is the end goal for many brands, but it has by far the most and greatest requirements. As such, we often see brands start in retail or agency partnerships, then transition toward selling themselves.  

In this post, we’re focused on comparing working with a retailer to working with an agency, but you can learn more about a Direct-to-Consumer model in this blog post. 

 

Amazon Retailer vs Amazon Agency: Which is Better? 

The annoying but honest answer is that it depends.   

Retail is generally the better choice for brands that need immediate cash flow to fund their manufacturing. Working with a retailer also simplifies domestic and international taxes, as brands do not need to deal with VAT or sales tax when selling online through a retailer; the retailer handles it for them. This also enables brands to expand into foreign markets quicker, since the legal infrastructure is already in place. 

Agency is generally the better choice for manufacturers with tight margins, want larger margins, and/or want more ownership over their brand’s presence in online marketplaces. 

Service That Grows with You 

Kaspien holds a unique position in brand services for online marketplaces, as we’re able to serve brands in both capacities: We can be a brand’s Amazon retailer, Amazon agency, or help them migrate from one to the other. Through our platform, brands can continue building upon the same foundation of data, products, services, and solutions, no matter how their ecommerce needs evolve. 

Related Content 

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Dropshipping Business for Amazon

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, you may have been hearing more about Amazon dropshipping, and for good reasonWhen the pandemic hit the US and shelter in place orders went into effect, several things happened in quick succession: 

  • Online purchases surged as shoppers turned to ecommerce instead of brick and mortar stores 
  • Some product categories experienced out-of-season sales peaks, resulting in out-of-stocks 
  • Amazon’s fulfillment centers buckled under the strain of new orders, and to recover their footing, they restricted inbound shipments 

As a result of the out-of-stocks, brands needed to ship more goods into Amazon’s fulfillment centers so they could resume selling to Amazon shoppers, but Amazon’s category restrictions prevented them from doing so quickly enough. 

That’s when many brands and sellers discovered the enormous benefits of Amazon dropshipping. 

What does an Amazon Dropshipping Business Look Like? 

Dropship is a selling and fulfillment model wherein a brand acts as the manufacturer, fulfillment provider, and potentially also the seller. It can be a key component in creating a dynamic fulfillment network. Let’s take a look at the most common dropship approach vs. the fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) model: 

Dropship Model 

  1. Manufacturer and seller agree to dropship together, which involves creating an EDI connection between their inventory management and warehouse systems 
  2. Seller lists product on marketplace 
  3. Shopper orders product and seller is paid 
  4. Seller places order with manufacturer and manufacturer is paid 
  5. Manufacturer ships product from their warehouse directly to the shopper 

 

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Model 

  1. Manufacturer and seller agree to FBA together 
  2. Manufacturer is paid as seller places a purchase order, then manufacturer ships inventory into Amazon fulfillment center 
  3. Seller lists product on marketplace 
  4. Shopper orders product and seller is paid 
  5. Amazon fulfillment center ships the product to the shopper 

 

TL;DR: Dropship differs from FBA in two significant areas: when sellers and manufacturers are paid and who provides fulfillment services. In FBA, the seller pays the manufacturer upfront via a purchase order. FBA also requires inventory to be on-hand in the Amazon fulfillment center before consumers can buy the product. Dropship does not require this. Instead, manufacturers double as fulfillment centers. 

Pros and Cons of Dropshipping on Amazon 

Pros of Amazon Dropshipping 

1) Expand catalog selection.
Through dropship, brands can list products on Amazon for which sellers won’t place a product order. For example, if a brand wishes to offer a large product selection, but a seller cannot justify buying a large volume of product due to slow sales velocity, dropship enables sellers to still list those slow-moving products without taking on inventory risk. Then, if products perform well in dropship, they can be migrated to FBA.  

2) Easier prep requirements. 
Because inventory is not shipped into Amazon fulfillment centers, brands do not have to meet Amazon’s strict product preparation requirements. This eases the burden on brands and opens the door to sell products on Amazon that exceed Amazon’s FBA size or weight thresholds. 

3) Mitigates FBA-dependency.
As mentioned previouslydropship provides a degree of agility and resilience to a brand’s fulfillment strategy. If they have a dropship infrastructure already established, sellers can respond quickly to unexpected consumer demand since brands don’t have to send inventory to Amazon first or be limited by Amazon’s inventory restrictions. 

Cons of Amazon Dropshipping

1) Shipping speed depends on you.
Dropship sellers are not guaranteed a Prime badge or 2-day shipping on Amazon because the manufacturer is fulfilling orders. This can result in fewer sales, especially if you’re operating in a saturated category, as consumers are more likely to purchase products with 2-day shipping than products without.  

2) You handle customer service.
In dropship, brands are responsible for promptly shipping out orders, processing returns, and addressing customer inquiries. This requires committing additional resources, not the least of which are time and personnel. 

3) Requires constant maintenance.
Dropship on Amazon requires an always up-to-date connection between the manufacturer’s warehouse and the marketplace listing. If the brand is working with a seller, this means that the seller’s inventory system must be in sync with the manufacturer’s inventory system. Being in sync involves connecting technology, but also that manual inputs are being maintained. If this is not done, it can result in out-of-stocksharming sales velocity and creates a poor customer experience. 

When Should You Dropship on Amazon? 

Amazon Dropshipping is generally seen as an excellent backup to FBA because FBA offers so many benefits for brands, sellers, and consumers. However, we saw dropship become a massive asset in March 2020, when Amazon’s fulfillment centers ran out of stock of essentials. Through dropship, we were able to help our partners continue fulfilling orders even when they were restricted from replenishing inventory levels, resulting in a 3.25x increased in Amazon orders year-over-year 

In short, dropship is an excellent safety net and a great way to expand your product selection on Amazon as your grow your channel. If you’re looking for someone to help in your Amazon dropshipping efforts, check out our dropshipping services. If you’re interested in learning about other fulfillment options for ecommerce, check out our post, Walmart Fulfillment Services vs Amazon FBA.

On September 8th, Amazon announced updates to its communications policyThe update clarifies what buyer-selling communication is permitted by Amazon’s policies, something that was previously ambiguous at best. The update is intended to reduce the number and improve the quality of emails Amazon shoppers receive in the interest of improving the Amazon buying experience. 

Biggest Takeaways: 

  • Sellers can ask buyers for product reviews and/or seller feedback (although you still cannot ask for a positive review, only an honest review) 
  • Amazon clarified what message types, content, and formatting are not permitted 
  • The policy update applies to all Amazon marketplaces 
  • The updated policies go into effect on November 3, 2020 

Communications Updates 

Permitted Buyer-Seller Communications 

Sellers are permitted to communicate with buyers for the following three reasons: 

  1. If an order cannot be shipped or if it will be delayed. This must be communicated via Seller Central using the Manage Orders feature. 
  2. If additional information is needed to complete a return or if the seller is offering a partial refund. This must be communicated via Seller Central using the Manage Orders feature. 
  3. Communicate with buyers proactively (communication initiated by the seller instead of the buyer) to: 
    1. Resolve an order fulfillment issue  
    2. Request additional information required to complete the order 
    3. Ask a return-related question 
    4. Send an invoice 
    5. Request product review and/or seller feedback 
    6. Schedule the delivery of a heavy or bulky item 
    7. Schedule a Home Services appointment 
    8. Verify a custom design 
    9. Any other reason where the contact is required for the buyer to receive their purchase 

 

Proactive messages may be sent using email, Amazon’s templates in Seller Central, third-party applications, or via API. These messages must be sent within 30 days of order completion, include the 17-digit order ID, and be in the buyer’s preferred language. Amazon retains the authority to modify subject lines as it deems necessary.  

Learn more about how customer reviews impact Amazon sales or how to generate new customer reviews compliantly. 

Forbidden Message Types 

Amazon’s policy update states that sellers may not send the following message types to buyers: 

  1. Order or shipping confirmations 
  2. Messages that say only “Thank you” or that you are here to help if buyers have any problems  
  3. Marketing or promotional messaging, including coupons  
  4. Language that either incentivizes or persuades the buyer to submit positive product reviews or seller feedback, including by offering compensation, money, gift cards, free or discounted products, refunds, rebates or reimbursements, or future benefits  
  5. Language that requests removal or an update of an existing product review  
  6. Language that requests a product review only if they have had a positive experience with the product 
  7. A repeat request (per order) for a product review or seller feedback 

 

Forbidden Message Features 

Seller-buyer communications must not contain any of the following: 

  1. External links unless they are secure working links (https, not http) necessary for order completion or links to Amazon  
  2. Attachments except for product instructions, warranty information, or invoices  
  3. Logos, if they contain or display a link to your website  
  4. Link to opt-out of messaging  
  5. Sensitive content in images or text (e.g. bare skin, violence/gore, adult/offensive language)  
  6. Tracking pixels or images  
  7. Email addresses or telephone numbers  
  8. Images of purchased products as Amazon includes those on your behalf  
  9. Images that do not relate to your brand or company 

 

Forbidden Message Styling 

Likewise, the policy update also forbids seller communications from containing any of the following: 

  1. Accessibility issues as specified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative  
  2. Emojis  
  3. GIFs  
  4. Message margins over 20% max width  
  5. Image or graphic sizes larger than 80% max width  
  6. Overrides of Amazon’s default line height, font family, or font color  
  7. Fonts in more than three sizes  
  8. Message bodies that are centered or that otherwise override default text alignment settings  
  9. More than two line-breaks (spacing between paragraphs) in a row  
  10. Unsecure images (http instead of https)  
  11. Spelling errors or grammar issues 

 

Compliance Required by November 3, 2020 

Sellers that fail to comply with Amazon’s updated guidelines by November 3rd may face temporary restrictions in proactive seller-buyer communication or a suspension of their seller account. 

etailz rebrands to Kaspien

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we have rebranded from “etailz” to “Kaspien. Our parent company, Trans World Entertainment, has also rebranded to Kaspien Holdings, consolidating the two brands into Kaspien.  

Even more important than streamlining the corporate structure, this rebrand also reflects the next era of our journey. Our company has been evolving ever since our founding in 2008. We grew from a niche third-party seller of eco-friendly products into a top FBA retailer, created proprietary software for our internal teams that are now SaaS products, and launched an agency division to manage brands’ marketplace channelsWe were creating fantastic tools but realized that we were limiting their potential and efficacy by only leveraging them for internal needs.   

When Kunal Chopra joined the company as our new CEO in September 2019, he brought a new vision, one that harnessed all the different components we had built, expanded them, and brought them together in a unified, cohesive system. 

Guided by a strong executive team, we underwent a metamorphosis, evolving from a top Amazon third-party retailer to a robust platform of ecommerce services and software. Through the platform model, we now provide leading services, software, and strategy for all aspects of an online business, regardless of what, where, or how a brand chooses to sell.  

Why is etailz Rebranding?  

In short, we outgrew our old name. 

“Kaspien is in a different place in the market than we were 1 year ago, much less 10 years ago,” said CEO Kunal Chopra. Today, there are thousands of third-party sellers, agencies, and software providers offering brand services for online marketplaces. It’s a fragmented market. As etailz, we were one of those fragments. As Kaspien, we are defragmenting the market, pulling together all the services, tools, data, and integrations brands need to succeed on ecommerce under one roofWe’re a onestop shop. 

“By defragmenting the market, we enable brands to grow and evolve without having to change systems. Through Kaspienbrands can continue building upon the same strong foundation of insights, results, products, services, and committed relationships no matter how their ecommerce needs change, Chopra said. 

etailz’s name was synonymous with third-party retail, and after 12 years of experience, weve become exceptionally effective at it. Our success was built upon our software and strategies, and these tools have now become the core of our platform as we know it today. While we’re still a third-party retailer, it’s only one of many parts. As Kaspien, everything we’ve developed to drive our past success is now available in flexible models to suit your business’s needs.  

Listen to our CEO, VP of HR, and Creative Director discuss our rebrand to Kaspien on our podcast 

 

What does Kaspien Mean? 

The Name 

The name “Kaspien was inspired by the Caspian Sea, the largest inland sea in the world. Like many waterways, ita hub of commerce. There is also debate whether it’s a lake or a sea; it’s more than it appears to be, and so are we.  

Unlike a traditional retailer, we operate in three sectors – as a retailer, agency, and a software provider – and we wanted a name that can grow with us in the future. Kaspien does this. 

The Logo 

The logo utilizes an abstract ‘K’ as a graphic element. The negative space subtly incorporates a forward pointing arrowrepresenting forward thinking, innovation, and leadership – traits that etailz was founded upon and Kaspien will continue to embodyThe hexagon behind the ‘K’ is inspired by patterns prevalent in nature due to the hexagon’s efficiency, from bees’ honeycombs to the Giant’s Causeway. Our value proposition is rooted in maximizing efficiency, and Kaspien’s logo is an homage to this. 

The Future of Kaspien 

We’re as committed as ever to being “partner obsessed” and providing the best possible service for our partners. That mission and promise will never change. 

We’ll continue expanding our services and software through internal development, integrations, and partnerships, unlocking greater efficiencies and performance. It’s an exciting time at Kaspien, and our partners will reap the benefits. 

We’re thankful for all that we have learned over the last 12 years and to the etailz name for getting us here. Now, we’re excited for our bright future – together – as Kaspien. 

Never Miss a Beat with Kaspien

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Originally published in the Forbes Technology Council. Read the article here.

Despite its incredible growth and undeniable popularity with consumers, I’ve noticed that some brands are hesitant or even outright opposed to the idea of selling their products on Amazon. With major brands like Birkenstocks and Nike having pulled their products off Amazon, these brand owners have reason to feel even more justified in their feelings.

Truth be told, there are likely good reasons for Nike and Birkenstocks to have withdrawn from Amazon, but these brands are the exception to the norm (not to mention the fact that they already had established large and loyal followings before joining Amazon). However, in my experience as a general manager at Amazon and now CEO of a company that helps brands sell online, the overwhelming majority of brands I’ve worked with have seen tremendous benefits from expanding their brand onto Amazon.

So, today, I’m sharing a list of reasons your brand probably should begin selling on Amazon, even if you’re not over the moon about it.

1. If You Don’t, Someone Else Will

Let’s start with the risks of not taking your brand to Amazon. Amazon is an ungated marketplace, which means nearly anyone can create a seller account and begin selling products on the platform. Between retail arbitrage, counterfeits and unauthorized sellers acquiring inventory, your products are likely to end up on Amazon, even if you don’t take them there.

By taking your brand to Amazon yourself, you retain control of your brand’s representation on the largest online marketplace in the world. That’s power you don’t want to relinquish.

2. Shoppers Are Already On Amazon

After that first point, it may feel like you’re being held hostage by Amazon’s ubiquity. To a degree, you are. But Amazon is so much more than that, and it would be a disservice to your brand to not recognize the enormous opportunity Amazon represents.

Now more than ever, consumers are using online marketplaces to purchase essential and discretionary goods. By the end of 2019, Amazon had over 112 million Prime members in the U.S.and over 150 million Prime members globally. By selling on Amazon, you tap into a massive and growing audience, increasing revenue and expanding your customer base.

3. Amazon Is Expected To Remain The E-Commerce Market Share Leader

That growth is expected to continue in 2020, even with the current pandemic. Although Walmart is making strong efforts to capture ecommerce market share, Amazon is indisputably the dominant market share leader. Even during this pandemic, Amazon is expected to not only retain its market share, but actually grow it by another 1%. If you want to expand your brand online, Amazon is the place to do it, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

4. Amazon Is Improving Brand Protection Services

Perhaps you’ve resisted selling on Amazon because you’re concerned about retaining brand control after joining the platform. Amazon has earned a reputation for not penalizing unauthorized sellers in the past, but that’s been gradually changing. In recent years, Amazon has introduced several programs designed to help brand owners and their registered agents maintain control, including Brand Registry, Brand Gating, the Transparency Program and Project Zero.

Amazon is also facing increased external pressure to address the issue of counterfeiters on its platform. The department of Homeland Security released a counterfeit report that advised the government to take action against counterfeits appearing on e-commerce platforms that threaten the health and safety of consumers and harm the economy. This report contributed to the progress of the SHOP SAFE Act, which, if passed, could hold online marketplaces responsible for counterfeits sold on its platform.

In short, Amazon is and will continue to improve services for brand control as external pressure mounts.

5. Diversification Makes You Resilient

If all of the above failed to convince you, then consider this final point: eMarketer recently revised its forecast for retail and e-commerce growth in 2020, with consumer spend in e-commerce expected to grow 18%, while spend in brick-and-mortar stores is expected to decrease 14%. The revised forecast indicates that Covid-19 has accelerated the long-anticipated uptick in e-commerce spending as more consumers turn to online shopping.

The change in consumer spend patterns also means that brands that sell in both brick-and-mortar stores and online have been better positioned to weather the economic hardship. Diversification of assets is a tried-and-true means to protect investments, and retail is no different. Expanding to other sales channels can help brands endure unexpected headwinds. Even if you don’t want to list your entire catalog on Amazon at the start, establishing at least some small foothold on the marketplace will keep the door open, should you ever need it in an emergency.

The Benefits Of Starting Late

While in many ways starting earlier is more advantageous, joining Amazon for the first time at this stage does have some benefits. Amazon offers more and better marketing and brand protection tools than ever before, and you have more ways to launch on the channel (1P, 3P, direct to consumer or with an agency). Even now, Amazon is still growing. There’s a lot of competition, but the opportunity for growth remains as high as ever.

Amazon's second quarter earnings soar in 2020

Amazon Revenue Soars in Second Quarter

Today, Amazon published their earnings report for the second quarter of 2020. Their earnings exceeded expectations, with Amazon reporting a revenue of $88.91B and a net sales increase of 40% compared to Q2 in 2019. Other notable results include: 

  • Net income increased to $5.2B, doubling their net income from the second quarter of 2019 
  • North American net sales were up 43% YoY, while international sales were up 38% YoY 
  • Amazon’s “Other” category (which consists mostly of Amazon advertising) grew revenue 41% 
  • AWS grew 29%, the lowest growth rate since Q1 2017 
  • Operating cash flow increased 42% YoY  
  • Free cash flow increased from $25B to $31.9B YoY 
  • Operating income increased from $3.1B in Q2 2019 to $5.8B in Q2 2020 
  • Third-party sales growth outpaced first-party sales growth 
  • Grocery delivery capacity grew by over 160% and online grocery sales tripled, YoY 

Amazon’s guidance for Q3 anticipates slightly more modest growth, with net sales expected to increase between 24% and 33% YoY. 

Amazon’s COVID-19 Efforts 

In Q1, Amazon promised to spend $4B on COVID-related costs during Q2. In Amazon’s earnings report, CEO Jeff Bezos stated, “As expected, we spent over $4 billion on incremental COVID-19-related costs in the quarter to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers in this time of high demand.”  

Bezos added that since March, Amazon has created over 175,000 jobs, 125,000 of which are planned to transition to full-time positions. 

Amazon promised to invest an additional $2B in COVID-19 related costs during Q3. As noted by Venture BeatAmazon does not wish to appear to benefit too much from the pandemic, even as their $5.2B quarterly profit marks the highest on record in their 26year history. 

Key Takeaways from Q2 for Sellers 

By looking at where Amazon is experiencing the most consistent, strongest growth rates, we can see where Amazon is likely to continue investing in the future. This report marks yet another strong quarter for third-party seller growth and Amazon advertising.  

Third-party seller sales yet again grew faster than Amazon’s first-party sales, indicating that Amazon is continuing to embrace the third-party approach to the marketplace. This makes sense, as holding inventory carries greater risks. By expanding the third-party network, Amazon reduces its inventory risk while still generating more revenue in the form of fees.  

Those fees include advertising. Amazon’s “other” category by and large consists of their advertising business. Revenue grew 41%, making it yet again one of their fastest growing segments. It’s likely that Amazon will continue expanding their offerings and capabilities for their ad platform, making it an even more appealing tool for brands selling on its platform. 

Read our breakdowns of Walmart’s Q2 Earnings Report and Target’s Q2 Earnings Report.

Jeff Bezos Testified Before Congress 

Amazon’s Q2 earnings report comes one day after Jeff Bezos testified before the US House Committee on the Judiciary. Amazon, along with Facebook, Google, and Apple, were brought before the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law to answer questions for an antitrust case.  

It did not appear to go well. Members of congress grilled Bezos about Amazon’s alleged practice of using third-party data to create copycat products, then undercut the brands selling on its platform. The same accusation was made regarding AWS, with members asking about allegations that Amazon stole third-party data to create competitor products, as well as identify and then target competitors’ customers.  

Congress members also pressed Bezos to explain why sellers bear the burden and costs of combating counterfeiters instead of Amazon, implying that Amazon has taken too passive a role because Amazon still profits from sales even if the products are counterfeits.  

Bezos’s answers seemed unsatisfactory for committee members. In many cases, he stated he could not remember the details or was unaware of the alleged events.  

Mr. Cicilline shared the following story from an apparel company that compared Amazon’s first-party division, Amazon Retail, to a drug dealer: 

“Amazon strings you along for a while because it feels so good to get that paycheck every week. And in the past, for a lack of a better term, we called it, ‘Amazon heroine’ because you just kept going, you had to get your next fix, your next check. And at the end of the day, you find out that this person, who was seemingly benefiting you, making you feel good, was just ultimately going to be your downfall.” 

Bezos responded by saying that he “completely disagrees with that characterization.” However, the anecdote rang true for third-party retailers. It is not a rare occurrence for a brand to seek out partnering with trusted third-party retailers after having a similar adverse experience selling through Amazon Retail.  

What the Antitrust Hearing Means for Brands on Amazon 

The antitrust hearing could be a huge win for brands selling online. If Amazon is indeed exploiting brands selling on its platform through copycat tactics, actions taken as a result of this hearing could put a stop to it. Likewise, if the burden of combating counterfeiters is placed on Amazon, brands may not have to bear the costs.  

Unfortunately, both of the above are big “ifs” and will take months or years to be acted upon. As Amazon’s Q2 earnings report shows, Amazon is and will remain the dominant marketplace in US ecommerce for the foreseeable future 

Start Selling on Amazon

Brands that wish to sell online will need an Amazon strategy if they wish to grow their online sales. If you’re wary of doing that, work with an experienced Amazon retailer like Kaspien who already has the infrastructure and safeguards in place to protect your brand.  

If your business is not selling on Amazon yet, read this article on why your brand should probably be selling on Amazon, even if you don’t want to be on Amazon

Map of US and Importance of Dynamic Fulfillment Network

With the unexpected onset of COVID-19, many brands and manufacturers faced a production standstill ranging from weeks to months, jeopardizing and even killing their businesses. The coronavirus restricted supply chains, exposed structural fragility, and revealed a severe lack of emergency resources. In short, many companies just weren’t prepared. Even now, many states are not yet back to business-as-usual.

The impact on supply chains and fulfillment was one of the most pervasive and damaging effects inflicted on businesses. To safeguard against this in the future, brands and sellers alike have been exploring new fulfillment options.

At Kaspien, we’ve spent the last 12 years working with brands of every level, size, location, and structure as a third-party retailer. During that time, we’ve created a robust fulfillment network. From a small processing area in the back of our corporate office to now utilizing 7 fulfillment centers across the United States, we’ve built an efficient and resilient fulfillment network that has protected our partners’ businesses.

In this post, we’ll outline some of the key benefits of and advice for expanding your fulfillment network.

3 Benefits of a Dynamic Fulfillment Network

1) Mitigates Geographic Risks

If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that the world is unpredictable. Our partners are in every corner of the country, and as such, there are many different environmental and situational obstacles that can impact product fulfillment.

Whether it’s wildfires, hurricanes, or a pandemic, any business is subject to interruption when catastrophes arise. The West Coast Port Strikes of 2015 was one of those situations for us; we didn’t see it coming, and the sudden inability to process imported goods through west coast ports certainly impacted our normal business functions, and many of our partners faced similar issues. Lead times lengthened and we faced out of stocks.

The port strikes showed us that we needed fulfillment centers on the east coast in order to protect our and our partners’ businesses. Now that we have fulfillment and processing centers around the country, including both coasts, we can minimize the impact of geographically constrained events.

2) Lead Time and Freight Cost Improvements

Many manufacturers are facing tighter margins these days, as well as an added sense of urgency to have shipments turned around to Amazon quickly. By diversifying and growing our fulfillment network, we’ve seen a favorable upswing in lead time and freight cost.

According to Kaspien’s Strategic Warehouse Director, Jeff Bernatz, “In 2020, we’ve seen a ~20% decrease in overall turnaround time at our warehouses, directly tied to the increase in available locations and available staff to handle the workload.”

We work with many manufacturers who do not have the capacity or expertise to complete product preparation in compliance with Amazon’s fulfillment center requirements. For them, shipping to one of our processing facilities is essential, and that could translate to longer lead times and higher shipping costs. But, because we have a large fulfillment network, there’s always a processing facility close by, no matter where our partners are shipping from in the US. As a result, our partners pay a lower freight cost and shorter lead times since they’re shipping shorter distances.

For brands seeking to partner with retailers and/or logistics providers, always ask about their fulfillment network. A larger network will position you to get better margins and run a more efficient sales channel.

3) Handle Higher Volumes and Scale

A large fulfillment channel always enables us and our partners to scale faster, pushing more products at a higher rate. “Since expanding to 7+ warehouses, total unit volume through our warehouses has increased ~15% vs the same time YTD period in 2019,” said Bernatz.

More locations and a higher staffing capacity have allowed us to process more orders in less time. With this added capacity, we have room to expand into previously infeasible programs, such as direct to consumer fulfillment, distribution, etc. It also eliminates the backlog we can sometimes see during peak sales seasons, such as Q4 and summer.

The Benefits will Outlast COVID-19

For many companies, this pandemic has highlighted the extraordinary value of a diversified fulfillment channel. However, all the aforementioned benefits of a large fulfillment network will continue even after the pandemic ends. Though the coronavirus may have prompted you to explore new fulfillment options, it’s worth continuing that research so you can position your brand to weather future storms and continuing growing.

We’re always happy to share our learnings from the past 12 years. If you want to learn more or discuss a partnership, get in touch through our contact form or schedule a call with one of our ecommerce experts.

Walmart announces Walmart Plus to Compete with Amazon Prime

Updated 9/1/2020: Walmart officially announced that Walmart Plus will become available to all members on September 15th.

What is Walmart+ (Walmart Plus)? 

Walmart will be launching a new service in July called Walmart+, according to Recode. Walmart+ is a subscription-based service that will provide members access to unlimited same-day delivery for eligible items, discounts at Walmart gas stations, and early access to Walmart deals.  

Walmart+ is set to launch in July for $98/year, roughly $20 less than Amazon PrimeThe service is meant to rival Amazon Prime as Walmart continues expanding its ecommerce operations. Walmart has yet to clarify whether the service will launch nationally or in select regions to start. According to Recode, a Walmart+-branded credit card will also be introduced after launch. 

Walmart Plus vs Amazon Prime

What Does Walmart+ Signify? 

Walmart+ is the latest move in Walmart’s efforts to challenge Amazon for market share in online retail. Earlier this year, Walmart announced Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS), a Walmart owned and operated fulfillment network for goods sold on Walmart.com. Walmart Fulfillment Services offers many of the same benefits as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). 

Walmart Fulfillment Service Benefits 

  • 100% nationwide coverage 
  • Increased product visibility  
  • Significant sales lift  
  • Fast & affordable fulfillment 
  • Free & easy returns, including in-store returns 
  • Consistent storage rates 

Download our free eBook all about Walmart Fulfillment Services. 

Walmart+ and Walmart Fulfillment Services make it clear that Walmart is taking advantage of Amazon’s successes and failures. They can see which services have proved most useful for online sellers and shoppers, and they are actively working to create comparable services for their own platform.  

How Will This Affect Shoppers and Sellers? 

Shoppers and sellers alike will benefit from the competition between Amazon and Walmart. Amazon Prime was largely unchallenged in the online marketplace space. With the introduction of Walmart+, the two services will vie for sellers’ and customers’ patronage, resulting in better features and deals. 

How does Walmart.com Compare to Amazon? 

Walmart has made excellent progress this year on their ecommerce platform. Along with Walmart Fulfillment Services and Walmart+, Walmart also offers brands better protection from counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers than Amazon.  

Walmart is a gated marketplace, meaning that sellers must be approved before they can sell on the platform. Amazon, on the other hand, is an ungated marketplace, so anyone can create a seller account and begin selling. Amazon’s approach contributed to its staggering growth, but it also made it vulnerable to exploitation. Counterfeiters and rogue sellers have long plagued brands on the Amazon platform, and the problem has even received attention from the Department of Homeland Security 

Walmart also has the upper hand in the online grocery business. Walmart+ will offer benefits for grocery purchases as well, helping defend Walmart’s position as Amazon works to take control of the grocery sector. 

Despite their progress, Walmart still has a lot of catching up to do. Walmart’s paid marketing services do not yet offer the same control as Amazon’s, resulting in lower ROI, nor do they offer the same breadth of services. 

Sell on Walmart Sooner Rather Than Later 

As Walmart continues building out its ecommerce platform, they are improving their ability to pull market share from Amazon. In their earnings report, Walmart shared that their ecommerce sales are up 37% year over year (partly due to the coronavirus). 

 Walmart is learning from Amazon’s history; brands should too. Establishing an early foothold on the ecommerce platform will position brands for long-term success. 

Kaspien is a preferred solutions provider for the Walmart marketplace. If you’d like to discuss expanding your brand onto Walmart, reach out through our contact form 

Want to learn about selling on Walmart.com? Check out our free eBook!

Download the eBook

WFS: Walmart’s Gamble to Challenge Amazon FBA


Amazon Upgrades US Seller Profiles

On July 8th, Amazon Services notified sellers in the US that, effective September 1st, 2020, Amazon will display a seller’s business name and address on their Amazon.com “Seller Profile page. For individuals, Amazon will display the individual name and address.  

This change will help eliminate seller anonymity on Amazon’s US marketplace, bringing it into alignment with their European, Japan, and Mexico marketplaces.  

Amazon US and UK Seller profile comparison

In their notice, Amazon Services states, “[…] We are making this change to ensure that there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.” You can read the full notice from Amazon at the bottom of this post. 

Why Does This Amazon Update Matter? 

This update will increase transparency on the Amazon platform. Though Amazon has not stated as much, they may be making this change as a result of the Department of Homeland Security’s counterfeit report, which was published in January 2020. The report exposed the full scale of the counterfeit problem on Amazon, stating, “global employment losses due to counterfeit goods were between 2 million and 2.6 million jobs in 2013, with job displacement expected to double by 2022.”  

Among the many recommendations in the report was a call to publicly display seller identities, which would make it easier for consumers and businesses to file legal action in the event of a counterfeit, IPR infringement, or other violation. 

Kaspien’s Compliance Manager, Jed Nelsen, commented, “Amazon is making a big step forward in transparency. This update will make it easier for brands to track down the 3rd party sellers who are selling their products.” 

How Will This Affect Shoppers and Sellers? 

The anonymity update is unlikely to significantly impact online shoppers, as few take the time to research the seller they’re patronizing.  

Sellers, on the other hand, are much more likely to take advantage of the update. As mentioned above, access to more business information will make it easier for brands and sellers to take action against counterfeits and cases of IPR infringement.  

As Marketplace Pulse notessellers can fake business details to circumnavigate Amazon’s enforcement, so the update will not eliminate Amazon’s issues. But it’s a step in the right direction to protect consumers and businesses in the US. 

What Steps Do Amazon Sellers Need to Take? 

Sellers do not need to take any action, unless they’d like to update view and update their contact information. Amazon Services provided directions on how to do so in their notice: 

  1. Log into your Amazon seller account. 
  2. In the “Settings” menu at the top right corner of Seller Central, click “Account Info” to view your “Seller Account Information” page. 
  3. In the “Business Information” section, click the links for the information you want to view. 
  4. To change your business name, click “Display Name” and to change the address, click “Business Address”. Enter the new information or edit the current information. 
  5. Once completed, click “Submit” to save. 

 

Read the Full Notice from Amazon 

Dear Seller 

Beginning on September 1, 2020, we will display a seller’s business name and address on their Amazon.com “Seller Profile” page. For individuals, we will display the individual name and address. This is consistent with “Seller Profile” pages across the Amazon stores in Europe, Japan, and Mexico. 

Why are we making this change? 

Over the years, we have developed many ways for sellers to share more about their business, including through features like the “Seller Profile” page, “Store” pages for brand owners, and Handmade “Maker Profile” pages. These features help customers learn more about the businesses of a seller and the products they are selling. We are making this change to ensure that there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions. 

Can I share more information to help customers beyond my business name and address? 

Yes, you are welcome to add additional information about your business and products that you think would be helpful to customers. However, remember that you should not include an email address in order to prevent spam and abuse. We ask customers and sellers to use our Buyer-Seller Messaging system to communicate electronically. 

How do I ensure that my information is up to date? 

You can view and update your contact information by following the steps below: 

  1. Log into your Amazon seller account. 
  2. In the “Settings” menu at the top right corner of Seller Central, click “Account Info” to view your “Seller Account Information” page. 
  3. In the “Business Information” section, click the links for the information you want to view. 
  4. To change your business name, click “Display Name” and to change the address, click “Business Address”. Enter the new information or edit the current information. 
  5. Once completed, click “Submit” to save. 

 

Regards, 
Amazon Services