Selling on Amazon is difficult, even for the largest, more experienced sellers on Amazon. To stay on top of best practices and make sure that those longer-term “back burner” projects get properly addressed, it is sometimes necessary to bring in an account management consultant. These consultants can provide short-term or medium-term support. Given that an account management consultant is working typically with multiple sellers, this person will have seen a lot of behaviors – good and bad – that can be used as benchmarks to give you a richer perspective of where you can improve. The consultant is also likely to provide a valuable perspective, removed from your heavily invested day-to-day view of everything you are doing to run your business today.
With no certification needed to become an Amazon consultant, anyone could declare him or herself as such, resulting in a wide range of skills and capabilities. It is critical for sellers to do due diligence and authenticate the quality and expertise of a consultant. Every seller should start with the assumption that there are no silver bullets to being a successful seller on Amazon. It takes operational discipline and relevant data to do this well, so look for consultants who can help with operations and data.
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If you are selling product on an international Amazon marketplace, you are paying Amazon upward of 3.5%-4.0% transaction fee to handle currency exchange and wiring of your funds back to the U.S. That sort of hidden fee is size-able on otherwise low-margin products. Fortunately, these solution providers streamline the process for you. With them, you can cut that cost in half and recapture margin you didn’t realize you were losing.
These solution providers can streamline the process because they set up foreign bank accounts for you. Those bank accounts require a bunch of paperwork. Prepare to invest several hours reviewing legal paperwork to get set up in each foreign country. Once you are setup, you are good to go.
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Unless you plan on signing into your Seller Central account every 24 hours of every day of the year, you leave yourself exposed to the possibility that a new inquiry from a customer goes unanswered within the required 24 hour period. These solution providers help to meet Amazon’s requirement of a 24-hour timeframe for responding to Amazon customers, while letting you enjoy your weekend or brief holiday.
Many of these automated messaging services send customers a generic response. You should still plan to provide the customer a more expansive response within a couple of business days, as customers want their questions properly answered before buying your product or filing negative feedback.
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What happens when you are starting getting dozens of customer emails a day, asking the same types of questions over and over? Each email must be answered quickly and accurately so as to keep the customer happy. If you’re looking to streamline the process of answering these emails, good customer email support software will help to semi-automate your responses. The same way that Amazon’s Seller Support has created standard responses for certain commonly asked questions, these software programs can help you streamline answers to your most common customer inquiries.
Most multi-channel sellers find that the level of customer emails they get from Amazon customers is far lower than other marketplaces. Often the questions will be related to some sort of shipping-related issue. If a seller is predominantly using FBA for its Amazon catalog, it’s likely such software won’t be needed for the Amazon portion of the seller’s overall business.
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This software is usually relevant only for brand owners, rather than resellers, as it is the brand owner that wants to identify MAP-violating resellers. If you are a private label manufacturer or brand owner supplying Amazon resellers with product that is supposed to be sold at MAP levels, these software packages can provide you with accurate, real-time data on which sellers are violating MAP. This allows you to have a data-driven discussion with specific resellers about these issues.
Amazon doesn’t monitor MAP levels on products for brand owners. It’s up to the brand owner to do this him or herself, and work with his or her own distribution channels to address these issues.
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If you are spending far too much time on trainable, repetitive or administrative tasks that someone else could handle, consider getting yourself a virtual assistant for additional support. Maybe it’s setting up phone calls with your suppliers, answering emails, basic book-keeping or reporting generation work that you need to regularly do, but find you don’t have enough time to stay on top of such tasks. With the development of a whole industry of skilled, English-speaking assistants, you can free yourself up to work on the highest-value activities.
No one ever does work as well as you do! Well actually, that may not always be true, but it does take time to get comfortable delegating responsibilities to someone else, especially someone based remotely. With technologies like Skype, instant messaging and phone available, it takes only a little discipline to remain in regular communication with your assistant. You will likely find that your virtual assistant is better organized on the tasks you assign to him/her, as they have fewer tasks.
If you go down the path of using a virtual assistant, keep in mind that you need to keep these people motivated and feeling valued. Read a book like “Virtual Freedom” by Chris Ducker to get yourself up to speed on what it realistically takes to get set up in an effective virtual assistant relationship.
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James Thomson is Partner of Buy Box Experts, a managed account services firm enabling brands to sell direct on Amazon. He is also president of PROSPER Show, the largest US-based continuing education conference for Amazon sellers. Previously, James was the head of Amazon Services (which recruits >99.5% of all new sellers to the Amazon marketplace each year), Amazon's first FBA account manager, a banker and a management consultant. He earned a Ph.D. in Marketing (B2B Pricing and Distribution) from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.