What Amazon’s increasing move to self-service means for your brand

Several brands have reached out to us in a panic this week after reading some recent news claiming that they would no longer have access to an Amazon Vendor Manager. Here’s what you need to know about the program and what you can do.

 First, don’t panic. Nothing is really changing.

This isn’t a sudden or extreme move, and it’s nothing new. Amazon is continuing its gradual and ongoing shift to automating roles and making the experience of selling on Amazon more self-service for brands. It started several years ago when Amazon launched their first HOTW (Hands Off the Wheel) programs internally, and began holding employees accountable for automation improvements. So don’t worry, the Amazon Vendor Managers are certainly still there…and they still want your money. 

The Vendor Success Program, or VSP, described in these articles isn’t new either – it’s been around since about 2014 and has traditionally applied to brands whose sales are below about $10M/year. Chris Brugos, the previous manager of the Vendor Success Program and now Ideoclick’s leader of Catalog and Content services teams, characterizes the program as a little bit of a “middle finger” for brands.

“What it really means is Amazon has reduced the work of a Vendor Manger to a series of algorithms and Standard Operating Procedures, all executed by a team of offshore associates and customer service agents.” According to Chris, “It can work in your favor if you know how to game the system.”

Your Vendor Manager probably isn’t your key to success on Amazon, anyway.

Contrary to a buyer at a traditional retailer, the Amazon Vendor Manager is unlikely to deliver category insights, collaborate on new product development ideas, or help you engage with Amazon’s senior leadership. Instead, they’ll assist with the occasional purchase order or receive-related issue, terrorize you about CRaP, and try to sell you expensive merchandising packages. This person isn’t typically not your biggest advocate at Amazon, and this is by design – a Vendor Manager’s function isn’t to help manufacturers or make it easier to sell on Amazon; it’s to drive growth in profit and sales, optimize the selling platform, and provide a multitude of internal reporting and project management functions. In addition, given the turnover at Amazon, more and more manufacturers are more platform savvy than newer Amazon employees.

A better advocate for your brand is likely your Amazon Advertising Account Executive. Our clients typically receive better insights, data, and follow-through on their Amazon business from the ad team. Apparently, advertising sales are still a relationship-driven business!

If you’re smart, you’re already educating yourself, hiring a team, and becoming self-sufficient on Amazon

There are droves of agencies (ours included), educators, and third-party firms and software – much of it free – that are in the business of educating and executing business on Amazon. Once you understand the Amazon engine, it’s not hard to develop your growth strategy, predict Amazon’s moves, and staff a team correctly to support the business. With the right strategy and tools, many manufacturers – small and large – are plenty effective on Amazon with little to no contact with the Amazon retail team. You can do it, too!