Some people say business ownership is like a relationship: from one day to the next, demands and needs change. At Whitebox, we feel like working with Amazon can feel a lot like that too. Amazon, like every successful 21st century business, is an ever-evolving beast that is constantly pushing to better itself. Chances are, so is your business.
When you’re dealing with running your company AND selling on Amazon, you may be feeling like you’re trying to please two very different people. Amazon policy changes are frequent, frustrating and often at odds with key parts of a company's business methods. Still, since Amazon is THE ecommerce leader, it’s not as if you want to break up when a change you don’t like occurs.
At Whitebox, you wouldn’t be far off in saying we are married to Amazon. Like any good committed partner, we strive to know everything we can about current Amazon policy and we also embrace change when it happens. In this blog post, we’re going to explore our relationship with Amazon through some of the policy changes that have occurred in 2016. We’ll also talk about our approach to addressing the changes that are especially relevant to our clients.
ONE: Glass containers and FBA madness
The Change: Before, there was some flexibility for glass products shipping via FBA. As of recent, however, things have gotten near to impossible for folks with glass. This, like most scenarios with Amazon's customer service comes down to who you get on the other side of your question. Some have told us that sellers are no longer allowed to sell glass products with liquid over 4 ounces. Others have told us that if we jump through all of the hoops (i.e. Brand Registry and Frustration Free Packaging), that sellers may be exempt from that rule.
Our Response: At the moment, sellers that are already established are able to continue selling. Right now, we are still working on getting Frustration Free packaging since Amazon has since closed the program to all sellers. We are still looking into good options for future clients. Keep your eyes open for a blog post featuring an interview with a company that makes custom packaging for all sorts of sellers, including those with breakable glass containers which may help our clients create their own frustration-free packaging.
TWO: UPC must now be certified
The Change: Before the change occurred, the easiest and cheapest way to get ahold of UPCs was through an online purchase. This was a quick method, which meant you got your labels immediately. As of this year, you’ll have to be sure that your labels are purchased directly from GS1, otherwise you may be in trouble. Check here to make sure your products are okay.
Our Response: This is something that the manufacturer will take care of. In order to maintain non-commingled inventory, Whitebox does create a unique FNSKU code for each of your products, which is what tells Amazon the products are coming from us and not resellers.
THREE: Storage and shipping cost shift for the Holiday Season
The Change: As you can read here, one of the biggest changes of 2016 is seasonal rates for shipping and storage. Though the costs for the bulk of the year have stayed the same, October storage fees dropped, while November and December has really jumped up. At the same time, handling weight and oversize charges will be lower in November and December to make up for the hike in storage. Thanks Amazon!
Our response: Obviously, the aim of this is to discourage overstocking and encourage sales volumes during the holiday rushes. For high sellers, this could mean you save money in the long run. Generally, Whitebox’s inventory management software operates to limit storage fees and keep the freshest product moving. During the holidays, we tend to request extra stock, as sales are likely to triple in the upcoming weeks -- but we will always track to make sure you aren’t paying more than you should be.
FOUR: Price Match is on the way out
The Change: Personally, we didn’t even realize this was something Amazon still did. Remember the days when stores used to guarantee they had the lowest price, or you’d get that money back? Well, Amazon did this for a variety of products… until May. Now, the only products you can get this for deal is TVs.
Our Response: Honestly, few of our clients fell into the category before the change… Still, we thought it was an interesting shift that definitely suggests a changing climate in the customer’s shopping experience.
FIVE: Amazon Reviewer Incentive Policy
The Change: This is one of the bigger deals for many of our clients. For newer companies who are working to build up positive product reviews, it used to be possible to use websites to offer discounted or free product as incentives to garner reviews from customers. Now, you cannot require people to review your product for any reason, UNLESS you use Amazon's Vine program. What is different about the Vine system is: they don’t require anyone to review the product at all, nor do they insist on rating it a certain number of stars, however, you can only utilize this program if you have a Vendor Central account, and are willing to pay for these reviews.
Our Response: We are hoping that this is Amazon's way of starting to crack down on all of the fake and purchased reviews as well. You can use a tool on fakespot.com to separate the junk reviews from the useful ones. We will continue to support our clients and help them get exposure to their products in order to gain honest feedback. We also have an emailing system that follows up with consumers to request a review weeks following a purchase.
Thinking about Amazon as an awesome but demanding partner can help put things into perspective. Since we're basically married to Amazon, if you work with us, it means you won’t have to put so much energy into your own Amazon-relationship.
When you look at how much has happened in the last six months or so, it’s easy to understand how having someone else to keep track of everything can really ease the pressure of your relationship with Amazon. While you’ll always have to shift to match Amazon’s needs, we keep tabs on their changeability, so that you can finally put your company first.