James Thomson – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Tue, 19 Jun 2018 22:21:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png James Thomson – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 Amazon Selling Pitfalls Even the Savviest Sellers Forget [Infographic] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-selling-pitfalls-problems/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-selling-pitfalls-problems/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:51 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17457 So you’re up and running as an Amazon seller, and you think you’ve figured out the Amazon marketplace. The good…]]>

So you’re up and running as an Amazon seller, and you think you’ve figured out the Amazon marketplace. The good news is, if you’ve made it out alive (and profitably) through your first holiday shopping season, you’re doing well.

But, there are a number of issues that even large or long-term Amazon sellers don’t figure out.

Selling on Amazon is endlessly complex, with traps that even veterans fall into.

I’m pleased to unveil the pitfalls to you now –– but like a child who thinks she’s figured out how a magician does a trick, you still will need to work hard to avoid the common problems many sellers encounter when they start selling on Amazon.

Knowing these will at least set you up to be more aware of where those pitfalls might be hiding. Use the infographic to help visualize the issues and read through exactly how to solve them in the article below.

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So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

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Tax Setup

It’s a little shocking how many sellers never set up state tax collection options on Amazon, thinking that Amazon somehow automatically takes care of all sales tax issues from sales on the Amazon marketplace.

It turns out nothing could be further from the truth.

While Amazon is happy to collect state sales tax for you (for a small fee), it’s up to every seller to indicate in which states it wants Amazon to collect tax, and to manage the remittance of the taxes to the appropriate tax jurisdictions across the country.

There are many tax remittance services available for online sellers, but the seller ultimately has the responsibility of paying its taxes.

Here are a few services that can help:

  • Taxjar.com
  • Avalara.com
  • Taxify.com
  • Vertexsmb.com

While a seller may choose not to collect state sales tax (choosing to absorb that as a cost of doing business), the responsibility of remitting the tax is not optional.

A seller can designate its account to collect state sales tax in particular states.

Unfortunately, however, Amazon’s default when setting up new listings is to designate each SKU as having a no-tax label, which can overwrite the seller’s general request to collect state sales tax across all of its catalog.

Set your taxes up right the first go around

My advice is to, immediately upon signing up a new seller account, go into the Settings –> Tax Settings, and designate not only in which states you want Amazon to collect state sales tax, but also set the “Use default Product Tax Code” setting to “A_GEN_TAX.”

Amazon typically defaults to A_GEN_NOTAX, where no tax is being collected.

While the seller may offer products that warrant a slightly different tax rate, that level of tweaking can follow later.

If the seller is using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and isn’t proactively collecting state sales tax in all of the tax-collecting states where Amazon has fulfillment centers, it won’t be long before the seller accumulates tax liability from having incurred tax nexus by way of FBA inventory being stored – even briefly – in these states’ fulfillment warehouses.

Pro Tip

Each FBA seller should invest in a tax consultation with an online seller tax consultant to understand the responsibilities and potential liabilities of using FBA.

Profitability

Too many sellers focus on top line sales numbers rather than bottom line profits.

“I want to sell $1MM/year on Amazon” or “If only I could get to be a $10MM/year seller on Amazon.”

Honestly, other than ego and maybe a few volume discounts, there isn’t much long-term benefit to being a big, but not particularly profitable seller on Amazon.

Focus on bottom growth and account for all costs upfront

I’d much rather see any seller grow its bottom line profits year-over-year much faster than its top line sales.

That typically requires a SKU-level understanding of profitability, incorporating overhead and indirect costs into each SKU’s profit calculation.

This includes certain less-than-obvious Amazon fees, and product write-downs/write-offs.

While I’ll discuss this matter much more in a subsequent chapter, it’s important to focus on those parts of your catalog that make you money and shed those parts that don’t make you money.

Stop averaging everything out, and looking only at your overall sales numbers and margins.

Start thinking about every SKU you sell on Amazon as having its own P&L, its own market forces, and its own level and types of competitions.

Such an approach has helped many a seller rationalize its catalog, focusing on bottom line growth ahead of all other financial goals.

Fulfillment by Amazon

Fulfillment by Amazon – commonly referred to as FBA – is exactly what it sounds like. You send your products to Amazon’s warehouses and they pick, pack and ship your items to meet their strict shipping and delivery timelines.

The Issue with Co-Mingled SKUs

There are a number of problems here, and I’ll start with the use of co-mingled “stickerless” SKUs.

As mentioned in a previous chapter, a seller has the option of sending product into FBA without having to provide SKU-level stickers on each unit.

Such stickerless inventory has the potential to get mixed in with the inventory of other FBA sellers of the same SKU.

Then when a customer places an order from one FBA seller, Amazon pulls the most convenient inventory, even if that inventory isn’t actually the inventory that the seller sent into FBA itself.

And, if other sellers have sent in counterfeit product or used-condition product that they are trying to pawn off as new-condition product, now the seller with this new sale may get itself into trouble with Amazon for selling problematic product to a customer.

Amazon responds when customers complain about product quality –– and the heavy lifting falls on the individual sale-level brand.

At roughly $0.20/unit for Amazon to sticker items or whatever a seller’s own warehouse costs are, we see the costs of stickering FBA units as far lower than the implied cost of having one’s seller account suspended for apparently selling counterfeit co-mingled product to a customer.

Stickerless v. Stickered Inventory

The other complicated issue around stickerless vs. stickered FBA inventory is when a seller designates its account to be stickered.

By default, each new FBA account starts off as stickerless.

When a seller creates a shipment of product to send to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, that stickerless designation will be applied to the seller’s SKUs and will remain forever going forward with that SKU.

So, if the seller wants its FBA product to be stickered, the seller has to change the default setting before creating its first shipment to FBA.

Otherwise, the seller will have to create a duplicate stickered offer on the same product listing.

We’ve seen many sellers not get this sequencing right, leading to situations where they think they changed their account to stickered, only to discover that certain SKUs remain stickerless because they were initially sent to FBA before the whole account got switched over to stickered.

If in doubt, flip everything to stickered (not co-mingled) immediately upon turning on FBA (but before creating the first FBA shipment). Or contact Amazon Seller Support to get clarification if any SKUs in your catalog are unknowingly stickerless.

Bottom line: when you start off, make sure you read up on how to sell on Amazon FBA so you don’t fall victim to these pitfalls.

Repackage Unsellable Customer Returns

Next, Amazon defaults every FBA seller’s account to enabled for “Repackage Unsellable Customer Returns.”

This means when a customer returns an FBA order, if that product’s packaging is damaged, Amazon may apply its own packaging to make the unit resellable.

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for customers to see this Amazon repackaging as potentially an identifier of counterfeit or used product, resulting in a customer complaint or even an infringement against the seller for selling used-condition product as new-condition product.

Unless you sell your product in a generic polybag or generic cardboard box (with no logos on the packaging), I suggest turning off this repackaging feature immediately, and handling all repackaging yourself to ensure only the highest-quality product (with proper packaging) is presented to Amazon customers.

The Amazon Seller's Solution Provider Directory

Optimize your return flow by connecting with an Amazon solutions expert. For a full list of recommended experts, visit our Amazon Solution Provider Directory.

Listing Optimization

There are a number of sources of data available within Seller Central that can be used to improve the listing quality of your catalog.

For many sellers, the process of building and optimizing listings is a one-time deal, as they understandably turn their focus to other operational matters.

1. Use the Sponsored Product Ad campaign reports.

A significant opportunity, however, lies in using the reports from the Sponsored Product ad campaigns.

In these reports, you can see the exact keywords that were connected to Amazon customers buying your products.

By examining these reports periodically (specifically for automatic targeting campaigns), you’ll find that there are keywords leading to sales that you never anticipated being effective.

Lifting those terms directly into your generic keywords will improve the SEO discoverability of your listings.

I encourage sellers to repeat this process every three months to make sure that customers’ behavior specific to certain words haven’t changed.

And with the generic keyword capacity for words now much larger than ever before, there is room to add many more keywords and get click benefit through SEO rather than paid efforts.

2. Include answers to previous product inquiries on your product page.

It’s also worth paying special attention to the inquiries that you get from Amazon customers.

If customers are asking product-specific questions, newly addressing these issues in your product detail page content is likely to improve customer conversation over time.

For too many Amazon sellers, the customer inquiry process doesn’t include an indexing of questions and answers back to specific SKUs, thereby causing a seller to lose out on known product clarifications or embellishments that are needed.

3. Ask for the category listing report.

I’m a big fan of the “Category Listing Report,” a report available in the Inventory Reports section, but only when requested through Seller Support.

This report will recreate your product listings’ flat file, making it much easier for you to identify any data gaps in your listings (including missing bullet points, generic keywords, improper tax codes, etc.).

While you request this report for only a finite period (i.e., seven days, 30 days), it’s worth pulling this report at least quarterly to make sure your product listings contain all of the necessary data you believe they should.

Boost Your Product Rankings

Read our chapter on optimizing Amazon Search to get more tips on boosting your product rankings.

Operations

And now the biggest category of all.

Managing the operations of an Amazon seller business is the most time-consuming part of every seller’s day.

Too many sellers don’t focus on the right activities, leading them to work too hard to make Amazon money.

1. Returns.

Do you have a clear process for handling returns efficiently?

Do you have a way of testing or grading returns, upgrading packaging where needed, and recovering as much revenue as possible by making these items sellable again on Amazon (or some other channel, as needed)?

For too many sellers, handling returns is something done at the end of the month when they have time, rather than something that is managed strategically through analytics and continuous improvement.

Yes, returned products aren’t likely to be 100% recoverable as new condition products.

However, if you carefully track the return rate of each SKU, the recovery rate of each SKU (i.e., what proportion of expected new-condition revenue you actually recover from each SKU), and which products are most likely to be returned damaged by customers, you can identify which products you need to remove from your active catalog.

You’ll also identify with which products and brands you may need to negotiate a returns allowance with your suppliers/distributors/brands.

Once you have this data in hand, you’ll likely be surprised to discover just how much financial loss you incur because of high return rates and high write-down/write-off costs.

Some of the best sellers on Amazon know, for each SKU, exactly where to sell returned products to get the highest recovery rate.

It’s worth talking with other sellers to figure out if you are unknowingly leaving a lot of money on the table by mishandling returned products, or if you are appropriately managing returned products as a core part of your overall seller business.

2. Duplicate Listings from competitors.

Duplicate listings on Amazon can be an effective way for competitors to divert traffic away from your product listings back to theirs.

It’s worth, at least once a quarter, to search the whole Amazon catalog for duplicate listings of your items.

If you find other listings of the same products, consider filing tickets with Seller Support to get duplicate listings merged.

And, if the duplicate listings were created maliciously by sellers using incorrect data (e.g., irrelevant UPCs or incorrect brand names), it may be worth also filing tickets reporting violations against those sellers.

I have seen far too many sellers confused about why their sales are dropping on top-selling items, only to find that the sales are being diverted to a duplicate listing newly created by a coy competitor.

3. Inventory management skills are required.

Inventory management skills require constant refinement on Amazon, whether it’s actively addressing soon-to-be stale inventory or rebalancing products based on changing customer preferences.

While I see most sellers ramping up inventory levels for the holiday shopping season, few sellers stock up enough products to cover most of January as well.

Often this leads to unnecessary stock-outs caused by higher than expected demand in December or inadequate time to replenish in early January when your suppliers are closed for the holidays.

Either way, I like to see sellers planning their holiday shopping inventory levels in such a way that they potentially overstock a little bit for January and February, thereby giving themselves a little bit of breathing room in December, January and February.

Such an approach is especially relevant for products that are expected to continue to have some meaningful sales after December.

4. Test-buy your competitors.

Test-buying your competitors’ products on Amazon is a very easy way to figure out what your competitors are up to, regarding how they package product, how they follow up through email to customers, and how they handle customer returns (if needed).

While you and your competitors may be selling the same products, there are likely some aspects of your competitors’ overall offering that you can learn through periodic test buys.

5. Plan for Pricing and Procurement.

Finally, with so many changes to competitors and prices on Amazon, I have watched too many sellers be slow to plan how to evolve their catalogs over the next three to six months.

Sellers should, at least once a month, focus a few days on the procurement of new selection, as some portion of their existing catalog will likely become unprofitable or below an acceptable margin threshold, leading to a need for better use of capital on other product selection.

This is particularly the case for resellers that don’t have exclusive sourcing relationships.

It’s only a matter of time before some competitor with a lower margin threshold starts selling the same product, and makes your offers unsellable.

While a brand may think it has decent control of its distribution, Amazon is a very efficient marketplace for gray-market or diverted product to surface, leading you to find that you have to cut your prices just to match some new entrant.

For private label sellers on Amazon, remember that that your product sales successes on Amazon are an invitation for the next private label seller to copy your product and make a lower-priced version; so keep evolving and stay nimble.

The active catalog you have today isn’t likely to be as profitable or relevant in 6 to 12 months from now.

Want more insights like this?

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Is Your Business a Good Fit for Amazon? https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/what-to-know-before-selling-on-amazon/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/what-to-know-before-selling-on-amazon/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:35 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17435 Amazon has made its marketplace welcoming for newcomers. New sellers will find a platform where it takes only minutes to…]]>

Amazon has made its marketplace welcoming for newcomers.

New sellers will find a platform where it takes only minutes to sign up, and a few more minutes beyond that to get product listings live on the site.

With Amazon’s intent to attract as much selection as possible to the marketplace, it makes sense that Amazon wants to make it functionally easy for anyone to start listing products on its site.

Yet, the decision to sell on Amazon should not be based just on ease of signup.

Sellers also need a clear understanding of what it takes to have a realistic chance of being successful on Amazon.

While Amazon still attracts general merchandise resellers that offer the same products as many other companies, the long-term success of those sorts of companies is very much in question.

In a battle of margins and trying to differentiate in a meaningful way, sellers may end up working harder and harder each year to generate the same top line sales, and possibly not the same bottom line revenue.

Before we dive in to discuss which types of businesses are most likely to be successful on Amazon, let’s first review a few fundamentals about the Amazon marketplace to help you determine product fit.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

Things Sellers Need To Consider When Deciding To Sell On Amazon:

Almost anyone can list products for sale on Amazon.

Unless a brand has tight distribution controls over its product, it’s not unusual to find dozens – if not hundreds – of resellers offering the same products on Amazon.

This crowding creates price competition, as well as incentives to ignore MAP/MSRP pricing policies or to divert products at low margins, just to get some margin out of holding a particular brand.

Amazon sets the rules of its own marketplace.

Amazon has given itself the advantage of collecting massive amounts of customer search and customer purchase data, with which it shares only the minimum amounts with sellers.

This compendium of information gives Amazon’s first-party business – Amazon Retail, i.e. private label – a huge advantage of picking winners over and over when targeting products that it should sell itself on the marketplace.

Furthermore, Amazon Retail will almost always win the Buy Box, which is the mechanism through which sellers competing on the same product will get ranked to determine who gets the sale when the customer clicks the “Add to Cart” button.

If a seller is competing head-to-head with Amazon on a product, it’s not likely the seller will get many sales, given that Amazon Retail has the Buy Box advantage.

Amazon Retail also has sophisticated re-pricing software which allows it to lower prices to match prices already lowered by competing sellers. And, with Amazon Retail content not making any money (or even losing money) on a sale, it is not likely that a competing seller will either get the sale from Amazon Retail or make any margin from the sale.

Bottom Line

Competing directly on the same listings that Amazon Retail offers is not likely to be an effective business model long-term.

Amazon wants its sellers to use “Fulfillment by Amazon” (FBA).

FBA is Amazon’s fulfillment program that’s offered to all third-party sellers. Sellers put their products into Amazon’s network of fulfillment centers, and when a customer places an order, Amazon does the individual order fulfillment, rather than the seller.

Such products in FBA are eligible for Amazon Prime / Amazon Super Saver Shipping, two programs that have consistently been found to improve most sellers’ customer conversion rates.

While a seller may have world-class fulfillment capabilities of its own, this FBA advantage is granted as part of Amazon’s efforts to ensure the highest quality, consistent shopping experience for Amazon customers.

When a seller on Amazon gets orders, it does not own the customer relationship.

Each sale is viewed as a one-time transaction, and sellers aren’t allowed to market or re-market to these customers after the sale.

So while sellers may have sophisticated CRM capabilities for their non-Amazon channels, almost all of that skill and technology is irrelevant for customers generated through the Amazon marketplace.

It’s your responsibility to secure distribution.

Amazon makes clear that it is exclusively the responsibility of the brand to secure its distribution. Namely, Amazon will rarely get involved in helping brands to remove unauthorized resellers, thereby implicitly encouraging anyone to sell any product on Amazon, as long as it is a legitimate product where no harm is inflicted on the Amazon customer.

Every seller on Amazon is required to answer customer inquiries within 24 hours.

This requirement applies to any day of the year. And Amazon holds every seller to the highest industry standards regarding shipping times, confirmation emails, order cancellation rates and a slew of other criteria.

For many businesses new to Amazon, these standards may well be beyond what they can handle, and hence the Amazon marketplace may be too much for them to handle.

With these conditions in place, let’s discuss how different sorts of businesses are likely to do on the Amazon marketplace.

How Different Business Models Work on Amazon

The Reseller: No Exclusive Sourcing Relationships

Unless a reseller with no exclusive sourcing relationships has a significant pricing advantage, it’s not likely that this type of seller will be able to get any more than its fair share of sales from Amazon.

In other words, if this type of seller is competing against nine other resellers, this individual seller isn’t likely to get more than 10% of the sales –– unless it’s willing to undercut everyone else on price.

A race to the bottom on price eventually lowers margins to an unsustainable level, making it pointless to be selling on Amazon.

For the general retail business considering offering some of its products on Amazon, this channel is likely to be only a secondary channel if all of your catalog is readily available to any number of other retailers.

As an Amazon reseller, it’s critical for you to have paperwork that shows a clear provenance of where you sourced your product.

While some gray market sellers may do well on Amazon, once Amazon’s Seller Performance team challenges them – asking them to provide paperwork showing where the product came from – the seller may not be able to address a claim of selling counterfeit or inauthentic product.

And, even for sellers with solid paperwork from manufacturers or authorized distributors, Amazon may still give the seller a hard time if too many customer complaints come in about the legitimacy of the product.

The Reseller: Exclusive Sourcing Relationships

If the seller has negotiated exclusive sourcing relationships from specific brands with decent control of their distribution, preventing any number of unauthorized or gray-market sellers from also selling on Amazon, then this seller is likely to do well as it doesn’t have to compete with other sellers for the “buy box.”

While the principle of an exclusive sourcing relationship makes a lot of sense for sellers, few brands understand the dynamics of the Amazon marketplace well enough to be willing to limit who can sell on Amazon.

This lack of understanding can potentially result in less product sold to retailers in the short-term.

Such sellers typically have to agree to represent the brands well on Amazon, by way of improving listing content, ensuring MAP/MSRP prices are in place, and keeping inventory levels adequately stocked for the Amazon customer demand.

With the advent of the FBA program, it is becoming easier for brands to go direct-to-consumer with their own seller accounts on Amazon, cutting out resellers altogether.

For brands that are willing to handle some day-to-day operational responsibilities (or outsource these responsibilities to agencies), they can make retail margins selling direct-to-consumers on Amazon, rather than securing only wholesale margins selling to retailers/resellers that will, in turn, sell on Amazon.

The Seller of Oversized or Hazmat Products

While Amazon does allow sellers to offer oversized and hazmat products to Amazon customers, the cost or FBA restrictions may be such that it doesn’t make financial sense for such companies to sell on Amazon.

If you are such a company, we encourage you to do extensive research on Amazon before signing up to be an Amazon seller.

The Private Label Seller

In the past five years, there has been a huge increase in the number of sellers on Amazon that are building their own brands (often through inexpensive overseas sourcing, e.g., Alibaba).

Combing Amazon product reviews and sales rank data of national brands, these sellers identify product or price gaps that they believe they can fill with their own, newly-developed private label brands.

Typically, these sellers can enjoy 3-6 months of decent sales before their products do well enough to be identified by other private label sellers to target for their own private label versions.

If the private label seller becomes effective at evolving its catalog quickly and capitalizing in the short-term on its newly launched products, such a seller can do reasonably well on Amazon.

The National Brand

If a brand has created decent customer awareness, chances are some share of 300 million Amazon customers have already been looking for the brand on Amazon.

Unable to find it, they move on to a competitor brand.

For such a national brand, it makes a lot of sense to be evaluating Amazon as an incremental sales channel.

If the brand launches a seller account, using high-quality content in its listings coupled with some advertising budget to drive awareness of its presence on Amazon, such a brand can build its Amazon business into a decent channel.

Yes, there may be some cannibalization from its other channels, but we have found that the vast majority of sales on Amazon are incremental, given just how many Amazon customers there are, and how few of them are likely to have shopped on the brand’s own website.

For brands that have a regional awareness, it will take more time to build up a business on Amazon, but the underlying distribution control is most critical to the brand being able to sell its product on Amazon, without plenty of other resellers competing for the same sale.

If a brand is successful with the Amazon channel, then the benefits of incremental sales at retail margins should produce solid financial results for the brand.

Final Word

Any brand of any size on Amazon must recognize that it will earn certain rights on Amazon if the brand has a registered trademark, GS1-sourced UPC codes, and branding on both the packaging and physical product.

For many brands new to Amazon, they are surprised to see that Amazon will not always respect the brand’s efforts to legitimize itself as a brand unless it has secured these aforementioned product and legal characteristics.

Also, the day-to-day operations of running an Amazon seller business must be properly addressed, given how high the performance standards are to which Amazon holds its sellers.

In subsequent chapters, we’ll cover how to meet these requirements and put operational processes in place.

Want more insights like this?

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Reselling on Amazon – Thoughts from The Former Head of Selling on Amazon https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-not-sell-on-amazon/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-not-sell-on-amazon/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:04 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17437 When selling on Amazon you must realize the marketplace is designed to make it easy for practically anyone to list…]]>

When selling on Amazon you must realize the marketplace is designed to make it easy for practically anyone to list products on the site, including the brands themselves.

Add the features of the FBA program, and now companies that haven’t historically fulfilled direct-to-consumer orders can easily handle that operational complexity. Layer in how Amazon’s Buy Box algorithm prefers lower-priced offers to higher-priced ones and competition across different sellers can quickly become a race to the bottom for margins.

With far too many sellers not properly incorporating all of their costs into their pricing decisions, I regularly see sellers overestimating how far they can drop their prices and still be profitable.

Brands acting as direct-to-consumer resellers on Amazon are better able to cut retail prices and remain profitable, creating an advantage over resellers.

So, it becomes harder for a reseller to bring meaningful value to customers if:

  • There is no real limit to how many resellers could offer the same products.
  • Resellers are having to undercut one another to win the Buy Box.
  • They don’t often understand their all-in cost structures.
  • The very brands that make product available to them are now able to compete side-by-side as resellers.

Only those resellers having an exclusive sourcing relationship with its brands, where the brands also agree not to become resellers themselves, have much luck with this route. Even so, as more brands realize the opportunity on Amazon, fewer brands are willing to make such a deal.

In response to these many changes, we have seen two major shifts in the past 3-4 years occur among the base of resellers on Amazon:

  1. Resellers are aggressively courting brands to become their exclusive resellers on Amazon
  2. Resellers are developing private label brands of their own so that they can become exclusive resellers of their own brands.

With so many new private label brands surfacing, there is no longer just competition across national brands or between national brands and private label brands, but now also between private label brands operating in the same product spaces.

So if you’re about to get started on Amazon as a third-party seller, it’s critical to understand what sourcing/distribution advantages you will have, as those gains are likely to be short-lived.

It’s critical for third-party sellers to continuously evaluate their product sourcing advantages and expect that the products making the seller profitable today will need to evolve into a different mix of products within six months.

Editor’s Note

Amazon is a competitive marketplace, as is the web in general.

In the same way that you must evaluate the success on your own webstore products –– and better them to beat out the competition –– you will need to monitor, update and transition the products you sell on Amazon at least every 6 months.

This guide will go into more detail on that –– but this is one of the many reasons why we suggest you start with only a single SKU on Amazon and expand slowly and strategically from there.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

How Amazon Wins on Amazon

There are more than 2,000,000 third-party sellers operating on the Amazon marketplace.

And yet, Amazon has all the data, including but not limited to:

  • Which products customers search for
  • What they actually buy
  • How much they buy at what prices
  • Where they can’t find the brands they were searching for

Although Amazon is a publicly held company, its investors have tolerated years of razor-thin margins, which has partly played out by way of Amazon selling products at next to no profit or even at unprofitable levels.

Amazon would make more profit in the short-term by letting third-party sellers earn the sale. However, the company has taken the approach, in each category of products, of pursuing all of the strategic brands it believes need to be in the catalog to attract Amazon customers to shop first on Amazon over any other site –– online or offline.

To do this, Amazon has made a number of sourcing agreements with brands to acquire products at prices that don’t allow Amazon to make any significant profit.

This is because the objectives here are for Amazon to bring the right selection at prices consistent with or lower than market prices, available all of the time to Amazon customers.

To make these objectives possible, Amazon has chosen selectively to forgo short-term profits in pursuit of long-term customer loyalty.

For the third-party seller competing head-to-head with Amazon Retail, these differences in objectives often creates situations where Amazon lowers its prices to a point where, rightfully so, the third-party sellers competing against Amazon can’t figure out how Amazon Retail is making any money.

The answer is that Amazon isn’t making money, at least in the short-term, and it’s entirely comfortable with that.

I have also seen third-party sellers frustrated that Amazon doesn’t increase its prices in times of scarcity, such as popular toys being sold right before Christmas. In these situations, while Amazon may put limits on how much product any one customer can buy, it maintains prices at stable levels to help Amazon customers avoid apparent price gouging that can happen otherwise in such situations.

Let’s just say that Amazon’s runway is a lot longer than any of the other sellers on Amazon.

Finally, for FBA sellers whose products end up competing directly with Amazon Retail, these sellers often get frustrated that they rarely win the “Buy Box,” even though their products are also Amazon Prime eligible (by being FBA products) and sold at the same prices as Amazon or even slightly lower.

Yes, as long as Amazon is in stock on an item, it will almost always win the Buy Box, even if another seller appears to have a better price and equal Amazon Prime designation on its offer.

At some point, another seller can lower its prices below a threshold that Amazon Retail has set for itself, but that point is usually well under water for all sellers.

This information isn’t to scare you away from Amazon. In fact, it’s here to do exactly the opposite.

Knowing how to operate your business within the Amazon ecosystem will better help you to win in this massive global channel. Competing directly with Amazon Retail isn’t necessarily a winning strategy, but there are plenty of other strategies to double down on or modify your approach.

The rest of this guide will expand on each of those.

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A Handy Amazon Seller Account Setup Checklist to Drive Sales https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-seller-account-checklist/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-seller-account-checklist/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:02 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17439 The moment you sign up for an Amazon seller account, the clock starts. Before you jump in headfirst and start…]]>

The moment you sign up for an Amazon seller account, the clock starts.

With your first monthly account charge coming through after 30 days, you are expected to meet all Amazon performance metrics from day one.

Before you jump in headfirst and start selling on Amazon, there are several steps we encourage any prospective seller to take before formalizing the seller account registration process.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

Necessary Paperwork (Amazon Seller Account Checklist)

To get through the full registration process for an Amazon seller account, you will need a bunch of information readily available, including:

1. Business Information.

Your legal business name, address and contact information

2. Email Address.

An email address that can be used for this company account. This email account should be set up already, as you will start receiving important emails from Amazon almost immediately.

3. Credit Card.

An internationally chargeable credit card with a valid billing address. If the credit card number isn’t valid, Amazon will cancel your registration.

4. Phone Number.

A phone number where you can be reached during this registration process. Also, have your phone nearby during registration.

5. Tax ID.

Your tax identity information, including your Social Security number or your company’s Federal Tax ID number. To submit your tax identity information, the registration process will take a brief detour to a “1099-K Tax Document Interview.”

6. State Tax ID.

State tax ID information for states in which you have tax nexus. This physical presence is typically impacted by company offices, warehouses/3PLs, and call centers. If you plan to use Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program, there may be further tax nexus implications. I encourage you to talk with a tax attorney or tax accountant who specializes in online seller tax nexus issues (e.g., catchingclouds.net, peisnerjohnson.com) or one of the tax remittance companies that can give you the most current Amazon tax nexus information (e.g., taxjar.com, avalara.com, taxify.co, vertexsmb.com).

Questions to Work Through Before Registering Your Seller Account

Some of the logistics of being a successful seller should be worked out before you set up the seller account, as you likely won’t have as much time to address these after you get started.

Download the checklist

Want to print out this chapter as a worksheet to make sure you don’t forget anything? Use the sheet below. 

1. Where do you plan to send Amazon order returns?

As an Amazon seller, it is imperative that you think about your return process.

  • Are you going to handle the Amazon returns yourself, or send them to a company that specializes in testing/grading returns and making the product available for sale again (e.g., tradeport.com, openedboxreturns.com)?
  • Who on your team will handle Amazon customer inquiries?

The key is not just having all of the answers, but also respecting Amazon’s requirements to respond to all customer inquiries within 24 hours, any day of the year.

Hence, figuring out who is on point (with possible backup) is one critical operational issue that should be addressed before opening your Amazon seller account.

2. If you plan to use Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon program, will you co-mingle your products?

I very much recommend using FBA, given its visibility potential to 50MM+ Amazon Prime customers. If you decide to go that route, you’ll need to decide whether you plan to co-mingle your products with FBA inventory of other sellers of the same products.

Amazon gives FBA sellers this potentially lethal option of sending product into Amazon’s Fulfillment Centers, where they might get co-mingled with other FBA sellers’ product, leading to your products possibly getting mixed up with counterfeit or low-grade versions of what you purport to be selling.

Unfortunately, if a co-mingled unit gets picked to fulfill an order on your account, you are left explaining to Amazon why a customer complained about getting a counterfeit item.

You need to work through this issue very early on because if you decide to use FBA but not use the co-mingled (“stickerless”) option, you need to activate your account to become a “stickered” FBA account right at the beginning before you create your first FBA shipment into Amazon.

While it is possible later on to become a stickered account, it quickly becomes very complicated if you have already sent some product into FBA as stickerless product.

3. Do you plan to use a DBA (doing business as) name to operate your Amazon seller account?

While some companies have legitimate reasons to use a different customer-facing name, Amazon is also a place where many sellers purposefully conceal their identity.

Reasons for doing this include not wanting brands to know that they are selling online, or the brand is actually the reseller and doesn’t want its other retail partners to know it’s selling product online direct to consumer.

4. Have you checked to see if the products you plan to list are in categories that Amazon has gated?

Amazon has restrictions on who can sell in certain categories, and while the ungating process is usually surmountable, it’s important to recognize that if your desired categories are gated, you will have to apply very quickly to get ungated.

Check out Amazon’s approval category page before you decide to register on Amazon, and you can learn more about the ungating process if it applies to your product categories.

Amazon has already started gating specific brands and SKUs.

During your first 30 days with a seller account, we encourage you to add all of your intended catalog to your Amazon seller account. You will quickly be able to establish whether you will have problems with specific brands and SKUs.

You may need to change your catalog or close your account if Amazon is restricting the products you intended to sell.

Important Knowledge and Skills for Amazon Sellers

The Amazon marketplace has its own setup rules and regulations, but also its own combination of skills that every seller should master fairly quickly to succeed profitably and long-term.

These include:

1. Stellar marketing content to build product listings.

If the products you are selling are already sold by others on Amazon, this is less important because you will most likely end up adding your offer to the product listing that’s already in place (requiring you to provide only basic pricing, quantity available and SKU name information).

But, if your products are new to the Amazon catalog (easy to check by simply searching for your brand or UPC in the Amazon.com search bar), you will need to come up with content for such fields as product titles, bullet points, product description and generic keywords (for optimizing SEO on your listings).

You will also need product images for your listings – check out Amazon’s adding images support page for reference, but we encourage sellers to have multiple images, including a lifestyle image, if possible, to show the product in use.

This lifestyle image complements the main image that has strict requirements, including a white background, no branding and at least a 500×500 pixel count.

2. Clear understanding of your product sourcing avenues.

If your products sell well on Amazon, do you know how to replenish quickly enough to avoid extensive stockout periods?

If you specialize in close-outs and one-time buys, you may not be able to replenish the same SKUs easily, but should have strong channels for adding new inventory, as your Amazon cash position improves.

3. A decision on whether you plan to sell the same items over and over.

If yes, you will want to take advantage of Amazon’s replenishment alert tools inside Seller Central, as well as other external forecasting tools, such as standalone tools from www.forecastly.com or those integrated into many of the multichannel inventory/order management tools.

4. A developed process for identifying and addressing stale inventory.

While everyone wants their products to sell, the reality is there will always be some that don’t sell well and need to be liquidated or sold on other channels to help convert the inventory back into some level of working capital.

Amazon has tools to help FBA sellers identify stale inventory, while the non-FBA Amazon seller will need to monitor its inventory by SKU to figure out what might need to be promoted for faster sale.

The Amazon Seller's Solution Provider Directory

Optimize your marketplace inventory by connecting with a recommended Amazon expert. Visit our Amazon Solution Provider Directory to learn more..

5. Understanding of basic cost structure, including overhead costs.

Far too many sellers on Amazon understand only the basics of SKU-level profitability, resulting in a blended view of the seller’s overall profitability, rather than a pinpoint perspective on which SKUs drive what percentage of profits, while understanding which products are actually costing money to sell on Amazon.

Too many Amazon sellers don’t know their profitability until the end of the year when their accountant announces the final numbers, hopefully to the relief of the seller.

It’s critical for sellers to understand and compile all of their overhead costs, and recognize that these expenses need to be integrated in some manner into the running total of costs that a seller incurs selling on Amazon.

6. Know who is already selling the same SKUs as you on Amazon.

Shockingly often, new sellers join Amazon, list their products, and only then discover that the level or type of competition on their listings will make it next to impossible for the new seller to make any sales or any margin.

Before setting up an Amazon seller account, I strongly encourage every seller to spot check its intended catalog on Amazon to see if Amazon Retail is already selling these items.

If so, it’s best to walk away from those items right now.

Also, I encourage sellers to gauge what price points are competitive on Amazon, which can often lead to another recognition that the seller can’t possibly make any money if it’s competing with such low-priced competitors.

7. Know how much time is needed to get listings in place right after you’re registered as an Amazon seller.

Amazon doesn’t charge a new seller until the end of the first month on Amazon, during which time the seller should have created its product offers and activated at least some with sellable inventory.

If you open your account and don’t list your products, you’ll still get charged for having your professional seller account open.

Why not plan to invest a bunch of time in the first 30 days to get moving on your account?

Finally, knowing that sales feedback is important to Amazon in gauging the performance of all new sellers, I encourage every new seller to sign up for one of the many inexpensive feedback solicitation tools that send each customer a request for seller feedback.

These include:

  • Feedbackgenius.com
  • Feedbackfive.com
  • Salesbacker.com
  • Bqool.com

All of these can all help a seller to get feedback, and show Amazon that the seller is performing well against Amazon’s performance criteria while keeping customers happy.

From here, you’ll want to dig into specific Amazon tactics such as:

Common Amazon Seller FAQs

What is the Amazon Seller Central?

Amazon Seller Central is where individual sellers, brands and merchants login to manage and list their products on Amazon.com.

How do I open an Amazon seller account?

  • Decide what you want to sell on Amazon.
  • Go to services.amazon.com, sellercentral.amazon.com or click “Sell” in the main navigation on Amazon.com.
  • Choose between Individual and Professional selling plans.
  • Create your Amazon seller account.
  • Once registered. you will now be able to manage your selling account and list products.

How much does it cost to create an Amazon seller account?

Amazon seller accounts differ in pricing based on the plan you choose. The Individual Amazon seller plan costs $0.99 for each item sold and the Professional plan costs $39.99 per month. Both plans have referral and variable closing fees.

Can I create a free Amazon seller account?

No. To sell on Amazon you must sign up for an Individual or Professional accounts.

What is the Amazon seller return policy?

Amazon requires third-party sellers to offer the following methods of return:

  • Return address within the United States.
  • Prepaid return label.
  • Offer a full refund without requesting the item be returned.

Most households have an unsolved Rubiks Cube but you can esily solve it with this guide learning a few algorithms.

Final Word

Want more information about Amazon before you begin? Check out the company’s evolution into a worldwide sales giant. 

Want more insights like this?

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The Amazon Seller Services & Solutions Directory https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-solution-provider-directory/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-solution-provider-directory/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:27:56 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17661 This is the complete Amazon Solution Providers Directory for sellers. It is intended to help all retailers solve the Rubik’s…]]>

This is the complete Amazon Solution Providers Directory for sellers. It is intended to help all retailers solve the Rubik’s cube that is the Amazon marketplace. We are here to demystify it, allowing you to use Amazon –– which recently celebrated its 20-year IPO anniversary –– as a weapon in your distribution and revenue growth arsenal, rather than viewing the marketplace as competition.

Produced by BigCommerce and the founders of the Prosper Show, James Thomson and Joseph Hansen, the Amazon Sellers’ Solution Provider Directory has been a year in the making. Within, you’ll find more than 230 companies offering some of the most successful seller services available to alleviate pain points associated with selling on Amazon.

You’ll find more than 230 companies offering some of the most successful solutions available to alleviate pain points associated with selling on Amazon.

These are the solutions and seller services used by the highest-grossing companies incorporating Amazon as part of their channel strategy. Each of these solutions will save you time, optimize your operations and ultimately work to increase revenue made from the Amazon marketplace.

The directory is organized by vendor category to help you easily find the software, tools and services most relevant to your business. In each section, you will find tips concerning when your company should begin to engage with these solutions as well as a few key issues to consider.

Eliminating the steep learning curve associated with Amazon selling success will enable you to grow your sales and prepare your business for the future of commerce. If you want a PDF version of this book, you can download it in its entirety here.

The Definitive Guide to Selling on Amazon

For a more thorough how-to piece with step-by-step action items to start selling and growing on Amazon, read our Definitive Guide to Selling on Amazon.

Photo: Flickr, Canonicalized

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Amazon Product Research: Tools, Software, & Sourcing https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-product-research-sourcing/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-product-research-sourcing/#respond Sat, 15 Oct 2016 10:03:50 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17664 Amazon Product Sourcing: Where Do Your Competitors Get Their Products?

As you research potential manufacturing partners for your private label business, you can access public import records to see from where your competitors are sourcing their products. Think of this as a shortcut to identifying overseas manufacturing capabilities similar to what you need.

Key Issues to Consider

Just because your competitors are using specific overseas manufacturers doesn’t mean you will be able to get cooperation from the manufacturers to make your products. Keep in mind; these manufacturers may not be able to accommodate your custom design needs. It is a good place to start, however, without having to make a whirlwind trip overseas to identify suitable manufacturers.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneContact
Import GeniusMulti-channel(855) 374-1199Email
PanjivaMulti-channel(888) 902-3511Email

Amazon Price Tracker

Realistically, you should install these free tools immediately upon becoming an Amazon seller. By being able to determine listing activity across other sellers on listings you currently have or are considering adding to your catalog, you can gauge likely types of pricing competition you will face. You will also be able to understand whether the product has been sold by Amazon itself.

Key Issues to Consider

Remember, it’s critical to look at historical pricing information so you aren’t getting a static and potentially misleading picture of competition. For example, you may see the product you’re aspiring to sell has very little competition only to discover a week later that Amazon itself is selling this product. It was only temporarily out of stock, at which point you will be back to competing head-to-head with Amazon. This is something that may cause you to rethink whether you want to sell that item.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneContact
Camel Camel CamelAmazonn/aEmail
KeepaAmazonn/aEmail

Inventory Scouter

If part of your sourcing model includes retail arbitrage, you can save yourself a lot of time by having one of these tools accessible when you walk the aisles of your retail sources. By scanning barcodes to produce instantaneous Amazon product and profitability information, you can quickly establish whether an item makes sense to buy for resale on Amazon.

Key Issues to Consider

Most of these tools look only at Amazon fees and your cost of goods sold. You should factor in any indirect and overhead costs  into your decision on whether to buy any of these items for resale. In doing so, you may find that some of the estimated profitable items you’ve scanned aren’t profitable and that your time wandering the aisles inspecting product isn’t, in fact, free. There is real opportunity cost to your time.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneContact
ASellerToolAmazon(888) 604-8886Email
NeatoscanAmazon(651) 905-0995Email
Profit Bandit By Seller EngineAmazonn/aEmail
Scan PowerAmazonn/aEmail
Scout PalAmazonn/aEmail

Amazon Product Research

When you go looking for new products to add to your Amazon catalog, you may find yourself scouring through supplier catalogs or staring at spec sheets. Just how are you making your decisions about what to add?

Are you able to screen hundreds and thousands of prospective products on criteria like Amazon customer demand, Amazon seller competition, the presence of Amazon Retail as one of the competing sellers, margin opportunity, and so on? Without some automated tools, you likely aren’t able to do a deep-dive on most prospective products.

Fortunately, these product research tools can help accelerate this evaluation process significantly, allowing you to become more efficient and data-driven in your sourcing decisions.

Key Issues to Consider

While the line between inventory scouter software and product research software is closing every day, I typically see more types of data in the product research software. But, you have to figure out how to incorporate these additional data points into your decision on whether to source specific items.

Also, keep in mind that product attractiveness can change very quickly by the introduction of a just one lower-cost competitor, so make a habit of revisiting this information on a regular basis.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneEmail
AMZSharkAmazonn/aEmail
ASIN ToolAmazonn/aEmail
EcomSpy by Ecom Engine (FBA Spy)Amazon(800) 757-6840Contact Form
Etail InsightsMulti-channeln/aContact Form
FBA ToolkitAmazonn/aEmail
GetAMASuiteAmazonn/aContact Form
INDBLAmazonn/aContact Form
Jungle ScoutAmazonn/aEmail
Novel RankAmazonn/aEmail
Sales Rank ExpressMulti-channeln/aContact Form
Scope by Seller LabsAmazon(404) 909-8251Contact Form
Seller MetricsAmazonn/aContact Form
SellerstoolboxAmazon(513) 847-4942Contact Form
SellicsMulti-channeln/aEmail
TeraPeakMulti-channel(866) 959-8372Contact Form
WiserAmazon(855) 469-4737Email
AMZ SecretsAmazonn/aContact Form
AMZInsightAmazonn/aContact Form
ZonGuruAmazonn/aContact Form
amazookaAmazonn/aContact Form
AMZ TrackerAmazonn/aContact Form
AMZ OneAmazonn/aEmail
AMZ SpaceAmazonn/aContact Form
Manage by StatusAmazon(727) 475-2995Contact Form
Unicorn SmasherAmazonn/aContact Form
Launch List FormularMulti-channeln/aEmail
LaunchzonMulti-channeln/aEmail
Jump SendMulti-channeln/aContact Form
Ama SpecialistMulti-channeln/aEmail

 

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Amazon Inventory, Orders & Warehousing Directory https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-inventory-order-management-solutions/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-inventory-order-management-solutions/#respond Sat, 15 Oct 2016 10:02:23 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17680 Amazon Inventory & Order Management Solutions

If you are a multi-channel seller, keeping track of your overall inventory levels can get tricky. If you oversell inventory, you upset customers and are on the fast track to getting your Amazon account suspended. And if you undersell, you have lost out on sales. You need to have real-time inventory numbers to manage inventory by channel, giving you the ability to replenish FBA quickly (if required) or place new product orders with your suppliers if you are running out on critical selection.

Key Issues to Consider

There is quite a bit of variation across inventory and order management companies. Some charge a percentage of sales, while others charge by the number of orders processed. Some incorporate sophisticated analytics and purchase order management tools, while others incorporate some listing functionality, repricers, accounting software integration and shipping rate optimization tools. Also, not all marketplaces can be handled by each inventory and order management tool today. Careful due diligence on such centrally critical software is necessary for the individual business owner.

Ask each company:

  • What’s included and what’s not?
  • How much automation of which steps can the software do?
  • How much flexibility do you have to roll into or out of the software? How long is the on-boarding process, and what “house-in-order” steps are required of you to get started?

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
BalanceMaxxAmazon(262) 536-0057Email
BrightpearlMultichannel(888) 320-5069Contact Form
BrowntapeMultichannel(+91) 95954 62102Email
EcomdashMultichannel(704) 687–8067Email
EtailsolutionsMultichannel(855) 840-8400Email
FillzMultichannel(855) 655-6441Email
GetcartaMultichannel(800) 377-9202Email
LinnworksMultichannel(+4420) 3651-7045Email
Monsoon CommerceMultichannel(800) 520-2294Contact Form
OrderhiveMultichannel(888) 878-5538Email
OrdoroMultichannel(512) 271-9453Email
RetailopsMultichannel(855) 294-8383Email
SalesdashFBA onlyn/aContact Form
SalesWarpMultichannel(410) 276-4600Email
SelleractiveMultichannel(800) 545-7385Email
SellercloudMultichannel(888) 315-6652Email
SellerexpressMultichannel(028) 7136-3727Contact Form
SkubanaMultichannel(917) 769-3260Email
Solid CommerceMultichannel(800) 750-7617Email
StitchlabsMultichanneln/aEmail
VoloMultichannel44(0) 207 268 3045Contact Form

Multichannel Selling Solutions

For a seller looking to build and house its listing data in one place, as well as to coordinate inventory across multiple marketplaces, the multichannel sales providers offer a suitable solution.

Key Issues to Consider

While the combined use of a listing solution and an inventory and order management solution may be appropriate for some sellers, other sellers solve the listing-inventory-order issue using a single solution. For sellers using this second option, the companies below offer support to multi-channel sellers, getting their listings and inventory organized and pushed out to various sales channels.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneContact
Channel AdvisorMultichanneln/aContact Form
Channel UnityMultichanneln/aContact Form
M2E ProMultichannel(408) 520-9775n/a
Retail TowerMultichanneln/aContact Form
SellbriteMultichannel1-888-411-4117Contact Form
SureDoneMultichanneln/aContact Form
LinnWorksMultichannel1 347 391 8948Contact Form

Amazon Shipping Solutions

While many Amazon sellers are 100% FBA sellers, using Amazon’s UPS Ground program for inbound shipping to Amazon’s fulfillment centers, anything beyond that model will require shopping for shipping solutions.

Key Issues to Consider

Many Amazon sellers are 100% FBA sellers and use Amazon’s UPS Ground program for inbound shipping to Amazon’s fulfillment centers. If you want to use anything beyond that, it will require shopping for shipping solutions.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
EndiciaMultichannel(800) 576-3279Contact Form
OrdoroMultichannel(512) 271-9453Email
Parcel HubMultichannel0808 168 6013Contact Form
ShipperHQMultichannel(614) 526-9534Email
ShipStationMultichannel(512) 485-4282Contact Form
ShipworksMultichannel(800) 952-7784Contact Form
TrulycommerceMultichannel(888) 864-8151Email
Deliv.CoMultichanneln/aContact Form
PostmatesMultichannel(800) 882-6106Email
ShypMultichanneln/aEmail
Stamps.ComMultichannel(855) 889-7867Contact Form
ShippoMultichannel(555) 341-9393Contact Form
OrdercupMultichannel(877) 240-3545Email
ShipheroMultichannel(877) 671-6011Email
ShiplarkMultichannel(877) 753-5373Contact Form
ShippingEasyMultichannel(855) 202-2275Contact Form
ShiprobotMultichannel(888) 750-8286Contact Form
ShiprushMultichannel(206) 812-7874Email
TeapplixMultichannel(650) 516-6058Contact Form
TrueshipMultichannel(877) 818-7447Contact Form
4PXMultichannel86-755-23508000Contact Form
AGLCAmazon400-910-5669Contact Form
AramexMultichanneln/aEmail
BombinoMultichannel1-800-987-3977Email
CK1Multichanneln/aEmail
CNE ExpressMultichannel400-021-5800Email
EDAMultichannel0086-4000099980Email
Encompass ShippingAmazon(212) 434-0066Email
ePostgMultichanneln/aEmail
First Choice ShippingAmazon(855) 382-9446Email
Logistics PlusMultichannel(866) 564-7587Email
Nippon ExpressMultichanneln/aEmail
PantosMultichannel82-2-3771-2114Email
SpainboxMultichannel(347) 308-7888Contact Form
Transglobal Express GmbHMultichannel0345 145 1212 Email
Woodland GroupMultichanneln/aEmail
ZHYMultichannel(400) 700-5618Email
B2C EuropeMultichanneln/aEmail
SFC ServiceMultichanneln/aEmail
WNDirectMultichanneln/aEmail

Amazon Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Solutions

Do you pride yourself on moving into bigger warehouses every couple of years, all because your business keeps growing? Are you spending more and more of your time managing your warehouse (staff, equipment, operations), rather than building your business? You probably didn’t become an entrepreneur to become an expert on the intricacies of managing a warehouse.

Key Issues to Consider

While competitively-priced 3PLs can be more expensive than the out-of-pocket costs of running your own warehouse, your most precious asset is your time to spend on building your business. Be prepared to spend a little more on warehousing through a 3PL in order to free yourself up from all of the headaches a warehouse often brings a small business owner.

Not all 3PLs are equally experienced at FBA prep, poly bagging, bundling and kitting. Do your research carefully, and talk with case study clients that the 3PL provides. Also, expect some transition period up front as you train the 3PL employees on exactly the process you want for your order processing.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
NewgisticsMultichannel(877) 860-5997Email
PnplineMultichannel(201) 580-2681Email
Prep It Pack It Ship ItFBA only(760) 576-4404Email
Prep Label BoxFBA only(866) 964-2867Email
Prime Zero PrerpFBA onlyn/aConact Form
SellTecPrepFBA only(406) 320-0079Email
SM OperatorsMultichannel(866) 757-1377 Email 
Swan Packaging FulfillmentMultichannel(973) 790-8417Email 
TranstradeMultichannel(800) 880-8173 Email 
StorefeederMultichannel(0843) 523-6610Email
Ukfulfilment.co.ukMultichannel(0843) 523-6520Contact Form
WiseloadsMultichanneln/aContact Form

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Amazon Customer Management Solutions https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-crm-solution-providers/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-crm-solution-providers/#respond Sat, 15 Oct 2016 10:02:07 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17939 Amazon Account Management Consultants & Services

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.

Key Issues to Consider

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.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
All Industry ConsultingMultichannel(972) 885-9262Email
Amazon Consulting ExpertsAmazon(732) 695-6355n/a
Buybox ExpertsMultichannel(801) 900-4723Email
CPC StrategyMultichannel(619) 677-2453Email
Deniz OlmezMultichannel(646) 431-0151Email
Digital Brand WorksMultichannel(855) 464-4019Email
ElemerceMultichanneln/aEmail
Evolved CommerceAmazon(385) 233-7775Email
FitForCommerceMultichannel(973) 379-7399Email
Lance Petit ConsultingMultichanneln/aContact Form
Lisa Suttora Ecommerce Marketing StrategiesAmazon(206) 579-1263Email
Marketplace IgnitionMultichannel(866) 241-0090Email
Simple Sales SolutionsAmazon(407) 697-1705Email
Velocity MarketingAmazon(888) 293-2689Email
Vostok PartnersAmazon(206) 661-3496Contact Form
Whitebox.coMultichannel(410) 929-7608Email
ZanomaMultichanneln/aContact Form

Cross-Border Currency Management

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.

Key Issues to Consider

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.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
Currencies DirectMultichannel(407) 900-2174n/a
PayoneerMultichannel(800) 251-2521 x2Contact Form
WorldfirstMultichannel(844) 571-2682Email

Automate Messaging

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.

Key Issues to Consider

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.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
Desk.comMultichannel(877) 226-9212Email
FreshdeskMultichannel(866) 832-3090Email
HelpscoutMultichanneln/aContact Form
ZendeskMultichannel(888) 670-4887Email

Customer Email Support

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.

Key Issues to Consider

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.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
BalanceMaxxAmazon(262) 536-0057Email
BrightpearlMultichannel(888) 320-5069Contact Form
BrowntapeMultichannel(+91) 95954 62102Email
EcomdashMultichannel(704) 687–8067Email
EtailsolutionsMultichannel(855) 840-8400Email
FillzMultichannel(855) 655-6441Email
GetcartaMultichannel(800) 377-9202Email
LinnworksMultichannel(+4420) 3651-7045Email
Monsoon CommerceMultichannel(800) 520-2294Contact Form
OrderhiveMultichannel(888) 878-5538Email
OrdoroMultichannel(512) 271-9453Email
RetailopsMultichannel(855) 294-8383Email
SalesdashFBA onlyn/aContact Form
SalesWarpMultichannel(410) 276-4600Email
SelleractiveMultichannel(800) 545-7385Email
SellercloudMultichannel(888) 315-6652Email
SellerexpressMultichannel(028) 7136-3727Contact Form
SkubanaMultichannel(917) 769-3260Email
Solid CommerceMultichannel(800) 750-7617Email
StitchlabsMultichanneln/aEmail
VoloMultichannel44(0) 207 268 3045Contact Form

Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) Violation Monitoring

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.

Key Issues to Consider

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.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
Channel IQMultichannel(312) 585-3900Contact Form
CompeteraMultichannel(888) 387-2818Email
ItelligenceMultichannel(949) 625-6132Email
Marketplace RepricingAmazon(408) 874-6835Email
NewmoMultichannel(415) 524-8300Contact Form
Oris IntelMultichannel(614) 401-6310Contact Form
Price GridMultichanneln/aEmail
Price ManagerMultichannel(800) 574-0130Email
Price SpectreMultichanneln/aContact Form
ProfiteroMultichannel(844) 342-7464Email
TeikametricsAmazon(855) 846-2677Email
Upstream CommerceMultichannel(800) 815-1842Email
Wisemapper By WiserMultichannel(855) 469-4737Email

Virtual Assistants

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.

Key Issues to Consider

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.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
247virtualassistants.comMultichannel(267) 632-6605Contact Form
Hire My MomMultichannel(281) 757-2207Contact Form
longerdays.comMultichannel(800) 507-1622Contact Form
mytasker.comMultichannel(212) 913-9208Email
Time EtcMultichannel(800) 297-8540Contact Form
uassist.meMultichannel(305) 507-8406 Email
Virtual Staff FinderMultichannelContact Form
virtualemployee.comMultichannel(877) 697-8006Contact Form
ZirtualMultichannel(800) 997-9714Email

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The Best Marketing Services for Amazon Sellers https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-marketing-services-solutions/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-marketing-services-solutions/#respond Sat, 15 Oct 2016 10:01:59 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17942 Sponsored Product Ads Tools

After recent changes in the product review rules at Amazon, many more sellers are becoming focused on advertising to drive traffic to their products.

While the Sponsored Product ad offering by Amazon provides sellers with opportunities to increase traffic to their listings, competition for the limited ad space is quickly increasing.

Sellers need to become much more sophisticated in their bidding strategies and available budgets. Fortunately, new software is available to help sellers make sense of the return on investment of the endless number of keywords that could be used to promote individual products through Sponsored Products.

Key Issues to Consider

Customer search behavior changes over time, so it’s ideal to continue using such tools on a regular basis, constantly improving the effectiveness of advertising efforts. Words and terms that are not effective today may become more effective in a few months, as customers are exposed to new product choices.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneContact
PPC ScopeMulti-channeln/aEmail
SellerLiftMulti-channel425-368-3228Email
Ignite from SellerLabsMulti-channeln/aEmail

Landing Pages

Common situations you’d need a landing page for include:

  • You are building a shopping site using your own domain
  • You are creating a temporary flash site

In both situations, you probably don’t want to waste a bunch of time figuring out how to get your site operational and looking decent for customers. Fortunately, these providers offer you easy-to-use, inexpensive tools so you can focus on selling, rather than becoming a frustrated web designer.

Key Issues to Consider

Speed vs. bell-and-whistles functionality is the major tradeoff. While you may need a more permanent site, the tools of these providers are meant to get you up and running quickly. If you want much more advanced functionality, it will take time and likely the help of a web designer to get the perfect look and feel for your long-term site.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
LaunchrockMultichanneln/aContact Form
PrefineryMultichannel(512) 850-4277Contact Form

Logo Design

If you are building your own website or your own brand, you will likely want to build a logo for these assets. And you most likely aren’t as artistic as you are entrepreneurial, so look at these solution providers. Some offer a single design, while others use a competitive approach to getting you many options from which to pick your preferred.

Key Issues to Consider

Some of these sites allow you to enforce an NDA with your designers, so as not to publicize pre-launch that your website or product is coming. Be sure to give your designers information on what the website or product is meant to do and the audience it is targeted toward.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
48 Hours LogoMultichanneln/aContact Form
99 DesignsMultichannel(800) 513-1678Contact Form
CrowdsiteMultichannel(646) 741-2098Contact Form
Design ContestMultichannel(888) 906-1888Contact Form
Design CrowdMultichannel(800) 377-6955n/a
Design HillMultichannel(877) 777-6575Contact Form

Social Media & SEO

If you have your own site or brand, it can be beneficial to bring in an expert – even for just a few months – to build exposure of your assets quickly, with the careful expertise of someone who does this sort of thing over and over. They can provide bandwidth creating new marketing content that is used to spread the word on your product, or they can manage the distribution of any existing content you already have.

Key Issues to Consider

While no directory could possibly include all of the skilled social media marketing people out there, here are a few to get you started. There are many skilled people in this space, so if you are looking at improving awareness in a local area, ask other companies who might have had direct experience with local providers.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
Big LeapMultichannel(801) 436-3003Contact Form
Foxwell DigitalMultichanneln/aContact Form
Micro Media MarketingMultichannel(347) 878-6696 Contact Form
Rumor AdvertisingMultichannel(801) 355-5510Contact Form
SEO NationalMultichannel(855) 736-6285Contact Form
Boonze Media SolutionsAmazonamazon@boonze.com Email

Task Outsourcing

Let’s face it, you don’t have enough time to get everything done! There is a whole world of talented freelancers out there that can handle all sorts of projects for you.

If you’re running short on time or expertise to complete specific types of tasks, these companies organize freelancers to make it easier for you to find people who will help. Freelancer services range and include: consulting, designing, writing, creating listings, improving marketing materials, building websites or software, handling repetitive data look-up tasks, etc. Chances are some other Amazon sellers have already defined Amazon-seller tasks for these freelancers. It’s worth exploring what talented help might be out there to support your business today.

Key Issues to Consider

Some tasks may involve sharing confidential or semi-confidential information, so be careful about what you choose to outsource. Check to see that your work is being done by the person you’re talking with on these sites. Sometimes work gets farmed out, and you don’t know who’s doing the work. Interview multiple people and give them small test projects to see if you have good communication and work well together on getting expected results back within the expected timeframe.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
FreelancerMultichanneln/aUse
UpworkMultichanneln/aUse
FiverrMultichanneln/aUse

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Returns, Accounting & More Post-Sales Services https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-reverse-logistics-accounting-services/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-reverse-logistics-accounting-services/#respond Sat, 15 Oct 2016 10:01:55 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17937 Return Management & Reverse Logistics Services

As the number of orders increases, so too will your number of returns. Those returns can be rather annoying to manage and often include the inspection, grading and testing, upgrading, repackaging, etc.

Given that customers rarely send back all of the product, warranty, instruction manual and packaging, there is likely to be additional work needed to attempt to convert a returned item to a re-sellable item (hopefully in “new” form again).

If you have more than one full-time employee working just on returns, it’s time to be asking questions to these solution providers to see if they can streamline this headache for you.

Key Issues to Consider

Returns can cost you money in return fees and repackaging, but they also cost a disproportionate amount of time to repair versus selling a unit newly sourced from your supplier. There is a size-able opportunity cost to managing returns, both in terms of time, and potentially the lack of expertise on how to maximize recovery rates on those returns. These solution providers know the in’s and out’s on how to make the returns process less painful and costly for you.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
TradeportMultichannel(603) 692-2900Email
Genco MarketplaceMultichannel(800) 224-3141, ext. 3687Email
NewgisticsMultichannel(877) 860-5997Email
OpenedBoxReturns.comAmazon(718) 687-2973Email
OptoroMultichannel(301) 760-7003Email
Rebound Returns ManagementMultichannel01952 293028Email
4PXMultichannel86-755-23508000Contact Form
CK1Multichanneln/aEmail
EDAMultichannel400-0099-980Email
Ezi ReturnsMultichannel00 44(0)1618832767Email

Accounting

Every company needs to keep track of its financial position, including expenses such as payroll and insurance, purchase orders, inventory value and margins. The following software programs are commonly used by online sellers to track these numbers.

Key Issues to Consider

While Amazon is not known for providing sales and revenue data that can be easily incorporated into accounting software, some of the companies below have developed API and conversion tools to absorb existing Amazon data into their tools. Further simplify your life by looking for accounting software that integrates into Amazon’s Seller Central.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
QuickbooksMultichannel(800) 446-8848Contact Form
SageMultichannel(866) 996-7243Contact Form
Wave AppsMultichanneln/aContact Form
XeroMultichanneln/aEmail

Accounting and Bookkeeping Support

Long before you have a mountain of shoeboxes full of receipts, it is important to be tracking all of your income and costs. This way,  you can maintain a macro view of your financial position at any given moment, rather than waiting until year-end when taxes are due.

Face it; almost no one likes recording all of their financial data, but it’s necessary to know where you are doing well and where improvements are immediately needed. Rather than put unnecessary lags between paperwork coming in and you understanding how that paperwork reflects your true financial position, these solution providers offer you the ability to keep an eye on your financials without having to deal with the laborious task of sporadic, manual data entry.

Key Issues to Consider

These companies can offer basic book-keeping, or full-scale accounting (including income tax preparation and inventory reconciliation support). Depending on how complex your inventory and channels are, you may want to outsource more and more of this to focus on your skills sourcing profitable product.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
Bench.coMultichannel(888) 760-1940Email
Catching CloudsAmazon(720) 414-1444Email
TechFinanceMultichannel(212) 518-6835Contact Form
KPMGMultichannel(201) 307-7500Contact Form
MeridianMultichanneln/aContact Form
Pitney BowesMultichanneln/aEmail

Tax Calculation and Remittance

In which states do you owe sales tax? Are you collecting enough sales tax in enough states?

If you can’t answer these questions today, it’s time to look for support. And if you can answer these questions, and you’re required to pay in more than 2-3 states each quarter, you probably could benefit from the streamlined processes these companies will be able to provide you. No more manually filing papers to each required state. These companies will streamline all of that for you, and keep on top of ever-changing tax rules for each tax jurisdiction (state, county, city, etc.) in which you have tax nexus.

Key Issues to Consider

Whether you collect state tax or not on your online sales, you almost certainly are liable for paying the state taxes. Work with your tax attorney to confirm where you owe state taxes, and then consider using Amazon’s tax collection services to streamline the collection process, while using any of these solution providers to support the tax remittance process.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneContact
Avalara / TrustfileMultichannel(855) 669-5116Contact Form
TaxifyMultichannel(860) 532-0829Contact Form
TaxJarMultichannel1-855-800-6681Email
VertexMultichannel(855) 221-5885Email
Meridian Global ServicesAmazon(415) 419-5668Contact Form

Profitability Analysis

If you understand your all-in-costs by SKU, you can figure out your profitability by SKU, which will guide your actions on inventory management, vendor negotiations, sourcing of new products and pricing. If you keep your total sales revenue and total gross margin each aggregated, then you have no visibility on specific product issues or opportunities which ultimately drive your overall profitability. Most sellers realize they need more granular profitability analysis when they experience YOY sales growth that is not matched by at least the same growth in YOY gross margins.

Key Issues to Consider

Rarely do all products in a seller’s catalog generate positive margins, once consideration for indirect and overhead costs are made. Only at the point that all costs have been allocated down to the individual SKU level can a seller take immediate necessary action to course-correct on product selection.

Please note that many of the inventory and order management tools have incorporated profitability analysis tools into their overall structure. These companies below are stand-alone applications.

NameChannel ServedPhoneContact
AmazonworksAmazonn/aEmail
Sales CalcMultichanneln/aUse
Daily Source ToolsAmazonn/aEmail
Hello ProfitAmazonn/aEmail
FetcherMultichanneln/aContact form

Cash Management Tools / Financing Options

Most entrepreneurs think they need more capital. Depending on how well organized your accounting books are, there are plenty of organizations that will lend various amounts of money to build up your businesses.

Key Issues to Consider

Being an Amazon seller can be risky if you’re not paying attention to the road all the time. Bringing lenders into the equation adds more risk – risk that can be well managed if you are properly managing your overall business.

If you don’t know what you are doing as an Amazon seller, it’s probably best not to get too involved in using some else’s money.

As an FBA seller, you won’t be able to grant “first lien” rights to most lenders, as Amazon doesn’t allow anyone into their fulfillment centers to take control of inventory used as collateral in a loan. So be prepared to get very little funding based purely on the value of FBA inventory – other assets are required typically.

CompanyChannel ServedPhoneContact
PayabilityMulti-channel(646) 494-8675Email

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