Successfully working with Amazon requires a specialized level of expertise in multiple disciplines well beyond traditional pricing, sales, fulfillment, marketing and distribution. Successfully exploiting Amazon requires mastering a new tool kit filled with new methods, software and metrics.
Vendors can do some initial research to test Amazon competitive search, category, product, listing, pricing and sales assumptions using tools such as Jungle Scout, Helium 10, and especially Amazon's own FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) Revenue Calculator. "These will help answer the question 'Is this item selling? Is there money in this category? How do the competitors rank?' These are tools every Amazon seller needs," noted Charles Koon, VP of sales and marketing at Sellers Arena.
Experimenting with these instruments won't make you an expert, but will provide a level of basic familiarity to enable you to take the next step: finding an Amazon expert.
"You need to talk to somebody who knows their way around Amazon," advised James Thomson, a partner at Buy Box Experts. Thomson is also a former business head at Amazon Services, and co-author of the book "Amazon Marketplace Dilemma: A Brand Executive's Challenge Growing Sales and Maintaining Control."
"Whether that's a consultant like us, an exclusive reseller, whether that's a retailer you work with already that's got lots of experience representing brands on Amazon. You need to talk to somebody who can help you understand the short term and long-term implications of different distribution choices."
Fortunately, there are a plethora of Amazon-specific consultants who provide a variety of services who can not only help you plot the right strategies, but implement these strategies and even manage the Amazon relationship in whole or in part.
Before you choose an Amazon consultant, conduct an internal expertise inventory. Then check out several consultants to make sure they fill those areas of expertise you may be missing, as well as examining their own levels of competency and their own areas of expertise. Do they specialize in working with companies such as yours — i.e. brands, importers, distributors, retailers — and especially, do they understand the unique consumer electronics space? Then, of course, there's pricing and how consultants charge, a la carte or prix fixe.
Once you find the right Amazon partner, you'll need to decide who does what when. Will the consultant manage all or just some of your Amazon relationship? Different consultants specialize in different strategic, planning, implementation or on-going operational duties. Many will help you train an in-house Amazon account manager to handle day-to-day maintenance, including dealing with the inevitable bad reviews or customer complaints, while the consultant handles more overarching search, inventory, fulfillment, competition, pricing and marketing strategies and duties.
One final piece of advice often cited is to avoid anecdotal advice from other businesses who work with Amazon.
"The reality is there is no right answer — [no] one-size-fits-all approach," noted John Ghiorso, CEO and owner of Orca Pacific. "I think that in it of itself is probably the biggest pitfall, trying to apply models that worked for somebody else to your business."