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Checklist: Getting Started with Amazon Vendor Central

October 12, 2023

Brands considering selling through Amazon Vendor Central, but don’t know where to begin?

You’re not alone.

It’s a complex and often opaque platform, and just getting started can be a challenge – let alone driving growth.

I get a lot of questions from businesses about how best to make it work.

Misunderstandings abound, from the little (like how to optimise particular processes) to the large (like what the value of the platform is in the first place).

Even those that have been using Amazon Vendor Central for a while can get confused, and it’s no surprise – getting significant sales results from the channel takes specialist knowledge and a thoughtful, well-executed strategy.

To help get you started, I’ve outlined the 10 critical steps you should make sure you include:

  1. Understand the differences between Amazon Vendor Central and Amazon Seller Central

    Some businesses (and even some experts) are convinced that Vendor Central is simply an inferior version of Seller Central.

    That’s emphatically not the case. Vendor Central is a very different, and potentially very valuable channel – but it’s not suited to everyone.

    Ensure you understand who it’s for, how it works, and what benefit it drives before you dive in.

    My blog Is Amazon Vendor Central right for your business? can help with this.

  2. Clarify your business goals

    To see success, you first need to decide what success looks like.

    If your priorities are growing your sales, protecting your brand and becoming a category leader, then Amazon Vendor Central is a good place to be.

    If all you really want is a light-touch, low friction auxiliary sales channel, or if it’s important to have a direct relationship with consumers, it might not be.

    Getting clear on your goals and what’s realistic for your growth stage will help you use Amazon more effectively.

  3. Put dedicated time and resource aside

    If you do choose to use Amazon Vendor Central, be prepared to invest.

    It’s a much more strategic channel than Seller Central, and you need to treat it as such in order to drive results.

    List and forget won’t work here.

    Make sure that you’ve allocated enough time and money to take advantage of the account management, advertising and optimisation opportunities Vendor Central offers you.

  4. Plan to take back brand control

    Before you can grow your brand, you might need to triage its existing presence on Amazon.

    Even if you haven’t directly listed your products on Amazon before, third party sellers might have.

    You’ll need to take back control of those listings in order to grow in a consistent, controlled and sustainable way.

    Start with taking a full inventory of where your products are listed, and work with Amazon to regain ownership of them.

  5. Identify niches for your product catalogue

    One of the best and worst things about Amazon is the amount of competition on the platform.

    While that volume drives traffic from consumers, it also makes it harder to get their attention.

    You should take a strategic approach and use tools like Helium10 and Jungle Scout to work out where the most opportunity exists.

    You may need to take different approaches for the different products in your catalogue, depending on the amount of similar products available, and the performance of competitors selling them.

  6. Apply the 80/20 rule

    It’s a cliche, but the 80/20 rule really does work when it comes to Amazon.

    With so much competition, there’s no way to optimise every single product in your catalogue – at least, not without a huge amount of management.

    Instead, identify the products driving 80% of your revenue and focus your marketing and advertising efforts on them.

  7. Keep an eye on operational pinch points

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways that Amazon Vendor Central can eat into your margins if you’re not careful.

    To a certain extent, that’s the cost of doing business, and  you need to be prepared to spend some money to see results from the platform.

    But there are also lots of opportunities to cut your overheads and save.

    In particular, look out for chargebacks and shortage claims, which can easily be avoided if you pay attention to the detail of Amazon’s many rules for suppliers.

  8. Leverage advertising and marketing channels

    Advertising is a must.

    Amazon earns a lot of money from its advertising options, and so makes it near-impossible for brands to survive on the channel without using them.

    You should at minimum be prepared to pay for Sponsored Products, and ensure you leverage deals and promotional events.

    If budget is tight, you can also supplement Amazon advertising with other, cheaper marketing channels like off channel PPC and email campaigns.

  9. Build a robust reporting strategy

    This one’s a given: make sure you clearly understand how you’re performing in order to iterate and improve.

    But it’s worth mentioning because Amazon Vendor Central has its own, unique metrics you’ll need to get to grips with in order to ascertain just how much money you’re making (or losing).

    Besides basic commerce metrics, you should also look at Vendor Central’s purchase, stockholding, sell-through and operational reports.

    Make sure you understand how data reporting works on the platform, and keep an eye on the numbers that are most pertinent to your goals.

  10. Appoint a team to drive Amazon growth

    All this sounds like a lot, and the truth is – it can be.

    Amazon is a demanding channel, and to see significant revenue growth, you’ll need to think carefully about how you scale it.

    That won’t happen by accident.

    Ideally, you should look to appoint a specialist whose sole responsibility is managing Vendor Central.

    At the very least, ensure your Amazon strategy is properly embedded and prioritised within your business, and that other teams are aligned around supporting it.

To learn more about the whats, whys and hows, read The Strategic Guide to Driving Growth on Amazon Vendor Central in 2024.

Or, get in touch. I’ll be happy to help you figure out how to get more value from your efforts on Amazon.


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About the Author

James Wakefield is an Amazon Vendor expert and the founder of WAKE Commerce.

Having been involved in the internet since year dot (com), James established WAKE in 2015 to share his passion for data, branding and online retail strategy.

Since then, WAKE has helped leading consumer brands build a more profitable relationship with Amazon, navigate the many complexities of the platform and scale their business on the world’s biggest marketplace.

With a particular focus on Vendor Central, James consults with scaling businesses that want to make Amazon work for their brand.