Amazon Seller Data Automation and Integration: Tips and Tricks
Today, I would like to address a few of the most important aspects of Amazon Seller integration and automation, and why companies selling on Amazon Marketplace have no choice other than adopting the path of “Automation and integration” to their internal software business systems (ERP / CRM), to stay competitive and profitable on Amazon.
Before I start addressing my points, let me start with some definitions for terms that are often used in this article, even though, I already detailed those definitions in previous articles.
What is Amazon Marketplace?
Amazon Marketplace is a Web-based platform owned by Amazon, where buyers and sellers can engage into commercial transactions.
Amazon offers access to Sellers and buyers globally, which is why there are different “Amazon Marketplaces”; Clients from different parts of the world can buy directly from that platform. Each marketplace refers to a region or country.
As an example, in North America, there are 3 Amazon Marketplaces:
1. Amazon.com: primarily to service the US market.
2. Amazon.ca: To service the Canadian market.
3. Amazon.mx: To service the Mexican market.
The same thing in Europe where you can find an Amazon Marketplace for the UK, another one for Germany, and so on…
Amazon Seller Account
Amazon allows any entity (being a person or an enterprise), to sell their products and services in Amazon one on multiple Amazon Marketplaces; in return for the service, Amazon bills a monthly subscription fee, in addition to some other fees paid per transaction, obviously depending on the subscription plan.
An entity or person who owns an Account on Amazon Marketplace to sell its products or services, is considered an “Amazon Seller”, or owns an “Amazon Seller Account”.
Amazon Vendor Central
In contrast to Amazon Seller Accounts, Amazon Vendor Central is the total opposite of the “Seller Account”. In this case, Amazon themselves buy from the Company, and they sell the products in Amazon Marketplaces.
Managing Amazon Seller Account
Managing a store for Amazon Seller Account – is the responsibility of the “Account owner” on Amazon (or the subscriber). It is the responsibility of the account owner, to feed the Amazon Store with the products catalog, pricing, specs, images… and all aspects of the store management.
Amazon Seller Account Inventory and Fulfillment
In terms of Inventory and fulfillment, there are few options offered by Amazon for shipping and fulfillment. I will expand on this topic in a separate article. But for now, let’s keep it simple; an Amazon Seller account owner has the option to manage the inventory and fulfillment of his Seller account, or pay amazon for such a service, under the FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) program.
Integration with Amazon Seller Account
Amazon offers several ways to read and write data into a Seller Partner account. while all the offers are publicly documented, they require a certain level of expertise to implement, quickly and efficiently.
Amazon Options for Data Integration
In addition to the Amazon portal to manually manage the store, Amazon offers two options for an Amazon Seller Account owner, to build integrations and automation:
1. MWS (Marketplace Web Service): which is the first legacy integration door with the Amazon seller store.
2. SP-API (Seller Partner API): which is a new REST API service launched in September 2020 to replace the MWS.
Amazon MWS vs SP-API
In this paragraph, I will address some technical differences between both services.
Although MWS and SP-API of Amazon are both web services that enable programmatic access to seller data, there are major differences; following are some of those differences, extracted from Amazon website:
- SP-API treats data as REST-compliant resources that can be accessed and modified via standard HTTP methods. At the opposite, Amazon MWS exposes data using operations that are very proprietary to Amazon MWS.
- SP-API authorization leverages LWA and OAuth 2.0. This model eliminates the need for the manual exchange of auth tokens, as required by MWS.
- The authorization process of Developers is much different between both; With Amazon MWS, sellers authorize developers. With SP-API, sellers authorize applications. This makes it safer for the Seller to Authorize an application of a developer, that was revised and approved by Amazon.
- SP-API provides finer grain data access control than Amazon MWS. Developers can request access to only the data they need, and sellers can grant permissions at the API section, operation, or data resource level.
- SP-API uses AWS Signature Version 4 for authentication. Amazon MWS uses Signature Version 2
Data Automation and Integration: Why Integration and Automation Are a Must
When operating eCommerce transactions on Amazon, and selling on multiple Marketplaces, companies find themselves in a situation where they cannot avoid such automation and integration with their own ERP or CRM, and this is for multiple reasons; I will list a few of the important ones:
1. Amazon is by far one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in the world, with the most items sold; Selling on Amazon, will certainly increase the sales of any company with the right product. This creates the first urgent reason automate and integrate the sales on Amazon Seller Account, into the Company’s ERP/CRM system. Companies would like to keep their books up to date, with less human interaction, and near real-time.
2. Companies who are successfully selling on more than one Amazon marketplace, see the need for automation faster. It is not an option for any company to manage multiple systems for orders and fulfillment.
3. To compete in this tight eCommerce marketplace, faster fulfillment and shipping is expected from consumers. The fastest they get the goods the better it for the seller. To meet those fulfillment expectations, automation and integration should be in place.
4. The new reality created by COVID-19 disturbance of the economy worldwide, forced companies to adjust to the new reality if they want to stay the course, and remain competitive. Hiring more employees to produce the same result that can be achieved efficiently and quickly by machines is not an option today. Investing on automation and integration is the only way companies can achieve quick results and a quick measurable ROI.
“Do It Yourself” vs Outsourcing the Service?
Someone might say, well, cannot we do it ourselves? it is not that difficult, we have enough IT resources in-house, that can certainly handle such projects and get off the ground quickly.
My answer to this point is, of course, any company with sufficient time, resources and expertise can go into the project, and certainly deliver. However, there are some aspects of this approach should be highlighted and taken into consideration:
1. When doing it yourself, without enough internal resources, such projects can fall of the crack quickly.
2. At the technical level, although it seems straight forward to build such integration and automation projects, it requires lots of expertise and lots of learning. MWS is scheduled to be phased out by Amazon, we do not know when, and SP-API is taking over, but it is new, lots of security elements added and things can take time to learn and build.
3. Since a company is going to build it itself, it will be one and only one time to do the implementation; it does not pay off for this company, especially when it takes lots of time and effort.
4. Maintaining and managing the automation of Amazon Seller account data, at long term takes a lot of time and resources to keep it up and running; it certainly takes out of the staff’s internal efforts and would stretch them thin.