- Lena R. Liberman
- On August 17, 2017
- 6 Comments
In the last several weeks, we’ve touched upon how Seller Central is beginning to offer even more capabilities that were previously only available through Vendor Central and Vendor Express. Whether those capabilities have been directly rolled into Seller Central without changes (Sponsored Brands Ads) or they have been incorporated with some changes and a new name (A+ Content in Vendor Central becoming available as Enhanced Brand Content in Seller Central), it is clear that the walls between Amazon’s seller programs are not nearly as thick as they once were.
Today we’re exploring the new Stores feature (formerly Storefronts), another instance of a crossover offering that was once limited to 1P vendors and is now available to third-party sellers, but only those who own their brands and are registered on Amazon’s Brand Registry 2.0. Per the usual, the rollout to Seller Central came with little in the way of clear direction regarding eligibility and instruction. In this post, we’ll try to cover the basics, address some confusion, understand where Stores fits in the Amazon seller-resources pantheon, and give some thought to the implications of Stores availability on Seller Central.
What’s the Deal with Stores and Is Branding the Same as Advertising?
First, let’s clear up some confusion, confusion resulting from inconsistencies in Amazon terminology and structure. The blog post announcing Amazon Stores concludes with the call-to-action: “To start building your Amazon Store, log in to ams.amazon.com for vendors or Seller Central for sellers.” If you click the latter link, you are indeed taken to your Seller Central account but to your Sponsored Products campaigns (ditto if you click the Get Started button and choose “I have a seller account”). That is not your real destination so ignore the odd landing and look to the top navigation. Here you will see a menu item called Stores, and it will be its own menu entity rather than included in the Advertising menu.
Eligibility for the New Stores Hinges Upon Brand Registry
Once you’ve arrived at the Amazon Stores page, you’ll notice how minimal content is: just an image and four bullet points about capabilities and benefits. To my eyes, the purpose of this page is not to inform you about Stores so much as to tell you whether or not you are eligible for the program and to drive more brand-owning sellers to Brand Registry 2.0.
If you are eligible for Stores according to the information on this page, it is because you have successfully registered a brand or brands on Amazon Brand Registry 2.0. You’ll see those brands listed here and you can proceed. More on that in a bit.
Don’t Own Your Brand? You’re Out of Luck
If you get a message saying “You don’t have any brands registered. Only registered brand owners are eligible to create Stores,” followed by a button encouraging you to register your brand, you are not currently eligible for one of the new Stores. If you own your brand, you can try to register it with Amazon; if you don’t, you still have your old-style seller storefront. You can configure this in your Seller Profile and customize the URL but that’s about it. What you will get will not look great; it will be a page with your products on it and nothing else. End of story.
This is how an Amazon Stores page looks for a seller who doesn’t own his or her brand. It is also how a Stores page looks for a seller who does own his or her brand but has not created a new Stores page. Do not confuse these limited Stores pages with a brand’s page such as this (it looks good, has links to social media, but it’s impossible to see the full product line and it’s hard to shop generally) or an Amazon author/artist page such as this (it offers good info and product selection but it looks like it was designed in 1998). None of these is a particularly elegant option for buyers or sellers.
The New Amazon Stores Is Here—Finally
And that is why the new Amazon Stores for brands is a welcome tool. If you are eligible for a new branded Amazon Store, you can make something beautiful and you can do it easily with templates and tiles. If you have experience with Enhanced Brand Content pages, all the better as it is a similar process. I’d be remiss in my duties were I not to mention the standard caveat at this juncture: This is Amazon, which means that you need to follow the rules to the letter. If you don’t, your page will not be approved. Sellers who have been experimenting with this say that high-resolution images are essential to getting approval, so you won’t want to mess around with crummy graphics.
The beautiful branded page that Amazon is using as an example of the new Stores belongs to delightfully quirky (or perhaps delightfully quarky) scientist, author, and generally super-cool nerd Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing and full of NDGT personality and flair, but it’s also a full-featured store that makes sense and even the inner product category pages are brand consistent.
This is not something that Amazon has truly ever offered before, which has always sort of shocked me, given what Amazon is and the fact that sites like Etsy do a really nice job of providing seller stores. I don’t know why it’s taken Amazon so long to do this, but they have done it now, finally, and I have no doubt that it is the result of the company’s doubling down on its investment in brands. This was a promise made at the Boost with FBA Seller Summit in June and one that Amazon seems intent on keeping.
The Discoverability Factor Needs Improvement
As you can see, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s page looks awesome and it presents official NDGT products in a logical way that brand pages and author pages and seller storefronts have never managed to do. The problem? And it’s kind of a big one is “How does a user find it?”
- If you Google “neil degrasse tyson amazon storefront,” it’s the first hit. However, no one is searching like that, and the URL for that first hit is cumbersome and ugly and nothing like www.amazon.com/neildegrassetyson, which it really ought be for branding.
- If you Google “amazon neil degrasse tyson,” you’re not going to get it in the first page of results (I quit after that because it’s page one or nothing).
- If you search on Amazon for “neil degrasse tyson,” you’ll get it but that will be because it is a Sponsored Brands Ad sponsored by Amazon Graphic Tees (FYI: The first organic listing is a book and the second is the oh-so-dated Amazon Author page). This begs the question: How do regular seller brands get their Stores found? Do they have to pay to play to use Sponsored Brands ads?” I don’t know yet.
One of the big promises of the new Amazon Stores was branding via a simple customized URL with the seller’s name. How often have sellers asked for this in the past? Now the promise has been kept but only sort of. The good news is that the best way to get to the Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s new Amazon Store page is by typing www.amazon.com/NeilDeGrasseTyson into the address field of a browser. Unfortunately, what shows in that field after hitting the page is a big ugly URL that is anything but simple or self-explanatory. As well, variations such as www.amazon.com/stores/NeilDeGrasseTyson and www.amazon.com/page/NeilDeGrasseTyson and www.amazon.com/stores/page/NeilDeGrasseTyson are 404s. That needs work given that we all know the power of a clean, simple, branded URL.
I love the new Stores tool and the pages it generates and that Amazon is finally giving sellers their proper virtual shop space. If you have the time (or you can make the time) to set up your new Stores by all means, go ahead, it can only help you. But it certainly shouldn’t be first on your list such as tasks like finding new sourcing opportunities, reducing returns, selling more with Sponsored Products ads or getting more quality reviews.
Brands Above All
Finally, it seems clear that the goal of the new Stores feature is to get brand-owning sellers locked in with Brand Registry 2.0 and to reward them with goodies not available to 3P sellers who do not own or register their brands. We’ve already seen this with Sponsored Brands ads and Amazon Marketing Services in general. If you want to use the good stuff Amazon has to offer, you’d better be a 1P wholesaler or a 3P brand owner. The writing’s on the wall with regard to Amazon much preferring to deal with brand owners than with resellers without brand ownership.
Amazon is heavily invested in brands and in dealers who are official representatives of brands. It is in their best interest in terms of cutting the best deals, bypassing middlemen, minimizing risk with regard to counterfeits, and partnering with the brand for exclusive offerings. That’s just smart business and Amazon has never been coy about their ambitions and intentions. Unfortunately, in this case, as in others, 3P sellers find themselves on the wrong side of the strategy.