Setting up shop on Amazon Seller Central is a proven way for third parties, ranging from small retailers to national brands, to sell more products. However, Amazon itself also stocks and sells millions of products that it buys directly from vendors.
Manufacturers and distributors who have established an official relationship with Amazon have their own Vendor Central dashboard. Amazon invites businesses to become first-party vendors, making it a far more exclusive option. This easy-to-follow Amazon Vendor Central Guide will help you get started.
What is Vendor Central?
Amazon got its start as a web-based bookseller, stocking and selling its own notably large selection. Although the company's approach has evolved to emphasize its third-party marketplace, its own inventory still hosts nearly half of all the products customers buy every year.
Just like conventional retailers, Amazon keeps products in stock by buying them from wholesalers and other authorized partners. Its recruitment and vendor services teams reach out to and support companies they have identified as a good fit for Amazon's first-party retail business.
Vendor Central is the web-hosted platform where all the associated activity takes place. Just like the Seller Central system that third-party marketplace participants use, Vendor Central covers just about everything required to succeed as one of Amazon's partners.
Unlike Seller Central, Vendor Central is open only to companies that have specifically been invited to join and become established as official vendors. After Amazon's vendor recruiters reach out to a company and have an offer accepted, they activate a Vendor Central account and provide the information required to sign up.
As such, the only realistic way to become established on Vendor Central is to have something that Amazon wants to buy and sell itself. Manufacturers and authorized distributors with desirable products often find Amazon vendor recruitment specialists reaching out to them directly.
In some cases, though, particularly successful marketplace sellers will also be invited to become official vendors. That almost always requires being the sole source for a product that already sells well, as Amazon is not generally interested in competing against many marketplace sellers who re-brand readily available stock.
Why Would I Want to Join Vendor Central?
Although becoming an official Amazon vendor can be lucrative, it is not necessarily the right choice for every business. Third-party sellers generally have a lot more control over their activities, even when they make heavy use of programs like FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon).
Vendor Central members, on the other hand, simply sell products to Amazon at wholesale prices and make sure Amazon receives them. Like a certain well-known brick-and-mortar retail giant, Amazon is notorious for negotiating low prices, too.
Official vendors can always make counteroffers when Amazon asks for pricing adjustments, and they can mark individual products as unavailable, as well. Working within Vendor Central means acting more or less like a traditional wholesaler, albeit one with an e-commerce giant for a customer.
While that will not be perfect for every company, it suits many very well. Many manufacturers have found, for instance, that joining Vendor Central makes for a fairly painless way to move more products. Wholesalers and even certain retailers can also find the relatively low-touch Vendor Central relationship rewarding.
What are Some Key Vendor Central Features and Tools?
Even before you sign up for Vendor Central, Amazon will assign a dedicated Account Manager who will be your official point of contact. In addition to helping out with day-to-day activities, your Account Manager will be tasked with answering any questions you have about the Vendor Central platform.
The simplicity of the relationship between Amazon and its vendors, though, makes that system fairly easy to understand. Some of the most commonly used Vendor Central features cover matters like:
Amazon runs a tight ship and tries to keep inventory levels relatively low. It sends purchase orders via Vendor Central once each week to many members, with particularly hot products meriting more. Currently available under the Vendor Central "Orders" tab, these requests are the cornerstones of each vendor's relationship with Amazon.
Vendors are responsible for shipping products to Amazon and making sure they arrive as agreed. Vendor Central makes it easy for partners to check up on shipments that still need to be sent, as well as those in progress.
When a company signs on as an official Amazon vendor, one or more products will normally be part of the bargain. Later on, vendors can submit additional products or variations on existing ones for consideration. Submissions and their approval status can be viewed under the Vendor Central "Items" tab.
Just like with Seller Central sellers, Amazon holds its vendors to high standards. Being late on too many shipments, failing to include purchase orders, using non-compliant barcodes or creating other problems will attract negative attention. The "Reports" section of Vendor Central details any of these failures and provides a summary of overall operational performance. It also tallies up the chargebacks incurred each week, a figure most vendors will want to keep track of and limit.
As might be expected, Amazon provides plenty of information to Vendor Central members about how their products are performing. Partners can review sales and returns figures, as well as Amazon's current and historical stock levels for their products. Although Amazon itself puts together product pages for the items it buys from vendors, Vendor Central allows suppliers to note any required corrections or improvements.
The "Reports" section of Vendor Central also includes some features that can be used to help market products and protect brands from imitators. Companies that use Amazon Marketing Services will also find Vendor Central useful for managing certain PPC-related activities, like approving recommended coupons.
These are only a handful of the most important Vendor Central features. While Amazon handles everything from listing and fulfilling products to customer service, vendors are encouraged to stay apprised of many of these activities to help make their offerings more successful. Amazon's Account Managers should normally be able to answer questions about these and other aspects of the Vendor Central platform.