This past couple of years have seen some unique issues for brands selling to Amazon on a wholesale basis through Vendor Central. In the past few months, one problem is becoming more clear: a lot of brands have been struggling to get support with their daily operations on Amazon. Some brands even claim that their previously assigned Amazon Vendor Manager has gone away and cut off all communications.
So what happened? What should we do now?
In one of the most recent podcast episodes of Ecommerce Braintrust, Bobsled’s Senior Account Executive Olivera Bojovic spoke with Bobsled founder Kiri Masters about these particular obstacles that more and more brands are facing on Vendor Central. Before joining Bobsled’s Executive team, Olivera worked on the Client Delivery Team at Amazon, supporting clients on Vendor Central and Seller Central.
Olivera shared that:
- An increasing number of brands have complained about a sudden lack of communication from their Amazon Vendor Manager.
- Brands big and small have been affected.
- Brands that operate a 1P business model on Amazon may have ongoing communication difficulties, with those team members focusing on gaining more 1P clients rather than serving existing ones.
- This has created challenges around managing content, ordering, pricing, and more, leading more brands to consider the 3P model.
️ Listen to the podcast episode here, or by searching for ‘Ecommerce Braintrust’ on your podcast app!
The New State of Vendor Central
If there is one thing Olivera Bojovic made clear throughout this episode, it’s that Vendor Central is going to be fully transformed into a self-service platform for many brands. Soon, Vendor Central may only support premium brands. This means that the shape and size of brand portfolios are changing, especially due to the decline of communication between brands and their VC teams.
What Happened to Vendor Managers?
Unfortunately, Vendor Managers don’t seem to be as involved in the conversations with individual brands as they were in the past. These Amazon representatives simply don’t have the time nor the capacity to manage brand portfolios like they used to.
In late Q1 2021, a vast majority of Vendor Managers were pulled from all of their existing assignments through Vendor Central and they were reassigned to different projects - typically with premium brands. The current focus of Vendor Managers appears to be to recruit new brands that are not yet on Vendor Central.
This is evident with a premium chocolate brand that was recently invited to join the Vendor Central program and to reopen negotiations on their contract. They were offered to get their Vendor Manager back as an incentive! Clearly, Amazon is trying to put VMs back into their original role, which is to focus on getting new 1P business and supporting negotiations with premium brands.
What Brands Were Affected?
This sudden lapse in communication and the disappearance of many brands’ Vendor Communications teams happened across the board. For the most part, this happens to brands that are mid-sized or smaller. Amazon seems to only assign VMs to brands that are very large.
This left a lot of brands without a way to communicate with Amazon in order to get help for their issues. As a result, they have had to suddenly restructure the way they deal with the work that usually got completed by the Vendor Manager in the past.
Do Any Brands Still Have Vendor Managers?
Olivera recently spoke with an Amazon Account Manager for a big apparel brand that has historically delegated all issues to the VM, rather than opening cases himself. This is not the only brand that has started doing this, as many brands reach out to their Vendor Manager as a personal vendor support representative.
This was not the original intention of Vendor Central; as a result, the platform has rapidly become a self-serve platform since many brands have lost communication with Vendor Managers. A lot of 3P brand’s Vendor Managers have been unassigned from individual brands in pursuit of new brands not yet on Vendor Central.
We have optimized a lot of content for brands big and small, and for some brands that don’t have restrictions, we have recommended a hybrid 3P/1P model. A lot of brands use this combination of VC and SC to improve profitability and to have more individual control over their price points.
Unfortunately, some brands are still not allowed to switch from VC to SC. Brands may be able to open negotiations with Amazon if they are large enough to have a Vendor Manager.
A Prediction of the Future
Olivera believes that the entire Vendor Central program on Amazon will eventually consist of self-serve programs and tools for most brands. In the near future, every VM’s portfolio may only consist of premium brands.
Supporting Clients in 2022
Ultimately, a lot of brands have felt that they are hanging in the balance. This is because they have had to take on the additional work of internal resourcing to compensate for a disappearing Vendor Manager. This new work can include weekly reports with recommendations for content and catalog organization, account KPI profitability, chargebacks and shortages, industry insights, and inventory planning.
The silver lining is that brands have started to understand their Amazon channel a lot more deeply. This has allowed an opportunity for brand leadership to become more educated in their journey towards Amazon maturity.
Measure Your Growth with the Amazon Savviness Score!
Olivera and the entire Bobsled team are excited about the continuing changes in 2022. We are happy to offer new kinds of support to brands who no longer have access to communications through Vendor Central. Late last year, we launched our Amazon Savviness Score tool, a great self-assessment tool for brands of all sizes. This is a great way to start the new year with an intentional plan for the rest of 2022 by measuring your worth and analyzing the factors that may be holding you back from major growth. After all of these changes, brands have more to consider when thinking about becoming a 1P or a 3P brand moving forward.