Running a Marketplace Storefront

Before we go and automate everything, it makes sense to step back and think about what we as a seller really need to do.

The first thing we need to realize is that our online storefront, whether branded, vendor or marketplace, represents only the tip of the iceberg of our computerized systems. We need to procure products, sell them (the visible iceberg), then get them from a warehouse to our clients. All of these functions benefit from automated systems. This series of posts was driven by the need to integrate the non-visible systems with the very visible storefront marketplace provided by Amazon.

Let's now focus on the activities we need to perform to support our Amazon marketplace storefront. The seller world is very different from the buyers world.

As a buyer you perform the following:

  • Find desired product (often a frustrating random search....)
  • Buy a product (credit card, PayPal, ...)
  • Wait for the postman
  • Receive the product
  • Give feedback, maybe..

The sellers perspective on this transaction is very different:

  • List a product for sale
  • Hope to attract buyers
  • Wait
  • Make a sale
  • Get your money
  • Fulfill the sale
  • Hope for good feedback

From the above list, the 2 obvious key action points for a seller are:

  • Listing a product
  • Detecting a sale

Amazon Seller Central provides a dashboard from which a seller can manually list products and manually detect sales. Seller Central allows a person to manually point and click to list items for sale. You can also manually review your orders to look for new sales and then you can trigger your fulfillment process (Amazon also sends out email notifications, but the notification system is not complete).

This manual point and click process may work for very low volume casual sales situations. But if you have hundreds (or thousands) of items and multiple daily sales, then as a serious vendor you need to have an automated mechanism to manage your marketplace storefront.

Hidden in the weeds are the additional seller processes that you need to perform to maintain your storefront. These include things like:

  • Price adjustments
  • Inventory tracking

Trying to manually maintain a non trivial product catalog via Seller Central is time consuming and error prone. For best results, these areas need to be automated. The next post in this series will provide a more in-depth discussion of the seller processes that we are interested in automating.

Teaser: Coming Real Soon Now will be some mention of utilizing the Amazon Product Advertising API and the Amazon Marketplace Web Service from Drupal.