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amazon agency bi-weekly — what operations data matters for reporting in seller central and vendor central?
I promise you I am not attempting to start a heated debate about “what matters” on Amazon for brands and agencies. The only outcome in that scenario is a Pyrrhic victory at best. My intention is to help those focused on growing Sales on Amazon figure out which data points to pay attention to, and how to think about them as they relate to success on the channel.
In our last post, I outlined the Operations data that is available to brands on Vendor Central or Seller Central. Remember, we are operating from the definition of Operations data as, “The set of reported metrics Amazon makes available directly relating to your sales and traffic performance on the platform.” This collectively includes revenue, traffic, and inventory data that will help you paint an accurate picture of Amazon performance for your team internally or your clients looking for guidance.
Most of the data that I reference below is available on the macro level as well as the micro level — micro being the ASIN (SKU) level data and macro being the aggregate of the ASIN level data. There is no good way to cover all of the interpretations of the macro data, the goal here is to give you a starting point for reporting visualization. Remember, there is no API for Operations data out of Seller Central or Vendor Central, so you need to download the mentioned reports and store them to build your reporting solution.
At Dash, we are building the reporting starting point with our dash/REPORTS solution, a reporting dashboard of the macro Amazon metrics that are most important to know where you stand within a month or at month end. This solution works well for agencies and brands that don’t have the time or resources to build Amazon reporting for themselves. Our dash/ANALYTICS solution is the next step of interpretation of the data, showing you the micro level data of ASIN information and clearly explaining how each ASIN is affecting performance and contributing to the change across each metric period over period. Without the ASIN level information and the drivers of change, you are in the dark about what is causing your performance changes. If you’d like to hear more about our dash/REPORTS and dash/ANALYTICS solutions so you can get reporting and understanding your data quickly, just drop me a line at the email below this post.
If you are well versed in Amazon data and reporting, you may know much of information below but there will be value for even the most seasoned Amazon pro. Data analysis is what we do every single day at Dash Applications so don’t hold back if you’d like to get into the weeds with us. For clarity, I’ve included the Report navigation path for the data that I am referencing in the below. I want to make sure you know where to access the data I’m talking about so you can download it. Let me know if you have any difficulty finding the information I’m covering.
Vendor Central Reporting Data — Amazon Retail Analytics Basic
If you’re dealing with the default data made available through Vendor Central’s Amazon Retail Analytics Basic (ARA Basic), you will unfortunately quickly realize how shallow the pool of data available is. We are going to focus on ARA Basic data in this post as the majority of brands fall into the Basic bucket due to the price tag of Amazon Retail Analytics Premium (ARA Premium). Here’s what you can download and visualize, along with a number of questions that can be answered with Operations data:
Where to find this info in Vendor Central: Reports > Amazon Retail Analytics > Sales and Traffic Dashboards > Sales Diagnostic
Metrics referenced: Shipped COGS, Shipped Units
In ARA Basic, you get Shipped COGS data for the current month and the previous month. This isn’t necessarily a pure revenue figure, but represents the cash amount of product that was shipped to customers based on your wholesale pricing per unit to Amazon. You’ll want to view this data month over month to understand trends in the volume of product you’re moving through Amazon.
Coupling Shipped COGS with Shipped Units in a visual will help you spot trends about the mix of your product sales. Did Shipped COGS go up but at a lesser rate than Shipped Units? This could mean an unfavorable mix shift occurred as customers migrated to lower priced products in your catalog. It could also mean that Amazon beat you down during negotiations of your per unit pricing and you are now seeing the effects of the lower wholesale pricing you agreed on. Remember, when you’re a vendor to Amazon, Amazon is in control of the pricing to the end customer. So if Amazon isn’t moving enough units or sees a lower price for your product somewhere else online (like your website or Walmart.com), they can lower the offer price of your products at a whim and push the margin degradation back on you.
Overall, an upward trend in Shipped COGS and Shipped Units is a good indicator that you’re doing something right. If you can tie it back to increased marketing and advertising investment, a promotional push, or good PR, all the better. It is with this data that you’ll need to justify your strategy and efforts in the channel. Looking for trends in Shipped COGS and Shipped Units will help you identify what works and what doesn’t while also helping you see the bigger picture of seasonality and higher level growth trajectory.
As much as I’d love to tell you all about the Page Views and Sessions your products are driving as a Vendor on Amazon, I simply can’t…not with ARA Basic data anyway. Amazon took away Glance View data last fall so the average Vendor is left in the dark as far as traffic goes. If you’re fortunate enough to have an ARA Premium subscription, then you are better off but not by much. In particular, you can work with the Traffic Diagnostic report data of ARA Premium to map changes in Glance Views by product for the prior month and same month last year. However, the Glance View information is represented as percentage changes relative to a prior period, never actually giving you a whole number to work with. So how many Glance Views did your products drive last month? Nobody knows…but we know if the Glance Views are up or down so that’s something.
Where to find this info in Vendor Central: Reports > Amazon Retail Analytics > Operations Dashboards > Forecast and Inventory Planning & Inventory Health
Metrics referenced: Weekly Ordered Units Forecast, Sellable On Hand Units, Open Purchase Order Quantity
Even though we don’t get Traffic information, we do get an Amazon-provided forecast of how many units your brand shipped over the last 13 weeks, and how many units Amazon thinks you’re going to move over the next 26 forward looking weeks. This forecast is based on a number of factors, including the Glance Views on your product pages that Amazon frustratingly denies us in reporting (harumph). But, we’ve found that downloading this data and comparing last month’s forecast against this month’s Shipped Units and updated forecast can tell us a lot about how we are performing against Amazon’s expectations for our products. If we are outpacing Amazon’s forecast, you can expect some increased Purchase Order quantities coming your way.
Seller Central Reporting Data — Business Reports
We are a bit biased toward data on the Dash team so it’s no surprise that we tend to support the use of the Seller Central platform over trying to build a brand on Vendor Central. The obvious caveat is that for large brands, Vendor Central can make a ton of sense when internal structure, margins, and leverage against Amazon are considered. However, for the majority of brands, Seller Central provides a much friendlier platform if Sales growth is the goal.
Namely, you get richer data when you are a third party (3P) seller on Amazon as opposed to being a first party (1P) seller to Amazon. The reason for this is that you’re responsible for the sale and service to the end customer. Therefore, Amazon pulls back the veil on data so you can best support their customers (they are in fact still Amazon’s customers, not yours in case you had any illusions). Let’s take a look at some of the data worth paying attention to in Seller Central for reporting and an eye toward growing Sales.
Where to find this info in Seller Central: Reports > Business Reports > Detail Page Sales and Traffic (change to ‘By Month’ to see and download your monthly data; also make sure to select all the columns for the report hidden under a ‘Columns’ tab on the right hand side of your screen)
Metrics referenced: Ordered Product Sales, Units Shipped, Total Order Items, Average Selling Price, Average Units per Order Item, Average Sales per Order Item
Seller Central reports your Sales Revenue in the form of Ordered Product Sales (OPS). As with Vendor Central, this is the most basic revenue metric worth tracking over time to understand sales trends and patterns. In conjunction with Units Shipped, the data can be visualized to understand the movements of mix within your catalog. If Units Shipped goes down but Ordered Product Sales stays relatively the same month over month, it’s possible that you were on the receiving end of a favorable mix shift. However, that dip in Units Shipped is likely worth investigating on the ASIN level. Did you lose Buy Box on a fast moving, lower-priced product? Did customers start purchasing larger pack sizes but at a lower frequency as a result of your promotional or sale pricing efforts on higher price point bundles? More on this in a follow up post about ASIN level analysis that unlocks the mystery of the macro level trends and deltas period over period.
In addition to OPS and Units Shipped, you also receive Total Order Items (or Orders), Average Selling Price (the average price each product was sold to the customer at), Average Units per Order Item, and Average Sales per Order Item (OPS per Total Order Items). Clearly, this is advantageous data in comparison to the ARA Basic revenue data of Vendor Central. With this information, you can immediately see how much people are ordering from you and at what price point (which you control, not like Vendor Central). As it relates to the macro level data, visualizing the revenue data points of Seller Central will tell you a lot about how your products’ collective price point is performing over time. If you’ve been marking down product to encourage higher volumes, you should see the effect reflected in your Units Shipped and Average Selling Price. Not to mention, if you’re really offering a swell deal, you could see your Average Units per Order and Average Sales per Order creeping up with Total Order Items contracting slightly as customers buy more at once but less frequently than in the past.
Where to find this info in Seller Central: Reports > Business Reports > Detail Page Sales and Traffic
Metrics referenced: Pageviews, Sessions, Unit Session Percentage, Order Item Session Percentage
A major differentiation of Seller Central data compared to Vendor Central’s Amazon Retail Analytics Basic or Premium data is the reporting of traffic data in whole number form. What I mean is that you actually get to see how many Pageviews your listings received and how many Sessions you drove (the unique visits by a user within 24 hours). Armed with Traffic data and Orders data (Total Order Items and Units Shipped), you can easily calculate your all-important Conversion Rates on a Units or Orders basis. Amazon actually throws you a bone on this one and calculates it for you in your Detail Page Sales and Traffic Report under the metrics ‘Unit Session Percentage’ and ‘Order Item Session Percentage’, which are Amazon’s fancy way of saying ‘Conversion Rate’.
Tracking your Traffic and Conversion Rates over time will tell you a boatload about the seasonality of your business, the effect your marketing efforts are having on the amount customers viewing your detail pages, and how well your pages are performing in converting a customer once they land on your products to name a few. Remember, Amazon is one big search algorithm so Pageviews and Sessions are primary indicators of the health and progress of your business. Amazon is growing its customer base month over month, so you should generally be seeing more traffic year over year just by the very fact of more customers being on the platform. Some important questions to answer are whether or not you are out-pacing general Amazon growth, your products’ category growth, and your competitors’ growth with your organic search rankings being an important driver of overall traffic and visibility on the platform.
Where to find this info in Seller Central: Reports > Business Reports > Detail Page Sales and Traffic
Metrics referenced: Buy Box, Average Offer Count, Average Parent Items
Lastly, we come to inventory. An age-old aphorism applies here in that, “you can’t sell what you don’t have (in stock)”. One of the primary mistakes early sellers on the Seller Central platform make is to run out of stock. The A9 Search Algorithm determining your products’ organic search rankings harshly penalizes those brands that run out of stock on fast-moving products. It creates a poor customer experience and Amazon will have none of that.
The metrics from the Business Reports that are good indicators of your inventory performance are Buy Box Percentage, Average Offer Count, and Average Parent Items. You are able to get more inventory and in-stock information from Amazon’s MWS API data, which we will cover in a separate post. For now, you can glean a lot from the three metrics just mentioned.
Tracking Buy Box Percentage for your catalog over time can tell you two primary things. One, are resellers stealing sales from me? And two, am I running out of stock? Any Buy Box Percentage below 100% means that you were not winning the Buy Box on your own Product Detail Pages at some point throughout the month (or day/week/year). The main two culprits are resellers underpricing your offer and stealing the Buy Box away or you freely giving the Buy Box away by running out of stock (it disappears or goes to another seller if you don’t have an active and available offer, which makes sense).
Additionally, if your Average Offer Count (how many active offers you had available on average over the time period) or Average Parent Items (the number of Parent variations you had actively listed over the time period) drops, then you know you had fewer listings available than you had before. Contractions in these metrics may indicate that you ran out of stock as well.