Amazon MWS crash course
As a Seller on Amazon, you have to be one step ahead of your ever-growing competition. To succeed, you must make the best of the key resource available to you — data. We have covered the importance of Amazon data in our ebook: How to make sense of your Amazon customer data. Here we look at what is Amazon Marketplace Web Services (MWS)? And how Amazon MWS APIs (application programming interfaces) are the catalyst to automate and speed your access and use of this data.
What is Amazon MWS?
MWS can be traced back to 2002, when Jeff Bezos issued his famous mandate on building using APIs (application programmable interfaces). But it can remain something of a mystery to even the most advanced Sellers because of the complex methods of interacting with it. However, it is worth getting to know about MWS and its benefits — fast. Amazon is built on APIs and if you and your systems are going to get most out of Amazon data - you, or your developers, will need to exploit them to the full.
Connecting to the Amazon MWS application is crucial to increasing efficiency by automating your Amazon Seller Central Account. It is the only source of transactional data from Amazon, apart from downloading multiple spreadsheets and reports.
MWS is what is known as an integrated web service API. It’s what enables Amazon Sellers software to automatically exchange data on listings, orders, payments, reports, and more. This is also where most third party tools get their transactional data to be able to provide their own analytics services.
By linking your own systems to Amazon MWS, Sellers can increase selling efficiency, reduce manual tasks and improve response time to customers. There are no specific fees to access Amazon MWS, but you must have an Amazon MWS-eligible Seller account (and pay your monthly professional seller fee). If you are a developer you have to register as a developer, and although you do not necessarily have to sell products on Amazon, you still have to pay the $39.99 monthly fee to maintain a Seller account to maintain access to the MWS API.
What Amazon MWS provides
MWS is designed to benefit Sellers in several ways. Via the API, Sellers with development capability can integrate listing, order, and payment data into already existing business workflows, enabling them to use Amazon-generated data as part of already existing business practices. If you find yourself repeating tasks related to inventory, orders, advertising, or reporting, then using MWS APIs could drastically improve your productivity.
The MWS API plays an important role in enabling Amazon Sellers to:
- Prioritize Amazon advertising spend
- Analyze conversion rate and customer service issues
- Recognize conversion events that are driving bottom-line profitability
- Calculate how fees or shipping is impacting sales and profit
- Integrate Amazon data with CRM, loyalty, marketing and social systems and processes
- Understand purchase history and FBA fees.
The heightened competition within the Amazon marketplace (currently 47% of US e-commerce retail sales) has led SaaS (software-as-a-service) vendors to focus on maximizing the value of MWS data. Now there are third party apps that can provide amazing buying behavior insights using AI and machine learning techniques.
MWS APIs are used across the whole sales, order and fulfilment process. Overall, the MWS APIs are most often used to automate manual processes and to streamline workflows to reduce overhead costs and save hours of time. Applications and solutions built using the APIs include:
Sales and Order management
Any application that includes downloading order information, obtaining payment data, acknowledge orders, and scheduling reports will be using MWS. The API enables a Seller Central product listings to be connected to a content feed for real=time listing monitoring and content updates, It allows advanced reporting to more easily provide sales velocity and profits. Centralised reporting dashboards will also make use of the API giving the user the ability to request, query and download reports.
Analytics and bid management
Applications based on MWS APIs enable dynamic repricing based on competition with other Amazon Sellers or elsewhere on the web, They enable you to monitor Buy Box activity and monitor pricing.
The APIs In MWS enable applications to perform batch uploads of inventory, add products, check inventory levels, examine pricing information, and other inventory management tasks. They can link to Warehouse Management Systems to automatically list items or update stock quantities as items are brought into the warehouse. They can also managing inventory fulfillment and stock levels to ensure inventory availability in Amazon FBA centers.
0nce orders have left an Amazon fulfillment center, using MWS APIs you can track shipments and keep your customers aware of arrival times,
For Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Suppliers, Amazon MWS also allows you to create inbound shipments to an Amazon fulfillment center; automate the process for creating labels for units you ship to a fulfillment center; check status of inbound shipments and submit fulfillment orders.
To simplify the selection of such applications, Amazon is currently working on a Marketplace Appstore based on third-party software vendors publishing apps based on MWS APIs.
It is intended to be a one-stop-shop where the small and medium-sized (SME) businesses that sell on Amazon can more easily discover quality applications to help them automate, manage and grow their business.
Accessible from Seller Central, the Marketplace Appstore features applications created by Amazon and external developers and covers a range of functionalities across the selling lifecycle.
Typical API case examples
Amazon breaks the MWS API out into 13 different “endpoints” within the cumulative API, all with their own protocol/parameter oddities. The API includes endpoints for Feeds, Finances, Fulfillment Inbound Shipment, Fulfillment Inventory, Fulfillment Outbound Shipment, Merchant Fulfillment, Orders, Products, Recommendations, Reports, Sellers, Subscriptions, and Push Notifications. Let’s look at a few in a bit more detail to get a flavor of what is contained within these APIs.
With the Orders API, you can retrieve specific order information. The following scenarios are supported by the Orders API:
- Synchronize Amazon order data with order data in your local ordering system
- Get order status data on your Amazon sales so you can fulfill your orders using your own fulfillment system
- Migrate your historical order data to a third-party integrator solution
Order research and customer service:
- Get order details for researching issues and answering customer queries
You can perform the following business analytics with the synchronization data that the Orders API section makes available:
- Find SKUs with high or low sales volumes
Sales channel and fulfillment channel decisions:
- Monitor sales trends by SKU
- Find SKU sales trends by sales channel and by fulfillment channel
- Find unexpected changes in sales trends by SKU
- Find SKUs that have been in a given state for too long
The Products API section helps match products to existing product listings. It makes sourcing and pricing decisions easier. The Amazon MWS Products API returns product attributes, current pricing information, and a range of other products and listing information.
Matching can return a list of products and their attributes based on the following criteria:
- Search query
- List of ASIN, GCID, Seller SKU, UPC, EAN, ISBN, and JAN values.
- List of ASIN values.
Competitive Pricing can return the current competitive price of a product list based on Seller SKU or ASIN.
Offer returns lowest priced offers for a single product based on Seller SKU or ASIN.
It can also return pricing information for the lowest-price active offer listings for up to 20 products, based on Seller SKU or ASIN.
Returns pricing information for your own active offer listings, based on Seller ASIN or ASIN. All marketplaces.
Returns the parent product categories that a product belongs to, based on Seller SKU or ASIN.
Fulfillment Inbound Shipment API
Create and update inbound shipments of inventory in Amazon's fulfillment network.
Fulfillment Outbound Shipment API
Fulfill Multi-Channel Fulfillment orders, using your inventory in Amazon's fulfillment network.
Merchant Fulfillment API
Buy Shipping Services for Sellers, including competitive rates from Amazon-partnered carriers.
There are many more APIs within MWS. Details for each API group are published by Amazon and can be found here.
The future and APIs
Amazon MWS APIs have the potential to transform your selling on Amazon. Traditional strategies relying on manual report checking, paperwork and other time-consuming, outdated and expensive measures are unsustainable.
Forward-thinking Sellers are reducing costs and wasted time by buying solutions with best-of-breed components accessed via APIs, The Marketplace Appstore will bring a host of selling-related applications in grasp for a range of SME suppliers on Amazon,
Without these data-driven APIs, you will miss opportunities to better understand customer purchase frequency and spending levels. You will also struggle to cope with the sudden changes in demand created by a highly competitive and constantly changing Amazon Marketplace.