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How Amazon is driving sales via mobile services for third-party sellers

Amazon is leveraging mobile to address one of its weak points – product-related content – as it looks to do a better job of guiding smartphone shoppers along the path to completing a purchase.

The ecommerce giant already has a comprehensive mobile experience for consumers but has, until recently, lacked a comparable tool set for the third-party sellers offering products on the site. With the recent price increase for Amazon Price, the online retailer appears to be focused on addressing its shortcomings in product content with a new mobile application and new mobile product ads for third-party sellers.

“Amazon has enough SKU and price advantage to have survived thus far just fine, but as more and more brands and retailers refine their commerce capabilities, Amazon will have to figure out how to play,” said Jeremy Jacobs, strategist at Resource, Columbus, OH.

“Amazon Prime was a huge win in capturing repeat customers, but raising the price of Prime combined with retailers creating their own unique advantages likely has Amazon realizing they may need better content to continue to attract new customers,” he said.

Go-to source
Amazon’s key advantages are its large product selection, price and convenience. Mobile is playing an increasingly important role for the online retailer, which reported that more than 50 percent of its customers shopped via mobile during the 2013 holiday period (see story).

The Amazon Seller program benefits third-party sellers by being able to expand their distribution while enhancing Amazon’s reputation as a go-to source for products.

However, Amazon has struggled with great content that helps customers make a purchase decision. While the ratings and reviews are good, other product page content can be missing, disorganized, hard to navigate and not optimized for mobile.

The Amazon Seller app was launched earlier this month, with the goal of those who have a selling account on Amazon to grow and manage their sales. It could help Amazon address the content problem and help shoppers better evaluate products.

Basic features include the ability to quickly and easily create new listings on and respond to customer messages.

Users can also search for new items to sell on Amazon using text search or scanning bar codes. Another feature enables users to estimate the profitability of items before selling them.

Mobile product ads
Also this month, Amazon is helping sellers get their products in front of mobile users by extending its Sponsored Products ad placements onto tablets and smartphones.

Sellers do not need to make any changes to their campaigns to take advantage of the new ad placements. However, Amazon is urging sellers to evaluate their campaign budgets as the new placements could lead to increased impressions and clicks.

The app is also important from the service point of view, with sellers now able enjoy some of the same flexibility that consumers have already had.

“Consumers have long been able to use Amazon mobile touch points to shop in more moments and occasions with more flexibility,” Mr. Jacobs said. “The seller program now provides the sellers with equal flexibility in responding to customers’ requests and feedbacks in a more timely manner.”

Better mobile content
Amazon also continues to enhance the mobile user’s experience in other ways.

For example, the online retailer recently introduced a new image recognition app feature that cuts down on the number of steps it takes for a consumer to find and buy a product by scanning an item (see story).

Amazon’s focus on bringing mobile services to third-party sellers comes as small and independent retailers continue to look for ways to leverage mobile. From payments and POS services to offers and loyalty, mobile is helping many of these retailers compete more effectively with larger retailers.

“I view Amazon as one of the most innovative and risk-taking companies around,” said Dr. Hank Lucas, professor of Information Systems at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Many people thought they were cannibalizing their own sales by listing products from multiple vendors on the same page.

“This move by Amazon should help the independents greatly-their sites will be exposed to many more potential customers,” he said. “This exposure will encourage the sellers to build better and better mobile sites, which will benefit both them and their customers.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York