Posted by Augustin Kendall on September 17, 2014
Amazon Vendor Central’s A+ module tool replaced self-service templates about a month ago. While it’s still in beta (whatever Amazon may say, this thing is full of glitches), it has already required us to change our guidelines for creating Amazon A+ content.
That said, we’re enjoying the increased flexibility these modules offer. Vendor Central self-service templates were enormously restrictive on design.
What is Amazon Vendor Central (VC), you ask? VC is a management interface for Amazon first-party sellers and those who work with them. It includes a new module tool for vendors to upload content to their Amazon product pages. There are 12 different modules that can be combined in any order to create product-page content, with a limit of up to 5 modules per description.
In the past month, we’ve created new guidelines and best practices to make the best product pages possible with the new Vendor Central A+ module tool. We asked our project leads, who have been working with content26 clients to make the most of these new options, to share some of their opinions here.
What problems are Amazon modules creating for vendors?
Dave McCaul: Manufacturers selling overseas (Amazon-UK/FR/DE/ES/IT etc.) want to upload A+ content to European sites that is consistent with their Amazon-US A+ content. But thusfar, Amazon-US is the only site using the modules. This means a separate design process for Amazon-Europe (which entails extra time and money) and product pages that are inconsistent from one country to the next. If Amazon-Europe unveils the modules next week, then great. But we’re skeptical it will happen this year at all.
Kim Neys: The most immediate problem I’ve seen is vendors having projects that were disrupted by the quiet release of the modules. Many of our clients have legal review that requires them to see the content and layout exactly as it will appear on the retailer site. So if they have some content that has been approved using the old templates, it needs to be reworked to fit the new modules and reviewed again, effectively delaying content publication, sometimes for SKUs that have tight deadlines. In addition, we’ve found that several of the modules are buggy or don’t display in the same way as the previews. This is something we can’t control and it makes it difficult for vendors to tailor their content to a certain module when the final result is unpredictable.
What’s changing the most about the way you prepare content for Amazon pages built using the modules?
Daniel Ward: Knowing that the modules can contain numerous bullet points in multiple sections, I’m more inclined to include bullet point details such as tech specs, product dimensions, etc. Also, since the modules are heavy on images, I’m encouraging my vendors to take advantage by providing us more product and lifestyle images.
Elizabeth Olmsted: The way I prepare content is a lot more customized than it was previously. It’s also a lot more image-oriented. The modules allow much more flexibility for including images.
What one thing do you want to change most about the Amazon modules?
Daniel Ward: I would like unnecessary white spaces to be eliminated so that page layouts have a more cohesive look.
Dave McCaul: The headers and image captions! These elements make an A+ page scannable and allow us to emphasize key product benefits. But the modules employ light gray font for many of the headers, and most modules do not allow image captions at this time (next week, who knows).
What advantages or disadvantages does this tool have over the previous one, the self-service templates?
Daniel Ward: Designs can be much more flexible. Vendors can now use a specific number of modules to accommodate the exact amount of text and images they want to use. Also, wide banner images can be used to showcase a family of related products.
Dave McCaul: It allows for far more creativity and customization than the self-service templates. Also, the emphasis on images is fantastic, at least for those companies that develop more than three images per product.
Elizabeth Olmsted: I think the Amazon modules are a lot more flexible than the previous template tool, and I think they allow vendors a lot more flexibility in pricing. Products with more complicated features can easily have long descriptions to explain those features, while descriptions for products with fewer features can focus on image-oriented layouts.
Do you think it’s easier or harder to emphasize certain elements of good content than it was before?
Kim Neys: One thing we’ve always emphasized as being crucial is having content that is scannable: bold, concise headers that stand out, bullets that outline important features, and so on. Some of the module designs don’t lend themselves to those things. For example, some of the header options are gray and difficult to distinguish from the text, the bullets are gray text on a gray background, the modules are spaced out rather than compact. These things make it harder for a reader to scan the A+ section quickly for information.
To quote content26 CEO Tony Martinelli from our first post on the subject: “The Vendor Central modules indicate Amazon’s focus on providing platform-agnostic content.” We think they also indicate that Amazon heard and responded to complaints about the first VC tool, the templates. No small matter, that.
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