Posted by Augustin Kendall on August 14, 2014
On Tuesday morning, with little to no warning to anyone, Amazon quietly did away with the Vendor Central self-service templates introduced in 2013. In place of the 8 template options are now 12 modules that can combined to create a product page. The description, once published, looks quite different, too. Here’s an example.
It’s clear Amazon is angling for mobile compatibility with this design. It’s just as clear that modules are Amazon’s answer to the major complaints about the self-service templates: lack of flexibility and very limited design options. What’s not clear is if these modules are an improvement, but we’re cautiously optimistic. Why? Because design options certainly have expanded.
There are 10 standard modules and 2 advanced ones. The advanced options offer comparison charts (up to 6 columns and 10 rows), custom text in cells, and dynamic photo enlargement of a kind (see photo above). A product description can use up to 5 modules in any combination, no more.
And the tool accounts for product variations such as color or size. We can enter content and photos for a master version that applies to all variations of a product, and change content in each variation (see photo below). It isn’t bulk upload in the way that was possible pre-template, but it’s still an improvement over entering nearly identical product pages, one at a time, for a 100-plus-item product list.
The term to use, by the way, is “A+ feature” or “A+ application.” Amazon is calling this version 2.0; version 1.0 was the A+ self-service template.
However, the A+ 2.0 version seems far from finished. Errors abound as we’re testing options in the office this week. It’s going to be harder to preview pages before submitting them. Various text formatting options have been removed.
And, no matter what, the final, published descriptions are awkwardly designed and introduce vast amounts of white space and extra scrolling to the reading experience, which isn’t visible during the pre-submission preview of your product page. The drag-and-drop interface of the module selector implies a WYSIWYG quality that the published pages don’t support.
Here’s another example page. This one uses three modules, including one of the advanced options. (See those gray lines in the middle of the description? It appears between each and every module.) We don’t know when the cutoff is, but we’re seeing some of our recent uploads, which were created in the old self-service templates, in the new format.
Pricing is variable, of course, with costs of $50 to $300 per module depending on “level of service selected” (code, as ever, for how well you negotiate with your vendor manager at Amazon).
We’re putting together recommended module combinations for our clients and hoping that Amazon will fix some of the many bugs of the new tool soon. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with content26 CEO Tony Martinelli’s thoughts about this significant change in Amazon Vendor Central.
The Vendor Central modules indicate Amazon’s focus on providing platform-agnostic content. The self-service templates were a first attempt at this, but they were too limited for marketing and branding needs. Basically, Amazon is trying to figure out how to apply technology to those needs while maintaining standardization. I think this is a definite improvement, a step in the right direction.
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