Are your products selling like hotcakes on Amazon? Has an Amazon buyer contacted you about selling via Vendor Central? Are you a frustrated vendor looking to make the switch to Seller Central?
This article outlines the strengths and weaknesses of both seller and vendor central to help you decide if you should have one, the other, or even both.
The fundamental difference between Vendor Central and Seller Central is who will be selling your products. With Seller Central, you are selling directly to Amazon’s customers. With Vendor Central, you are selling your products directly to Amazon.
Long-swirling rumors of Amazon consolidating the platforms have yet to materialize, so let’s dive into Amazon Vendor Central and Amazon Seller Central and give an overview of what each platform offers.
What is Seller Central?
Amazon Seller Central is the web interface used by brands and merchants to market and sell their products directly to Amazon’s customers. If you have a Seller Central account, you’re considered a marketplace or third-party seller.
As a marketplace seller, you have two options for fulfilling orders you receive from Amazon’s customers. You can handle the shipping, customer service, and returns for each individual order yourself or you can allow Amazon to handle this for you by enrolling your products in the Fulfilled by Amazon or “FBA” program.
What is Vendor Central?
Amazon Vendor Central is the web interface used by manufacturers and distributors. If you sell your products via Vendor Central, you’re called a first-party seller. You’re acting as a supplier, selling in bulk to Amazon, who then resells your products to consumers. Registration on Vendor Central is by invitation only.
A tell-tale sign that a company is selling through Vendor Central is the phrase, “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com” on a product description page.
The Short List
Here’s a quick comparison of the differences between a Vendor Central and a Seller Central account:
- Open to anyone
- Brands sell directly to Amazon’s customers
- Brand controls retail pricing
- Flexible fulfillment options
- Limited advertising options via Amazon Marketing Services (AMS)
- Complex sales process
- Enhanced brand content: limited module options available to sellers enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry
- Invite only
- Brands sells product to Amazon
- Amazon controls retail pricing
- Fulfillment handled by Amazon
- Multiple advertising options via AMS
- Traditional sales process
- A+ content: Access to more interactive and visual below-the-fold content options
Amazon Vendor Central Pros
Consumer Confidence: Having your products sold as a first-party seller through Vendor Central means that, as far as shoppers are concerned, your product is being “sold by Amazon.” That seal of approval can provide a boost in consumer confidence that you don’t get as a third-party merchant.
Expanded Advertising Opportunities: Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) allows vendors to drive demand with keyword-targeted ad campaigns designed to increase traffic to Amazon product pages. While both sellers and vendors have access to AMS, Vendor Central users have more robust options when it comes to running AMS ad campaigns. Strategically managing campaigns and tying keywords into product page content is crucial for success. You can read more in our Definitive Guide to Amazon Marketing Services.
Simplified Business Model: As a vendor, your primary focus is filling purchase orders, billing, and avoiding chargebacks (fees incurred for not meeting Amazon requirements). As a seller you will be responsible for sales reconciliation, lost inventory, and taxation liabilities, especially if you are using FBA.
A+ Content and Other Marketing Tools: If you’re selling through Vendor Central, Amazon offers vendors the option to create enhanced content via Amazon A+ Detail Pages. You can also participate in promotional programs such as Subscribe & Save (Amazon’s subscription service) and Amazon Vine, in which your product is sent to top reviewers, and user-generated content can translate into a serious sales boost.
Amazon Vendor Central Cons
Pricing Control: Amazon does not strictly follow the Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) guidelines from manufacturers. Amazon can and will adjust retail pricing at any time to stay competitive based on internal data.
Logistical Requirements: Amazon has very specific and rigid guidelines for filling its purchase orders. Vendors that struggle with maintaining stock and/or quickly fulfilling orders open themselves up to significant chargebacks.
Amazon Seller Central Pros
Analytics: Seller Central provides you with significant amounts of consumer data at no charge. While it is strictly prohibited to remarket to Amazon’s customers, that data can be used to better understand who is buying which products and where.
Pricing Control: As the seller, you can control retail pricing, so you are able to maintain established retail pricing for other channel partners. Also, you can automatically match your competitor’s pricing to stay competitive.
Messaging Control: Often, manufacturers discover that their retail partners and/or unknown third-party sellers list and sell bundles or older versions of their products without consent. Typically, these listings have limited content and images. The only way to control these unauthorized listings is through a Seller Central account that has been enrolled in Amazon’s Brand Registry program.
Amazon Seller Central Cons
Fulfillment Costs: Shipping and/or fulfillment costs can limit your ability to sell low-priced items on Amazon. When this article was updated in 2022, the minimum fulfillment charge for non-media FBA items is $3.07, not including Amazon’s commission. As of April 28, 2022, a five percent fuel and inflation surcharge (subject to change) will be applied to FBA fulfillment fees. That said, there are far too many brand-specific variables at play for us to make universal predictions on how much either Seller or Vendor Central will cost your brand (what, where, and how much you are selling, for starters).
Missed Opportunities: One universal truth is that Amazon will always favor its own first-party products over third-party sellers, so you are more likely to win the buy box as a Vendor than as a Seller. This is especially critical if you are attempting to use Amazon’s Sponsored Product Ad Tool. Your ads will only appear if you are the seller in the buy box.
Steep Learning Curve: For brands newer to the Amazon marketplace, navigating the platform’s marketing and advertising tools (and handling corresponding budgets) can be a lot, on top of managing the shipping logistics and customer relationships you are responsible for as a third-party seller. If this is you, content26 can help.
There are a multitude of factors that affect whether Seller Central or Vendor Central is right for your brand. In a (very tiny) nutshell, Seller Central allows brands to retain more control but also demands more logistical investment in terms of fulfillment and sales options. Vendor Central streamlines sales and fulfillment and includes access to expanded Amazon advertising and marketing benefits, but brands give up control of their products and pricing once they are sold to Amazon.
Large brands that want both the streamlined sales process of Vendor Central and the brand control of Seller Central may even choose to use both—if a brand discovers its products being listed and sold on Amazon by unknown third-party seller, the only way to control that messaging is through Seller Central. With participation in Vendor Central at Amazon’s invitation and discretion, wise brands will be prepared to move to Seller Central at any moment.
Why Your Decision Matters
Believe it or not, 74% of all online shoppers visit Amazon first when they begin a purchase decision, according to a 2021 study. Brands that haven’t strategized to effectively reach these shoppers may miss a major slide of ecommerce market.
It’s critical that you create a marketing strategy specific to Amazon. At content26, we are biased toward Vendor Central as it allows our clients to take full advantage of Amazon’s powerful marketing tools such as Amazon Marketing Services and A+ content. Read more about our work with Amazon vendors.
Have you dealt with other pros or cons while selling via Vendor Central? Share your thoughts in a comment or send us a tweet.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 5/25/2014, updated in 2017, and again in 2022.