Enforcing MAP and overhauling your brand’s presence in the wild west of Amazon is an overwhelming task. Because of the lack of controls Amazon provides to brands, the lack of experience brands have with these endeavors, and the lack of time to dedicate to doing it well, these topics are rightfully overwhelming. Their long term implications for your brand are obvious and because of that, brands are courageously tackling these projects like their future depends on it. Because it does.
Fortunately, you are in good company with every other brand on Amazon. Five years ago, no brand had conquered these endeavors. So give yourself some grace, set reasonable expectations (its going to take longer than you think), and get going. For most brands who commit, both of these endeavors can be accomplished within a year.
One of the biggest lies that brands buy into is that MAP enforcement and improving brand presence on Amazon are projects that should be done one after the other. This is not true. I often hear well-intentioned brands say, “When MAP is under control, we’ll start thinking about our brand’s presence on Amazon.” Both projects should be done simultaneously. Here’s a short list of why.
They are ongoing bodies of work: MAP enforcement success is measured by the percent of time listings are at MAP. It is not a binary measurement of “done” or “in progress” because sneaky sellers with phony names will regularly manage to list product below MAP to make a quick buck. Unless your brand decides to enforce an exclusive Amazon reseller network, MAP enforcement will always be a daily effort.
Brand presence is also an ongoing body of work for similar reasons. Once a brand is happy with the way they look on Amazon, they should start running advertisements (we consider both of these work-streams under the same umbrella of brand presence). Similar to MAP enforcement, listing quality is degraded for various reasons and must be constantly maintained, while ads must constantly be managed to adjust to the competitive environment. Brand presence is never “finished.”
They are separate bodies of work: The working parts of MAP enforcement are violation monitoring software, a ground level enforcer, and an executive enforcer (this is usually the National Sales Manager). Similarly, the working parts of Brand Presence are marketing personnel, Amazon implementation specialists, and an executive sponsor (this is usually the VP of Marketing).
Of course, there are companies that will enforce MAP nearly hands-off for the brand, and agencies that will implement brand presence nearly hands-off as well, but there will always need to be an executive sponsor. Because these endeavors are separate bodies of work with very little overlap, they can be pursued at the same time. For smaller brands where the same person wears all of these hats, we often recommend working with an agency who is able to operate independently with very little guidance
They work together to support the brand’s off-Amazon sales: 9 out of 10 customers visit Amazon at some point in their purchasing journey, and the first thing they are comparing is price. If the customer can find a lower price on Amazon, Amazon will cannibalize off-Amazon sales. This shifting of hands instead of true growth is detrimental to real progress.
If price is the same on and off Amazon, the customer will look into the rest of the listing to interact with the brand. If the brand’s Amazon presence is up to brand standards, the brand maximizes that customer interaction. And since 95% of transactions happen off-Amazon, your Amazon presence is a greater influence to off-Amazon sales than on-Amazon sales.
They both have long term implications: We see both MAP enforcement and brand presence primarily as long term investments. A clean MAP environment allows resellers to focus on promoting your brand over the competition instead of competing against themselves. This promotes creativity and allows the best resellers to clearly rise to the top. Brand presence is significant long term because we are seeing brands’ competitive market share in all channels slowly adopt their market share on Amazon. This is due to Amazon’s influence as a dominant marketing channel.
They both have short term implications: The biggest short term implications are missed Amazon sales to the competition because of poor brand presence, and cannibalization of off-Amazon sales because of MAP violations on Amazon. Savvy brands should see 10-20% of their national sales coming through Amazon. For most legacy brands in 2019, this percentage is lower than that because no-name competitors with excellent brand presentation are stealing share on Amazon.
With a brand legacy and strong brand presence, we typically see our partners' Amazon sales grow to 10-20% of their national sales within 1-2 years. Every sales manager has received calls from angry retailers complaining that Amazon’s prices are too low for them to compete. The short term implication of cleaning up MAP is less wasted time for sales managers dealing with angry retailers, and higher margins for all retailers.
Other posts for further learning on this topic: