2020 Inc 5000: We Made the List!

Aspen Roots Limited Ranks No. 4,165 on the Inc. 5000

We made the list! Our parent company, Aspen Roots Limited, is thrilled to announce that we made it onto the 2020 Inc. 5000 list!

We could not have done this without you: our clients, vendors, advisors, and partners.

Inc. magazine today revealed that Aspen Roots Limited is No. 4,165 on its annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses. Intuit, Zappos, Under Armour, Microsoft, Patagonia, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000.

This is our inaugural year of making the Inc. 5000 list and we are extremely excited to be included in the class of 2020. We want to thank our clients, vendors, and advisors, for the opportunity to work and grow with them.
We hope to make the list again next year.
—Oscar Barbarin, CEO

Our ceaseless drive to expand markets, capabilities, and opportunities, has led to consistent year-on-year triple-digit e-commerce growth for our clients. Inclusion in the 2020 Inc. 5000 is an honor and a direct result of our dedication to our clients, but the true reward is seeing the relief on a client's face, knowing their e-commerce presence is in excellent hands, demonstrated by significant annual growth.

For more information, visit getarmr.com/inc5000

Thank you.

--The Aspen Roots Limited Team

Aspen Roots Limited, an Inc. 5000 Company. ARMR and Cathay+Fenix, division of Aspen Roots Limited (an Inc. 5000 company)
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

 

Packages - Photo by Claudio Schwarz

Packaging for Amazon: Navigating New Packaging Requirements

As of February 4th, 2020 Amazon has updated the minimum package dimensions pertaining to its sustainable packaging programs. This communication highlighted increased expectations of Amazon Vendors to develop and implement ready-to-ship packaging.

While this is not the first instance of Amazon updating product packaging policies, this marks a significant increase in the number of products impacted by Amazon’s declared sustainability goals. Amazon has pledged to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early through their Climate Pledge: getting to net-zero carbon impact by 2040 across all Amazon businesses and a major component of this commitment is to reduce packaging waste through the FFP and SIOC programs.

What is FFP and SIOC?

Amazon breaks out ready-to-ship packages into two tiers:

Tier 1: Frustration Free Packaging (FFP)
  • Curbside Recyclable Packaging Materials
  • Easy to Open
  • Minimal Packaging
  • Ships without Amazon Overboxing
  • Minimal Damage Rates
  • No Additional Preparation Required by Amazon
Tier 2: Ships-In-Own-Container (SIOC)
  • Ships without Amazon Overboxing
  • Minimal Damage Rates
  • No Additional Preparation Required by Amazon

What Do Amazon Vendors and Sellers Need to Know?

Amazon’s Frustration Free Packaging (FFP) program has existed for a decade, but mandatory inclusion of sustainable packaging did not happen until 2018. On September 3rd, 2018 Amazon laid out long-term plans to move small items to boxes with flexible mailers, and to work with Vendors to have items Ship-In-Own-Container (SIOC).

Amazon gave a deadline of August 1, 2019, that many products sold through Vendor Central would be required to meet its Tier 2 SIOC packaging requirements. This applied to non-sort items with dimensions over 18"x14"x8" or weighed more than 20lbs. If items were not tested and certified as SIOC or FFP, then each unit sold would be subject to a $1.99/unit chargeback fee.

It’s important to note that Amazon is talking about non-sortable packages: these programmatic changes do not yet apply to products going to Sortable fulfillment centers.

New Minimum Package Dimensions

The minimum dimensions for FFP or SIOC certification are now set at 6" x 4" x 0.375." This is a reduction from the 9"x6"x0.375" expectations.

Items are excluded from SIOC chargebacks if:

  • Any one, or more, of its dimensions are less than 6" on its longest side
  • Less than 4" on its median side
  • Less than 0.375" on its shortest side
The Cost

Each item above the minimum packaging expectations will be subject to the $1.99/unit chargeback. The change will go into effect on August 1st, 2020. Units sold from Feb 1st through July 31st will still likely receive a chargeback notice, but the fees will be "waived."

My Products Qualify, What Should I Do?

Many businesses will be impacted by these updates to SIOC / FFP guidelines. Brands will need to invest to create packaging that is durable, space efficient, and ready to ship. Amazon has established the Amazon Packaging Support and Supplier Network (APASS) to help brands on designing, testing, or certifying packaging to meet SIOC requirements

Not every iteration of product is subject to testing–-if variated products have the same shape, material composition, packaging design, and packaging specifications-–a single product is eligible for testing as a representative for all highly-related items (Color, Size, Scent, etc).

Additionally, if products are sold through multiple Vendor Codes or multiple marketplaces, adjustments to the certification form are required to prevent excess testing.

While a $1.99/unit fee is high, the cost of developing and testing products may be hundreds or thousands of dollars per item--for businesses with large catalogs, the total cost may be unrealistic to implement.

Companies will need to adapt to these changes. In the near term, moving to Seller Central (FBA fulfillment) may be the best way to preserve profitability, but with these ambitious environmental commitments, it is only a matter of time before Amazon will seek to reduce packaging waste from marketplace sellers as well.


Curious to learn more about how FFP and SIOC may impact your brand? Want to know how to take your brand's marketing strategy to the next level? Our team of ex-Amazonians are here to help. Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com


Photo Credit: Claudio Schwarz

social media hashtag

Introducing Amazon Posts

Amazon has been successful in making immense strides in growing their digital advertising platform. Currently ranking as the third largest digital advertising platform, behind Facebook & Google, Amazon continues to siphon away ad spend from their behemoth competitors.

Another industry Amazon has attempted to penetrate (but honestly, failed miserably) is social media. You may remember Amazon Spark, but it's more likely you never heard of it in the first place. Heralded as "the Instagram of Amazon," the Spark program targeted Prime members and was designed as an infinitely scrollable feed of shop-able stories and photos: imagine your Instagram feed, but everything is a clickable, buyable product.

After two years the Spark program was finally laid to rest in June 2019, and its bones were repurposed into the #FoundItonAmazon page, which caters solely to Women’s Fashion and Home Décor.

Fast-forward two months and Amazon has begun subtly promoting a new mobile-only program: Amazon Posts. Eerily familiar to the layout of an Instagram feed, these lifestyle-based images have that familiar square aspect ratio and description below.

So What Are "Amazon Posts"?

Amazon messages Posts as an opportunity to "use curated photos to inspire shoppers to engage with your brand and products on Amazon."

Each post is slotted into a carousel on product detail apges, directly above "Customer Questions," and links directly to the advertised product. Posts also include category tags, encouraging customers to explore and discover related products and brands.

Amazon messages that Posts will show up for related brands, category fees, and related posts, generating opportunities for product discovery, increased browsing activity, and most notably: shopping.

Where the Posts program differs from the Spark platform is that Amazon is not trying to camouflage a shopping feed beneath a layer of lifestyle, food, and travel photos. The Posts program is significantly more transparent and brand-centric, tailored specifically to businesses looking to generate awareness and connectivity between products in their assortment.

What's Amazon’s biggest selling point? It’s entirely free. There is no cost-per-click attribution, no merchandising fees, and no cost to participate in the program.

Are All Brands Eligible? How Does My Brand Qualify?

As with all Amazon programs, there are minimum eligibility requirements for brands to participate, however in this case, the bar is relatively low.

At the moment, the Beta program is available exclusively to Vendors, but the Posts team is hoping to expand eligibility to Sellers in the very near future. For Seller Central Administrators, there is already a toggle to enable "Posts" under "User Permissions," but this functionality has not yet been implemented.

Brands wishing to participate must also have an active Storefront and ensure their brand byline (the brand name hyperlink listed underneath product titles) appears correctly and links to the appropriate Storefront. Storefronts are available after successfully enrolling in Brand Registry and implementing brand name mapping for all enrolled products and brands.

Once a brand has been accepted into the Posts program, they will have complete access to the portal and will need to create a minimum of three posts before going live.

Weighing the Opportunity

While the Posts program is enticing with its no-cost model and attractive UI, brands need to consider whether this is program warrants the significant time investment required.

Benefits

The immediate benefit of the program is access to additional traffic metrics: brands can measure the impressions, clicks, and click-through rate (CTR) for every post and dissect performance with customizable timeframes.

While not specifically eluded to, it's apparent that brands can also replicate social media posts from other platforms and evaluate customer engagement. Using the same image and caption from a Pinterest or Instagram post, brands can tie-in the product ASIN and transform their content into a shop-able feed.

Finally, Posts aren’t deprecated after a specific time window, so generating relevant, evergreen content is much more approachable for businesses looking to test this awareness driver.

Drawbacks

A big detriment to the Posts program is the lack of sales attribution associated with each post: Amazon simply does not provide revenue metrics for this program.

Additionally, the traffic source is not provided: while brands can quantify total pageviews, they are unable to generate tags or identify the traffic channel of origin.

Brands seeking to submit gifs and/or videos will also be disappointed: this functionality is not currently available, but is on the Posts team's roadmap.

What Is the Future of Amazon Posts?

The Posts program is still very much in its infancy, and the team behind it is rapidly expanding the program's scope and functionality. With Q4 right around the corner, major changes are unlikely to be implemented before the end of the year, but the Beta will provide the development team valuable feedback and help fine-tune the program to maximize engagement.

Brands seeking a low-cost opportunity to drive brand or product awareness and gauge interest in their social media content could stand to benefit from the click-through metrics available for each post.

Every brand should consider testing Amazon’s newest foray into the social media world, but the biggest unanswered question still remains: how will customers engage with this content, if at all?


Curious to learn more about Amazon Posts or other programs? Want to know how to take your brand's marketing strategy to the next level? Our team of ex-Amazonians are here to help. Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Amazon Ordering Behavior Changes

Over the last six months ARMR has collected several data points indicating Amazon would make significant reductions in their vendor pool, trimming thousands of vendors down to hundreds.

It seems as if that day has arrived. Some of you have did not receive expected purchase orders Monday (March 4), and threads on multiple vendor forums indicate thousands of other vendors also have not received purchase orders.

We have reached out to Amazon's support staff and received the following response:

"Please be informed that at this time, we are not placing any purchase orders on your products.

To preserve the customer experience, the featured offer will be disabled when the product is out of stock. We will notify you if we choose to place any purchase orders.
I apologize for the inconvenience that caused to you in this regard.
Kindly note that we put a lot of effort and time in getting this provision for our vendors, only with an intention to improve the services."

This is an abrupt shift in Amazon’s behavior and we believe that all or some of the below will happen. Please note that, while these claims are thus far unsubstantiated and speculative, these are our best-informed predictions:

  • This is a hard reset to push all vendors to Amazon’s new platform (yet to be announced) but what we think will be called “Amazon Seller” or “One Vendor”
  • This new platform will be announced in the coming two to four weeks
  • Amazon will introduce their version of a “consignment” relationship
    • A new form of selling on Amazon, where Amazon determines the end-retail price to the consumer, but you [the business] still own the inventory (as opposed to FBA where you determine the end-retail price and own the inventory)
    • If the above is true, this will be a relationship which we wish to avoid
    • Amazon may announce the new platform with “product orders” under the new consignment relationship following not far behind.
  • Amazon will follow up with purchase orders on a select subset of your catalog, seeking the highest demanded products through the new portal/One Vendor program
  • Amazon will further follow up with a bulk-buy offer (at a reduced wholesale cost they will dictate)

This change in purchasing behavior is going to require a significant change in our strategy. Over the next several weeks, our team will communicate and implement updated strategies, built around your business and taking into consideration the new dynamics of the marketplace and platform.

This shift increases the importance of Seller Central (3P and FBA), driving traffic to your detail pages from outside of the Amazon ecosystem (social media and influencers, Google AdWords, etc.), pricing, and high-quality content generation.

You hired us for exactly this situation—an existential crisis on your Amazon business—and we are here to do our job: right the ship and plot a new course into the future.

This shift will open new opportunities and close previously successful pathways. We will do our utmost to research these new opportunities and execute a strategy designed to maximize your revenue in this new marketplace.

Best regards,
Oscar

Oscar Barbarin
CEO
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com