140 Brad Moss’s Lessons from Running Amazon Seller Central – Part 1 of 4
Brad Moss was the Business Head of Amazon Seller Central itself. Which we all are at the mercy of. He built the Amazon Seller Central mobile app. He now does consulting company for Amazon sellers, Product Labs.
Tell about how you got into Amazon Seller Central.
Brad got his Masters in business. He did some entrepreneurial things, launched some companies which won a few awards for some of them. He was successful in small realms and wanted to see if he could have an impact in a bigger realm, like Amazon. When he first go there he built something that no one has probably heard of because it didn’t launch. It’s called Gamification for Sellers. It was a really cool system that was held up because middle management was fighting over some resources Brad had. It would have made selling more fun and would have been able to track yourself.
When he finished, he had learned so much about Amazon Seller Central and how the system works that they decided to put him over Amazon Seller Central. Amazon had 168 teams that were dispersed through Seller Central. Each team was adding to the system, putting new tools here and there, without a real overhead strategy. That was Brad’s job.
He started putting frameworks down, and added the advertising tab. That team came, for sponsored products, saying they wanted to put it in Amazon Seller Central. Brad felt it was big enough that it should get that spot on top. Seller Central has become a beast unto itself. He wanted to overhaul the entire system, and scoped out how to do that. That only got so far when they starting think about the future. What’s the future of selling and the future of devices. At that time, mobile had come up.
There were a lot of people trying to do mobile at Amazon. They decided to focus on mobile and Brad made a case saying that they would make a lot more money if they focused on mobile. It would be more accessible, people would be able to check their seller account, they’d be able to scan things, and put new products up on Amazon. They passed the idea to the VPs, got the funding and built the Amazon Seller Central mobile app.
That’s a heck of an achievement. Millions of us use that app on a daily basis. Now, you said there was 168 teams, why so many? Why not just one? That seems to be different than how almost any other company does it.
Those are systems and programs. So one team may have five systems. The internal structure at Amazon is really cool. It works really well in some situation, not so well in others.
When you’re there, you’re free to take your program, and figure out how to make it happen. When I was working on the gamification, I had my own team. I made the business case that it would improve the business for Amazon. Then we had to figure out how to get this new system, into the existing system.
We had to find the two engineers that were running the front page of Amazon Seller Central. Then we found several engineers that were running the back-end with the listing services. We had to go to all these different teams asking them for a day of their time to help us get into their systems. Amazon promotes that kind of culture where it’s very entrepreneurial. It’s up to you to figure out how to make it happen. It’s not coming from the VP telling certain teams to do this thing. They had to figure out the best way to get these systems to work. They had to negotiate and bribe with drinks after work.
That sounds a lot like a connection. I run a mastermind and belong to another and it sounds like a situation I’m in now. Asking another member to help me with Facebook ads, because they specialize in that and I’ll help them out with what they need.
It’s almost like the wild west in a way. It gets even worse when you have different VPs that have their own goals and directives, and it all comes down into one system. That’s where Brad was with in Amazon Seller Central. All these different VPs were all trying to pipe into the same system to accomplish their goals and there was no central authority to facilitate it. It’s pretty wild.
The perfect example is if you look under the reports tab, and there is business reports, and payment reports. Then there is this thing called fulfillment reports. If you go to Fulfillment Reports, it takes you to a new page with a lot of reports on the side. That section is owned by the FBA team, which is a different vice president than the marketplace team. The FBA team wanted to be able to keep adding new reports without having to go to seller central or the marketplace team every time. So they built a new page that they have full control over. However, it doesn’t make much sense from the user’s perspective.
Well that explains a helluva lot about Amazon Seller Central. A point I made earlier is that it’s important for sellers to understand things from Amazon’s perspective. You mentioned that you had to made a case to Amazon demonstrating how they will make more money. What are the drivers? Obviously money is a big driver for any company, but what other factors help push the senior management to green-light things?
When Brad first started, he was looking into a business case that someone had mentioned. He looked really deep into and thought that it would be really great. He made his report, show the analysis, and told them it would be a $30 million business if they do it. His director just shook his head and said no. That unless it was $1 billion over three years, they wouldn’t go after it.
That’s what made mobile so difficult. It was a really hard case to make. If a majority of the money comes from huge sellers on the marketplace, how would they use mobile, and how would mobile enable them to make more money because a lot of them just use API and feeds anyway. That’s what made the business cases so important.
That’s what is great about Amazon is that the mentality , from Jeff Bezos, is “It’s day one for the company.” The idea that they are still laying the foundation and groundwork for the company. If you do enough diligence from the business side, which was Brad’s job, and look at various things to be building, you can find these opportunities. Don’t settle for $50 million opportunities when you can find a $1 billion one.
You can see how that would trickle down. While working on Amazon Seller Central, people would propose improvements. The question came down to, how many sales will be generated by adjustment. If they can’t prove that it will increase sales, then they don;t get funding for it. So it’s pretty difficult to get funding to make those nice visual adjustments. There are resources called “Keeping the lights on”, that is some resources allocated to keeping things running, and they might be able to scrape resources from there to make those minor adjustments.