Seller Central does not make life easy for Amazon sellers. Here are eight of its biggest shortcomings. What frustrates YOU about Seller Central?
Seller Central is the hub of every Amazon seller’s business. It allows them to perform essential tasks such as listing and managing products, monitoring orders, setting up ad campaigns and downloading sales reports.
But it can be a source of great frustration, as there are certain functions that Seller Central doesn’t do well, or offer at all.
We asked two agencies who work in Seller Central for hours every day, what they found most frustrating and which features they wish it had. Here’s what they told us.
1. Some data is dirty or missing entirely
One of the biggest frustrations that sellers have with Seller Central is the data it offers. Why is that? Because very often, the data you want is just not available.
For example, let’s say that you are trying to improve your listings. You can’t get data on average session time or view counts for additional images and videos included in your listings. This means that you don’t really get a good picture of how your listings are performing, which makes it very hard to know what to improve. You are left to experiment blindly.
Even when the data is available in Seller Central, very often it’s derived from other data. You can get the overall picture, but not an accurate breakdown of individual aspects.
A great example of this is Sponsored Products Ads. These can appear in a lot of different places, but they don’t tell you where the ads were placed or how they did in each position. Instead, they give you combined data on each of the possible placements. It’s pretty hard to draw accurate conclusions when you aren’t getting the full picture.
2. You constantly need to combine reports in Excel
To really get the most out of Amazon’s reports, you need to be a wizard in Excel. Very often, sellers will have to combine two or three reports to generate the data that they need.
Take Amazon’s sales reports for example, which show the ASIN but not the product SKU. To work out the sales for an individual SKU you have to download two different reports, open them in Excel, and write a VLOOKUP formula to match the rows. It’s not rocket science, but it is time-consuming and shouldn’t be necessary.
Likewise, if you want to see your Amazon expenses by ASIN, you’ll need to bring your transaction report into Excel. You’ll then need to create a pivot table and AutoSum the different fees to generate the data you want.
The pre-built reports in Seller Central are clunky and their lack of flexibility means sellers waste valuable time trying to find and combine the right data sets. What most sellers would like to see in Seller Central is fully customizable reports, where you can choose which data fields and metrics you want to include.
3. External traffic is not properly tracked
When sellers use Facebook ads to drive traffic to their Amazon listings, or include links to Amazon on their website, they want to be able to track how well they perform. This means not only seeing data on the number of clicks, but also on the conversion rate.
The problem is, that you can’t use a proper tracking code that reliably ties sales back to the correct source. Custom URLs or even affiliate links are only a partial solution. They are better than nothing, but break easily so you don’t get an accurate measurement of how well your ads or links are converting.
For example, if a buyer follows a link to your storefront, then shops around before coming back and purchasing an item, it won’t be tracked properly. So, when you come to calculate the conversion rate, it’s more than likely to be on the low side.
Not all sellers can drive traffic to Amazon from Facebook, Instagram or their own website. But for those who do, the inability to enter a reliable tracking code is really frustrating.
UPDATE: Amazon Attribution is a new feature in beta designed to help sellers analyze external traffic.
4. You can’t adjust PPC bids by time or location
A big frustration for Amazon sellers is that they can’t change their Sponsored Products bids depending on the time of day or location of the buyer. This is potentially costly for sellers, as it means they can’t scale back at times when conversions are low, or take advantage of opportunities to localize.
For example, let’s look at time. It could be that your product has a poor conversion rate during the night. Customers are browsing, so may still click your ads, but they are less likely to buy. In this scenario, you would scale back your bids overnight to save money.
As for location, there are two different scenarios. If you don’t use FBA, then you might want to increase your bid if the buyer’s location is within a certain radius of your warehouse. That way, you make sure that you can fulfill the order quickly.
Likewise, you might be selling football merchandise when there’s a big game coming up in Pittsburgh. You know there’s a good chance that fans will be looking for Steelers-branded products in the run-up, so you want to raise your bid for buyers located there, if only you could.
Without this functionality, sellers can’t be as flexible or run as highly-optimized advertising campaigns from Seller Central as they would like. There are some Amazon PPC management tools out there though that can adjust bids by day and time, but not by location.
5. No insights into search performance
One of the biggest criticisms of Seller Central is that it doesn’t provide much data on how your listings are doing in search. This makes it hard to judge your organic performance, and how effective your keyword research and listing optimization has been.
What sellers really want is for Amazon to have similar functionality to Google Search Console. This provides a wealth of information including what people are searching for, where your pages rank and how much traffic you receive.
If you use Sponsored Products Ads you get some useful data on those, but there’s nothing to go on for organic search. Of course, if this information was provided then some sellers would use it to try and cheat the system. But if Google hasn’t suffered by providing Search Console, why can’t Amazon do the same?
6. No data on repeat customers
When you’re running Amazon ad campaigns there are two key metrics to consider:
- Average Customer Acquisition Cost
- Average Lifetime Value of a Customer
These aren’t provided in Seller Central, so many sellers rely on Amazon’s Advertising Cost of Sales (ACoS) metric instead. ACoS is the amount spent on advertising to make a single sale. That’s OK if you only ever expect to make one sale to each customer, but some products naturally lend themselves to repeat sales.
For consumable items, like nutritional supplements, customers might find your product through ads the first time around. If they like the product, they will come direct to your listing when they want more. This type of repeat custom should have a big effect on your advertising budget.
Say that your average customer goes on to buy from you four times. Instead of basing your advertising cost on a single sale, you can base it on four sales. This allows you to be far more aggressive with your ad spend.
But Amazon doesn’t provide this data. To calculate the true acquisition cost and lifetime value, you would have to spend a lot of time downloading reports and even copying-and-pasting customer names so you can properly identify repeat buyers.
7. Ad campaign data only goes back 90 days
Fine-tuning your ads on Amazon can be a real pain as Campaign Manager only holds information on how they’ve performed over the last 90 days.
Digging through invoices will allow you to see how much you spent beyond the last 90 days. But if you want data on which products you were promoting and how they performed outside that period, then you’re out of luck.
This means that to effectively manage and optimize your ad campaigns on Amazon, you really need to be using software. Commercial software tools will retain a lot more historic data, so you can compare year-on-year performance, for example. This helps calculate a more realistic advertising budget and make more informed changes to your bids.
But when you are paying Amazon handsomely to advertise your products, can’t they retain more than just 90 days of data for you?
8. It’s hard to review all listing data
Our final source of frustration for Amazon sellers, is that they can’t produce reports from Seller Central that include all of their listing data. Some reports contain a lot of the information, but there are none that include it all.
For example, sellers would like to produce reports containing everything from listing titles and descriptions, to how many images each listing has and its parent/child relationships. It would also be useful to see if anything is missing from a listing, how many product reviews it has, and the average rating, all in one report.
It’s hard work auditing the quality of your listings, when you have to go to multiple places just to pull all the relevant data together.
What frustrates YOU about Amazon Seller Central?
Seller Central is an essential part of selling on Amazon. There are tools which provide some of the missing features, but it’s largely a case of sucking it up and making the best of the functions Seller Central does offer.
Whether it’s searching for missing data, spending hours crunching numbers in Excel, or having insufficient information to optimize your ad campaigns, Amazon Seller Central can be really frustrating.
Are there other aspects of Seller Central that drive you crazy? What changes would you like Amazon to make? We’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below.