In this Q&A interview, the head of pricing, selection and supplier tools at Amazon Business provides insight on best practices for connecting with B2B customers.
Chris Caruso, head of pricing, selection and supplier tools at Amazon Business, discusses with Digital Commerce 360 B2B the best practices for engaging customers and generating sales on a B2B online marketplace. A longer version of this article will appear in a forthcoming DC360B2B report on B2B online marketplaces.
DC360B2B: How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting marketplace sales and operations, and what must sellers do to keep up with such changes as supply chain disruption and business buyers working from home offices?
Caruso: Industries like the public sector, education and healthcare have faced critical procurement disruptions as a result of COVID-19. To keep up with these disruptions—ranging from revenue shortfalls and budgetary constraints to a lack of supplies for essential workers, to the rapidly evolving needs of remote working and learning—sellers need to be flexible and work quickly to respond to customers’ needs. Many buyers are looking for long-term purchasing solutions, while still balancing short-term demands brought on by the pandemic.
One important step sellers can take is to ensure their supply chain is reliable. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen shortages ranging from personal protective equipment (PPE) to electronic devices. If sellers are currently sourcing materials or products from states or countries that aren’t operating at full capacity, they may need to consider alternatives.
As the new school year approaches, school districts will seek out supplies for employees and students. And when many companies start to welcome employees back to corporate offices, they may choose to distribute personal office supplies, like dry erase markers, that were previously shared.
Additionally, sellers should try to remain flexible. The pandemic has made medium- and long-term planning incredibly challenging for many, and sellers have risen to the occasion and been among the most responsive businesses. For example, hand2mind, an Amazon Business selling partner, was one such seller who quickly pivoted from providing education supplies to providing PPE during the peak of the pandemic. The team at hand2mind muscled through the unknowns of the PPE shortages and adjusted its supply chain to help frontline workers and hospitals. Now, hand2mind is in a better position to more quickly switch to PPE should the need arise again.
DC360B2B: What are some of the best practices you see among new sellers regarding product management, pricing and fulfillment?
Caruso: To be most successful on Amazon Business, there are several best practices we recommend to our selling partners. One of the most important factors is providing accurate product data with detailed descriptions and condition notes that are helpful to buyers. Product data should reflect accurate inventory status to prevent customers from submitting orders for products that are out-of-stock. This ensures selling partners set realistic expectations with customers and then meet them.
Selling partners should also ship items as quickly as possible to keep buyers satisfied. Items that arrive late or damaged may lead to negative feedback or a request for refunds. We recommend checking for new orders daily by setting up notifications, as well as clearly communicating in shipping policies how often orders are processed, how frequently items are shipped, the carriers used, and who to contact with shipping-related questions.