Amazon’s new STA Workflow Requirement (and what we need to do about it)

 

Amazon’s email to sellers

I’m sure that you all got this email from Amazon.

If we already create listings for you, you don’t need to do anything or think about it, really. We’ll get it figured out and things will continue as they always have. (You might have to update some permissions in Seller Central).

For those of you who still wrestle with Seller Central on a regular basis, this will affect you.

What is Send To Amazon

(and why is it still so bad?)

hate hate hate

“Send to Amazon” also known as “the new workflow” and, according to Amazon “STA” is a workflow that is meant to streamline the shipping process.

In order to streamline the process, Amazon started from the most common use cases (case-packed, bulk shipments) and worked their way up.

In case you hadn’t heard, used books are a VERY long way from being a common use case at Amazon. We can all consider ourselves the redheaded stepchildren. Amazon is not building for booksellers anymore, and likely never will again.

In practice, this means STA is great for case packed inventory, and really annoying for everything else. It’s sorta workable for OA (in that you have a relatively few number of SKUs) but for books, where you have a sku for every single item, it is really, really bad.

Now– could they fix this? Sure. It would take a few tweaks. Will they fix this? Well, it’s been two years, so I’m going to go with… no.

via GIPHY

 

Luckily, Amazon has given us a relief valve– If you don’t like it, you can use the API. Awesome. But what does that mean???

Using The Amazon API

In terms of listing:

Nothing changes with the new workflow. If you currently create listings manually, that will be fine. If you use a third party app like Accerlist or Scanlister (using the API), that is also fine. If you do a file upload, all good. Nothing changes here.

In terms of creating shipping plans:

This is where it’s going to get sticky. Unless you use an API, your books are going to go into the new Send To Amazon workflow.

So if you can create a shipping plan in whatever you use for your listings (also sometimes known as a ‘batch’ in certain software) then you’re using the API, which uses the old workflow. Apparently in this particular case, they decided that “if it’s not broke, dont fix it”.

If you attempt to create a shipping plan in Seller Central even by upload you get sucked into the STA workflow.

We do not like the new workflow. We do not intend to use it.

via GIPHY

 

In terms of box contents and shipping…

The STA workflow is bad enough when you’re just telling it what you’re shipping (ie, creating the shipping plan) but at our end, labeling and box contents are a straight up N I G H T M A R E.

The box contents spreadsheet is the most backwards thing I have ever seen. You have to manually search for each title and then manually type the qty into each box. (In our current system, we scan the label of each books as it is getting put into the box and then upload the scans when we’re done. You can see how that is a million times faster)

Therefore, we will be pursuing the API option exclusively.

We’ve always tried to be somewhat tool agnostic at CVAP. We know it’s a lot for small businesses to purchase a whole suite of tools when they’re first getting started, even if it is going to make them faster.

Additionally, I’ve even sort of somewhat recommended doing your own listing when you get started because learning how Seller Central works can only benefit you.

However, Amazon has gone from “this is a steep learning curve” to “this is a massive challenge for everyone involved, and it is the opposite of streamlined.”

In my opinion, (though I am a tiny bit biased) the best thing for self-listers to do is to let us list & create shipments for them. This is better for us because we own the whole ship & prep workflow end-to-end and prevents a lot of time-sucking handoffs.

If we do not list for you, then the technological next steps are not clear to me, but at a minimum you will likely have to subscribe to a particular API-accessing software.

There are a fairly small number of softwares that will allow total API access across multiple accounts, and I have only just started researching, but I’m leaning towards Scanpower, which has a workflow designed for prep centers.

FAQ:

What if I list because I have my own skus?

The good news is that in the new software we’re rolling out this summer there will be semi-customizable skus so hopefully you can get what you need through there.

What if I list because I replenish old listings?

We still have no optionality for that because it’s impossible at scale to cross-verify descriptions.

Why can’t I just email you the labels?

Aside from how much that slows down our system, box contents are not optional. So we still need to provide them, and we can’t (won’t) go through the pain and frustration of the STA box contents workflow.

Is the new software going to cost a lot?

Unknown, but most softwares of this type are in line with each other in terms of pricing and if we have a bunch of people who still want to do their own shipments, then we can likely negotiate a discount. Almost everyone eventually moves to a software of this type as they grow, so the discount situation will be win/win

What about the software you guys were going to roll out this summer? Will that have any effect?

The new software is primarily directed at our inbound, inspection, and inventory management processes. The parts we are having to replace with 3rd party software are the parts of our process that were already handled either in Seller Central directly, or through a couple of excel spreadsheets. So nothing about our new software will be affected. The main thing is that we now need to roll out two new pieces of technology at the same time (during peak textbook season no less!) which as you might imagine is not how we’d planned for our summer to go.

The new software was going to be a stepped rollout, but now it looks like we’ll have end-to-end new procedures so I’m not sure how organized we’ll be able to be with that, even with the best of intentions.

Any other questions? Let me know in the comments!

 

5 Responses

  1. For people who do their own listing; “You are not using your time wisely.”
    I am super grateful for this very inexpensive service that CVAP provides. It truly streamlines the work flow and takes a load of work off my shoulders. Take advantage of CVAP’s expertise and hand over the listing responsibilities to them. You won’t regret it.

  2. Thanks for all this. Will read and re-read again. Is Inventory Lab a compatible listing software? Thanks

  3. Since nothing changes with the listing side of things with this policy change, whatever you’re already using to list will continue to work. It’s the shipping side of things that has been totally messed up.

    Thanks for your kind words Rick!

  4. I encountered STA last week and immediately thought about the impact on CVAP’s workflow. For people who do their own listing, there are some changes that you’ll notice immediately. One part of STA that is frustrating is that they don’t include the book condition in the inventory listing. So, if you have a G and a VG of the same book previously listed, you don’t know which is which unless you keep a SKU list handy. The other problem is that you can’t add a new book listing to an already existing workflow. I ended up with all these workflows with one book in each one. Ugh! Figured out that you have to create all the book listings, wait the 15 minutes so the last one is saved, and then create the workflow. The reason I like to list is because it helps me to know my inventory better, but it looks like I might have to give it up. Too bad because I had really streamlined the process until STA appeared last week and wouldn’t let me go back to the old setting. Oh, here’s another thing, STA doesn’t let you rename the workflow!

  5. Oh yeah, the STA workflow takes time to sync, so new listings can’t be added immediately (and as you saw, you wouldn’t want to). The best thing to do is to create all your listings in a batch, then use the ‘shipping plan upload’ as once you have more than 50ish skus, navigating through the inventory on STA is really, really painful.

    You should still be able to go back to the old setting, but it makes it hard– you really have to read closely. First you click “go back to the old workflow” (it’s a small link within the paragraph test). Then a survey pops up and asks why you don’t think this is usable (let me count the ways…) and then you click the GREY box, not the blue one as you’ve been habituated to. Then you should be released back to the old workflow.

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