How to Evaluate an Exclusive 3P Seller on Amazon

Cassandra Shaffer

February 3, 2021

Should I sell 1P or 3P on Amazon? What about globally? How can I ensure my ecommerce distribution strategy gives me the most control of my online channels to reduce channel conflict and price erosion? These are all important questions for ecommerce businesses to consider as they evaulate their distribution strategy and decide whether to sell 1P, 3P, or use an exclusive third party seller.

Companies face multiple selling options when deciding how to go to market on Amazon. The four main ones are:

  • Sell products directly to Amazon (i.e. the traditional “1P” approach)
  • Sell through a hybrid model, with some products sold 1P through Vendor Central and others through on the Seller Central third party marketplace
  • Sell solely on Seller Central through their own storefront
  • Sell solely through Seller Central using an exclusive third party seller (“3P”)

This decision is significant for brands, and each approach brings its own unique challenges and opportunities. Indeed, this decision can—oftentimes more than any other ecommerce-related decision today—have the greatest impact on a brand’s ability to achieve its desired growth metrics, while maintaining overall brand stability and control across all other channels.

We’ll discuss in this blog how, for brands who want to maintain control over their own destiny while still reaping the sales opportunities in the Amazon channel, selling their products through an expert exclusive 3P seller can optimize sales growth while maintaining brand integrity.

Amazon challenges: Unauthorized sellers, brand equity erosion, CRaP’d products, & increasing channel conflict

The fact is, many brands engaged in a 1P go-to-market strategy are experiencing some form of brand erosion, which is often exacerbated by the presence of unauthorized resellers and the realities of Amazon’s dynamic pricing algorithm.

A typical scenario for brands across a myriad of verticals is as follows:

  1. The brand enters the Amazon channel without a clear distribution strategy, often selling directly to Amazon and allowing other customers to sell on Amazon as well (sometimes with no product segmentation strategy).
  2. Due to a lack of distribution controls in other sales channels, products are diverted or arbitrage opportunities leveraged by multiple unauthorized third party sellers, who promptly list their products on Seller Central.
  3. A battle for the Buy Box ensues between Amazon, other authorized sellers, and the free-riding, unauthorized third party sellers. Each slashes advertised prices in an effort to beat the other and maintain Buy Box control, and the downward spiral ensues.
  4. Making matters worse, if the brand also sells on other major ecommerce platforms, this spiral will quicken, with the other retailers chasing prices advertised on Amazon, Amazon chasing the other retailers, the other retailers chasing unauthorized third party sellers, and so on.
  5. Authorized customers in core brick-and-mortar channels soon begin complaining and clamoring for price concessions, and products on Amazon may end up CraPped out or Amazon may likewise demand additional concessions.

Virtually no brand, manufacturer, or product vertical is immune to this new reality. If brands do nothing, the end result inevitably is incredible downward pressure on their brand value and a significant rise in channel conflict. This can lead to what we call the Profitability Death Spiral, because as your price and brand spirals out of control online, your profits erode—on ecommerce and eventually on brick-and-mortar channels too.

The Profitability Death Spiral for Ecommerce | Pattern

Against this backdrop, executives are increasingly turning to their ecommerce and sales teams, demanding that they “fix this” right away. For the reasons below, a crucial first step towards fixing the problem—and achieving brand stability—is to take a critical look at your company’s online marketplace distribution strategy and making sure it realistically aligns with your key brand metrics.

Retaking control: Evaluating your Amazon distribution strategy

For many brands, while ecommerce sales remain a minority percentage of overall revenues, the channel conflict and erosion caused by a lack of control over online sales becomes the proverbial “tail that wags the dog” across all channels. Companies will find that their ability to protect and grow their brands in today’s retail environment will be significantly impacted by the Amazon distribution strategy they select. The chosen strategy will greatly inform whether control can be achieved, in addition to defining the additional actions that need to be taken or avoided along the way.

The following chart describes the pros and cons that need to be evaluated when considering which distribution strategy is best for your company. As is evident, for many companies seeking to maximize growth while protecting brand value, selling through an exclusive 3P seller often is the best Amazon GTM strategy.

In summary, by selling through an exclusive 3P seller that is capable of handling large product volumes, respects MAP, and works hand-in-hand with the brand in terms of advertising, search, content, images, product descriptions and the like, brands can achieve significant control over their products in the Amazon channel and dramatically improve sales performance. The brand’s products will be removed from dynamic pricing and no longer subject to being CraPped out, all while benefiting from the exclusive 3P seller’s intensive promotional and search enhancement efforts. For many brands, this strategy can be the quickest way to resolve challenges associated with channel conflict, brand erosion, and an overall lack of control in the channel, all while realizing improved growth metrics.

Ecommerce distribution strategy pros & cons


Distribution StrategyProsConsBest Candidates
Multiple Resellers & No ControlsRequires no effort on the part of the brand.Brand will have no control over its online sales, brand image, product quality or consumer experience. Brand will likely face a high degree of intrabrand competition, significant erosion of its value, and material channel conflict. Online sellers will have no incentive to invest in a brand's growth. Companies that have no real concern for long-term brand value (i.e. those selling highly commoditized, low margin, short life-cycle products and relying predominantly on raw sales volume as a success metric).
Brand Sells All Applicable Product Line 1PRequires minimal involvement. Amazon will likely win the majority of sales in the channel given its ability to secure the greatest Buy Box percentage.Brand is unable to have a meaningful MAP program, as Amazon will typically not follow MAP policies. Products are captive to dynamic pricing algorithms, which will benchmark off of unauthorized 3P sellers and other retailers, often automatically reducing price to keep Buy Box. This creates significant downward pressure on advertised prices and, over time, material erosion of brand equity. “CraP’d” products and frequent concessions demanded. In light of recent announcements, may no longer be an option for many brands.Companies that want to actively engage with Amazon platform and have no strategic need to preserve brand value over an extended timeframe for products at issue. Again, brands whose key metric is pure sales volumes. Best suited to companies selling high volume, short life-cycle products, and companies not susceptible to intrabrand competition.
1P/3P HybridAffords the company the ability to insulate strategically important and/or new product launches through 3P distribution. More commoditized and pure volume plays can continue to be sold 1P.Company will continue to face control challenges associated with IP products.Companies that sell a differentiated mix of products, with some commoditized items and others that are more strategically important from a brand value and consumer perception perspective.
Brand Operates Own 3P StorefrontHighest margin in marketplace channel. Brand maintains full control of all marketplace activity.Requires commitment of material internal and fulfillment infrastructure to maximize potential. Brand must realistically evaluate whether its internal resources are capable of driving equivalent performance on an expert 3P seller.Companies with deep internal experience in marketplace sales and growth tactics, as well as the resources to execute on the same.
Exclusive 3P SellerCompany obtains a true “partner,” highly incentivized to protect and grow its brand. Ability to leverage true marketplace growth expertise. Typically respect MAP policies—company not subject to dynamic pricing algorithms. Company maintains control over brand image and presentation. Oftentimes growth levels achievable that are well beyond current performance. MAP stability on Amazon channel.Requires company’s dedication to restoring order to distribution channels and clearly defining how products may be sold in an authorized manner across channels. Brand must have a clear strategy for ensuring an authorized 3P seller is capable of winning the vast majority of the Buy Box.Companies that desire a “partner” in marketplace channels to which to largely outsource marketplace management. Companies facing erosion of brand equity due to presence of unauthorized sellers, competing marketplaces, or other market dynamics. Companies seeking to materially increase sales on marketplace channels. Companies seeking to reduce channel conflict and protect long term brand value.

E3P checklist: What to look for when selecting an exclusive 3P seller

As more and more companies realize the benefits of the exclusive 3P selling model, more and more 3P sellers crowd the market. The result is a significant amount of noise, with newcomers and fly-by-nighters vying for brand attention. Oftentimes, 3P seller pitches become indistinguishable, leading to confusion for companies who want to know who is best.

Companies evaluating 3P sellers should carefully probe and evaluate the following criteria before selecting the exclusive seller for their products on Amazon:

  • What major brands are they already selling? You don’t want to be a “guinea pig” or the seller’s first foray into partnering with a major brand. The ideal 3P seller will already represent multiple major brands and be able to quickly provide references.
  • What level of sales is the seller generating in marketplace channels on behalf of its partner brands? The most successful 3P sellers are selling in excess of $300 million of their partners’ products annually.
  • Do they have the ability to distribute into and sell your products on international marketplace platforms? The best 3P sellers have the ability to distribute products into major international online marketplaces, providing a global one-stop marketplace solution.
  • What is their average customer annual growth rate? The best 3P sellers will be fully transparent with respect to their average brand partner growth rates, which should significantly out-pace industry average growth rates.
  • **What is their average brand partner MAP compliance rate? **In the US, the best 3P sellers will be similarly transparent regarding the overall MAP compliance rates for the products they sell.
  • Will they pay for the legal foundation necessary to achieve control over your online sales and stabilize your channels? Will they pay for the unauthorized seller enforcement truly needed to clean up your channels? The best 3P sellers happily pay these costs because they know that this work is critically important for them to realize the value of channel exclusivity through maximized sales.
  • What marketing and advertising support will they provide? The best 3P sellers contribute significantly to these efforts and provide detailed analytics regarding the efficacy of various approaches so that resources can be focused on tactics that will generate real growth.
  • What is their relationship with the major marketplaces? Are they able to access services available directly from marketplaces on behalf of their customers? The best 3P sellers will enjoy overall positive relationships with Amazon and have meaningful contacts within the organization.
  • Does the 3P seller have inherent advantages with respect to Buy Box ownership? This includes: large number of units sold over time, a very high seller rating, high sales volume across multiple product categories, low defect scores, and the ability to purchase and maintain large amounts of inventory. The best 3P sellers share this data and clearly explain how it benefits their ability to win the Buy Box over lesser sellers.
  • What investments has the 3P seller made in personnel who have deep experience growing brands on marketplaces? What specific marketplace expertise do these individuals or teams bring? The best 3P sellers have retained high level ex-Amazon and other marketplace executives, they have top notch data and technology teams, and they have first in class distribution processes around the world.
  • What enhanced quality control measures will the seller implement with respect to your products? The best 3P sellers will go the extra mile to provide enhanced quality controls, inventory auditing procedures, and other testing to ensure the highest quality product in-channel and to best support legal claims against unauthorized sellers.
  • What data and analytics can the 3P seller provide? The best 3P sellers provide robust monitoring and data that enhances the ability to drive sales rather than simply report on “vanity” metrics.
  • What is the 3P seller’s customer retention rate over time? The best 3P sellers have extremely high customer retention rates across a number of different product categories and will be fully transparent with that information.
  • What case studies is the seller able to present? The best 3P sellers will have case studies clearly explaining how their efforts lead to material shifts in business success for their partner brands.
  • What top tier references can the seller provide? The best 3P sellers will be able to provide multiple references at diversified businesses for which they have delivered superior results.

3P seller red flags: When to keep looking

As discussed above, as the Amazon marketplace continues in its dominance, new “professional” 3P sellers pop up all the time. Each has a slick website and makes largely indistinguishable promises concerning increased sales, channel management, and the like. However, in the world of 3P resellers, all are NOT created equally.

When you identify the issues, consider looking elsewhere:

  • The 3P seller represents only a few smaller brands or a series of obscure brands about which you have no knowledge or familiarity.
  • The 3P seller is unable to present clear, comprehensive case studies demonstrating their partner brands’ successes over time.
  • The 3P seller is unable to commit to regular product purchases at market-appropriate levels.
  • The 3P seller lacks true internal thought leadership in terms of marketplace strategy, data and analytics, and fulfillment processes.
  • The 3P seller is actually a former diverter or gray market 3P seller and is now simply dabbling with direct buying relationships.
  • The 3P seller lacks any distribution or fulfillment capabilities.
  • The 3P seller cannot offer services on international marketplaces.
  • The 3P seller is unable to provide sophisticated data and analytics around marketing and advertising spend and/or enforcement efforts.
  • The 3P seller is unable to provide enhanced quality controls for products sold into the marketplace channel.
  • Finally, the 3P seller can’t or won’t fund the legal work needed to support this model.

An exclusive 3P seller could be an advantage & help control online channels

Many companies can significantly alleviate—if not solve—their biggest pain points in the marketplace channel by moving towards an exclusive 3P strategy. The alternative is to do nothing (which could be a disaster), or keep products solely 1P and face consistent downward pressure on your brand value. By placing your products with a strong 3P seller on Amazon and conducting robust enforcement against remaining unauthorized sellers, brands can stabilize their brands on Amazon and across their other channels all the while realizing increased growth.

Pattern is a global exclusive 3P seller, data provider, and strategic partner. If your company is considering using an exclusive 3P seller, confused about the best go to market strategy for your products, or has marketplace challenges you want to solve with an E3P solution, get in touch today to learn what Pattern can do for your brand.

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Sept 20, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 20th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to raise pay and add extra work benefits for delivery drivers Following the rise in fuel prices and protests by Amazon workers, the ecommerce giant is raising its delivery drivers’ pay and adding more work benefits. Amazon has mentioned that it will be investing $450 million into rate increases along with an education program and a Delivery Service Partners program. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/amazon-to-raise-delivery-drivers-pay-and-add-more-work-benefits/) Amazon announces it will give away shipping software to merchants at no cost Amazon has recently announced that it will be giving ecommerce merchants free software to manage shopper orders on and off its platform as it extends its reach. The ecommerce giant will be ending monthly costs for sellers using Veeqo, a shipping software it recently acquired and instead offer to them a new, free shipping software. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/amazon-to-give-away-shipping-software-to-merchants/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Walmart unveils new virtual fitting rooms In an effort to drive clothing sales, Walmart has launched virtual fitting rooms while competitors reduce spending amid the cost of living crisis. The virtual try-on tool can be used by Walmart customers to virtually measure the clothing items and see how the products would look on them. Shoppers will now be able to see how over 270,000 clothing items on Walmart’s ecommerce site would look on their bodies. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/walmart-launches-virtual-fitting-rooms-to-drive-clothing-sales/?utmsource=Retail+Gazette+Subscribers&utmcampaign=2da7f0f8f8-EMAILCAMPAIGN202209150742&utmmedium=email&utmterm=0d23e2768b6-2da7f0f8f8-61040615) THG slashes sales and profit expectations The Hut Group has slashed its forecasts for 2022 as rising interest rates, inflation and energy costs take a toll on consumers. Previously, THG estimated its sales growth to be between 22-25% but after a recent evaluation, has lowered this prediction to between 10-15%. Initial predictions did not take into account the negative effects of ceasing sales in Russia and Ukraine along with the impact that the cost-of-living has had on consumer spending. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/thg-slashes-forecast-as-cost-of-living-crisis-hits-consumers-wallets/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- DHL and Post Office team up to provide click and collect services Through a partnership between delivery company, DHL and Post Office, a new click and collect service is to be tested at Post Offices before rolling out to over 1000 branches across the UK. Online shoppers will now have the option of choosing their local Post Office as a collection point, and DHL will fulfil the delivery aspect, opening up networks for both parties. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/post-office-partners-with-dhl-express-to-provide-click-and-collect-services/) US consumer watchdog plans to further regulate the BNPL sector The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has raised concerns regarding the collection of consumer data and the fast-growing nature of the BNPL sector, which includes companies such as Affirm and Klarna. The CFPB is worried that these companies could be negatively impacting consumers’ financial health and aims to put better regulations in place to ensure consumers are safe and empowered. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/us-consumer-watchdog-to-start-regulating-bnpl-sector/) Japanese ecommerce market estimated to grow by 6.9% in 2022 The ecommerce market in Japan, largely dominated by domestic online retailers including Reakuten and Mercari, is set to reach $194.3 billion USD in 2022, after seeing an annual compound growth rate of 5.2% between 2018 and 2021. This makes Japan the fourth leading ecommerce market globally, following China, the US, and the UK. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/13/japan-ecommerce-market-to-grow-by-6-9-in-2022/) Ecommerce brands are spending more on TikTok ads TikTok may soon be surpassing Facebook and Google as the most lucrative advertising channel, with ecommerce brands spending 60% more on TikTok ads in Q2. Facebook is still ahead as the top choice for ecommerce advertisers but only grew by 5.6% from Q1, while Google grew 20.5% in Q2, and Snap declined 10.8% in Q2. [Read more on SearchEngineLand](https://searchengineland.com/ecommerce-brands-spent-60-more-on-tiktok-ads-in-q2-387876)
Sept 20, 2022

4 Ecommerce Consultant Must-Haves

Entering the ecommerce landscape is a huge undertaking for any brand—it usually requires a large investment in resources and expertise to really be successful. Any brand can quickly get in over their heads trying to navigate the nuances of SEO, fulfillment and logistics, distribution control, listing optimization, and meeting the numerous other requirements and administrative tasks to show up well on marketplaces. 

Unfortunately, because it’s so easy for third party, gray market, and unauthorized sellers to obtain and sell products online, many brands find themselves pressured to execute an ecommerce plan without the right resources to succeed on marketplaces and their other channels.

So, for brands looking to enter the ecommerce space or improve their current and future performance, it makes sense to partner with an ecommerce consultant.

Pattern’s global presence and proven success with hundreds of brands has allowed us to develop highly effective ecommerce consulting services. We can guide your brand to navigate issues both large and small in marketplaces worldwide. To maximize your ecommerce efforts, you’ll need to understand what an ecommerce consultant does and how to select one who drives the right value for your brand and products. 

What is an Ecommerce Consultant?

An ecommerce consultant is a specialist in the ecommerce space who can give you personalized guidance on how to market your products and grow their presence on digital marketplaces.

An ecommerce consultant should be able to analyze your brand, audience, category, opportunity, and current roadblocks and help you understand how to utilize your resources (or what resources are missing) to be most effective in capturing your opportunities in the ecommerce space.

Not sure how to evaluate a consultant? Here are 4 key attributes to look for as you make your choice.

1. Brand Obsession/Specialization/Passion

At Pattern, we prioritize brand obsession for a reason—we know that a brand-centered mindset makes a crucial difference in the outcomes and results our partners achieve. So in our experience, when you begin your search for an ecommerce consultant, it’s important to look for a partner who is specialized in ecommerce, invested in the product, and passionate about helping brands build and improve their strategies. Typically, this means finding someone that consults exclusively for ecommerce marketplaces, rather than choosing a consultant who offers many different services. 

2. Proven Results

It’s also important to avoid choosing a consulting partner who can’t deliver the right experience for your brand. The best indication of whether your potential consultant can do that is to review their history, data, and results with other brands. Ask if they’ve helped others in your selling category, if they’ve solved specific issues your brand is facing, and why they feel you are a good fit. The key is to leave the conversation feeling confident that you understand your consultants’ capabilities and whether or not they match up with your needs.

3. Wide Range of Marketplace Expertise

It’s best to pick a consultant who knows how to guide a brand onto and through multiple marketplaces worldwide. You’ll want to take a look at your long-term strategy and think about the regions and platforms you’re currently on and where you might want to take your brand in the future. If your consultant is truly great at what they do, they’ll be able to help you perform well enough with your current product roadmap that it’ll be a no-brainer to expand your presence at the right time.

4. Network of Resources

The most effective partnership with an ecommerce consultant will be able to give you both recommendations and point you to solutions for making those changes in your planning, processes, and execution. Your time and money is valuable, so you want to make sure that you’re spending it as efficiently as possible as you follow your consultant’s advice. So, before you commit to an ecommerce consultant, ask about the resources and concrete solutions they typically recommend to the brands they work with.

Achieve Your Ecommerce Goals With Pattern

Finding an ecommerce consultant that checks the boxes can be a difficult task. At Pattern, our entire focus and drive centers around giving brands the tools and resources they need to succeed on domestic and international ecommerce marketplaces. 

With over 100 global ecommerce consultants across 10 global offices, we have the right tools to partner with brands across the world to achieve better ecommerce success. We give specialized advice, then make sure our partners have all the adequate SEO, social media, CRM, Amazon multi-channel fulfillment services, and ecommerce outsourcing services they need.

Interested in ecommerce consulting services? Set up a call here to learn what Pattern can do for your brand on global marketplaces.

Sept 15, 2022

The 3 Tmall Metrics That Every Brand Needs to Know

If you’re interested in expanding your brand internationally, you’re probably familiar with Tmall. Tmall is Asia-Pacific’s (APAC) largest marketplace, and indisputably the biggest ecommerce powerhouse in the world. It represents a huge opportunity for many brands, but entering the space is also a big challenge to take on.

At Pattern, we recommend brands looking to enter international markets should first focus on dialing in their domestic presence. Once you’re satisfied that your brand is well-represented and optimized locally, you’re ready to think about tackling new regions, like APAC, and launching on marketplaces like Tmall. Our top advice for entering Tmall is to understand and strategize around its three most important metrics: service, delivery, and content.

What is Tmall’s Detailed Seller Rating (DSR)?

Service, delivery, and content ratings are the three elements that make up Tmall’s Detailed Seller Rating (DSR) score. Each component is scored on a scale of 1-5 that is displayed publicly on your brand’s Tmall flagship store page. This is meant to help consumers decide whether or not to purchase your products.

Why DSR Determines Success on Tmall

DSR scores are important because they’re highly influential in driving conversions—customers see DSRs as a way to quickly understand if a brand is trustworthy and worth buying from. They also matter quite a bit to Tmall itself—they monitor these scores and will take action to close flagship stores with low scores.

Let’s go over each element of the DSR score and some steps you’ll need to take to achieve high ratings.

DSR Score Elements

1. Service

Service is a huge ecommerce component in APAC marketplaces. In most other regions, product listings are static, and consumers use content and reviews to make a decision about what to purchase. On Tmall, consumers want to interact with your brand and test its validity before buying—each transaction takes at least one human interaction to convert.

So, to get a great service rating, you’ll need to have a large, established customer service team dedicated to Tmall sales that can offer real, human touchpoints and very fast response times. To get an idea of the speed your agents should be capable of producing, in our Tmall benchmarking exercise, 92.5% of brands’ customer service agents replied to queries via live chat within 30 seconds, 5% replied within one minute and the remaining 2.5% of brands took longer than a minute. So, look for a Trade Partner (TP) that has enough resources to compete with those numbers, support your sales, and maintain a good DSR score.

2. Delivery

Another thing you’ll really want to focus on is a high-quality delivery experience for consumers. As in other regions around the world, Tmall consumers have high expectations for their delivery experience. In our Chinese consumer polling report that targeted consumers buying from Tmall Global, we found that 6% expected same-day delivery, 15% expected next-day delivery, and 46% expected 2-5 day delivery.They want to receive their products fast and they want the products to be undamaged and pristine upon arrival.

So, to achieve a high score for your delivery capabilities, we highly recommend partnering with a TP or ecommerce accelerator like Pattern (which serves as a TP) who has the ability to facilitate your distribution. Make sure your TP has the right infrastructure in place to support high-quality logistics experiences for all of your consumers—they should have an established, well-oiled delivery process in place and the capability to fluidly add you to their current fulfillment system.

3. Content

As in every digital marketplace, content is a huge component of the decision-making process for consumers on Tmall—they can’t touch your product with their hands or see it in person before buying, so it’s important they’re empowered to make a good decision on whether or not to purchase based on the videos, images, and copy.

The goal is to make all of the content and relevant information on your flagship site easily-accessible—consumers should be able to visit your page and make a decision about whether or not to buy without navigating to a new site/page and taking their conversions with them. Images with text and extensive product details are a great way to do this, as well as making sure your service team can speak to all aspects of your product with any consumers (via text or chat).

Expand Internationally With Pattern

As the world’s foremost brand partner for ecommerce acceleration, Pattern truly understands the significance of international expansion. With regional offices around the world, Pattern knows how to successfully launch and grow brands on Tmall and other marketplaces, with the data, insights, and marketplace intelligence to build the metrics that matter. 

It’s important to have a fantastic brand presence, a knowledgeable guide, and a clear go-forward strategy for your best chance at success. With our in-country resources, expert teams, and extensive experience in growing brands around the globe, Pattern can help you get there.

Set up a call to get your international expansion strategy in motion.