EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2596 - July 28, 2011     1 of 3

Amazon Changes to API Could Affect Merchant Pricing Practices

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Amazon.com is making a change to the way affiliates access information on its site through the Product Advertising API, and it is causing a lot of confusion among merchants and developers. Amazon explained the changes to affiliates on this Amazon.com page, which says Amazon is changing the API "in order to ensure that the features offered by the Product Advertising API are most relevant to the advertising use case."

Amazon.com also sent a letter to third-party sellers who use the Product Advertising API informing them of the changes. Amazon and industry boards were lit up yesterday with speculation about the effect the changes might have, particularly on repricing software, which many sellers rely on when acquiring inventory and pricing their stock. An EcommerceBytes reader who uses FBA Power, Asellertool and RePriceIt said she believed all of those tools could potentially be affected. "No one is sure yet."

Amazon.com's spokesperson did not respond to our inquiry by press time.

A letter Amazon sent to developers stated, "As part of our continued effort to ensure that Product Advertising API is an efficient and effective advertising tool, we've identified opportunities to streamline the API. Certain operations and response groups currently supported are infrequently used or are not aligned with the primary purpose of the Product Advertising API, which is to enable Associates to make money by advertising Amazon products in their websites and applications and sending traffic back to Amazon."

One merchant speculated that the move could mean the end of scanners and repricers. A developer replied and said that some repricers would be affected, but others used the newer MWS and would not be affected, but said most comparison sites and Book/ISBN lookup sites like bookfinder and isbn.nu would probably be affected.

Chris Green of FBAPower, a developer who provides tools to Amazon.com merchants, told EcommerceBytes the change would affect all companies that use the API. "Amazon provides the info in the API for Amazon affiliates to make money (and make money for Amazon). Some companies are sucking down massive (MASSIVE) amounts of data (think building and constantly updating a local database of Amazon prices) without showing Amazon any results in terms of affiliate sales. This is not what the API was intended for and these new rules may be Amazon's way of curtailing this practice."

Green said it would be an "interesting shakeup" and said some companies might fall if they could not adapt. He said he'll be ready. "Still a long way to go before any changes go into effect," and said there might be more changes announced along the way.

Update 8/9/11: An Amazon spokesperson responded on August 8th, writing in an email, "Third party developers may continue to provide a variety of tools, including pricing tools, that leverage the APIs we make available to sellers.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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