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Fri May 18 2018 11:41:27

Amazon Creates Marketplace Developer Council

By: Ina Steiner

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Amazon is working more closely with developers of seller tools - the company confirmed the existence of the Amazon Marketplace Developer Council, an invitation-only program for software developers who integrate with Amazon via Marketplace Web Service (MWS). It's unclear if it's part of a strategy to tighten up the types of automation tools accessible to sellers.

A handful of companies that provide tools for Amazon sellers announced their membership in the program this month and last, but Amazon would not share its membership with EcommerceBytes and declined further comment.

It doesn't appear that Amazon has invited all MWS developers into the new council. For readers unfamiliar with MWS, here's how Amazon describes it:

"With Amazon MWS, you can build applications for your own Amazon seller account. You can also build applications for other sellers to help them manage their online business. Using Amazon MWS you can create applications that look up products for sale, download orders for fulfillment, confirm shipment, and schedule and receive reports."

We recently wrote about software tools that help eBay sellers copy Amazon listings into their eBay Stores and automatically purchase those items from Amazon when they get an eBay sale - a model called Amazon to eBay arbitrage, also known as eBay drop-shipping. When the drop-shipper receives an order on eBay, they have the Amazon seller ship the item directly to their eBay buyer.

While eBay is alleged to have throttled sellers who engage in Amazon arbitrage, neither marketplace may be enamored of the selling model. Watching the YouTube video referenced in that EcommerceBytes blog post shows how highly automated buying and selling on Amazon and eBay has become for those using third-party software tools.

By working more closely with software developers, Amazon may be seeking ways to gain more control over who can use its APIs and how they use them.

Here's what we gleaned about the Amazon Marketplace Developer Council based on announcements from developers who joined the program:

- Members will be allowed to preview upcoming products and programs.

- Members will be able to test new features and provide feedback.

- Members will be able to troubleshoot issues relating to technology.

- Members will provide input on the Amazon Marketplace API roadmap and on future development priorities.

In Zentail's announcement about joining the program, it wrote, "Amazon's Marketplace Developer Council is a select group of MWS developers that advise Amazon's MWS team on API-related matters. 

"The goal of the Marketplace Developer Council is to improve the quality of developer tools to allow 3rd party marketplace sellers to sell more effectively and ensure the highest level customer experience buying from 3rd party sellers."

Other companies who claim membership in the Amazon Marketplace Developer Council include Seller Labs, Sellbrite, A2X, Sellics, and Salsify. They offer overlapping services - between all six companies, they offer research, inventory management, repricing, advertising management, SEO, order management, and accounting services.

Cnet wrote about the new council on May 3rd, and speculated, "Amazon's decision to collaborate with them could mean that the e-commerce giant isn't interested in creating rival seller tools to compete against them."

Having watched how platforms work with developers over the past 2 decades, we think that's a stretch. Companies have shown they have few qualms about building features into their platforms first introduced by third-party tools.

But with a council such as Amazon's, there are undoubtedly benefits to both sides - Amazon gains insight and can exert some control over sellers and developers, while developers get a preview of where Amazon is headed in terms of features and policies and can try to influence the product roadmap.

Salsify wrote in its announcement about joining the program: "Members of the Amazon Marketplace Developer Council have a unique perspective and understanding of the small- and medium-sized businesses that sell on Amazon. Through the Marketplace Developer Council, members share valuable insights and feedback on existing and prospective tools and programs to influence and shape the roadmap and priorities for Marketplace Web Service APIs and associated tools."

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