This post was updated to reflect current trends and information.
This article explains high level details about integration with Amazon Marketplace Web Service (MWS); it covers key Amazon MWS features and process of Amazon order.
What is Amazon MWS?
As per the definition on Amazon’s developer’s website: “Amazon Marketplace Web Service (or Amazon MWS) is an integrated web service API that helps Amazon sellers to programmatically exchange data on listings, orders, payments, reports and more.”
In different words, Amazon MWS, is an integration API, based on XML files exchange, provided by Amazon, and can be leveraged and used by Sellers subscribed to sell their products and services on Amazon eCommerce platform, directly while having “Amazon professional account”.
Let’s deep dive into the more details about MWS of Amazon, little about its architecture, its capabilities and its use
What is XML?
XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a standard defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). XML uses tags (identifiers enclosed in parentheses, for example, <note>) to mark content in text documents. These tags called “markup”, can be read by people and computers. This is a simple XML example:
The XML language has no predefined tags. In an XML document, the markup is very similar to the HTML markup (Hypertext Markup Language), but there are some important differences because XML and HTML were designed with different goals:
- XML was designed to transfer data – with an emphasis on what data is
- HTML was designed to display data – with focus on how data looks
- XML tags are not predefined as opposed to HTML.
The tags in the example above (like <to> and <from>) are not defined in any XML standard. These tags are “created” by the writer of the XML document. While HTML works with predefined tags like <p>, <h1>, <table>, etc.
Why Use XML?
Most API gateways, use some sort of XML data exchange. This is not different for Amazon’s API, since it permits to integrate a company’s business systems with Amazon’s eCommerce platform. The integration with Amazon happens through predefined API calls (application programming interfaces), whether to send documents or retrieve documents from Amazon systems. It is much more efficient and convenient exchange data using XML, especially, in a case when we have a large amount of data.
Using Amazon Marketplace Web Service (Amazon MWS)
As previously stated, MWS is a web service API provided by Amazon, to help Amazon sellers to programmatically and automatically, exchange data on listings, orders, payments, reports, and more. Such an automatic integration with Amazon, can certainly help sellers to improve their business.
Amazon MWS provides the following features:
- Inventory management
- Order management
- Reports management
There are no fees to use Amazon MWS, but to use it you have to be a Professional Seller.
MWS XML feeds
Data exchanged with Amazon MWS, is sent through what is called “Feeds”, or “XML feeds” since it is sent systematically to the API for processing. “XML feeds” are based on pre-defined XML schemas or xsd (XML Schema Definitions).
Each XML feed (or message), contains data about different key information required by the Amazon MWS API to be able to process it.
XML feed to send catalog information
There are six feeds to upload and manage products on Amazon:
1. Product – this is the first feed to build, in order to register new products on Amazon’s eCommerce platform. This feed, contains descriptive information about the items in your catalog. This feed, will help establish the mapping between the unique identifier (SKU) of the seller and Amazon’s unique identifier of the same SKU (the ASIN: Amazon Standard Identification Number).
2. Inventory – this feed, is to report the current stock levels of the products you have on Amazon.
3. Pricing – to populate and refresh prices of your products, whether the regular prices or temporary (sale) prices.
4. Image – to provide the URLs from where Amazon can associate the image to the SKU or item.
5. Relationship – Defines relationships between different items in your catalog. There are two types of relationships:
a) Variation – this is the most common type of relationship. Allows customers to select from a list of variations of the same product. For example, a t-shirt can be in a different sizes and different colors. The main item (parent SKU) is the type of t-shirt in general. Parent SKU is not buyable and there is no size, color, quantity or price. The variations (child SKUs) have different combinations of size and color, therefore can be sold. (See the diagram below.)
b) Accessory – It means that customers can choose products classified as accessories to the main item. For example, a drill can have screws, listed as accessories.
6. Overrides – Allows you to override the account-level shipping settings with SKU-level shipping settings. This is a good option for a weighty or oversized product such as a bicycle or kayak.
Amazon’s Order Management Process
In addition to the feed to create products on Amazon, a significant importance goes to another important XML feed: “order management”.
When a buyer places an order on Amazon, the quantity ordered decreases the quantity available in stock, in the seller account.
To confirm the transaction, Amazon puts the order in a 90-minute waiting period. During this time, the client receives an Amazon payment authorization and an email confirming the order. During this time the customer can change or cancel the order from his Amazon account. If the customer cancels the order or the payment has been rejected, Amazon will add the quantity back to the quantity available in your account. Amazon also sends an order cancellation email to the customer.
So, the process of orders has the following stages:
- Customer places the Order
- Merchant acknowledges the order
- Customer can modify the order
- Merchant ships the order and confirms the shipment
- Amazon issues the payment to merchant
Here is an overview of the general order management process:
Validating XML Feeds
It is important to validate XML feeds before sending them to Amazon. If a specific feed does not validate successfully by Amazon MWS, the MWS will return a parsing error.
Where to go from here?
If you have gone into this article, it means you are either planning a project to sell your goods and services on Amazon, or you are already selling on Amazon directly.
In both cases, you have to think about efficiency and accuracy and how to reduce human errors and chargebacks.
In case you have a handful number of items you are selling; this article is not meant for you; you can simply manage your products and orders from within Amazon’s portal.
However, in case your company is to sell hundreds or thousands of products and their corresponding variations on Amazon, then, you have to consider automated integration between your current software management system (i.e. Salesforce, SAP, JDE, Microsoft ERP…) and your Amazon Seller account.
Amazon integration projects through MWS are time sensitive and requires expertise and the right integration tools.
Talk to us and entrust our team for your integration projects; I invite you to contact us for a FREE consultation.