Amazon announces big changes coming to Apparel category – the next marketplace battleground!

June 9, 2010

In a letter to sellers today (details below), Amazon foreshadowed a renewed focus on the Apparel category (Clothing, Shoes and Accessories – CSA or fashion in eBay-speak).  At the annual shareholder meeting last week, Bezos set the stage by saying:

 He mentioned online shoe retailer Zappos, which Amazon acquired in a $1 billion-plus deal last year, and called apparel a “very important category.”  “It has a very large market segment we can address,” he said.

Also last week, John Donahoe, eBay’s CEO, was talking about the category at D8 and said:

“We are the largest seller of fashion in the World.  We are driving more vertical shopping experiences on eBay for better customer experiences (implication is fashion will be first).”

Fashion – the UFC of eBay/Amazon in 2010/2011?

Both of these quotes and Amazon’s changes today set up the next big battleground between eBay and Amazon.  While eBay maybe the largest in fashion (they don’t disclose category GMV that I’m aware of and there’s no other source (comscore, etc.) that breaks down verticals on eBay/Amazon so it’s hard to verify), but Amazon with the Zappos acquisition and their new focus is definitely setting up to challenge that.

This will be interesting because Amazon has these advantages:

  • Better buying experience overall
  • Demographics that better favor the Fashion category
  • Did I mention Zappos?
  • Better seller data – Amazon already has better data quality and is taking that to 4.0, eBay isn’t at 1.0 – their renewed focus on CSA auctions is undoing the work sellers made for simple things like variations.

eBay has the primary advantage of being a neutral party and not having a ‘first party’ competitive business that fashion retailers and manufacturers need to worry about.  

This is going to be a really interesting battle and we’ll be reporting on each blow between Amazon Strategies and eBay strategies.  While it’s not the war, the winner of this battle will be set up to roll their advantage right into the next strategic categories and potentially win the whole enchilada.

Let’s dig into this first volley in the CSA smackdown.

Early results – eBay fashion denim vs. Amazon Denim Shop

Today’s announcement is for a future enhancement for Amazon that is yet to be seen, but as a baseline, I wanted to compare what eBay released earlier this year to where Amazon is.

First, let’s look at the new eBay fashion experience.  As a use case, we’ll look for a pair of men’s Levi’s jeans with 36 waist and 29 inseam – relaxed style straight leg in stone wash.

eBay Steps: (this is the new experience, the old experience is here)

  • eBay.com
  • Fashion button 
  • Men’s clothing button or click here.
  • At the top, click on jeans.
  • There is no Levi’s brand in the brand list so scroll down to the size selector
  • Select 36 waist, 29 inseam straight leg AND relaxed and you see some jeans you can browse in the eBay ‘window shop’ view as seen here:


Ebay_jeans1
At first blush this is pretty handy, BUT eBay hasn’t given me the ability to filter by brand, so I have to hit the ‘see all items’ box where I am taken to more of a classic eBay shopping experience where you can see the fancy jean selector has splatted out a basic eBay search: (click to enlarge) with 7k results.  


Ebay_jeans2

 

So from here I now have to: (start at 7k results)

  • Check the 29 box (down to 169 results)
  • Check the Levis box  (down to 70 results)
  • Check the New condition box (down to 50 results)

Now we should be down to a set where the top 10 results get us what we want:


Ebay_jeans3

 

Here’s a quick review of the top 10 results: (keep in mind I have clearly specified waist size 36 – you can see it above)

  1. 44 waist in the title, no idea why this is here
  2. Actually has a 36 waist and 29 inseam
  3. 46 waist
  4. 44 waist
  5. 44 waist
  6. 44 waist
  7. 44 waist
  8. 44 waist (note yes – these are all the same thing)
  9. The right waist, but they are tan?
  10. appears to be the right waist.

So if we look at listing 2 and 10:

Result 2 is a pair of 550’s that are auctions with 6 days left or I can BIN for $30+$6 S+H = $36.

Result 10 is a deal at $19 with $8 S+H – $27 for a pair of $40 MSRP jeans – sound too good be true?  Ahhh, the listing has this nice little tidbit in the listing: “Please note: Marked irregular on inside tag due to small imperfection or mis-stitch ” (they are marked new.

Let’s say I actually want 560’s – I have to go to the search and enter 560 – I can actually find some on the site that seem to a) be the right size 560’s and b) not irregular that are $32.99 BIN with $10 S+H = $42.  This is good because I’ve found the typical eBay selection of jeans is actually pretty thin.

Amazon steps:

  • Amazon.com
  • Clothing category
  • Denim shop – 6th link on the left, or just go here.
  • Pick ‘Men’s and then “Levis” brand
  • Select 36 waist, relaxed, 29 inseam, colour ‘stone wash’
  • We are now presented with three options: silver tab, 550 and 560 models:


Amazon_jeans1

 

If you pick the 560, you are delivered right to a page to buy that item.  The only glitch in this experience is that when I land at the 560 page, I am asked to enter the size and colour again – so that is a bit of a glitchy experience that could be improved, but it over-all, I am able to get to my jeans in a very visual way in about 6 steps.  These jeans are $32 with free Prime shipping (woot!).

The June Denim Shop results – advantage Amazon

So based on where we are in June 2010 with this example:

  • eBay has amped up the fashion category and put a new experience on the old eBay data
  • Amazon has just released the denim shop, but on the standard Amazon shopping experience
  • Amazon has NOT released the new experience they are asking sellers for today

Amazon clearly has a serious lead on the eBay buying experience AND in selection for this example.  I can find my jeans much faster AND for $32 vs. eBay’s more, ummm adventurous search experience to find the $41 jeans. 

Amazon’s Note to Apparel Sellers – give us MORE data!

Here is the note that Amazon sent out to sellers today: (yes ChannelAdvisor is on top of this and will support day 1)

Greetings from the Amazon.com Clothing Team,

Amazon is in the process of transforming our Clothing & Accessories Store into one of the most compelling shopping websites on the internet. We are focusing on improving the customer experience, making it easier and more fun to shop in our store.

What does this mean to you as a seller in the Amazon Clothing & Accessories Store?

You will be able to leverage exciting new changes in the store by upgrading to a new feed format. The new format will get your products into the right browse nodes and allow us to better merchandise the store to improve the customer shopping experience.

What’s new?

* New Required Attributes:

— Item Type Keywords (ITKs) replace Style Keywords for browse classification

— UPCs (required for all major brands)

— colour

— Size

 

* New Highly Recommended or Desired Attributes:

— apparel-closure-type (for example, button fly for jeans)

— belt-style (for example, western)

— bottom-style (for example, bikini)

— sleeve-type (for example, short-sleeve)

— collar-type (for example, boatneck)

All the documents you’ll need for taking advantage of the new Clothing & Accessories feed format are available in Seller Central Help:

* Text-File Template  Manage Inventory: Reference: Text-file Templates: Inventory File Templates

* Item Classification Guide (ICG), contains the Item Type Keywords Manage Inventory: Reference: Item Classification Guides (ICGs)

* ClothingAccessories Product Category XSD XML & Data Exchange: Reference: XSDs (Search on “Product Category XSDs” once you reach the page.)

* XML Guidelines

Increase Sales: Reference: Category Management: News & Best Practices: Clothing & Accessories: XML Documentation

Valid Values, optimising Attributes, and Size Guidelines tabs are in the text-file template and the XML Guidelines document. Use the information on these tabs in conjunction with the ICG to classify your products in the Amazon.com browse structure.

Enter Item Type Keywords just the way you see them in the ICG, all lower case and separated by hyphens. There is only one Item Type Keyword per SKU. Use the most detailed Item Type Keyword possible, as it will inherit all of the attributes of those above it in the same section. (The further an ITK is indented, the more detailed it is.)

When do you need to be moved over to the New Feed?

The new feed format is named ClothingAccessories. The earlier versions of the templates and XSDs are now named Shoes, Handbags, Sunglasses/Eyewear. You can continue to use the earlier versions for Clothing until you are ready to switch over completely to the new feed format.

We recommend moving to the new feed format before October 15, 2010. This will allow you to maximise your sales and fully leverage the new browse and classification structure for holiday sales. Amazon will also be able to better merchandise and promote your Clothing & Accessories items during the holiday season using our new classification structure.

The most time intensive part of moving over to the new feed format will be identifying the correct Item Type Keyword for each product; once this is completed, you will be ready to go.

For additional information on how to maximise your business in the Amazon Clothing & Accessories Store, please review our Category Style Guide in Seller Central Help: Manage Inventory: Reference: Text-file Templates: Inventory File Templates (Search on “style” once you reach the page.)

Thanks for selling on Amazon.com.

Kind regards,

Amazon.com Clothing Team