Wednesday 13 August 2014

The Amazon KAM - A new way of Managing Major Customers?

News of Amazon’s latest issues with publishing giant Hachette and its authors, reveals the extent to which Amazon can affect markets in its aim to bring cheaper books to the public.

The row has come to a head because Amazon and Hachette have failed to agree new terms under which the online retailer can sell the publisher’s books. Amazon in turn is reducing its stock of Hachette titles and blocking pre-orders, which are vital to secure early sales and nudge a book up the charts.

For a good summary of the detail and implications, see Graham Ruddick’s latest treatment in The Telegraph.

Nothing like Amazon has happened before in terms of scale and influence. So perhaps it requires a different approach in terms of account management?

Obviously, Walmart is big and increasingly global, but Amazon has the capability of straddling the globe - albeit next day delivery might present some problems in the Amazonian jungle -, without the need for the same degree of ‘bricks & mortar’ infrastructure that would be required by a ‘walmart’ hoping to achieve the same coverage and access to consumers…

In fact, it could be said that Amazon is heading towards a 50% share of anything that can be sold anywhere, to anyone, at least…, and perhaps we should budget with that in mind?

This means that the traditional NAM/KAM model could be inadequate.

Traditionally, as you know, as in-house champions of their accounts, NAMs were seen as business managers of a customer-business-unit, often within a global context for that customer, charged with maximising sales and optimising long term profitability of the account, without compromising the company’s dealings with the customer in other countries, and with very little consideration of the impact on other  customers.

It was the job of senior management to ensure that each major customer received its fair-share of the action.

Amazon needs to be managed differently….

Whilst a company should never try to hold back a major customer’s growth in order to limit its share of the company’s business – in the current flat-line environment any growth should be cultivated – perhaps the role of the Amazon KAM & NAMs should be to not only enable Amazon to reach its full potential, but also be the in-house ‘educator’ to ensure that Amazon’s online disciplines and KPIs are applied to any other customers aspiring to compete online. In other words, Amazon standards should be used to raise the company’s total game, and to assess how trade support is apportioned among other members of the customer portfolio.

Amazon have found a way of growing in a flat-line environment and perhaps it is time for us all to learn how to optimise this new future...

Finally, it hopefully goes without saying that the Amazon NAMs should have an open-line dialogue with their Board-colleagues to ensure that immovable trading limits are set, and strictly maintained, as Amazon approaches what could be 50%+ of the company’s business… 

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