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Amazon Sellers Begin Kicking the Tires
of Order-Notification Software

by Steve Weber

#88, 12 February 2007

A new order-notification software application being tested by Amazon promises to make selling on Marketplace more secure - but also more tedious.

For several months, Amazon has been warning sellers it would stop providing buyer email addresses and shipping addresses in its "Sold, ship now" emails. Currently, many sellers cut and paste the transaction details from these emails onto packing slips and shipping labels.

Now sellers are getting a glimpse of what will replace those familiar emails. In late January, Amazon began beta-testing the Amazon Services Order Notifier (ASON). The Windows software displays a pop-up message each time an order is received, and after clicking on a taskbar icon, sellers can view recent orders.

When viewing your order history using ASON, you can double-click on an order to display a page showing the order ID, shipping information, printable shipping labels and packing slips, and transaction information such as the buyer's price, Amazon's commission, the shipping credit, and your earnings. The software runs continuously, and no log-in is required.

ASON's major benefit is that provides quick access to order details without having to log into your payments account on Amazon's Web site. Pro-Merchants will continue to have one more option for accessing transactions details - the order-fulfillment reports available for download from Amazon's site.

ASON is a "good first stab" at a software application for sellers, said Kevin O'Brien, founder of SpaceWare Inc., a provider of automation software for Amazon sellers at

"If sellers were forced to use the order-fulfillment reports or cut and paste shipping information from the Web site, it would have driven most of them crazy," O'Brien said.

Amazon says it's making the changes to protect the privacy of buyers and sellers. In theory, buyer information in those plain-text "Sold, ship now" emails can be intercepted by practically anyone on the Internet. With ASON, however, customer data is scrambled using Secure Socket Layer encryption, eliminating the possibility that customer information will fall into the wrong hands.

ASON also eliminates two other weaknesses associated with email order notifications:

  1. Spoofed e-mails. It was relatively easy for scammers to send a fake "Sold, ship now" email asking a seller to ship a book to a fictitious customer.

  2. Spam filtering. To cope with the ever-rising tide of junk e-mails, some Internet service providers have become increasingly aggressive about trashing messages that seem to be sent in bulk. Even legitimate messages, like Amazon's order notifications, are sometimes deleted before delivery.

However, there are several drawbacks with ASON that sellers are hoping will be fixed during the course of the beta test:

  1. ASON doesn't display some important transaction details on the printable packing slip, such as book condition and the "seller's comments" for the listing. This can lead to disputes when buyers have forgotten the advertised condition of the book by the time it arrives. Most sellers seem to prefer the packing slip / shipping label shown through the Payments account.

  2. Some sellers report that ASON doesn't continue working when a computer is in hibernation mode. Restarting ASON can require rebooting the computer, and sales that occurred during the hibernation period can be lost.

  3. No Mac version is available.

  4. Sellers can't extract any of the transaction data from ASON. Many medium-sized sellers have developed their own systems to parse the order details from "Sold, ship now" emails to automate the batch printing of packing slips and postage. ASON, however, offers no automation. For example, there's no way to print an entire day's worth of packing slips in one batch.

  5. ASON can be used with only one seller account. Some sellers have more than one Pro-Merchant account or also have a Seller Central account for special category stores. Apparently these merchants will need to use more than one computer to manage their Amazon orders.

  6. There's no way to automate shipping confirmations. For example, many sellers reply to the "Sold, ship now" email to notify buyers of a shipment. With ASON, the seller will need to cut and paste transaction details into a separate email form.

The time required for these manual tasks may encourage more sellers to begin using third-party software to manage their Marketplace orders, O'Brien said. It seems unlikely Amazon will integrate ASON with Endicia or other online postage services.

Some sellers have vowed not to use ASON at all. Some resent the idea of having an Amazon software application continuously draining their PC's resources, and some are suspicious that the software would somehow enable Amazon to snoop on sellers. However, O'Brien said ASON uses very little system resources, and it greatly enhances privacy.

In the future, ASON's technology can be added to third-party software. The Web service application programming interface is documented here.

Here's more information about downloading and using ASON.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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