As they have for the past few years, Amazon is making changes to the way their API data feed operates. And as with previous changes, some will have a huge impact on how AOM performs. Let’s take a look at what they’re planning, and how it will (or will not) affect your stores. Also we’ll briefly discuss the next scheduled upgrade, v5.1.
By now, many of you will have received an email from Amazon regarding the API changes. If not, you can read about their plans here. Going through the list, here’s what you can expect:
Associate Tag Parameter: Every request made to the API should include a valid Associate Tag. Any request that does not contain a valid Associate Tag will be rejected with an appropriate error message.
This change will have no effect because it’s already included in AOM.
Seller Operations: The SellerLookup, SellerListingLookup and SellerListingSearch operations will be deprecated. All requests for these operations will be rejected with a corresponding error message.
This change will also have no effect, because it’s not used by AOM.
ItemPage Parameter: For the ItemSearch operation, the ItemPage parameter will have a maximum value of 10 instead of 400. The limit for the “All” search index will continue to be 5 pages. A new element “MoreSearchResults” will be added to ItemSearch responses, containing a link to the Amazon website where your customers can see additional search results beyond the ItemPage limit. All requests for ItemPage greater than 10 will be rejected with an appropriate error message.
What this means is that all categories will now have a limit of 10 pages, instead of the current 400. If a category contains more than a hundred items (10 x 10), there will be a link to Amazon to view the extra items. While at first glance this may appear to be severely curtailing the number of products visible in your store, it actually has several benefits. For one thing, it will help immensely with controlling the hourly API product request limit. Sites that are hit by resource-gobbling bad bots will now have some built-in way to control bandwidth and server requests from being wasted, leaving more room for actual customers. It will also have some SEO benefit, since it will cut down on the amount of duplicate content and keep your stores from appearing in search results outside of their niche (a video game store showing up in the search results for fridges, for example).
Many AOM store owners already limit their sites to 10 pages per category; it will now be the default standard. And bear in mind that if customers click the link to view more products on Amazon, your Associate ID is tagged to it, so you will be credited for any sales that occur as a result. Just as if they had clicked on a standard Amazon widget or banner ad with your ID in it.
Merchants search index: The “Merchants” search index will be deprecated. All requests for this search index will be rejected with an appropriate error message.
As with Seller Operations, this is not used by AOM, and thus will not have an effect.
ItemAttributes Response group: Selected ItemAttributes that are not relevant to the broader product advertising use case will be deprecated.
From the example below, you can see that some attributes (indicated with the red circle) will no longer be available. Because the attributes vary from item to item, some products may be unaffected, others drastically so. Many of the attributes are redundant anyway, since they are explained in the product information text. Which means there’s no way to gauge how much of an effect this will have. Many shoppers may not even notice.
Offers: The selection of offers is simplified and limited to the most frequently used use cases. You will no longer need to guess which combination of Merchant ID and Condition will return the most relevant offer or make multiple trial-and-error calls.
This will probably involve the most profound changes for AOM, as it will have a powerful effect upon the list of marketplace vendors for an item. From the example below, you can see that it will limit the information available to Price, Condition (New, Used, Refurbished & Collectable only), Seller and Availability. Descriptions, conditions, seller notes, etc. will be removed. The list of merchants will be limited to one page only, with again a link to Amazon if more are available.
Additionally, the option to filter products by Merchant ID will be dropped. The vast majority of AOM stores will be unaffected, since only a handful of sites use this option. At this time there does not appear there will be a suitable workaround for this feature.
These changes are designed to take effect on October 25th, 2011. Version 5.1 of Associate-O-Matic is scheduled for release sometime in September, and will incorporate any changes required to conform to these new requirements. If you do not upgrade by February 21st, 2012, certain areas of your store will not operate correctly and may generate an error message (as noted in previous API changes).
And speaking of v5.1, it will incorporate a number of small bug fixes that have come to light, including the logo linking to the current page instead of the home page. New features are still being finalized, but one of them will be a major revamp of how Google Analytics is integrated into AOM. Cart tracking will no longer require trying to sort out the coding for the Analytics script; instead you just enter your Analytics tracking ID and AOM will do the rest internally. Note that this will not mean true goal tracking, since that requires Amazon returning shoppers back to your AOM store. But you should be able to track subtotals (minus shipping) and ASINs directly through your Analytics account.
If you are not tracking cart contents, you would enter your Analytics code in the Site Traffic Code box under the Site tab as normal.
Finally, the ability to create AOM sites for the newly opened China and Italy locales will be included with v5.1. Users will be responsible for signing up with Amazon for these markets, obtaining the correct Associate IDs, domains and dealing with payment options.