The launch of Amazon in Israel – an event long anticipated by the country’s shoppers – is being held up by the online retailer’s trouble recruiting local re-sellers, disagreements about translation pages into Hebrew and a host of technical and regulatory issues.
Under the company’s original timetable, the Amazon Israel site was supposed to go up in either June or July; a new date has not been selected, but it will apparently be before the big global retailing events of Black Friday in November 29 and Cyber Monday December 2.
“Amazon won’t go live until it is 200% ready. They have things to solve, including regulatory and language issues and recruiting resellers,” said one retail industry source who has been working with the company and asked not to be identified. “The companies that the Amazon representatives are working with give them a lot of advice. As Israelis, we are good at it.”
He said some are telling Amazon to launch in September so as not to miss the High Holiday shopping surge; Rosh Hashanah falls this year on September 29. Others are warning the company should delay until after the September 17 election.
The launch is being supervised by Rolf Kimmeyer, an Amazon Global Selling manager based in Berlin, helped by another executive named Stefan Zuther, an account and project manager. The two visit Israel every few weeks to meet with executives from local delivery companies and firms like Electra Consumer Products, which is offering to help small resellers. Two Israelis have also been hired to conduct meetings with local companies on amore regular basis.
It is no simple matter to sell through Amazon. The company has a long list of rules and standards that resellers need to meet in areas like customer service, inventory management and supply chain. However, the responsibility for successful selling on the site lies with the resellers, so they have to learn how to market effectively and to ensure high consumer ratings.
Israeli resellers are having trouble meeting Amazon’s requirement for delivering within five days and are coping with other logistical challenges. As a result, many are not rushing to register with the Amazon Israel site.
Industry sources say that the company has succeeded in recruiting just a few score resellers to date, not enough to justify launching a Hebrew-language site devoted exclusively to the Israeli market. They say the site would need to have at least several thousand local products to attract enough attention. Another problem that has emerged relates to the fact that Amazon has no plans to open an Israeli logistics centers anytime in the next few years.
Then there is the matter of Hebrew, as one reseller explained.
“We wanted to give them product pages in Hebrew, using marketing language. At Amazon, they said, ‘No, send it to us in English and we’ll translate it,’” said a source at one company working with Amazon.
“We refused because we don’t want a translation to Hebrew," he said. "We’ve done market research. We use marketing language with key words that are appropriate and correct in Hebrew, which would be lost in translation if it were done by their translator,” he said.
Amazon itself hasn’t decided when to launch the Amazon.co.il domain name. Initially, it plans to use the company’s flagship Amazon.com, with preference in searches given to companies that ship from Israel or ship to Israel from other countries. The pages will be in Hebrew with an option for prices in shekels.
Only later will it go over to a purely Hebrew Israeli site using the co.il domain name, sources said.
The reason for the phased-in launch stems from lessons Amazon learned from its Australia site. There, it asked shoppers to use its local site to buy from local resellers, but the site didn’t offer enough items and customers preferred to use the dot.com site instead.
Part of the solution to Amazon’s problem in Israel lies with local firms that advise resellers on developing pages in exchange for a fee. One of them is Electra Consumer Products, which on Tuesday launched an arm for collaborating with Amazon.
The company is offering a platform for small and medium-sized businesses it calls weforce. Its services include developing strategy, market research, product selection, translation services, marketing, financial counseling and even legal advice. Electra plans to invest 3 million shekels ($850,000) in weforce, which it calls the first service of this kind in the world.
Electra said it is working with Bank Hapoalim to create dedicated financial products for small and medium-sized businesses that want to do business on global e-commerce platforms like Amazon. The bank would provide loans of up to 50,000 shekels.
“Traditional e-commerce as we know it isn’t relevant anymore,” said Electra Consumer CEO Zvika Schwimmer.
“The future is Amazon marketplace. The biggest selling site in the world is setting up a local operation, but it’s not expected to offer logistical or other services for the next few years. This is an opportunity for us and the small and medium-sized business owners to join forces and turn small and local business into a large and global business in Amazon,” he said.
Another local service provider is eCommunity, which is owned by Odelia Orbach and Nir Zigdon. It provides a package of services to help entrepreneurs start up an e-commerce business on Amazon, such as market research, evaluating products to sell, research on competition, site management and customer service. It collects a fee of 10-12%.
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