One thing brands can always count on when engaging with Amazon is that the platform is continually changing. A recent change impacting first-party brands happens to be with their sampling and review generation program, Amazon Vine. Vine is the only authorized, approved platform for seeding Amazon review with product sampling.
Amazon Vine is used to generate customer reviews on new products and is available for both first-party and third-party brands on Amazon. The most recent change impacts first-party brands that sell through Vendor Central. As it sits today, third-party brands use their available Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) inventory to fulfill Vine samples, and this process brings both sides closer together operationally.
I first observed the change in late July. Brands no longer send in inventory dedicated just for Vine samples. Samples are sent out of existing on hand inventory at Amazon Fulfillment Centers (FC).
Historically, Vine samples were shipped in by brands, with their own tracking labels, to specific Amazon FCs. This was beneficial as Vine samples could be sent in once the ASIN existed, before the product was made available for sale. Many brands receive an early limited quantity shipment and could pull from those units to enroll and ship to Vine. This approach would help get reviews collected and staged ahead of the products launch date on Amazon.
The new process requires Amazon to have inventory on hand, through either a standard Purchase Order (PO), or a Born to Run (BTR) PO, also known as Vendor Initiated Purchase Order.