In early October, Amazon launched a marketplace for handmade goods. This market has so far been dominated by Etsy, a platform for artists and handlers of vintage items to exchange their products.
An Amazon press release announced Handmade at Amazon as, “a new store featuring genuinely handmade items crafted and sold directly from artisans.”
Etsy’s handicrafts marketplace has grown to $2 billion a year in sales since 2005. In light of their success, Amazon has been waiting for the right time to release their own similar product. Now that Etsy stock is down 43% with a net loss of 84 cents per share, Amazon strategized the release of Handmade this October to appeal to dedicated online artisans and new ones.
Amazon is considered to be the king of e-commerce with $75 billion in annual sales with third-party sellers from around the world. Peter Faricy, the Amazon vice president is overseeing Handmade. He is confident about the integrity of the site and its future, telling the New York Times, “You can think of it as a factory-free zone, a mass-produced-free zone.”
Amazon seems to be taking some notes from Etsy. The ten-year old company has quite a passionate following, with 1.5 million active sellers and 22.6 buyers engaging in their success. Etsy’s relationship to its audience of forward-thinking, kitsch-inclined individuals contributes to a sort of integrity throughout the brand. Etsy users fear that Amazon will treat sellers unfairly and misrepresent the source of the products.
Amazon Handmade has invited Etsy sellers to the site with a special first look. Products are available in four distinct categories: home products, stationery, party supplies, and jewelry.
Amazon’s 285 million active customer accounts is a huge advantage compared to Etsy’s 22 million. By giving artisans more internet traffic, and thus more potential customers, the chance that their work is being discovered in greater.
Plus, Amazon is allowing sellers to ship products through the company’s fulfillment centers around the country. Items can even be offered in the popular Amazon Prime program. This logistical support is a huge attraction for sellers who hope to simplify the shipping process as much as possible.
Handmade’s Services are a useful website for new sellers. Here, sellers can refer to FAQs and begin the application process to become an Amazon Handmade seller. Committed Etsy fans may be hesitant of Amazon’s encroachment in their territory. But for new sellers with an abundance of Amazon’s resources at their commands, the best apology for Etsy? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Many people dive into e-commerce world because it is convenient and easy, as long as you know how to navigate your way on the computer. But there are some helpful strategies to keep in mind. You have to stay organized, follow a plan, and stay educated on the best social commerce techniques.
Social media moves communities, and it also moves wallets. People are influenced by the products they see being purchased by friends, so through the power of Google, they can now found anything they’d like to buy on the internet. Social media can fuel eCommerce revenue. That being said, the general social structure of communication and commerce has not changed drastically because of social media. Shoppers still want to feel connected to their sellers as if they could walk down the street in their hometown and browse their shelves.
Before you think of your business as an online business, imagine how you would manage the organization before the dawn of the internet. Business strategy has existed for hundreds of years without the recent influx of social marketing influence. In theory, digital social marketing is just reflection of the success of organic (non-digital) social relationships.
Your online business plan is going to require online marketing.This is obvious. But as Lawson emphasizes, online marketing often overlooks its customers in exchange for trending techniques and shortcuts. The best online business plans integrate their mission throughout thoughtful social interactions on Facebook, Google+, and Youtube.
Before you hit the ground running with your company, think about how you would explain your product. How would you engage with your products, and form a network without your sellers?
Social works hand in hand with commerce; people come online because they want to connect with each other or they want to purchase something. Often, these goals merge. You need to be part of conversations with people that you would be having with or without the existence of the online marketplace. Learn from your consumers. Invest effectively on web hosting and promotional features.
Many sellers feel duped by a deceptive sense of independence offered by the industry. However, this illusory masterdom is confronted by the platform it relies on: Amazon itself. Riding this beast can be risky; if Amazon were to fail, so would your business, so it’s important to diversify and be flexible.
Congratulations! You’re ready to sell on Amazon. When you first get started, you may feel overwhelmed with some of the logistics. Luckily, Amazon provides a wealth of resources to guide you through the selling and shipping process; Seller Central. All of the information you need is available on Sellercentral.amazon.com.
Once you are registered, you must specify what type of seller you will be: a Professional seller or an Individual seller. There are some clear perks if you decide to start out with a Professional account.
Professional sellers tend to list a large quantity of products and ship frequently while Individual sellers only have a handful of products and may not be active for long term.
A good example of an individual seller would be a person who found some unopened DVDs they received as a gift a few years ago, and figured there may be some collectors searching for them online. Or, think of a college graduate trying to liquidate their excessive textbook collection when moving into their new small apartment.
Here are five critical differences between selecting a Professional Seller and an Individual Seller account:
- Monthly fee: Professional sellers pay a $39.99 monthly fee for their accounts to stay active; Individual sellers don’t have to pay a hosting fee.
- Shipping rates: Professional sellers set their own shipping rates.
- Listing fees: An Individual Seller avoids the monthly fee but must pay a per-item $0.99 fee on each sale in additional to the usual Amazon referral fees. The Professional account does not charge this fee. This is something to keep in mind if you plant to list over forty items.
- Listing new products: Only Professional Sellers can create listings for products that are “new” on Amazon, while Individual sellers can only add their offers to pre-existing listings.
- Gated categories: There are gated categories on Amazon: Clothing, Shoes, Jewelry/Watches, Beauty, Collectibles, Automotive, and Video. Only Professional Sellers can apply to to list their items in these categories.
The registration process in Amazon is quite simple. Have these pieces of information ready beforehand, and your account will be ready to go in no time.
- Your legal business name, address, and contact information
- An email address
- A valid credit card
- A phone number to contact
- Tax identity information (your Social Security number or your company’s Federal Tax ID number).
Complete all necessary information for your profile. Fill out information in the “About Seller” and “Policies” sections of your profile so your customers are prepared when they communicate with you. Check the Tax Preferences link with your tax preferences to make sure you getting the best deal.
Seller Central is not only where you will initiate your account, but it will be the motherboard for your seller activity. From here, you can access inventory, shipping requests, returns, and communicate with customers. You can also leave feedback on forums with Amazon.
If you have enough items to sell, becoming a professional seller allows you to access Amazon with more flexibility. You can better manage your inventory by uploading feeds, receiving reports, and performing other API functions on the Amazon Marketplace site.
While individual accounts do have the option to upgrade, professional accounts are a better option to start off with if you are confident that you will be a long-time user.
As the Prosper Show nears its colossal February 8-9, 2016 event, experts have already begun revealing third-party seller news, stories and tips, one being Hendrik Laubscher, an ecommerce wunderkind and Development Strategist at PriceCheck. Laubscher will also be one of the parties providing Amazon sellers business-focused e-commerce industry news at the show. One piece of good news that has been circulating the industry is that EBay is planning to give friendlier nods to sellers through seller ratings. Announced at EBay’s “Seller Summit” in San Jose, California, the news would mean that retailers selling for EBay will stop being penalized in ratings for returns, exchanges and late shipments (that beyond their control).
Starting on February 20th, more control will be given to sellers according to current President & CEO Devin Wenig — who may be trying to win some nods and good ratings himself since coming on at EBay.
Wenig, who took over as CEO from John Donahoe in July, said the changes reflect his new intention for EBay, which celebrated its 20th birthday earlier this month. Since taking over, Wenig has intended to increase EBay’s image as a people-centered tech company, as opposed to companies that work with drones, a possible reference to Amazon’s experiment with the machines. Amazon, EBay’s competitor is currently No. 1 Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide. With this move, Wenig may be attempting to inch EBay’s way up towards the competition.
Addressing the rapt crowd who undoubtedly had complaints about the former stringent rating system, Wenig promised to offer consumers and sellers a uniquely human experience. “Our experiences have got to be simple, engaging and trusted,” he said. “Consumers want uniqueness and a breadth of value—not just in inventory but in product experiences.”
Some of the changes involved in EBay’s dropping of sellers’ negative ratings according to industry news are:
Negative and neutral buyer feedback; successfully resolved returns requests; and “Items not received” requests that the buyer resolves. Also, EBay will consider shipments late in these instances:
- Tracking shows an item was delivered after the estimated delivery date, and there’s no acceptance scan within the stated handling time or there’s no confirmation from the buyer of on-time delivery.
- Buyer confirms an item was delivered after the estimated delivery date, and there’s no acceptance scan within the stated handling time or there’s no delivery confirmation by the estimated delivery date.
With the new structure, EBay will evaluate sellers on two measurements that it says will measure seller’s customer service:
- Seller-canceled transactions for items that are out of stock or cannot be fulfilled for any other reason.
- Cases that are closed without seller resolution.
Scot Wingo, executive chairman of ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce services provider that helps retailers sell through online marketplaces, says EBay’s move will allow for a much more user and seller-friendly system. Wingo stated in his blog that the new feature will save seller’s time by automating the process of rejecting or accepting returns, ““This will eliminate the need to manually manage each request and provide the opportunity to customize based on rules that each seller configures.”
Included in the address was also the announcement of a “seller hub” – a centralized location where selling tools, guidance, analytics and the like will be available in one place. The hub will be set up to make information possible for sellers to check in with how they’re doing and get help if necessary.
The summit proved to be successful as Wenig’s address was lauded by sellers to be a great move in the right direction for EBay.
Ebay Rating System
Customer demand, no competition, large margins. Every seller strives for those things, but with the positive comes the work, and the work includes getting to know what you should do and most importantly, what you should not do. While building your own private label brand has appeal for lots of reasons, DIY product label-building may not be the best course of action. The private label product business can be steeped with risk. An effective system to use while building a private label product business should include: product evaluation, proper legal vetting, identification to the right manufacturer partners overseas, small minimum order quantities (MOQ) on a wide range of products and all the hard work necessary to get your products launched on Amazon.
If you are committed to the investments of time and money needed to be successful in the private label product space, that determination will lead you halfway there. But take note: the most important piece of advice a new seller should head is to always stay informed. It will increase your chances for successfully creating a private label business properly and lucratively.
Trademark & Patent Infringement
Sometimes, sellers will ‘borrow’ too heavily on products coming dangerously close to violating someone else’s trademark or patent. Maybe you consider your product friendly or innocent competition? Regardless of the intention, if you are borrowing another’s private label product too closely, you could get hit with a huge legal bill when the product grows in sales and gets some notice. The legal teams of the infringed brand and Amazon are best left as far from your operation as possible.
If you plan to have products shipped or made overseas, expect possible delays. Have your customs paperwork ready, deal with a reputable overseas operation and employ an experience partner to help expedite the process.
Negotiating Small Enough Quantities On Test Buys
Though foreign suppliers have become more responsive to sample buys by first-time buyers, it is important for you to acquire enough samples to assure consistent production quality so you don’t get bridled with invalid or unproductive test products.
Testing Testing Testing Products
Plan to test your products — a lot of your products. It is the only way to assure that your customers will be offered products they will want to buy.
Overseas Manufacturers Poor Production Practices
Make sure you have a structure for quality control in dealing with overseas suppliers’ merchandise. Even if you are producing product that does not infringe on another’s patents, some less than scrupulous overseas suppliers may — so check every product, every time, from every outside supplier.
Supplier/Production Quality Issues
As you check your overseas suppliers, so too should you check all your suppliers. Quality control is your best defense against faulty, damaged and low-quality products. It’s critical to know how to evaluate and negotiate with suppliers to make sure you get high quality product every time. Be sure to pick the most consistent supplier with the most consistent product.
Setting Up Product & Product Promotion On Amazon
Make sure your products have curb appeal. Make sure photos of your products look good. Make sure your customers are finding your products quickly by using your social media arsenal — it’s free, so put it to good use. Have a process for consistent promotion through your sites, your Twitter, Facebook, etc. Once your customers have taken notice of your brand, get customer feedback and address reviews in a timely manner.
Effectively Managing Tickets From Amazon’s Seller Performance
There are situations when non-infringing businesses are accused of violations even though they have registered their brands properly through Amazon’s Brand Registry Program (if you have not done so, register your product!). When these things happen, make sure you have a plan in place to deal with these complaints. Whatever you do, do not lose your composure. It may be wise to employ the services of a professional like a lawyer to help you plan for these types of situations.
Getting Ready For Competitors To Notice Your Product
Once your private label product starts to grow and generate sales, competitors will notice and notice quickly. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row, register your product if need be and get the help of experts. You have a short window on most private label products you build before others enter the same markets
Protecting Your Private Label Product on Amazon
With great success comes great challenges. The more successful your private label product is, the more competitors may “borrow” the look, feel and function of your product. Some may just brazenly infringe on your space. Because there can be a long lag time before Amazon responds to your complaints, there are specific proactive actions you should take, as well as specific issues you should plan to accept as a means of doing business in the private label space on Amazon. Get help learning what some of those measures are.
For insights and answers to many dilemmas and challenges that plague first-time (and old-time) seller, Top Sellers and Solution Providers will reveal trade secrets & best sellers’ tactics to help you sell more with less work at the Prosper Show on February 8-9, 2016. Drawing on the experience of former Amazon business leaders, seasoned sellers, and other industry experts, the event will offer hands-on information to guide you through the key processes that drive your business.
Photo credit: Market Bureau
As a proviso to this article, Amazon Sellers have found success in employing these tips and tactics for straightforward business accounting reports, but this should not be taken as advice on specific accounting practices. You should already be well-versed in Amazon accounting information. For definitive tax, accounting and legal advice, please engage the services of a CPA or Tax Attorney to provide you with the most efficient information on business accounting reports protocol.
With that said, there are three main business accounting reports that sellers have used which take about an hour each to generate. They remain crucial for efficiently generating accurate bookkeeping records, and are useful for management purposes.
Of the three main reports, this one is the most straightforward and easy to navigate.
To open the Payments report in Seller Central, click Reports and then click Payments, then from the Payments report you can view:
- Recent balances, orders and refunds information
- Orders and transactions with all associated credits, adjustments and fees
- (View) and export a report with total transactions from the last period
To provide customer service, investigate past orders or refund customers, use the Manage Orders page. All Payment Transaction Detail pages provide a link to the Orders Details page for easy navigation between the two features.
Bottom line: These reports either summarize or breakdown the sales you made, fees you incurred, and the money Amazon paid you.
If you use your own accounting software instead of the rough data provided by Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), consider that the inventory data in your books may not take into account what is inbound to Amazon, what is missing, what is reserved, transferred from one warehouse to another, or even damaged. It is possible to account for the entirety of that data yourself, but because of the tediousness of the process, many sellers only update this type of information annually, for tax purposes.Instead of using the Inventory Tab for your inventory-related reports, we recommend using the “Inventory Health” and “Manage FBA Inventory” Reports. While the reports contained in the Inventory Tab can each serve specific purposes to inventory management, some only provide limited data for accounting needs.
The Inventory Health report provides a viewable and downloadable report of all of your inventory, while The Manage FBA Inventory reportis only available for download and includes a report of all of your FBA inventory.
Many sellers with less than 50 skus use the Manage FBA Inventory screen (within the Inventory Tab) instead of pulling the Manage FBA Inventory report.
The Sales Reporting section has the look and feel of Google Analytics with real-time cataloguing capabilities.It’s clean and visually appealing theme is helpful for comparing differing timeframes, making it possible to spot recurring trends in a clean, easy visual manner.
To navigate to your sales reports, go to the Reports tab and click on Business Reports. This will default to your Sales Dashboard showing today’s, yesterday’s, and the same day last week (and the same day last year) hour-by-hour. Filters can be applied to produce reports by day, week, month and year, or by product categories and fulfillment method. The default view from the dashboard will be a graphic.
To view this data as a list, you can select Table View in the top right corner of the Compare Sales section. Whether in graph or table view, you can click on Download in the top right corner of the Dashboard and download a CSV table of the data currently displayed according to the filters that have been set by you or by default.
It is important to note that the heart of the Business Reports section is below the Dashboard Link in the section entitled Business Reports. All of the reports in this section are available for display and for download.
Stay tuned for more tips and tactics in accounting for Amazon Sellers in an upcoming post!
The secrets to dominating the Amazon marketplace aren’t as tricky as one might think. Read below for some tricks and trades needed to enable sellers to thrive in the crowded Amazon marketplace.
Outsource to third-party companies: Let other people help you. In my experience, most people want to have a hand in all aspects of their business and to be honest; it’s not feasible. The number one priority the successful Amazon seller needs to be concerned with is finding successful products. Invest in third-party companies to assist with other aspects of business such as the warehouse, software, personnel and book-keeping.
Focus your resources on your best-selling inventory. This rule is probably the easiest one for dominating the Amazon marketplace. Always keep your best-selling items in-stock and consider increasing your sales by using sponsored ads.
Use Fulfilled by Amazon–Fulfill whatever you can by Amazon. Sellers receive an orange Fulfillment By Amazon icon on their seller listing when sellers use FBA. They also get the opportunity to compete on Amazon Prime. Finally, the inventory storage cost is commonly lower than your own overhead, which means your conversion rates increase and you have lower return rates.
Contained are more secrets of successful sellers Amazon sellers: what made them successful, what new sellers should know about joining the Amazon marketplace, and what realistic expectations a seller should have as it contemplates Amazon as a sales channel.
- Be product-flexible / brand-flexible: Don’t grow too attached to the items you carry as Amazon has the potential to block products or discontinue them. You need to adapt to the competitive landscape, and you should be ready to shift as needed. Selling on Amazon is a numbers game – units sold, margin made, the number of sellers on the same item, the number of competitive alternatives available to Amazon customers.
- Learn from customers continuously: Your best bet for market research is right in front of you and will provide invaluable insight. In order to ensure you have the best product possible– go straight to the source, which is, of course, the customer, to ask for feedback. Staying on top of your competitor’s product reviews to figure out their latest offerings as well as where the current offerings aren’t effectively meeting customers’ needs is something you should be continually seeking.
- Use analytics & data to identify opportunities and emerging problems: Become familiar with your product’s analytics. Amazon’s Seller Central lets users determine which products have the highest negative feedback aka order defect rate. In return, this will allow you to pare down inventory that isn’t selling well and tying up capital in the process. The analytics will also give you a glimpse into products which are high-margin, quick selling inventory, so you can stay in demand and stock up.
When Amazon first launched in 1995 as an online bookstore, Jeff Bezos had a vision for Amazon to eventually become the “everything store,” but even he couldn’t have predicted just how exponentially his company would grow into the largest ecommerce marketplace in the world 20 years later, selling a whopping 120 million different items. Just as Bezos launched Amazon out of his home, many of today’s 3rd party sellers on Amazon have created profitable home-based sales businesses that allow them the flexibility to create their own schedule and the freedom to be their own bosses.
Getting to the top on Amazon isn’t easy, but it’s possible if you know how to create the kind of advantages that propel profitability beyond the short-term. In fact, more than 4 times as many sellers make $1 million in sales on Amazon as compared to eBay, according to Web Retailer. New sellers to the Amazon marketplace should start with these three insider secrets when building a sustainable business plan for long term ecommerce success.
1. Don’t compete with Amazon: Even if you somehow have a lower cost of doing business than Amazon, it is prepared to lose money on orders just to get the customer sale. While Amazon seeks to find sellers who will serve as backup suppliers on items that Amazon carries, the long-term viability of profitably competing with Amazon is not good for sellers. Amazon controls its ability to win the competitive sale at even unprofitable levels, so you’d be wise to either sell a product that Amazon does not sell themselves, or focus on margin profits instead. Free tools like keepa.com allow you to track Amazon’s inventory and price history.
2. Stick to margin: Too many sellers go after the sale rather than the margin. You need to know your all-in costs so you can properly gauge how much margin you are making on each sale – that way, you can responsibly stop yourself from lowering your price to unprofitable levels just to get the sale. You will need discipline and data to manage your business to long-term success. Don’t get intimidated though— over 55% of Amazon sellers report profit margins over 20%, so success is well within reach. Consider repricing software like FeedVisor that monitor competitors’ prices 24/7 and reprices your inventory accordingly.
3. Learn from Competitors: Selling on Amazon involved plenty of experimentation and observation. Fortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of other sellers ahead of you that have done a lot of trial and error experimentation of their own. What are other successful sellers doing with their product titles, bullet points, images, product descriptions, and product classifications to drive the traffic and sales of their items? You should spend time regularly looking at other sellers’ listings, so you can extrapolate what appears to be working and not working for others.
When a brand owner/manufacturer contemplates selling on Amazon, it has a big decision to make:
- 1P: Sell its product wholesale to Amazon Retail (and let Amazon Retail sell to Amazon customers),
- 3P: Sell its product through third-party resellers (and let these 3P sellers sell to Amazon customers)
At a later date, we will discuss the key issues and tradeoffs of selling wholesale to Amazon Retail vs. selling through third-party Amazon sellers, and outline the risks involved in each approach.
For more details on how to sell on Amazon via your own 1st or 3rd party account or on how to align your brand with an experienced third-party Amazon seller that will support you in building your brand equity and product sales, please contact us:
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