Amazon is an ecommerce giant and their market share continues to increase. With their Amazon Prime shipping and all-in-one marketplace, it has set the standard for doing ecommerce right. According to Mary Meeker’s “2018 Internet Trends Report”, 49% of online product searches start on Amazon. The platform is taking over as the engine for product discovery and purchases, and if your business is not selling its products on Amazon, you could be missing out on an additional, and potentially lucrative, sales channel.
Although many brands already have their own ecommerce websites, there still exists an opportunity to sell more product through a marketplace like Amazon, especially if you want to increase the visibility of your brand. For those of you thinking about opening an Amazon seller account but don’t know where to start, we’ve developed a three-part guide on setting up, selling, and advertising on Amazon.
Setting Up Your Seller Account & Profile
Step 1: Sign Up
Before signing up for an Amazon seller account, you have to choose a selling plan. Amazon has two types of selling plans to choose from:
Individual Seller: Individual sellers are ideal for people who expect to sell less than 40 items per month. This is a good plan for individuals looking to sell a few items, like used textbooks for example. If you sign up for an individual seller account, keep in mind that you will have to pay a $.99 fee per item sold. It’s important to note that, as an individual seller, you cannot create new listings. Individual sellers can only sell items that have already been created on Amazon.
Professional Seller: A professional seller account is best for a business with multiple products that expects to sell more than 40 items per month. As a professional seller, you will have to pay a monthly subscription fee of $39.99, but you do get a month free when you open the account, and you are not required to pay the $.99 fee per item sold like the individual seller plan.
Step 2: Set Up Your Profile
Once you have chosen a selling plan, the next step is to register and create a profile on Amazon Seller Central, which is where you will be managing your account. Once you have filled out your basic contact information and provided a credit card number, you will have to set up shipping information, tax rates, and return policies.
Shipping & Shipping Rates: For your shipping settings, you can set your own shipping rates and delivery turnaround times. It’s best to think about the customer when setting these rates as customers purchasing on Amazon are usually drawn to the Prime shipping options. In order to be eligible for Prime shipping, your business account will need to qualify. We’ll get into how to be Prime-eligible later on in this guide.
Tax and Return Policy: This is where you set up your tax rates and return/refund policies. This is also where you tell customers how to properly return an item and where to return it to. According to Amazon policy, sellers must allow at least a 30-day return window. You can find Return and Tax Guidelines here.
Amazon Global Seller: Something else to think about is whether you want to sell strictly in the U.S. or internationally and the type of shipping you’ll be offering (expedited, next-day, standard, etc.). Amazon has marketplaces in North America, Europe, and Asia, so if you’re thinking about selling outside of the U.S., you should start by researching potential customers and ensuring that you are able to comply with taxes, shipping, regulations, and laws. Another important consideration is using Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) for international selling. People in other countries are going to need customer support in their native language and by using FBA, Amazon can provide that support.
Listing Your Products
Step 3: List and Upload Products
Once you have set up your profile and established your shipping and return policies and tax rates, you’re ready to start listing your products!
Many times, third-party sellers (resellers) sell multiple branded products on Amazon, which means some of your merchandise could already be listed. This could be a good thing in that you won’t have to create a listing for it, but it does mean you’ll have competition when it comes to pricing. If you’re a “private label” seller and don’t see any of your products on Amazon, you will have to upload your products through the inventory loader and fill out each product’s details in order to list them on Amazon.
Listing Existing Products: With existing products, you can use the images and descriptions available. What you need to do is specify the inventory that you plan on selling for those specific products, set the price, state what condition it’s in, and choose whether you want Amazon to ship it or if you will be handling the shipping. If you check the box for Amazon to ship for you, they will send you an email with a registration form for Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
If you have a lot of products that are already being sold on Amazon, you’ll want to use Amazon’s listing loader to save some time instead of filling out product details one product listing at a time. There is also a section in the inventory loader for product notes. So if you have a used item, for example, you can add a note stating the product’s condition or other information that would be helpful to the buyer.
Obtaining Brand Authorization: If you are selling branded products from big brands (e.g., Calvin Klein perfume) you may need authorization to sell them. To do that, Amazon requires sellers to provide a proof of product invoice. This has to be a wholesale invoice that proves you bought those products from the authorized distributor and not a retail receipt. You will also need to provide Amazon with a letter of approval directly from the brand. The reasoning behind this is that brands want to combat both the unauthorized selling of their products and the selling of knock-offs. Whether you will need approval for certain products is determined by the brand.
Besides brand authorization, there are specific categories on Amazon that also require authorization, and you can find that list here.
Listing New Products: Listing new products on Amazon requires a few extra steps. You will need to provide a UPC or EAN number, which is a unique number about 12 – 13 digits long that is used to track each product.
Additionally, you will need:
Next would be adding an SKU number which you create to track each of your products. Unlike the UPC, each product has an individual SKU even if there are other sellers selling that same product.
Then come the product details. You’ll want to add a title to your products and a description. For a quick overview of the product, it’s best practice to add a few bullet points to the description.
After adding product details, make sure you add images for each product. You will want to use high-quality images that are at least 500×500 pixels with a white background.
You have the option to add search terms for each product to help with relevancy. Amazon does add the product title, UPC, manufacturer, and seller to the search terms automatically and they allow 5 fields for search terms.
- Setting Quantity & Pricing: Other details you must complete include the quantity and pricing of each product.
When setting quantities for your products, think about whether you’ll be using Fulfilled by Amazon. If you decide you want Amazon to store and ship your products for you, it would be a good idea to determine how many products you sell monthly. You want to make sure you don’t store more than you can sell, but you also don’t want to run out of stock.
Amazon charges storage fees for each product, so set a quantity that you know you’ll be able to handle without having products pile up. If you’re shipping items yourself, then you won’t have to worry about any storage fees, but if you are selling a lot of product, FBA may be something to consider if the benefits outweigh the cost.
Setting product prices can be a tricky task, so you’ll want to find your sweet spot and determine the best pricing strategy for Amazon. The key to pricing that will make you a profit will be based on your business goals, your products, and the quality of those products. A good place to start is in checking out the competition. If there are others selling the same products, check their listings to see what they’re pricing them at. You might also want to set a minimum price your willing to go down to for each product, as sellers can get quite competitive when it comes to pricing. You also want to be careful not to always be the lowest-priced seller. This can lead buyers to perceive your products as low quality which could result in lost revenue. On the other hand, if there is no competition, you have a bigger range with which to experiment.
Amazon recently removed the sale pricing feature from their platform because sellers were over-inflating their original price to make it look like the sale price was a great deal. Amazon caught on to the misuse of the pricing feature and is now displaying sale prices as the regular “price” on Amazon.
This brings us to the end of Part I in this series: Account Set-Up. If you’re planning to move ahead with selling on Amazon, your homework is to set up your account! Next week, we’ll show you how to sell and ship your products.