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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1733 - February 22, 2008 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 2

An Interview with Amazon.com's Matt Williams (Part 2)

By Ina Steiner
EcommerceBytes.com
February 22, 2008




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In an interview last week with Amazon.com's Director of Business Solutions Matt Williams, he talked about options for third-party sellers on Amazon. Part 1 of the interview, which discussed the Selling on Amazon program, was published in the February 17th issue of the AuctionBytes-Update newsletter. Part 2 of the interview follows and covers Webstore by Amazon, a solution that lets sellers create their own branded ecommerce sites, and Amazon's latest offering, Product Ads.

AuctionBytes: What is Webstore by Amazon?

Matt Williams: WebStore by Amazon is a product which allows you to have a custom branded ecommerce site in addition to the active kind of selling on Amazon.com. So it's a way for you to have your own web presence aside from what Amazon provides on its website.

AuctionBytes: Can you have your own domain and have it be served up by WebStore by Amazon?

Matt Williams: Yes.

AuctionBytes: And does inventory appear on Amazon or only in your WebStore?

Matt Williams: It can be both.

AuctionBytes: The WebStore by Amazon provides full infrastructure, it sounds like, but what about marketing? Is it still up to the individual merchant to provide for marketing?

Matt Williams: We actually do provide quite a bit of assistance from a marketing perspective on WebStore. So first of all, we spent a lot of time with WebStore building an infrastructure that is highly search-engine optimized. We do actually a couple of things. We actually put a link to the WebStore on Amazon.com, which is a pretty substantial thing. We provide product feeds to some of the search engines. We provide a site map. We have a relationship with third-party keyword buying tools, email marketing tools, that are out there. So we actually do quite a few things and also provide connectivity to other third parties that provide marketing support and benefits. We believe it's one of the most important things we can do for a small business for WebStore is to help drive traffic and create the best highest converting ecommerce site that's out there.

AuctionBytes: But it is independent? If I'm a merchant on Amazon and I have a WebStore on Amazon, and I'm booted off of Amazon, does that affect my WebStore by Amazon account?

Matt Williams: No. Of course, if it's for fraudulent reasons, certainly your entire account could be at risk if you're doing something fraudulent. But no, the performance by Amazon is logically separate from what you do on your own WebStore. Yes, you can have your own WebStore domain. Clearly I think what you learn from the feedback perspective by selling on Amazon applies directly to how many people are going to trust in you and your own website and your own private domain name.

That being said, it is your private website. It is managed and maintained differently from the experience on Amazon. It is one kind of account from an Amazon perspective so that you don't have to manage two sets of inventory and item descriptions and that kind of thing. So we make it easy for the seller, but at the same, that's where there is some separation, which is, what you do with your website is what you do with your website. Selling on Amazon is highly contained within the policies that we set.

AuctionBytes: So conversely, it wouldn't matter if you have a WebStore by Amazon - that wouldn't give you higher exposure on Amazon just by having a very successful WebStore by Amazon?

Matt Williams: So actually, it would. We allow any buyer who shops on the WebStore or on Amazon to contribute feedback in terms of the transaction, because as a buyer, you can see all of your transactions on Amazon whether you bought them on Amazon.com or other WebStores. So we do provide a mechanism for feedback to be collected.

Some of our WebStore merchants actually take advantage of the fact - they actually pull on customer feedback for their WebStore and they display it on their home page and the rating on Amazon, and they promote that ability, and others don't. So it's up to you as a WebStore owner as to whether you want to do that, but we certainly provide the ability to do that.

AuctionBytes: When did WebStore by Amazon rollout?

Matt Williams: It rolled out in September of 2006 in beta and rolled out officially in Q1 of last year publicly.

AuctionBytes: Why did Amazon rollout Product Ads - the new program that lets merchant run ads on the site that compete with the inventory on Amazon?

Matt Williams: Amazon today is viewed by many as the place to find and discover anything you want to buy online, and we truly feel that we can best connect up a buyer with a seller. And to some extent, it's kind of regardless of whether Amazon inventory is it, regardless if we have a seller who adheres to a very specific kind of way in which we present their items, so they have integrate with us in a certain way - or whether it's in the form of an advertisement which is contextual. And from our perspective, we are very careful about the material we present from an item and advertiser perspective on Amazon. We do our best to make it contextual so to actually turn something that somebody is advertising into a very contextual link that is usually product oriented - so it may not be an individual product, but often times it is.

So we're able to still provide a pretty good experience without having a seller go through the rest of the requirements of our program. So what does it do for us and what does it do for the seller? It certainly makes it very easy to advertise a whole host of products quickly for the seller. For the buyers, if that's the only way in which that item may be surfaced on Amazon, it's a great experience because, ultimately, we are still connecting up the buyer with what they're looking for.

For us it's just one other way on which we can focus on what's important, which is to offer diverse - the best selection - online and to do that through a number of means, makes total sense to us. It's one more way in which a seller can participate.

AuctionBytes: You're not saying you'll only allow ads that are not competing inventory? In other words, if I wanted to have a product ad for Anne Klein shoes and there are Anne Klein shoes on Amazon, the Product Ads will still let me advertise, correct?

Matt Williams: Yes it would. Its just a matter of how - obviously there are some products we don't have in our catalog, and so that might appear a little bit differently than an ad that would be somewhere on the lower part of the Detail Page for a product that we do sell. So no, we don't purposely restrict on an item by item basis. That being said, we do have certain criteria and guidelines for content in terms of advertisements that we feel would be offensive or not appropriate for the website, but that is not really on a product basis - that is more on an ad and content basis.

AuctionBytes: Product Ads - are you going to be able to roll that out to WebStore by Amazon?

Matt Williams: WebStore is set up in a way today for you to actually plug any of your existing advertising programs that are available online into your WebStore and, in fact, a number of our WebStores have already done this. So they have Google AdWords - or whatever the case may be - embedded in their stores. It's very easy to do this as you would do on any website or ecommerce site that's out there. In terms of Product Ads, as a seller, being able to offer the Product Ads network in your WebStore, it is certainly something worth considering. However, like I said, there is a lot of flexibility in the WebStore application today so that you can include a number of different advertising programs.

AuctionBytes: Is there anything else you wanted to add about the benefits of selling on Amazon or anything else?

Matt Williams: No, the only thing I will comment on is that we continue to see a lot of sellers across many different categories looking to take advantage of all of our products combined, so Fulfillment, WebStore and Selling on Amazon. I think when you actually dive into it as a seller, just as much as it provides you additional potential for growth of your business, it's providing a huge convenience factor, because it's all available through one toolset.

And I mention it just because it's actually one of the top reasons that we hear from merchants that they want to sell with us and they like selling with us. It's just a convenience that we provide of, I'm going to have my inventory and items in one place and get the benefit of some assistance with traffic driving to my own website, and handling the fulfillment piece, and handling the additional channel, and let them do what they really want to do best, which is sourcing products, merchandising products, being able to find their own traffic for products and selling. So it seems to be working very very well, and I think we're seeing the success of that, given the statistic I provided, which is 26% of all the units sold through Amazon are from third parties. We have a very vibrant and great third-party seller community.

AuctionBytes: Thanks for filling us in on WebStore by Amazon.

Matt Williams: Sure. And if you want any more information, I'm certainly happy to provide it. It is one of the newer products. At the same time, it actually - from an ecommerce product perspective - it actually does a number of things that no other products on the market will do today.

It allows you to build an ecommerce site literally in under five or 10 minutes, which there is no other product on the market that we found that allows you to literally build a fully functional - where transaction processing can occur - website in under 10 minutes.

It allows you to take merchandise from Amazon and add it to your own website and earn affiliate fees, but it stays within your branded website. The credentials, where you can use your 76 million Amazon.com buyer credentials, are now available for use on your own website. So it really is a pretty interesting product because again, when you start combining the assets of Amazon from a high converting feature perspective, from the credentials, from the benefit of adding additional products to increase your growth, it really is a unique product in the market.

Part 1 of the interview "Amazon: We Want Sellers. An Interview with Matt Williams" is online at the following address:
http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y208/m02/abu0209/s02


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About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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