EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 304 - February 05, 2012 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 18

Sellers Choice 2012 Marketplace Ratings: Amazon

By Ina & David Steiner

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In January 2012, EcommerceBytes surveyed over 7,200 online sellers and asked them to rate the marketplaces on which they had experience selling. An introduction to the Sellers Choice survey along with a summary of the overall ratings can be found here, along with links to results for each of the 16 online marketplaces included in the survey.


Profitability:

Customer Service:

Communication:

Ease of Use:

Would you recommend:

Amazon.com
Year Established: 1995
Description: Fixed Price listings, general merchandise
More Info

Summary:
Amazon.com came in first place overall in this year's EcommerceBytes Sellers Choice Awards, up from sixth place last year. It placed number one in profitability (7.7) and number one among sellers when asked, "How likely are you to recommend Amazon as a selling venue to a friend or colleague?" (7.6).

Many sellers said it was easy to list products on Amazon and reported good sales thanks to traffic to the site. "Amazon is easy to sell on and 90% of my items sell on Amazon," wrote one seller.

Despite coming in first, sellers described areas the marketplace needed to improve, with fees and the high cost of shipping being top concerns. Some merchants expressed concern about low selling prices, with one seller writing, "Amazon undercuts sellers," and another writing, "The majority manufacturers where you source the product from also sell on Amazon. It's too hard to compete."

Sellers also wanted their money faster, with some reporting that it takes a long time to get disbursements (Amazon processes payments on behalf of sellers.)

Selling commodity products was deemed extremely easy, but many sellers expressed frustration that they were blocked from selling in certain categories.

Some sellers also complained about disputes, stating the marketplace always sides with buyers. "The only issue I have with Amazon is that they are 100 percent for customers, which is ok, but to the extent that people can rip merchants off by filing false claims," wrote one seller. But other sellers said they appreciate the buyer-centric approach Amazon takes in dealing with problems.

Some respondents said Amazon.com doesn't do enough to encourage buyers to leave feedback, and a number of sellers called Amazon's feedback system unfair. Other issues mentioned by sellers included Amazon's price parity policy and a desire for insight into "wanted" items to help with product sourcing.

Note that there are several types of seller accounts each with its own fee structure, accounting for differences in seller experiences described in the comments.

Amazon came in second place behind Ruby Lane in customer service (7.3) and communication (7.5), and came in fifth place in ease of use (7). In 2010, Amazon placed fourth in the Sellers Choice Awards, making 2012 its first year in the top spot.

Reader Comments - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:
I've been selling on Amazon over 3 years and have always had great success with the NEW items that I listed for sale. Any issues were easily resolved.
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Selling items that are already in Amazon's catalogue is so easy to do. No need to take pictures and write descriptions. Just click, "sell yours" and list it. It's the easiest and I use it every chance I can.
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I really like Amazon FBA. I do find them rather expensive to use - but sales have been really good with good markups on lower priced items (books and toys).
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My customers have a much more positive view of the site. Therefore they seem to have a much more positive view of me.
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It's very easy to list thing and their traffic makes them sell quickly. The whole process is seamless and I know exactly how much I will make before I list an item. I don't have to go through Paypal, Amazon handles it all.
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Amazon is the best Ecom site. They have a great customer service operation. The fees they charge are very reasonable. They do a good job of exposing your products to the market place.
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THE most profitable year we've had in 10 years on ecommerce. Outstanding customer service, always available to help and support sellers, an amazing marketplace with outstanding growth and profit for our business!
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Only pay when you sell. FBA means no packing and shipping. Just sourcing and selling. Plus Amazon is great at connecting with Prime customers and getting your items in front of them.
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Even though the fees are quite high, the selling experience on Amazon is much easier to navigate than on other marketplaces.
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Amazon generates traffic and sales, buyers trust and confidence is high, Amazon is secure, fees do not change constantly, once one learns the system it is easy to use, Amazon is a world class standard.
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I can't say enough about Amazon. Here is where I make more profit than anyplace else. Sell 10 times more every month than I ever did on eBay. Every year my % is going up per month. Customer service is very good. Excellent place to sell!
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I love selling on Amazon. This is our livelihood. What I do not like about Amazon is UPC requirements, rules regarding returns and feedback, however I think those subjects would be a problem on any site and Amazon is better in regards to feedback rules than eBay.
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There is a quick turnaround when selling in the Amazon Marketplace. In my experience, I had to price my items rather low, otherwise they would repeatedly get passed up and undercut by Amazon's own price.
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Amazon is a great place for your items to get seen. I have a problem that you can only sell what is already being sold. This makes it hard for most of us with unusual items.
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Amazon is easy to use and answers questions quickly. Their fee is a little high and, with fixed shipping, you have to be careful of the item's weight.
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Free to list; takes only seconds because of no need for photos or write ups. Easy to change prices to be more competitive. Pays way too low on shipping, though and won't allow you to list unique items without a fee.
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I wish Amazon would make it easier for all sellers to bulk upload items and not just those with their "paid seller" accounts. I would list a lot more in regards to sales if bulk uploading was an option. As it is, I only list books when I have the time to post individually.
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They take the most percentage on any sales I do on line about 24%. But ease of use is the key. All you need is an ISBN or UPC # that is in their database to sell. Two sentences about condition and you're done. And you have to figure that you are going to have to refund just about any challenged sale. Often times even without receiving the goods back. Buyers are not near as picky as far as feedback is concerned. But, buyers are generally less knowledgeable on Amazon than eBay.
***
Amazon has some hefty fees, and they take a cut in several different areas, but due to the excellent STR (sell through rate) I achieve on Amazon FBA, it remains very profitable for me to sell there. Communication is fine, but could be improved by providing more insight to "wanted" items since they have sellers sourcing product for them all over the country.
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Fees add up quickly and some of their requirements aren't that great. To maintain equal pricing on my own site as on Amazon is not good. I need to markup Amazon prices due to their fees so I can make a profit.
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User interface is not that easy to figure out. Also, selling handmade goods, as I do, is a bit more problematic on Amazon than on sites more focused on handmade goods.
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If I dealt more in books, Amazon would be a better fit, but they do not provide a venue for pre-owned clothing, my main line.
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Just a little upset that they won't let you list purses, and high end items
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Book prices are too competitive there, and they will not let me sell clothing or even answer my questions as to how to get approved to sell clothing there, so I gave up.
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Amazon needs to do a better job of consolidating duplicate catalog items and research on shipping weights. If you sell common items with a UPC, demand is good. Fees are too high.
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I sold books on Amazon for a year and was continually undercut on prices to the point that I actually lost money. I asked to sell jewelry and Amazon declined my request since they were direct competitors.
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Amazon is very buyer-centric - a good thing in many ways, but recourse for sellers is practically non-existent. Amazon seller help is outsourced and the representatives are often misinformed and command of English is very poor.
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I used to haul all my inventory over to Amazon.com when eBay wasn't offering free auction listings, but no more. The problem is Amazon's A to Z Guarantee, which, in effect, extends Amazon.com's standard 30 day return period to 90 days. (These A to Z claims are roughly equivalent to an eBay "case," which allows 45 days.) Worse, when you read the fine print, you find that under an A to Z, Amazon.com does not technically require the buyer to return the item to the seller first. Or at all. (What's up with that, Jeff?)
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I wish all listing were available to all sellers. I also wish as a smaller seller we can add our own listings.
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Items sent to Amazon and shipped by them are extremely profitable for us. Amazon gets a huge shipping discount and many customers with Amazon Prime accounts won't ever see our items because they choose to only buy items Fulfilled by Amazon because of the free shipping they receive.
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I gave Amazon a relatively low mark for communication because of my experience with a customer return. When a customer is dissatisfied, and they return an item, Amazon doesn't notify the seller immediately - they post the issue on the seller's web page in a subsection, very easy to miss.
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Fees are too high and they unreasonable restrictions on sellers, such as only 30 items listed in fashion category per month. Also there is rampant fraud and selling of counterfeit goods.
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Can only sell items they have in their "catalog" unless you pay $40/mo for premium membership. Setting up items is a pain, their fees are crazy high.
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Amazon has different divisions dealing with sellers. One division has little to no communication with the other ones. Causes confusion because when you call help to ask about a problem they say oh, that's so and so division, not us. You can't call them only email them. Then you get a cryptic stock answer back to your email and you have to ask for clarification. Plus Amazon does not help sellers with customer ratings and resolving problems.
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Amazon has high traffic. That is the ONLY thing going for Amazon. Other than that, they abuse sellers as much as, or more than eBay. If we didn't clear over $250,000/mo on Amazon we would move on. Unfortunately we don't even make 10% of our Amazon sales on our own site, or any other marketplace.
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Amazon undercuts their own sellers prices. They also go to your suppliers when they see you are selling certain items well and they make an agreement to sell the product with the supplier at a lower price than their sellers can sell it for and be profitable.
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Amazon is not "seller friendly". They lack flexibility in how sellers can handle shipping, they do not integrate with FedEx & UPS, and their integration with USPS is not complete. It is difficult to compete when Amazon starts selling the same products we do since they can sell them so much cheaper. They allow anyone to sell, and that leads to a lot of unprofessional sellers who do not create detailed listing, etc.
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I don't like the fact that you have to have a UPC on all your products. My products are handmade to order and Buying UPCs are extremely expensive. It is also tricky with profit, because people are basically giving things away for a penny! I know how much my products cost to make and there are a lot of people selling similar items for nothing! But it is nice to have Amazon take out selling fees right when an order is fulfilled, unlike eBay.
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My experiences with Amazon - they're a huge site with plenty of support, but being huge means they eat you alive. If you're a small-time bookseller, they'll force you to give your books away.
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They do not have a good feedback system. Buyers are not encouraged to leave feedback when all is well with the sale. The comment section is oftentimes not read by the buyer which (especially with a preowned item) may have specific information about the condition of the product, hence the buyer might be unhappy, on this site it seems buyers are more likely to give negative feedback because its not encouraged to leave feedback for all transaction.
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We have had very few problems with Amazon!! Of course they are competing with us and know who are customers are!! Overall OK....they are getting too large and could absolutely dominate the trade/TEXTbook market.
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Amazon always errs on the side of the customers - which is fine except when the customer makes a mistake (like orders something they can't use) and Amazon suggests we pay their return shipping AND give additional monetary renumeration.
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I feel frustrated that Amazon takes so much in commission, yet charges a $3.99 shipping fee that the sellers never get, and only credits a small shipping allowance that doesn't always cover shipping costs. It is also frustrating to have my listings removed every Christmas time because I am not an "approved toy seller" even though I have been selling on Amazon for many years now.
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Amazon only provides clearance of funds with some European banks at this moment which is fairly inconvenient to us other sellers in Asia.
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Amazon's policy for sellers of collectibles requires using generic descriptions and prohibits describing items as unique (even if they unquestionably ARE unique). This policy is so that other Amazon Marketplace sellers can undercut you on anything you sell, even if you own the only one in existence. Needless to say, this policy is custom made for dishonest competitors who sell fakes and they have taken full advantage.

Sellers Choice Awards
We thank all readers who took the time to rate the marketplaces. If you have comments about the survey results or the survey itself, please feel free to post them in the EcommerceBytes Blog.


About the author:

Ina and David Steiner are publishers of EcommerceBytes.com and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.


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