EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 347 - November 17, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 6

Amazon VP Discusses Collectibles, Clothing and Other Popular Categories

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In part two of our interview with Marketplace Vice President Peter Faricy, he provides an update on Amazon Marketplace's new collectibles stores and discusses Amazon's growing clothing and other popular categories. Could vintage clothing and handmade goods be next? He also talks about Amazon's curation features called Amazon Collections, which launched in the spring.

Collectibles on Amazon

EcommerceBytes: I'm curious about Amazon's collectible stores. That's something that's new - how is it going?

Peter Faricy: We're very pleased with how it's going so far. I think the two ways that among many that we use to judge it, from the seller side, we've been very pleased with the number of sellers we have in sports collectibles, entertainment collectibles.

We recently launched, as you may know, wine and fine art. We're very, very pleased with the reception from sellers in all those categories. We continue to add more and more sellers who are interested, more and more sellers who are joining, and more and more selection.

And then we're equally as interested in judging the customer feedback. In those stores, if you take a look at the upper left hand corner, we have a little link where customers can give us their feedback - it says "tell us what you think." The feedback from customers so far has been very, very positive. So they are off to a very good start and we're very pleased so far.

EcommerceBytes: Are you considering adding additional collectibles categories?

Peter Faricy: Everything we do is, we start with customer feedback and work backwards. But I would say customers are anxious for us to add more categories, so probably the best answer I can give would be, "stay tuned."

EcommerceBytes: What about vintage clothing, handmade goods, they are incredibly popular with online shoppers. Does Amazon currently offer or think about adding those categories?

Peter Faricy: Those are currently not listed out as distinctive categories on Amazon. I think those are very interesting categories, and at the risk of repeating my answer I guess I would say, "Stay tuned."

EcommerceBytes: Sellers can sell those types of products in the marketplace as Everything Else?

Peter Faricy: That's correct, they can. I think that's an experience that's acceptable but not as good as an experience as having a dedicated store where the customer experience of that store really focuses on what customers need to browse and make good purchase decisions.

As we think about every one of these new categories, the very first place we start is, we talk to customers. What is it they are looking for when they're shopping?

The more we can make this customer experience outstanding, the more attractive it is for sellers. Sellers want to sell on a marketplace that has a great customer experience. A quick example of that that I know you're already aware of: we focus a lot on authenticity in our collectibles stores. It's a very different model than you see elsewhere in ecommerce. We're very careful about choosing partners we know sell authentic products.

We made some changes to the detail page so customers can actually see who the third party authenticator is. They often can even see a picture of the authenticate certificate that provides proof of authenticity for those products. That's really good for customers. But I get equally as positive feedback from our sellers because they really appreciate having a store that serves customers that well.

EcommerceBytes: And are you able to talk about how many sellers you have in these collectibles categories?

Peter Faricy: Sure. In sports collectibles right now we have nearly 15 million unique items. We're very pleased with that selection. It's been very popular with customers. We have hundreds of sellers in that category.

In entertainment collectibles we have nearly a million unique pieces. We also have hundreds of sellers in that category as well. We're very, very pleased. Both sellers and selection continue to grow each and every week. If you took a snapshot of both of those stores at the beginning of this year and the end of this year, you would have seen a large amount of growth from new sellers and new selection for customers.

EcommerceBytes: Can sellers apply to sell in those categories?

Peter Faricy: Yes they can, I would strongly encourage sellers who are interested in these categories to apply. The number one factor we are looking for are sellers who serve customers well and who sell products with some sort of third-party endorsement of their authenticity. That's what our customers tell us they want. It's important that our customers know they can trust every single product they see on Amazon. I think it's really important for our sellers to sell alongside other sellers who have that same kind of business model.

EcommerceBytes: And for sellers who don't have an account manager who want to apply, is there a link on the page?

Peter Faricy: There is. It's all self-service. You can go in and apply self-service. We list out the criteria for every category. We give sellers responses rather quickly.

Clothing on Amazon

EcommerceBytes: Clothing is another category that is kind of a walled off or invitation-only category. Is that a category - clothing, shoes and accessories - is that a category that is also seeing that kind of growth?

Peter Faricy: It is. We've added hundreds of sellers this year. We've had great selection growth. It's a very popular and fast-growing category on Amazon. I think the seller interest in participating in clothing and for all of our soft line categories is very high.

Much like we did with fine art and wine, the customer experience in our clothing store is unique and special and really meant to serve the needs of customers who are shopping in that category. It's very popular with customers and therefore is also very popular with sellers as well.

EcommerceBytes: And this is not a category like some others where you can sell used goods, is that correct?

Peter Faricy: That is correct, we do not allow the sale of used clothing today.

EcommerceBytes: Is it similar to the collectibles categories where there is a link to apply to sell in the clothing category?

Peter Faricy: Yes, it's the exact same process, in fact, it's the same technology. We try to list out the criteria so sellers know in advance what the criteria are for any of these categories. Then we allow them to apply with their answers for those criteria, and we try to get back to them very quickly so they know whether or not they're approved and what things they need to do if they want to be approved for those stores.

Other Popular Categories on Amazon

EcommerceBytes: What are some of the other more popular categories on Amazon? Are there any overlooked opportunities in any particular categories? Another one I'll throw out there is jewelry. These are the kinds of categories that I hear sellers talk about a lot.

Peter Faricy: I do think there is a wonderful opportunity in jewelry, but I would broaden it to all of soft line: jewelry, watches, clothing, shoes, accessories, handbags. Those are categories that are growing very fast on Amazon and are very popular with customers, and I think without question there is still a lot of unique selection that sellers are able to bring on to Amazon that could be very popular with customers.

Obviously you know the ecommerce world very well. Electronics as a whole, and all our hard line categories, are very popular. They continue to grow very fast and those categories are very popular with customers. There are still wonderful opportunities there. I also wouldn't overlook an area like consumables - particularly health and beauty products. There's lots of great opportunities for great sellers to come join Amazon and sell a lot of those products as well.

EcommerceBytes: Do sellers have to be the manufacturer of those items or do they have to be an authorized distributor?

Peter Faricy: It depends on the brand, but I would say in general they have to be an authorized reseller. That would be the safe, broad answer to give. If they are an authorized reseller of those goods for the manufacturer, we would love to have them come join Amazon.

Curation on Amazon

EcommerceBytes: I want to shift gears a bit and talk about curation features. They're really popular on the web these days. Does Amazon offer those features?

Peter Faricy: Give me some examples when you say curation features so I know what you mean?

EcommerceBytes: You can have a customer who decides - maybe they're a fashionista - and they can create a collection so they look at the Amazon site and say, "I like this outfit," and they put together a pocketbook and shoes and a belt, or a collector might put together a themed item. Whether it's a seller, whether it's a - they call them "taste makers" now, fashion bloggers, or just customers who can create these collections and share them with other people. Does Amazon have those kinds of features?

Peter Faricy: We do. We launched earlier this year Amazon Collections. This allows, exactly as you are describing, a customer to pull together a collection of a bunch of different products that may have a common theme. The categories we were just speaking about - collectibles, and art and wine - we think are going to be very popular collection categories.

You could even think about use cases. I read some customer feedback the other day about our fine art store. The customer was an interior designer, and she was saying how excited she was to be able to sort the art by color. Often you're trying to design a room around a theme of a color. It's hard to see over 45,000 unique pieces of fine art and be able to divide them up by color. But these collections are going to play a similar role.

You know, as you think about being an interior designer, I can imagine pulling together a collection that would include furniture and art and other accessories for the room. I think they're going to make a huge difference in soft lines, where you can pull together clothing, shoes, accessories. I know there's a number of collections that already exist, and it's a very popular feature on Amazon right now.

You can find Part One of our interview with Amazon Marketplace Vice President Peter Faricy where he discusses how sellers can showcase their products on Amazon's holiday promotion shopping pages. Part Three of the interview will appear in this week's Newsflash newsletter where he discusses Amazon's advertising and online payment solutions for merchants, and talks about the outlook for holiday sales.


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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