Thinking about selling on Amazon.com? Or, if you already do, are you wondering how to improve your sales? In 2013, third-party sellers sold more than a billion units on Amazon.com worth tens of billions of dollars, and the number of active sellers using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) grew more than 65% in 2013 compared to 2012.
EcommerceBytes interviewed a panel of Amazon selling experts to find out more about selling on Amazon and about selling through FBA. Part One introduced the panel and included information about how they use Amazon to sell online, and covered the biggest changes that Amazon sellers faced in 2013, their use of the FBA program, and their strategies for running a high-volume business.
In Part Two, panelists discuss the role of scanners in Amazon selling, how Amazon compares to other marketplaces, their best tips for sellers, and what they see coming in 2014.
The panelists include Chris Green of ScanPower.com; Bob Willey of Seller Coaching; Nathan Holmquist of BookToTheFuture and Steve Lindhorst of The MultiChannel Surfer.
Use of Scanners in Selling
Note: the following question refers to handheld scanners that sellers use to scan product barcodes to estimate how much a book or other product is worth, something common among used booksellers.
EcommerceBytes: How big a role do scanners play in your selling? Do you source any products that cannot be vetted via scanner, such as vintage books?
ScanPower's Chris Green: Scanners have really changed the game. (My tool) ScanPower was the first live scouting service on both Android and iPhone. Previously, scanners were Windows Mobile-based PDAs that would only have data for books and media.
Having live pricing data for every item on Amazon combined with the timing of the FBA program to outsource the storage and fulfillment meant that literally anyone could scan a barcode and then sell it online without the need for a warehouse. As more people started to do this, the marketplace changed and adapted. It's really never been a better time to be an online seller.
Books and other items that cannot be scanned represent a huge opportunity because so many scanners are lazy - if it doesn't have a barcode, they pass right over it. Often, it's as simple as an ISBN on the back of the title page, or simply doing a title search.
Even if you can't find an item on Amazon, you can always use the eBay mobile app to do a quick search. The technology that we all have in our pockets and purses is really so incredible that we often take it for granted.
SellerCoaching's Bob Willey: I do some vintage books, and other items, but do use a scanner whenever possible.
BookToTheFuture's Nathan Holmquist: I'm very dependent on a scanner when I go to book sales and thrift stores. I would have no clue what to buy otherwise. I still use the "old school" PDA with the scanner attached because it's so much faster than using a smart phone.
MultiChannel Surfer's Steve Lindhorst: I rely heavily on my Smartphone/scouting service to source profitable products. Being an old eBayer, though I still like the treasure hunt, I use Terapeak for eBay research, and a combination of tools for Amazon.
For old books, I begin with booksalefinder and work my way around from there to determine the value and scarcity of an older book.
Beyond "The River" and Tips for Amazon Sellers
EcommerceBytes: Do you sell on any other marketplaces and if so which? How do they compare to Amazon?
ScanPower's Chris Green: Mostly Amazon, but I did try out eBay again last year. I like the new eBay, but since I am not a full-time seller anymore, I didn't have the time to dedicate to the platform.
I do believe that eBay is making a huge comeback and can be a great sales channel for the right products. Many buyers still go to eBay first (and they think that Amazon only sells books), so you might as well list your items there. The eBay mobile app for listing products is really amazing, and once people see how fast they can list items, I think eBay will look more attractive to them again.
SellerCoaching's Bob Willey: I used to sell heavily on eBay, but not much anymore. I have tried other marketplaces, like Buy.com, Sears, etc.; but so far, they have been mediocre at best.
BookToTheFuture's Nathan Holmquist: I sell about five items a month on eBay, so it's an extremely small percentage of sales compared to Amazon. In my opinion, Amazon is better than eBay in every way except for the payment system.
When I sell an item on eBay, I get paid instantly via PayPal. I can then use my PayPal debit card and spend it or withdraw the money right away. With Amazon, I have to wait a week or two to get the money.
MultiChannel Surfer's Steve Lindhorst: My eBay sales are starting to grow again, and I'm happy with the results. I took a break from eBay for a few years after the "disruptive innovation" era.
It seems that much of the dust has cleared now, and sales are good for collectible and vintage items. I still believe in auctions, they work for me. But for new, retail items, I always go to Amazon. The transaction is just easier and the average sale prices are higher.
EcommerceBytes: What is the best single tip you can give an Amazon seller today?
ScanPower's Chris Green: Just get started. 2013/14 provides such an opportunity. It's really never been easier to learn something new so quickly. Between my book, Arbitrage and Facebook Groups like ScanPower, a new seller can get all of their questions answered very quickly as well as find a community that is supportive and helpful.
The premise of this business model is really very simple; find stuff to sell, and sell it! The details are in sales rank, condition guidelines, margins, understanding the Prime buyer, etc.
SellerCoaching's Bob Willey: Find a good coach to get you fast-started and keep you on track. Or a good mentor that can share with you back-n-forth.
BookToTheFuture's Nathan Holmquist: Diversify. Have many different sources lined up because you never know when one will dry up.
MultiChannel Surfer's Steve Lindhorst: Use Fulfillment by Amazon and watch your sales grow.
Predictions for 2014
EcommerceBytes: Any predictions for 2014, or anything else you'd like to add?
ScanPower's Chris Green: 2014 is WIDE OPEN. Those who commit and hustle will reap the rewards. Amazon's push for more Prime members will mean more Prime buyers, which means more sales for sellers leveraging the FBA program. As FBA evolves into international markets and Amazon opens up more international sites, sellers from all over the world will have access to more and more customers! And more customers means more sales!
SellerCoaching's Bob Willey: Amazon will continue to be "constant change." You must be able to adapt, and not let change bother you too much. You need to go with the flow, and adjust as needed, and keep moving forward. I do not see Amazon FBA slowing down in the next few years; if anything, (I see) decent growth.
BookToTheFuture's Nathan Holmquist: No predictions for 2014. But I do have a comment on the Amazon Drone Delivery that is expected to be rolled out in 2015. I personally don't see this happening until 2020 at the earliest.
MultiChannel Surfer's Steve Lindhorst: I believe people are going to be cash-strapped through the next year. They will be even more interested in saving money (and saving gas) by shopping online. It'll be a seller's market.
See Part One of Winning Strategies for Selling on Amazon for more information about the panelists, how they use Amazon to sell online, and the biggest changes that Amazon sellers faced in 2013. And remember, Amazon FBA fee changes take effect on Tuesday..