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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 255 - January 24, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 17

Seller's Choice Marketplace Ratings: Amazon

By Ina & David Steiner

January 24, 2010

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In January 2010, AuctionBytes surveyed over 1,400 online sellers and asked them to rate the marketplaces on which they had experience selling. An introduction to the survey along with a summary of the overall ratings can be found here, with a link to the results of each of the 15 online marketplaces included in the survey.


Customer Service:


Ease of Use:

Would you recommend:

Year Established: 1995
Description: Fixed Price Listings. General merchandise.
More Info

Well-known Amazon.com received one of the highest marks in Profitability among the marketplaces reviewed, coming in at number two. Its lowest rating (but still above average) was in Ease of Use. Comments reflected a more matter-of-fact attitude on the part of sellers who felt Amazon had clearly-defined rules, provided a steady stream of traffic to their listings, and put less emphasis on a community component. Most negative comments centered around Customer Service and Communication, but it received above-average ratings for those criteria. Some respondents said Amazon.com automatically sided with buyers in disputes and lacked an appeals process should they run into problems. Amazon.com came in second as a recommended selling venue.

Reader Comments - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:
I have made my living selling on Amazon for 5 years so I am very familiar with it. It is extremely easy to sell on Amazon and they are reasonably priced. They notify sellers of most changes they plan to make well in advance.
I sell in a closed category on Amazon. Getting into the catalog was a chore, but one very well worth the effort. I have (and do) recommend Amazon to in stock retailers. If you have a catalog of merchandise that you sell, and have it on hand in multiple quantities, Amazon is the best marketplace online to sell on. Amazon does a very good job of managing the buyer's expectations - professionally. The expectations of the customers who shop at Amazon are similar to those that shop on my websites - they want what they purchased, as it was described and pictured, shipped to them safely and quickly. To Amazon buyers, the transaction is business not personal.
The service versus what you pay for is outstanding - I always know well ahead of time when changes are going to be made, which allows me ample time to change my strategy.
As a marketplace seller, I'm pleased with the ease of listing items. I'm not pleased with the clunky seller interface nor the fee structure. With that said, I do appreciate the opportunity to sell through them.
Their procedures are understandable, not subject to change. Their seller support system is designed to support the sellelr, not blame everything on the seller. They police their sellers so customers can rely on the accuracy of the listings.
Have sold media on amazon for close to 8 years now. although I don't like their fees, they are upfront about them, rarely make changes that impact sellers negatively, have a good solid brand name and I have found it the best place to sell books.
it is so easy to sell on Amazon, the prices may not always be high, but the small amount of time invested certainly makes this a worthwhile place to list. And there are BUYERS, I have had many items list and sell the same day. Very cool.
Amazon has been relatively steady as a sales venue with no surprises & good communication.
There is very little interference from Amazon and the seller - they have set guidelines/rules that keep things smooth - love the confirming of a purchase before the sale is complete - love the limited contact between seller and buyer - love paying only after a sale is done - DO HATE the lack of feedback from buyers though - I get less than 10% feedback so it's hard to build a reputation
Amazon is the place to sell these days. Higher selling price and less regulation and hassle than ebay. They make the policies clearr and dont constantly change the rules to favor their bottom line.
Excellent customer service, quickly paid....easy to use. With one small disclaimer, if you do not have exactly the same item, it cannot be listed. It costs $40 to list exceptions.......not good
Few problems selling on Amazon. If I have a question it is answered usually within one day. Very easy, payment is collected by Amazon. I have had few claims by buyers for packages not delivered. Since I used delivery confirmation on everything, Amazon refunded the buyers. No hassle, any changes are announced far in advance, a steady selling venue.
I would only recomend selling on amazon to some of my more tech savi friends as it was and is so hard to get your head around everything.
Amazon continues to be my choice for online selling. Although they do NOT correctly know the weight of the item and thus I loose money on heavier items when it is time to ship.
Books are the only product I've sold here, but I've not had a problem with the site or customer service. I don't like the way they handle shipping. They charge a variable closing fee which is directly tied to the amount of shipping. At one time they were honest in that they stated they charged the customer $3.99 for shipping and they paid the seller $2.64 ($3.99 - the variable closing fee). This info was available to the buyer and it was in the open. At one point, they started sending the seller the full $3.99 for shipping and charging the $1.35 as an additional fee. Now it seems they have no plans to increase the amount they charge the customer for shipping even when shipping increases so the seller loses with each postage increase unless you increase the price of the book. It just seems if a "fee" is tied to the amount they collect for shipping, then it is a reduction in the amount they pass on to the seller.
On the positive side Amazon is a very well organized site and is programmed to be user friendly. On the negative side they take out far too much in commissions making it very difficult to be profitable selling on their site.
Profitabilty is a given since this site receives plenty of traffic. There are also (as with every site) people who go through every listing and have opinions on what you sell and this site (as with most) takes that into consideration, putting "the customer is usually right"
Amazon's system is difficult when you first start selling. Once comfortable it's faster and easier than any other site. Amazon's theft of high selling profit makes it difficult as a seller. If you bring best sellers expect Amazon to steal them and sell themselves. 3P sellers basically assist Amazon in procuring best selling stock which is definitely a downside to selling. Customer service is excellent but heavily skewed in favor of buyers. Unless you protest Amazon will allow you the 3P to take the financial hit. With a protest they eat the loss. No one complains when you make good money but Amazon will not stay a darling more than the next couple of years.
Good: High-dollar items do sell here. Bad: Amazon's handling of seller's inventory and vacation settings are below what should be expected of a company that poses as leading-edge. Changes that sellers make to inventory and vacation settings often take several days, sometimes weeks, to be reflected on the site.
Generally, I spend more on shipping items to Amazon's warehouse than I make in profits, because even though I have sold a significant amount of products, Amazon never increases the amount of units they order from me. So I have to continue to spend Priority Mail rates to ship 1-2 units as fast as they'd like me to, plus pay additional annual/quarterly fees. In addition, the seller interface is poor, and the majority of time that I receive correspondence is pretty much concerning things that benefit Amazon, not myself.
Amazon booted my inventory off their site and refused to even discuss it with me. It's been 18 months since I began trying to get my account reinstated and they refuse to even talk with me! Not cool for a seller who's been successfully selling online since 1995!
poor search capability (no advanced functions), poor bulk upload capability, poor (sub)categorizing, poor standardization of catalog, little choice of functionality, very rigid, no email addresses available of customers
Items that we had in stock would be listed pages under items listed that were not in stock. Stores would list inventory that was not available, but because these stores were spending more, their items would get priority on the searches above items we had in stock. Also it was hard to compete with Amazon's merchandise. They were selling items almost at our wholesale cost plus they were doing free shipping.
In the books category, premium amazon sellers (who can create new listings) have destroyed the OOP database, by continually listing books already in the catalog as additions. This makes it very difficult for buyers, when they see 10-20 different listings for the same OOP book. The catalog functions very poorly for OOP searching. Amazon's cut of the sales price is substantial; it is particularly galling that they charge more for shipping than what they give the actual seller.
A complete waste of our time and money. Their fees are atrocious. They were not receptive to problems with the site. Only when we told them we were going to leave did they want to know what they needed to do to keep us.
one sided seller contracts, Amazon violates MAPP agreements with manufactures, encourages and assists in trademark and copyright infringement, will not let sellers communicate with buyers. poor chargeback protection, FBA program has severe problems.
I did not do well on Amazon and no longer sell there. First, one must decide to sell either books & Media (Marketplace) or other products, you can't do both. The site defaults to "Marketplace" if you have even one book or DVD in inventory, with other items. If you sell other items, such as craft supplies ( as I do) or widgets you must be specific to request "Seller Central", otherwise the site will default to Marketplace and you won't be able to set your own ( higher or lower) shipping rates for different types of items. The site doesn't tell you this, you must KNOW in advance which "platform" within the venue you want. Also, the listing tools are archaic, bulk lister is difficult to navigate unless you are super PC savvy, individual listings are very time consuming. To add new items not in the catalog you must be a Pro--Merchant, at $39.95 per month thats pretty hefty for a small seller. The competition is tough, as there is really no way to promote your items, except to pay exhorbiant rates for "ad Clicks". Buyers are at a disadvantage too, not being told they can get combined shipping rates and most sellers end up having to refund the extra shipping or take a hit on charges. As a bookseller, the competition/site is so "lowest price frenzied" with automated price lowering software, that its difficult at best to keep up, and the sales just weren't worth the aggravation to me. If you are a large seller, this could be a good place, but I don't reccommend it for a small seller with less than 1000 products and lots of time to spend on listings. Absolutely NOT reccommended for sellers of unique, handmade, or unusual/collectible type products!


Sellers Choice
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 AuctionBytes 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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