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Sellers Choice 2018 Marketplace Ratings: Amazon

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1st Place Finisher - EcommerceBytes 2018 Sellers ChoiceAmazon came in 1st place in the 2018 Sellers Choice Awards for Online Marketplaces for the second consecutive year. A deep and sometimes complex marketplace, it appears that a growing number of merchants have found it worthwhile to invest the time to learn how to successfully navigate “the River.”

In January 2018, EcommerceBytes surveyed over 10,000 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 10 online marketplaces included in the survey.

Amazon - EcommerceBytes Sellers Choice 2018 Award

 

Profitability:

Customer Service:

Communication:

Ease of Use:

Would you recommend:

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

The 800lb gorilla in ecommerce, Amazon is also the top overall winner in the 2018 EcommerceBytes Sellers Choice Awards for Marketplaces, a spot it has attained two years in a row. “While Amazon did not win any individual awards, such as Profitability, Customer Service, etc., it had the highest average score, showing a more consistent scoring across all four criteria.

Third-party sellers now account for more than half of Amazon’s marketplace paid unit sales, a percentage that has steadily grown since Amazon began reporting it. So it’s not a surprise that as Amazon sales have grown, so have the sales of its merchant partners. Many sellers report that Amazon is unparalleled for traffic and sales, but it does come with a price.

A big challenge of selling on Amazon is the squeeze on margins: sellers complain of high selling fees while at the same time feeling pressure from Amazon to lower their prices. The complaints about fees included those from sellers using Fulfillment by Amazon (“FBA charges now are untenable for a used book & CD seller as we are,” said one sellers).

But the ease of sending pallets of merchandise to a warehouse, and allowing Amazon to handle the fulfillment, frees many merchants – especially those who sell everyday practical items – to focus on sourcing and other aspects of their business. Amazon, according to some of the comments, is not quite there as a marketplace for antiques and collectibles, but their track record tends to be good in overcoming weaknesses.

Some respondents were not thrilled with the way Amazon handles customer dissatisfaction and disputes. Amazon sides with buyers “without regard to the validity of returns, claims, etc,” wrote one respondent, “and takes away so much control over individual businesses while demanding such high fees and expectations.”

“If the buyer open a case on Amazon,” said another merchant, “the seller have not a chance. The seller always loses.”

Some sellers are restricted by certain wholesalers from selling their products on Amazon. Others say once they’ve had success with a product, other sellers (or Amazon itself) swoop in – “Amazon will see an item selling well, then move in and take the sales every time,” wrote one seller. Sellers also deal with restrictions including brand-gating and category-gating, and Merch by Amazon can be a legal minefield when it comes to copyright infringement.

A deep and sometimes complex marketplace, it appears that a growing number of merchants have found it worthwhile to invest the time to learn how to successfully navigate “the River.”

Amazon received a 6.24 in Profitability; a 6.22 in Customer Service; a 6.16 in Communication; and a 6.29 in Ease of Use. It received a 6.33 from sellers when asked, “How likely are you to recommend Amazon as a selling venue to a friend or colleague?”

Reader Comments:The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It beats all others, hands down in terms of traffic. Once you get past the learning curve and learn the fees, you can make it profitable

Amazon is a profitable marketplace for people that know perfect how to use it, and that selling on Amazon is their main business.

Amazon is a huge and great for selling new products. Horrible in when you have a nuanced problem or situation.

Very stable, predictable platform.

No issues at all in 18 years.

I am a very small seller since the first year Jeff Bezos opened the site to 3rd party sellers. It is easy to list since the catalog is mostly accurate and you only have to provide condition of your own book. I have never had a problem with them. I self fulfill.

It’s easier to sell things on Amazon as a third party seller, because you list for free and the listing stays out there, but it is also expensive.

In general Amazon is more difficult to work with. Because they are more of a retailer than an open marketplace, sellers are treated more like suppliers — many product categories and brands require special approval to list; photos and data have stringent requirements in certain categories; Amazon leaves little room for customization and branding; funds are not received from customers but from Amazon after a wait period. This process is much more difficult than the ungated listing process on other marketplaces. However, amazon’s popularity with customers makes it difficult to ignore.

Amazon’s fees have gotten very high, so a seller must be very careful about their margin. Customer service usually gets back fairly quickly and is usually helpful in solving the problem. The fact that they do not allow sellers to list items such as CDs, DVDs, games (some yes some no with no reasoning I can see) and other high end items without providing a wholesaler source for your items is only encouraging China and other like sellers instead of encouraging the small businesses and individual sellers, which are a large part of the market.

Amazon has been a game changer for my small business. I have doubled my sales the past two years, and it’s all because of Amazon. That being said, the fees do add up. I look at Amazon as a cross between a wholesale account and direct selling. I make more than I would if I was selling the same items wholesale, and less then if I was selling on my own site. The Amazon volume absolutely makes it worth it. There’s no way I could generate the same volume or handle the fulfillment on my own.

Amazon pros: lots of eyeballs, lots of advertising, best place to sell. Amazon cons: not easy to distinguish your item from others, can’t do any kind of add on to increase sales, notifications of listing cancellation nonexistent, no flexibility with the way you list an item.

I have a love hate relationship with Amazon. They charge the highest fees, the experience with talking to someone about your account is horrendous, and Amazon keeps adding metrics to worry about. But, they are our largest marketplace, and their systems are easy to use.

We have been with Amazon for 11 years and it has become harder to sell due to their restrictions and gating. The reason we stay with Amazon is that they have more traffic than most other sites but we make less money per item. Also they give Less customer service to the sellers and allow buyers to scam.

We sell a lot on amazon (FBA)and it has its issues. Getting a bit more like ebay every day with restrictions, mandated customer interaction and new restrictive rules daily. But still a very high vol platform for selling and relatively easy to manage. Dealing with constant price fluctuation takes a significant amount of time. (or money with a high end repricer (basic repricers are a waste of time) )

Amazon is so easy to use! So easy that all you need to do is piggyback on someone else’s listings, and you can have a million listings selling things you don’t even have! It stinks because if it weren’t for the Chinese counterfeiters, I would still be doing over 500k on Amazon. Because I sell easily duplicated home goods, that number has been obliterated to half that amount. Amazon is great if somehow, you have items that can’t be counterfeited by others.

Amazon’s fees are high, I sell mainly one of kind vintage items and want to be able to add my own photos and descriptions.

FBA charges now are untenable for a used book & CD seller.

Overly complicated marketplace, not simple to use, especially if you are selling bespoke items without a barcode or number to enable listing. Pricing is very high if you are not a professional seller but an occasional one.

Amazon preaches to their sellers “lower your price because someone else is selling for less”. Even if I’m selling at or below cost, that is their mantra. Also, Amazon monitors which products their sellers are successful with so that they can then start selling the same item but at a price so low that no one else can match it, thereby driving everyone else from the marketplace… or out of business.

Amazon takes a large cut of item sales, including from shipping. Also you can only sell products that are in their system, and sometimes with new releases they restrict you.

The biggest benefits to selling on Amazon are the massive traffic it gets and the ease of listing. However, it’s definitely not a seller-friendly business, instead (1) giving buyers every advantage without regard to the validity of returns, claims, etc, and (2) taking away so much control over individual businesses while demanding such high fees and expectations.

Amazon has a very high commission on sales. They only have Seller Support for help…which are only hired phone reps and rarely are of any help and even on occasion misinform you. Amazon now Automatically Authorizes Returns eliminating any Seller Help prior to the Return being authorized. On top of that they charge me more to Return the item than I charge to mail it initially.

We used to sell pretty heavily on Amazon, but it’s not been as profitable this last year. Some of their changes have made it difficult to sell in the categories we do, and fees are pretty high.

Amazon’s fees are very high. $40/month for professional shop, 15% sales fee, additional fees on postage. Their sales stream on Amazon.mx is not translated to English. I have to use a translator on Google for that and it’s just very annoying. Amazon enrolled me in their automatic return/refund program and while I probably would have enrolled anyway, it was an unpleasant surprise. As a small shop, I haven’t found buying sponsored ads very effective though I’m sure it’s beneficial to larger sellers. I still do it from time to time, but the cost/benefit data show they don’t do me much good on top of all the other fees. I tried their Handmade site but, with no music instrument or accessories category for my guitar straps, there was really no category for me to list my products so I closed my Handmade site. I would try it again if they create a music instruments and accessories category. All of that said, Amazon has sterling customer service in terms of answering questions and generally helping sort out problems. My sales have increased steadily over the years and I wouldn’t leave Amazon unless something profoundly awful changed. It is probably not the best venue for me but I have gone through the ordeal of setting up my shop (no small task, believe me), have several return buyers, and can usually get a problem solved with one phone call.

As a small business owner I feel that Amazon hinders me with a extra charge for not having to agree to a monthly charge (business account). We sell books and each book sold carries the fixed closing fee of $.99 and then the 15% referral fee for the sale which includes the shipping cost then there is the variable closing fee of $1.80 on the sale. So let’s look at a sale of $6.00 book. Amazon takes $4.29 of the $6.00 which comes to 71.5% of the sales. This is outrageous.

It is great for the big boys – but for smaller online business not so good – lots of fees if not FBA – I like to list items in multiple site and control inventory myself – not so good. As need approval for lots of different products. It is very easy to list – I use to list books & media products but not much else.

AMAZON is gearing more to the professional sellers and is making if harder for small sellers to comply with all the restrictions and need for UPC codes or ISBN numbers. Old rare books and collectibles do not have these codes.

Amazon throttled t-shirt sales just in time for the Christmas rush and it seems they are still throttled. This dramatically reduced profitability on this site.

Amazon will suspend a Seller without warning. Then they do not provide support or assistance to resolve the issue. They do not provide live help if you are suspended so Sellers have to email the information and then just wait. You have no way to know if anyone is working on your case, you only received canned replies. It could be days or weeks, you have no way to know. The system is awful for Sellers and does not reflect Amazon’s images of being customer and seller friendly. Their resolution system needs a complete overhaul.

Amazon is a great venue for the consumer. It’s quite obvious that they are trying to eliminate the third party seller. We were a 1 million $ seller 10 years ago, and every year see our business decrease there and how they have incorporated our best sellers into their own mix.

Amazon is a horrible place to sell. At first it is great, then someone clones your products from China and sells on your listing and then accuses you of fraud – on your own listing.

Amazon has drove the market so low and margins to a minimum because they are buying from the sellers’ suppliers and selling at prime and since they don’t have to pay commission on the sale they have lower prices than it cost sellers for an item. Also Amazon does not read a-z claims and sides with the buyer even if the buyer is trying to abuse the system as well as return abuse by making the seller pay return shipping when buyer said not as described or defective and the item is as described and NOT defective.

Amazon has a high level of fraud. The customer centric atmosphere encourages a high level of fraud, non receipt claims and unscrupulous customers. The seller support is horrific- you are constantly given improper information by non English speaking customer support. Transparency is lacking- ie: if your account gets put under review, despite outstanding metrics- it is impossible to find out why- not to mention there is no seller support phone number – everything goes through email and most responses are templates that often regard to something entirely different than your issue. They do not follow their own policy and you have to file claims to get money due to you when they mess up. Poor training, strict regulations and inequality among sellers make this a difficult platform to sell on. Also, overall, as a seller on this platform since 2008 I do not feel valued at all. Ultimately it feels as though goal is to rid the platform of all small 3P sellers. I view my working relationship with Amazon as a necessary evil, I would not recommend them, I will not shop on the site, and as a whole I do not respect them as a company, which I find to be sad.

Sellers Choice Awards:
We thank all readers who took the time to rate the marketplaces. If you have comments about the Sellers Choice Awards, please feel free to post them below.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
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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