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Sellers Choice 2020 Marketplace Ratings: Amazon

Amazon

Amazon matched last year’s performance and placed 7th in the 2020 Sellers Choice Awards for Online Marketplaces. A highly competitive marketplace and one that some say can be “unforgiving” to sellers, and where the customer comes first.

In January 2020, EcommerceBytes readers rated 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:

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

Summary:
Amazon came in 7th place in the 2020 Sellers Choice Awards for Online Marketplaces for the second consecutive year.

Some sellers say Amazon is profitable (“high traffic equals high profits”), others say it’s extremely difficult to be profitable selling on Amazon (“competition is fierce and the fees are high, so it’s a balancing act trying to price my items to make profit without losing sales”).

That’s not entirely surprising given the many factors that go into a seller’s profitability and the breadth of the Amazon marketplace in terms of products and categories. One seller who found Amazon to be profitable also said the return rate was much higher for them than on other sites.

It’s relatively easy to get started on Amazon, many sellers said, but there’s more to it than that, some said, such as one who wrote: “The harder parts are learning about sales rank, competitive pricing, and inventory management.”

Rare, secondhand, and items without a UPC code are among the products that can be difficult to sell on Amazon, some sellers said. “Amazon has annoying habit of placing handmade listings up against cheaper, heavily manufactured products (from their warehouse),” wrote one seller.

Amazon restrictions are a problem, such as brand-gating – “Can’t sell brands,” one seller said succinctly. “It is a shame that certain items (CDs, DVDs, etc.) require a huge amount of documentation in order to be allowed to sell them,” wrote another. One seller raised the issue of Intellectual Property claims: “When someone claims IP charge against you, it is difficult to impossible to fight it.”

Amazon is unforgiving, wrote another seller who said they were suspended due to one missing package. “As long as in the long run the seller took care of and compensated the customer, a small volume seller should not be kicked off for one problem transaction.”

But bad selling behavior is also a problem for sellers, according to some respondents. One example cited by a seller: “One of the difficult things to deal with is someone making up a bunch of UPCs and listing their product with them so that when you want to list a product that actually has the UPC you can’t. The nonsense Amazon expects you to go through to list the item is ridiculous and they apparently have the theory that whoever gives a UPC number first, even if it is wrong, gets to keep it and forget about the people with the actual product.”

Bad buyer behavior is also a problem – and Amazon “always” sides with buyers, some sellers said. “For Amazon customer is always right, not the seller, no matter what,” one said.

Another seller said, “You get no real exposure there unless you jump through all the hoops, which means Amazon fulfillment (FBA).”

“Even with a proven selling record I don’t enjoy selling on Amazon – it’s a necessary evil if you are an online retailer,” one seller wrote.

Some said Amazon is tougher for smaller sellers, but larger merchants cite their own share of problems, with several indicating the need for to hire lawyers to help them navigate and deal with the platform.

One seller explained what they felt were the keys to survival and profitability on Amazon: “To be profitable and able to survive on this site you need to have a lot of retail business experience. You also have to have the mindset to give the customer everything they want and set your price accordingly. You have to take advantage of every selling tool in the dashboard, including advertising with pay per click, and constantly work on listings and keywords to have discovery and sell effectively.”

Amazon received a 4.99 in Profitability; a 4.81 in Customer Service; a 4.75 in Communication; and a 5.52 in Ease of Use. It received a 4.70 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
Amazon is a great way to start selling online. It’s very easy to set up and there’s no shortage of customers.

I was able to start my selling quickly and they supported my business with advertising.

High traffic equals high profits.

Easy to use and most times seller support answers all of your questions.

I have been selling on amazon for years, this is where the majority of my sales come from.

Amazon is my most profitable sales channel.

Amazon is great in every way apart from the profit I make on there. The competition is fierce and the fees are high so it’s a balancing act trying to price my items to make profit without losing sales.

They’ve just been awesome in every way – the opportunities are phenomena. AMAZON IS THE BEST.

All products I have on site sell quickly. It is a process to get started and familiarized. The customer service they provide is the best on any platform I have used besides my own site.

Amazon is great for traffic and potential sales. The only drawback is many items are restricted. I have experienced many of my listings being removed even after several years of selling these brands. Otherwise, Amazon is excellent.

It was relatively simple to start selling on Amazon and to learn the basics. The harder parts are learning about sales rank, competitive pricing, and inventory management. Amazon doesn’t communicate too often with sellers (in my experience). Their customer service is quick to respond to issues, but can be difficult to work with if your issue is complicated.

I’ve sold on Amazon for years and it is easy when you have a UPC or ISBN but if you don’t it is really difficult.

Great business model, but the fees could cause financial issues, if you are not careful.

It’s awesome and easy and you can make the money but also seems more corporates and products do better as new rather than rare and 2nd hand.

The site is used by the most consumers so it is an important site to sell on. The site can be a little difficult at times to navigate through policies and requirements.

I make money on Amazon, and never had any issues.

I have been a micro seller of non-fiction books on Amazon since the day Jeff Bezos opened up the site to 3rd party sellers 20 years ago. The rules are strict, but unlike eBay, they seldom change, so if you are very careful, you can survive. It’s easy to list books if they have an ISBN, but complicated if they do not. Overall, I love selling on Amazon.

I make a lot more money on Amazon than other venues that I have sold on and that is good. However, there are many trouble spots with Amazon, and that consists of poorly trained Seller Support. The simplest things most of them will send to the ‘concern team’ for someone else to deal with. I have had simple things like title changes take weeks to accomplish to the point, that if it isn’t fixed in the first round, I don’t leave my product on the listing and more or less walk away from the listing. I no longer ever request a callback (although many sellers complain of the inability to be able to talk to someone). I can’t understand the mostly Indian accents. While they may think they are speaking perfectly proper English, they aren’t speaking ‘American’ English which has many words used differently and pronounced differently. They don’t comprehend me, nor I them. With the massive amount of money that Amazon makes, you would think that they could spend it on Seller Support personnel from the USA for US sellers. Also, Seller Support personnel from the same country that the sellers are from would be most beneficial. One of the difficult things to deal with is someone making up a bunch of UPCs and listing their product with them so that when you want to list a product that actually has the UPC you can’t. The nonsense Amazon expects you to go through to list the item is ridiculous and they apparently have the theory that whoever gives a UPC number first, even if it is wrong, gets to keep it and forget about the people with the actual product. I sell mainly in one niche and over the years I have found microphones, sneakers, and shower curtains all other UPCs from my niche and believe me those companies don’t sell that sort of thing. I consider myself an expert in the niche I sell in and it is frustrating when I see a problem in a listing and try to fix it, that someone half a world away who most likely has never even seen what I sell much less used it, act like they know more than me, and at times it has taken up to 3 or more tries to find someone with the guts to fix a listing. This is why in 2019 I quit trying to fix things more than once. I just don’t have the time to keep trying to fix the listing with one UPC when I have stacks of inventory that needs to be listed. Amazon could do a lot to help out their sellers, most especially in the refund/returns situation. They have taken our ability to contact buyers directly so when a buyer writes and complains of whatever we have to go through a process, but the buyer many times never sees our answer so they get more irritated and in the end, we may have to give up money and get a negative feedback in the process. Others have had many items lost to them when the buyer doesn’t return the product and Amazon takes and refunds the buyer’s money out of the seller’s account so the seller losses the product, the initial shipping cost as well as all the money the buyer paid. Many times this happens for bogus reasons.

I would recommend as a selling platform if one has big inventory of ‘like” products, if one can take advantage of Amazon’s FBA program, or has automated shipping (FAST) for small items. OOAK & handmade gets very little traffic if at all and unless one is driving their own traffic, it is hard to compete “for eyeballs”. Amazon has annoying habit of placing handmade listings up against cheaper, heavily manufactured products (from their warehouse). Confusing for potential customers. I would recommend the site with caveats, less for handmade artisans or sellers of “niche” type products. However, as a I found some success, certainly worth a try and it could be a great place to sell & make a living depending on product(s) & ability to “become a part of the overall sales team”. Difficult for small sellers with limited or “niche” inventory.

Amazon is lucrative but is also very expensive with 15% of my sales going to Amazon and mandatory use of their postal service which has an associated fee. I could avoid some expenses if I did not operate as a Prime seller but that is my choice. I am a small seller so Amazon is not as “user friendly” as they may be to a larger seller, but I do all right and can leave whenever I want.

Amazon is a quality site which delivers results, though its platform could be easier to navigate. Also, it is a shame that certain items (CDs, DVDs, etc.) require a huge amount of documentation in order to be allowed to sell them.

To be profitable and able to survive on this site you need to have a lot of retail business experience. You also have to have the mindset to give the customer everything they want and set your price accordingly. You have to take advantage of every selling tool in the dashboard, including advertising with pay per click, and constantly work on listings and keywords to have discovery and sell effectively.

Amazon is easy to list if the listing already exists and is 100% accurate. However there are so many listings with the wrong information and not great photos. Also listing from scratch is very tedious and not easy to understand. Amazon is profitable, however the return rate is much higher than other sites probably due to how inflexible it is to update listings etc.

At Amazon, I can sell items for a better price than other venues, but it is becoming harder to list individual items since they have made it so that all items have to have a ISBN of UPC code.

It is difficult to upload images from my phone, and if I want to update the title of a listing, I have to contact Amazon because the website won’t let me do it. Also, their fees are so high it is almost impossible to sell individual books and make a profit. Selling higher priced items is great, though, because of the high traffic to their website.

For Amazon customer is always right, not the seller no matter what.

I’ve always found Amazon to be the least profitable and most difficult to deal with of any of the sites.

Ease of use is not for beginners or those with little experience in navigating sites. Sometimes too much info per page causes crowding and confusion

Selling on Amazon is difficult because it has many rules. The difference between Amazon and any other venue is that the customers on Amazon are AMAZON’s customers…NOT YOUR customers.

Amazon customer service is not good at all. They take your money even when you mail your items to your customer and hold on to it. Don’t want give it back to you.

It is easy for sellers to undercut other sellers and manipulate the review process. I have had products listed for months without selling.

Their customer service to smaller sellers is horrible. Unfortunately so many people will only shop Amazon that a seller has to put up with crappy service to be able to gain access to the customer base.

They have high fees, and make you promise to not post your item any where else on the internet for a higher price than on Amazon. It is hard to compete against the companies that sell on Amazon.

Can’t sell brands.

Amazon has a lot of competition selling, and the way it’s set up, many listings aren’t seen unless searched further by customers, so it’s difficult to have a customer buy something in the first place, and the abundance of cheap junk makes it difficult to offer quality items at a profitable price. In addition, their fee schedule is not the easiest to figure out with fees then shipping credits for what it thinks you should be able to ship for.

Our account got closed, hired lawyers because claims were not true, they kept our funds 90k for around 8 months even after writing several emails, no one to talk. They returned 150k we had in FBA like garbage around 40% went to garbage, even returned product was not ours, no one to complain. Will not sell there again even though when selling made money. They hurt us a lot no one to complain and you can not sue.. spend around 20k in lawyers. Very bad experience. Now everything that they return can’t sell anywhere because its packed with their labels. They only care about the reputation with the customers but treat the sellers with no respect only threatened.

As a small individual seller, I find that Amazon try to make things as difficult as possible. High fees AND a subscription, low listings positions, which are only increased if you pay for storage/fulfillment and/or advertising. Fraud is prevalent as they automatically believe the customers over sellers, even with a proven selling record I don’t enjoy selling on Amazon – it’s a necessary evil if you are an online retailer.

Amazon is expensive to sell on, confusing, challenging, difficult and annoying. Then when you make a sale, if you need to contact the buyer it is a bit of a challenge to that as well. Also, you get no real exposure there unless you jump through all the hoops, which means Amazon fulfillment. Finally if someone steals your or copies your work, you have jump through more hoops to prove it is yours. It is an awful experience and you never get a chance to speak with anyone.

You can sell nearly anything, but depending on what you are selling, the fees taken out of shipping allowance + the fees taken out of the sold price can be cost prohibitive.

We have been selling on Amazon for 10 years, there are many changes yearly and each time it gets more difficult to list items because the instructions are not updated and some instructions are ambiguous and yet other instructions contradict each other.

Because Amazon is becoming less and less seller friendly. I would never recommend any of my friends go thru the stress and heartbreak I’ve been thru with Amazon Seller Support, et al, multiple times. Still trying to clear up a mistake we made in July that could cost us our account. We always have to consult a lawyer and have suspension insurance just because of Amazon. They put us on 90-day restriction 3 times in 2019. We are lucky to still be afloat.

When someone claims IP charge against you, it is difficult to impossible to fight it. No one to call and give your side of the case. You are guilty until you prove your innocence even if you are innocent. They will not help research it, even when you buy the item from a legitimate seller on Amazon and provide that information.

The fees are high. I was suspended due to one missing package. The “plan of action” should be able to be filed without having to pay a service to do so. As long as in the long run the seller took care of and compensated the customer, a small volume seller should not be kicked off for one problem transaction.

Amazon’s fees are very high. You can not list on Amazon without an ASIN. Amazon allows listings for used parts, but then says you are violating intellectual property by listing a used part. Amazon is the most difficult and restrictive venue that I list on. On a per listing basis, I have much higher sales on other venues.

Amazon expects to make more money on every sale than their 3rd party sellers. If their algorithms suspect that you make more money than they do, your items will be frequently hidden from view and your sales limited. Once you fall victim to their throttling bots, there’s no way out. No amount of price changes, FBA, advertising or adding new items will impact your overall sales, especially if you’re based in the US. This is no longer the marketplace to go to for growing one’s business.

I have had many issues this year with Amazon. Their efforts to police their catalog has led to them making completely false accusations about my items being fake or inauthentic. Just because an item’s product detail page (that I did not create) has an incorrect value listed in the brand field does not mean that I should be punished and receive multiple emails threatening to take my selling privileges away for something I did not do. Amazon support has no common sense. The only way to resolve the issues is to admit my guilt for something I did not do. Only then, would they allow me to continue selling. I feel that they will use that admission against me in the future. I am making every effort to flee the marketplace this year before I am forced to against my will.

Amazon does not provide customer service to the sellers at all, which is very sad because the commission they charge is one of the highest of the various platforms. The customer service they do provide is outsourced – by untrained individuals who provide misinformation is any at all, that could potentially get your account suspended. The catalog and search functions are a mess, and it is near impossible to get anything new listed properly. Catalog changes made without the original lister’s knowledge and the whole listing is essentially destroyed – incorrect pictures and brands are then uploaded with completely different product that no longer matches the listing – potentially leading to suspension. There are so many more issues – review manipulation, high rate of scamming by buyers, failed scheduled transfer for multiple sellers that took a week to resolve with no explanation…

I sell on Amazon Handmade. Or try to. Amazon doesn’t seem to be the place to sell OOAK items, and that’s my passion. Repeatable products have sold well, but I make very few repeatable items. With Amazon’s customer base, it seems like orders should be flooding in, but I’m “lucky” to sell 1 item per month. Seller support is iffy, at best. Seems to depend on whether the CSR is comfortable with the English language. I would recommend Amazon to other sellers, but also let them know that it’s hard to sell OOAK items there.

Amazon is not friendly to merchant-fulfill sellers. Additionally, their web-upload for adding inventory is slow and error-ridden. It has become very frustrating to sell any kind of one-off’s (aka books) on Amazon.

Support is slow and nearly non-existent. They give boilerplate answers to questions, until they get one they can’t answer, then they stop responding. They also compete with their 3rd party sellers.

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.

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Ina Steiner
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.