Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Feb 26 2014 21:58:32

What's Behind Amazon's Selling Limits?

By: Ina Steiner

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Amazon wants to pull in the reins on novelty and print-on-demand items offered by third-party merchants, and like everything else it does, the move is most likely data-driven - and in this case, there will be casualties.

Amazon is limiting sellers on how many novelty SKUs they can list - some are limited to 25,000, others, 100,000. (See Wednesday's Newsflash article.) Many of the products impacted are in the clothing category, such as novelty Tshirts that can come in a variety of sizes and colors as well as designs - so while a limit of 100,000 may sound generous, it's far from 100,000 "products."

Amazon likes products that sellers can fulfill quickly and are in perfect condition. But let's say a seller lists an "I'm with Stupid" tshirt in 3 colors, 4 sizes and 2 styles. The seller doesn't print every permutation of the tshirt until they get an order, because that one tshirt design alone would take up a lot of room, and they might never sell any "extra smalls," for example.

As I mention in tomorrow's Newsflash story, one seller speculated that Amazon could be working on a deal with CafePress, but here's another theory: is it possible that Amazon looked at its data and found novelty SKUs had a slower-than-average delivery time (and possibly even a higher order defect rate) and weighed that against giving consumers choice?

But Amazon can continue to give shoppers choice without actually listing novelty items: Amazon is presenting sellers with an option: advertising through Amazon Product Ads.

Update 2/28/14: A commentor below said Amazon does not make Product Ads available in the Apparel category. That is correct - Apparel & Shoes are not open to Product Ads sellers at this time. Apologies for the oversight, and please keep that in mind when reading the rest of this post.

From a seller's point-of-view, it may feel more like an eBay pricing model - you have to pay upfront - but with some advantages over an eBay listing, including no commission fee if/when the item sells, and the ads lead directly to the merchant's own website.

Product Ads come in various flavors, but some look just like a regular Amazon listing - the orange button on the listing ad says "Visit this Site" instead of "Add to Cart." Starting last November, Amazon also began commingling Product Ad offers on the Offer Listing Page.



Since many novelty items are unique, the cost of the ad may not be prohibitive since there isn't a lot of competition - and sellers only pay if someone clicks on the ad. And for sellers who also list non-novelty SKUs on Amazon, could moving to Product Ads for novelty items actually improve their seller performance on Amazon?

Another potential advantage to listing novelty items through Product Ads: sellers can capture those customers who click on those ads. The customer belongs to them if they make a purchase on their website, and sellers can entice them to sign up for their email newsletter whether they make a purchase or not.

That's not to minimize the impact this new policy has on sellers. For some or perhaps many sellers, the move will have a devastating impact on their business. How do you take a million or five million SKUs and winnow them down to 100,000?

One thing is certain: between eBay selling limits and now this move from Amazon, marketplace sellers are having a rough time of it.




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Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Wed Feb 26 23:58:53 2014

The t-shirt/screen-printing area really has a fairly low barrier of entry, so it's possible there are just too many of them. They also may not all be the best quality sellers, so I can see why Amazon might choose to limit them. That said, this is another case of policies targeted to one area having a lot of impact on other areas.

I wonder if Amazon is looking to implement product variations in order to consolidate ASINs? That would make sense, but is certainly not the easiest thing to implement from a software standpoint. There are loads of products that are essentially the same item, but with different product attributes like size and color. It might make finding things on Amazon easier if you don't have to wade through pages of listings for the same item in every different permutation available. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 27 01:43:25 2014

IS Amazon trying to pull an ebay style deal here?  As in---they DO something but REFUSE to discuss WHY and HOW this might affect their CUSTOMER---ie--their SELLERS?

Please don;t tell me that Amazon is going to The Dark Side!    

Perminate Link for What's Behind Amazon's Selling Limits?   What's Behind Amazon's Selling Limits?

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 27 06:37:04 2014

Humm just maybe Amazon wants to become Ebays sister site and is just clearing the field for some unknown as yet sapphire company to reign supreme in the screen printing area.

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by: KathleenJohnson This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Feb 27 06:48:05 2014

Interesting that they are balking at the Product Ads as opposed to selling on Amazon.

The Product Ad leads the buyers straight to the Sellers own website, which in turn, opens up all sorts of other opportunities.

With all the micro management issues on so many of the middleman platforms - I'd be thrilled if eBay would let us do the same. *G*

Why are so many Sellers so afraid of leaving the Middleman Platform arena to "stand on their own"?

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 27 09:49:35 2014

There are some good points to the change.
I am sick of say looking for a camera case and see page after page of the same thing in different variations such as every color and or combination under the sun. Not to mention each and every size possible .
Find that a total turn off.  There are so many duplicates on the site now. Reminds me of searching for something on ebay.

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by: Analiz This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 27 10:12:18 2014

Last time I checked, Amazon Product Ads were closed for the Apparel category, so your solution wouldn't work for these t-shirt sellers, unfortunately.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Thu Feb 27 11:02:00 2014

"Please don;t tell me that Amazon is going to The Dark Side!"

Darth Donahoe to Luke Bezos:
"I am your father..."

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Feb 27 19:25:42 2014

At aast! The perfect t-shirt for Mrs. Ho.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Feb 27 19:27:19 2014

I wish I could type or at least take time proofread better.

That should be At last rather at aast.  

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by: HoneVille This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Feb 28 11:31:52 2014

I tired numerous times to get authorized on amazon.  Glad I didn't.  I'm very small but have over 4.3 million variations on my website and nearly 1 million on ebay.  I've been pretty impressed by amazon in the past but this shows an extreme lack of knowledge regarding the print on demand novelty business.  Not to change the topic, Dominos pizza has 34 million variations of pizza.  Options ad up.  That doesn't mean they're sitting on 34 million pizzas it just means you can order your pizza 34 million different ways!  Buyers want choices, especially in the novelty sections.  It's the biggest advantage we have over stores like Wal-Mart that bring out 1 novelty shirt in 1 color and 6 sizes... nobody buys them because if you do you might show up at a party and find 12 people wearing the exact same thing as you.  American's don't want that.  They want UNIQUE clothing, unless you're at a sports even rooting for your favorite team.  Individuality and uniqueness is what drives our business... not the "clone the shirts and dress everyone the same" mentality.

So I guess... if you want the same shirts everyone else is wearing shop on Amazon.  But if you want to express your uniqueness and individuality in your clothing then shop elsewhere.    

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Sun Mar 2 09:41:38 2014

Ming, love your comment .............



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