EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2988 - January 28, 2013     1 of 5

An Interview with Amazon Webstore's Scott Pulsipher, Part One

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Amazon Webstore is becoming better known among online sellers who use it to set up their own ecommerce-enabled stores, using Amazon technology. Scott Pulsipher, General Manager of Amazon Webstore, explains in this exclusive interview with EcommerceBytes how online merchants are using Webstore to design, build and manage multichannel ecommerce websites and integrate with Amazon's other ecommerce offerings, including Amazon Checkout payment processing and Fulfillment By Amazon.

Amazon Webstore is a division of Amazon Services, which provides a leading technology and services platform that enables any company to launch and operate an online business. Pulsipher directs the overall Webstore strategy and commercialization efforts and is accountable for the P&L of the business.

Can you give us an overview of Amazon Webstore and its benefits?

Scott Pulsipher: Sure. Amazon Webstore, as you may know, is Amazon's technology and services platform that enables any company to launch and operate an online business. It does handle websites for top brands, such as Fruit of the Loom, Samsonite, Marks & Spencer, and others, as well as thousands of small and medium-sized businesses.

What Amazon Webstore really does is provide the turnkey ecommerce functionality. It not only provides all of the experience that a consumer would expect to have on an ecommerce website, but fully integrates all of the cart capabilities, the ordering capabilities, as well as payment processing and checkout process, and all of that built around Amazon best practices.

One of the other unique things that Amazon Webstore offers is the fully integrated services of Amazon. Amazon Webstore customers can also utilize Fulfillment by Amazon services. They can also utilize Checkout by Amazon on their websites.

It also shares a listing platform with the marketplace. Sellers who sell on their own website powered by Webstore can also list and sell their products on Amazon.com as well.

There's more services like that, too, including things like Product Ads. The way for sellers to leverage Amazon's technology and services for ecommerce and really with the speed and ease to launch and operate an online business.

Would sellers use this in addition to having their own ecommerce website, or is it really targeted to sellers who just don't want to set up their own store?

Scott Pulsipher: Actually, because it is an ecommerce platform, for most companies or most brands, their site on Amazon Webstore is their primary ecommerce website. But it is their own domain. They manage all their product listings and inventory; they control the design of that site by access to Cascading Style Sheets, JavaScript files, etc.

But companies do have the option to indicate on their site even whether that Webstore service is provided by Amazon or whether they white label it entirely. There is the flexibility with Amazon Webstore to utilize it in a different way.

This you'll see with customers like Marks & Spencer, who've launched an outlet site on Amazon Webstore (Marks & Spencer Outlet). So Marks & Spencer's primary ecommerce site is not on Amazon Webstore, but their outlet site is powered by Webstore.

Another example would be Jurlique, an Australian body cream company. They launched an Amazon Webstore website to handle a flash sale that coincided with their appearance on the Today Show, so it kind of stood up for about a 24-48 hour period, took all their traffic and their orders, and then it came down.

And then you see other customers like Fruit of the Loom, which do operate multiple brands with different URLs and domains.

We do see a lot of unique opportunities out there for retailers and online businesses to utilize the speed and flexibility and ease of Amazon Webstore to also pursue microsite strategies, flash sale opportunities, multi-branded site opportunities, etc. But, as I said, for the large majority of our customers, it is their primary domain.

Can you actually operate a flash sale site using Webstore?

Scott Pulsipher: Yes, you can actually operate a flash sale site using Amazon Webstore. We've had a number of customers who do so.

The example is really the reason why it's a value add for our customers, it's quite easy to build and design that website. It's not going to take you weeks. You can even do it in days.

But also, they're relying on the back end infrastructure of Amazon, which is really one of the key differentiators and reasons they come to Webstore, is that they know that during their flash sale it will scale up to handle the traffic volume, it will scale to handle the order volume, and that they really can provide a great customer experience.

Webstore was not built uniquely to handle flash sales; it is one of the advantages that Webstore has provided to our targeted customers.

Are PowerSellers or smaller sellers using Amazon Webstore by focusing on one product category? How are people using Amazon Webstore if they're not a retail chain?

Scott Pulsipher: There are many examples of brand companies or brand product companies who are not retailers themselves. They are smaller companies that do anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 to $100,000 in online sales - by no means a large online retailers - they are not necessarily using it for one product category.

We have seen customers from a range of different categories, from consumer electronics to watches and jewelry to apparel sellers. We have many apparel sellers like Alternative Apparel, or Fruit of the Loom and others. Or Fit Couture, which is kind of a PowerSeller and a noted Webstore customer. They sell across a variety of different categories.

In those examples, it's not just apparel and apparel accessories, or apparel and associated fitness gear. But we also see different categories. We see a lot of pet products; we see automotive products; we even see sellers who use it for selling custom prints. So you can select your specific size, your specific frame, and order what is effectively a custom print. In that particular example there's probably only 700 to 800 different prints they offer but when you consider all the different combinations of size and paper quality and framing they end up with millions of different SKUs.

There is no one product category necessarily. I do believe we see in general a pretty large amount of sellers within consumer electronics, apparel, watches, jewelry, and then automotive products are some of the top ones.

How much are the fees? And you mentioned you give retailers the option to white label. Are there extra fees for that?

Scott Pulsipher:There aren't. Webstore is designed, our fee model or pricing model, is very much designed around an Amazon model of when our customers are successful, we believe we will be successful. So our fee structure is actually performance based.

What that means is there is a nominal subscription fee for being a Webstore customer. But most of the fees are associated with the performance. As you have sales, then you pay a related fees.

We have a revenue share fee for Webstore only that is basically two percent. That fee goes down as sellers choose to list on Amazon as well utilize Fulfillment by Amazon. Their Webstore store fees can actually decline. Then, associated with that, because we fully integrate the payment processing and checkout capability too, all those fees are separate but they're included. And those fees depend on the total volume of sales that you have on a monthly basis.

All the fee structure I won't go into; it is available on our website. (Amazon Webstore pricing.) All the pricing is outlined there. But there's really no difference between whether you choose to fully white label your website or whether you choose to leverage Amazon branding and AOA, like "service provided by Amazon," which is typically at the bottom of a website.

Look for Part Two of EcommerceBytes' exclusive interview with Amazon Webstore General Manager Scott Pulsipher in tomorrow's Newsflash (now available), where he explains how merchants are driving traffic to their Amazon Webstore. See Part Three here, and learn more about Amazon Webstore here.


About the author:

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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