EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 279 - January 23, 2011 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 18

Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Amazon

By Ina & David Steiner

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In January 2011, AuctionBytes surveyed almost 2,800 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 16 online marketplaces included in the survey.


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 seventh place with an overall rating of 6.1 on a scale of 1 to 10. Its highest marks were for Ease of Use (6.51). Amazon's lowest marks were for profitability (5.48) - comments revealed that some respondents felt fees were too high, others felt prices realized were too low.

"Fees are on the high side. AZ does not provide enough shipping allowance to cover international sales," wrote one respondent, while another wrote, "Amazon is very simple to use and by far has the easiest listing facilities. However as more sellers have discovered the prices that I would normally sell at have been drastically driven down."

Respondents did not find Amazon to be a good fit for their unique items, such as handmade goods and jewelry artisans. "Amazon hasn't the slightest clue how to cater to niche markets," one respondent wrote.

Amazon's customer service got mixed reviews, such as this comment: "Amazon has a few problems, including pro-active communication with sellers... but compared to eBay on that subject they are angels!" A fair number of respondents give Amazon's customer service an emphatic thumb's down, but then there were comments like this one, "Customer service is stellar. Emails are responded to generally in less than 24 hours, you also have the ability to actually speak to a rep on the phone."

Amazon.com's use of product catalog is an issue - "UPCs required on all items is a problem for me," wrote a seller whose sentiment was echoed by several respondents. Sellers who are not part of the pro-merchant plan say they cannot sell things that aren't already in Amazon's catalog. And there are further restrictions in certain categories, including rare books and toys. A respondent explained that they had tried selling two antique and very rare books but could not because Amazon did not already have the books in its database. Another respondent wrote, "Cannot sell on Amazon due to product not having UPC and unable to get them to give an exemption."

The flip side of the catalog is that pro-merchants are able to change the catalog. One respondent said, "Overall selling on Amazon is good but there are definite issues, like the fact that other sellers can make major changes to the catalog listings (even changing titles/pictures) for items you have already listed without your being notified."

A few respondents complained of suspensions and holding funds: "They can also withhold your funds arbitrarily and for an indefinite length of time," wrote one seller.

Link to 2010 results

Reader Comments - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:
Amazon does it right. From their ease of listing, to their consumer confidence, to their new - and immediately superior - online postage application. They don't mess around, they stay out of my hair, and I can make money there.
***
I do recommend Amazon to people when they are about to donate their books/DVDs/videos somewhere. Because even though it is very expensive to sell on Amazon, they might make a couple of dollars over giving the items away totally free.
***
I have listed some items, but I also participated in an experimental pay per click through (if buyer clicks on my item it actually clicks through to the item description on my outside website or other store venue). It brought many good customers who either bought the item or found other stuff on my store site for little money. Amazon's seller service in getting this set up was stellar.
***
excellent site. couple of problems though., In the end there is a rush to the lowest price and amazon retail competes with us sellers directly.
***
Very easy to use as both a seller and buyer. Amazon is fantastic and safe for buyers. Amazon protects sellers MUCH MUCH more than it does buyers, but that does make it a safe place for buyers, thereby giving sellers more buyers (which is the whole point of a venue ... at least to me)
***
Amazon is very user friendly, aside from basic feedback - buyers don't have the ability to cripple a business. Listings are very easy to create as well.
***
Very easy to sell. I appreciate that there are no fees to list an item, and my items get lots of viewing. I have been a buyer on Amazon for years and it is always my FIRST place to shop for anything. My only complaint, is that I think 15% is too high for the percentage taken from sales. I also do appreciate the postage allowance, but still if they only charged 7-8 % I would post all my stuff...instead I use EBID to sell other items and use amazon mostly for books, cds' dvd's etc. Overall though, I love amazon!
***
For certain types of items, Amazon is the best selling venue. The sometimes higher fees and commissions can be offset if the items can be priced higher than the competition. I think Amazon is very good at attracting a solid audience for my items.
***
Very easy to use and Amazon collects all payments and all I have to do is mail. Even better now that they have labeling system in place.
***
Pricing strategy for Amazon allows for an adequate profit margin for new items; Vintage collectibles do not seem to do as well or seem to pull the traffic as do newly released items. Amazon does not simply recommend their fulfillment services, it seems as if a seller's visibility is diminished if that seller refuses to use their touted, if not required, fulfillment service. At times, payment flow through has been markedly slower than other payment systems.
***
I have been selling on amazon for 8 months, their customer service department is great for any questions that I had
***
Pricing can be difficult. A lot of Research is needed, and looking at other sellers prices, even just on Amazon, and what appear to be identical books in very similar condition, is often no help at all with prices varying from say 2p to 50 for the same used but as new book. Again it seems to be the bigger companies able to ask for and get the best price every time, even though I know my book is much better value. Also because of Amazon's isbn identical edition system it makes the listing of rarer and older books (for which this kind of info does not exist), problematic. I have approx 200 books listed, all VG+ ist edition modern hardbacks, some quite rare. And I add more weekly, but have only sold 10 in last year. These results make it books expensive to keep on Amazon at this turnover and I won't double list one item on more than one site.
***
Smooth sailing at Amazon. Pros: Easy navigation, options that work, advance notice if you do something they don't like. Cons: Anonymized e-mail has had many problems. Against policy to send shipping confirmation e-mail !!
***
I do recommend Amazon to friends. I have sold there for 7 years and my only gripe is that they have no auction format and I cannot my handcrafted jewelry or sterling flatware. excellent site. couple of problems though., In the end there is a rush to the lowest price and amazon retail competes with us sellers directly.
***
Amazon will not let you sell/apply in certain categories
***
It has high fees and small sellers are unable to upload "New" auctions. This is offset by high traffic and free listing. As a part time bookseller I like it as it is. It does what it says on the tin.
***
Amazon sales have continued to increase but at 28.5 % commission it knocks the profits too much.
***
Amazon works well for selling off my husband's computer books - even the outdated ones - but it has neither heart nor soul. It's cold and impersonal and relentlessly corporate. It does not win my heart. And it's not a good place to sell our other items.
***
Amazon is not seller friendly. They ignore suggestions for improvement. They eliminated the report that allows you to see all profit and costs per Merchant SKU, which has caused me difficulty in paying my vendors and has doubled my time spent on accounting. They are not transparent when it comes to FBA fees. Their Help Section is a mess and refers to reports, links and programs that are no longer in existence. They will not assign a customer service rep to my company - I have to call and get a different rep each time. I make 85% of my profit there, but it is very difficult. There are so many little things they could do differently.
***
They make a seller jump through alot of hoops just to get permission to sell, then more hoops once you're there. It's easy if you're selling exactly what's there already, where competition is already fierce. Selling new items can be a hassle if the UPC codes aren't perfect, etc.
***
Although others rave about selling on Amazon, I rarely sell anything. When I sell a book, I'm lucky if I make 25 cents profit. Every year I'm kicked off right before the toy selling season since I don't sell enough on the site. I receive canned answers to my inquiries.
***
Amazon selling costs is quite high. Also we kept telling them that our products were showing pages behind out of stock entries. Didn't listen, then wanted to know why we were closing our shop.
***
Anything I buy on Amazon takes over a month to ship. I have never been able to get any service there. When it comes to selling, Amazon doesn't seem to be concerned with their sellers, they just don't seem to care.
***
Let's start with the fact that they are your biggest competitors. Amazon uses algorithms against it;s sellers by blocking visibility. If you have a product that sells it won't be long before they are in front of you not letting you sell your products. They are a secretive back-stabbing organization that will kill your business if it begins to rise. I warn everyone not to rely on them and make them a small percentage of your business if you want to survive.
***
Amazon's heavy emphasis on buyer support leaves little or no support for marketplace sellers. The playing field at Amazon is definitely not level, with buyers receiving the benefit of all doubts in dispute cases, even to the point of receiving instant refunds while not being required to return the product! Sellers should proceed with extreme caution when attempting to sell there. They can also withhold your funds arbitrarily and for an indefinite length of time.
***
I feel that for it's size, Amazon is lacking in several areas. Seller help is difficult to manuver and the site in general is not as user friendly to both buyers and sellers as it could be. Fee's are high and some of those funds should be used to fix some of these issues. As a seller I also find that even though I am required to show that an item shipped to be paid, on several instances the tracking information I provided was not forwarded to the buyer.
***
Amazon unreasonably removed my merchandise from their website and refuses to reconsider or even discuss the problem. I'm not happy at being banned without reason!
***
They removed my selling privileges because I "may have" violated policies. They will not tell me which policies. They have 400+ books in FBA and blocked those listings as well. They only send nebulous form letters. They are a disaster and are probably engaging in illegal practices.

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.

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About the author:

Ina and David Steiner are publishers of EcommerceBytes.com and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.


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