EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 399 - February 12, 2017 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 12

Sellers Choice 2017 Marketplace Ratings: Amazon

By Ina & David Steiner

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In January 2017, 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.


Profitability:

Customer Service:

Communication:

Ease of Use:

Would you recommend:

Amazon.com
Year Established: 1995
Description: Fixed Price listings, general merchandise
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Summary:
Amazon came in first place this year in the 2017 Sellers Choice Awards for Online Marketplaces, up from third place last year. The ecommerce giant has ranked among the top 4 since 2010 except in 2011, when niche sites helped push it out of the top-five placement.

Amazon received high praise from sellers about the volume of sales, ease of use, and its features for sellers, but it also received some complaints about fees, category restrictions, and seller support.

One of the biggest benefits of selling on Amazon - its popularity - also results in one of the challenges sellers face - more sellers leads to greater competition. One respondent said, "my sales on Amazon have slid by about 50% over the last few years. I believe mostly due to more sellers in the category that I sell in and the "penny sellers" that flood every market with no care of what they are selling and no understanding of their product"

"Amazon is good because it allows sellers to have very wide range of potential buyers," one respondent said. "However the seller support is very bad, and sellers cannot list certain items without approval which is very inconvenient. We take these products and sell them on other channels and Amazon loses our sales."

"It is easy to use," said another seller, "but I don't do FBA and find that the use of "gated" areas to sell in is more than I want to deal with."

Some sellers pointed to Amazon's generous buyer policies that can fail to protect sellers. "Amazon gives all the right to the buyers. The sellers don't have much protection if at all. Buyers can buy something and return it for no reason and it that case sellers have to pay for the return shipping. Amazon doesn't care about the loss the seller makes from that sale. Also, buyers can claim a product to be defective or broken without providing any evidence for their claim and Amazon still defends them. That's a really bad side of Amazon."

Some respondents noted the difficulty of competing with Amazon itself, such as this seller:

"Amazon competes with their sellers on almost all products. In fact, I just learned from 3 of our large suppliers, that Amazon is buying out the stock from one of the electronics distributors and holding it until the manufacturers run out. At that time, they list the product and drive the price up. Not fair business. We can't complete."

While one seller said, "Amazon treats its sellers very well and wants us to be truly successful," another said, "As a significant seller on Amazon I feel that they don't care about us. They are just too big to care." The latter had an interesting suggestion for the company, but not all sellers would necessarily agree: "For the volume that I do on-line I need a dedicated account service rep. I would be willing to pay extra for it."

Amazon works differently than other marketplaces, offering sellers a choice of Fulfilled by Amazon or Merchant Fulfilled, and there were several mentions of Amazon failing to reimburse sellers for the true cost of shipping for merchant fulfilled transactions.

Beginning last year, Amazon instituted a number of seller crackdowns, as we've been reporting in EcommerceBytes 411 and on the EcommerceBytes Blogs. Here's what one respondent had to say:

"Amazon drastically changes policies without informing sellers ahead of time. Often, there is no communication even after the new policy is implemented. Amazon needs to inform sellers and update their product grading terminology to reflect that invoices from approved sources are required on all merchandise sold as "New" on their platform."

Despite some complaints, the traffic Amazon generates is hardtop ignore. After pointing to a laundry list of problems, this respondent explained why they remain selling on Amazon: "Amazon is not for the seller like it was 10 years ago when we started. We stay with Amazon because we get more traffic there than elsewhere and we have 6,000 items that would be a problem to move without a lot of work."

Amazon received a 6.09 in Profitability; a 6.07 in Customer Service; a 6.09 in Communication; and a 6.21 in Ease of Use. It received a 6.13 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

Lots of easy listing selling features and reports.

I've been an Amazon seller for over 15 years. I like that it is quick and easy to list something and easy to receive your funds. Amazon's emails to me, the seller, are clear and concise and let me know quickly exactly what I need to do.

Amazon has by far the easiest and most robust interface, especially if someone just starting out managing inventory on a large scale. Compared to other tools like file exchange, selling on Amazon is a breeze. Great selling tools such as pricing guidance and out of stock info. Unified accounts make it easy for even newer sellers to expand into other marketplaces such as Canada and the UK. We sell on multiple marketplaces, and Amazon far outranks them all in terms of volume.

The buyer traffic is amazing on Amazon. The buyers are much easier to deal with as they know what they want. Customer service is fantastic and most problems are solved within hours if not minutes.

Amazon's customer service to sellers and buyers is what sets them aside from any other site for selling, that and the fact you can store and let them ship, plus customer service makes them ideal for large sellers.

Amazon is a great partner to sellers!! Great support, quick responses. But it is a challenge to list a new item not currently listed on Amazon, some fees are high, and the shipping rates are a challenge. But for seller support they are THE BEST !!!

Easy to list, great tech support. Pressure to always lower prices, so in effect competing w/ large retailers who purchased inventory at greater discounts. So often negative to extremely low margins.

LOVE all the traffic and customers that Amazon provides at no cost to the sellers!!! The selling fees are VERY HIGH but they have the traffic and provide sales that warrant paying it.

Easy to use to sell books and like that you can list items for free until the sell - only a commission is taken then.

I'm a very small seller on Amazon and don't rank very high in searches, but it is useful to list and leave items there and have a pleasant surprise if something sells.

Knock on wood, but I've just not had any real problems on Amazon, I've not required customer service as a seller. (Wish you had a N/A response.) It's very easy to piggyback on an existing listing. Their fees are extremely high. Only issue I've ever had was trying to resell a quadcopter that I actually bought on Amazon and let it get past the return date: the manufacturer contacted me and said I wasn't allowed to resell it. Kind of ridiculous, it was a single extra holiday gift, not like I had a truckload of 'em.

High fees, but easy to use.

It is very fast to list an item on Amazon. I don't do FBA but I do list individual items. I just scan the barcode, say something about the condition and it's listed. 45 seconds? I can add more photos if I want. I only have two bad things to say about Amazon: Amazon restricting what I can and can't sell, and delay in getting paid.

They do take calls, which is better than other sites, but they have a very high bar in which to obtain. But, they are the most profitable site around.

On Amazon we do sell a lot. However, whenever there is a problem or dispute with a buyer Amazon usually takes the buyer's side and the seller gets screwed.

Amazon overall is a good place to sell, however they make it very hard to enter new products, and more often than not their customer service is poor quality.

Amazon is a very large site with an amazing customer base and has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, their customer service (on the customer side) is uninformed of policies and tends to pass the buck to a seller rather than tell the customer Amazon policies they would rather not hear. On the seller side, we get a lot of stock and boiler plate responses rather than the support agent actually reading and answering the question

Love the way to place UPC in and get pictures. The space for description is small. Need more characters.

Amazon is pretty "hands off" with their sellers unless they do something wrong. Then they are pretty cutthroat. While it is basically easy to list on Amazon, there are so many things that that are difficult to grasp.

Amazon has excellent exposure. Prices are menz a menz. Not great, not bad. Helpful to the seller.

Very easy to list things. Pretty straightforward. Shipping charges at times are low (meaning if you have bigger/heavier items shipping Amazon charges does not cover the actual cost).

Amazon fees are high, and as a small seller, the shipping fees are unrealistic. If, you get a letter from Amazon telling you there is something wrong with a listing, you'll never get a straight answer, when trying to figure out what you need to do, to correct a problem.

It's rather difficult to go through the listing process, the seller is unable to charge the shipping costs it actually incurs, and, the commission charged on the sale is outrageous.

I would love to sell more on Amazon but I mostly drop ship and with Amazon you don't get paid instantly and I don't have the funds to pay for an order and wait to get reimbursed. Personal items I have sold were a good experience but the fees they charge are a little on the high side.

While there are many buyers, the competition is incredibly tough, including Amazon who constantly competes with products that start selling well.

My main problem with Amazon is how they cater to the "Chinese sellers" with their rampant listings - in only a few minutes, thousands of items - and when their feedback gets bad and they are suspended, they just move on and restart under a new name and IP address. The other thing is their unwillingness it seems to fix minor problems that could be easily on product pages. I turn in gobs of incorrect notices to Amazon and I can check back a month later and find nothing has been done. Found one the other day that after a year, a mixed up listing was still mixed meaning I can't list a legitimate product there. I've also run into a seller that for unknown reasons, had over 40 negative feedbacks over the course of around 2 months overturned including one I had to give him. They were completely erased from their feedback score so they always showed as 98% positive when in reality their feedback score should have been around 45%!

Of the many marketplaces we sell on, it has to be the worst place for sellers. Keep in mind, our store has 100% ratings on Amazon. It's nothing personal. Just the facts.

It's a closed space for old sellers and Amazon listings. There are absolutely no clear rules regarding how to open certain categories. There are a plenty of non-sense rules like an UPC code obligation, which is only generating a huge amount of UPC sellers etc. Amazon plays not fair at all, forcing all the sellers to use FBA, or they receive their funds in a few months.

Amazon's inventory system is clunky and they take too much of a cut from the sale price. Their customer service pretends to be helpful but never fixes anything.

The platform does not allow to sell everything you want.

$39.99 per month is way way too much for small sellers like me...I cannot compete with big sellers who list books, etc., for a penny PLUS sales tax number, other new rules...no can do-their csrs (Customer Service Reps) are ridiculous, I just had problem with selling account, they send me csr who thinks I am having hard time with password? Are they nuts?

Amazon MF (merchant fulfilled) - Amazon charges a pretty large chunk of the price, but most of all the shipping cost is set for MF sellers, which most of the time does not cover the actual shipping cost. Learning curve, strict rules and restrictions make it harder than any other platform

I have sold on Amazon for 22 years. In the beginning they were great. Then the penny item sellers started to flood the site & Amazon took a bigger cut of the shipping & it affected my selling. They should have done what other sites did, which was have a minimum of $1 items for sale.

Because of the increasing Amazon fees, I would not recommend Amazon as there have been sales where Amazon's fee was 50% or higher than the amount realized. Additionally, while Amazon is quick to ding a seller for an error or delay, it is unwilling to accept an exception to the policy. Suggestions are ignored as well as logical questions with the explanations being condescending and illogical. While there is a group discount by using the USPS or rather Pitney Bowes feature, Amazon adds a fee based on the amount of the postage and then explains that the seller realizes the revenue collected from the buyer.

Seller support is email only and it's hard to describe your issue in an email sometimes. I was shut down for carrying MAC cosmetics, with no warning even though I had receipts from Belk's dept store and the MAC website. I had been selling with 100% positive metrics in all but one category, where I did have 99.9% for a couple of months, but it was 100% for all of my 12 years except that 2 months where I took a feedback hit. Amazon did not care what kind of seller I was. When MAC contacted them, they just shut me down instead of writing and telling me not to sell MAC any longer. It took me many emails to seller support over months of time, to finally find out what I had done "wrong" in their eyes.

Feedback system is not representative of sellers reliability. Order defect rate is impacted by sellers allegations before being investigated. Seller Service department can do very little to assist and Seller Performance Teams are largely unresponsive. The reliability of the marketplace hinges on the honesty of buyers. When selling used items this "take the buyers word for it" and "the seller is guilty until proven innocent" approach is reprehensible and problematic as often buyers fail to understand that they are buying a used item and are upset when the item arrives.

Despite their "pledge" to be more transparent, Amazon continues to withhold information regarding questions and issues relating to the site and to the seller's account and performance. Like many other sites, it appears as though some back-end deal has led to Amazon ignoring numerous rule and policy violations by Chinese sellers. It's hard enough to compete with the Chinese practice of dumping items below cost on a market, let alone when the marketplace willingly looks the other way on violations.

Amazon is an excellent platform for buyers. However sellers have practically not protection from buyer policy abuse and an account can be easily damaged since must of the personal working with the sellers do not have a proper training. They are like robots. On top of that Amazon is also selling must of the products that sellers have and nobody can compete with them. It is like a monopoly allowed to get all the information they want from you in order to be used later for their best interest.

They keep changing the dates as to when they are going to send you money for the sales that you make and then they don't send you the full amount. Plus, you can lose money on shipping products FBA based on their shipping queue. I was very disappointed and have turned my focus on eBay and other marketplaces.

Amazon does not work with sellers before suspending them. There is no notice or contact first. Instead of removing any questionable asin's they do a total takedown and then their appeal process is difficult to navigate.

Unless I pay monthly fees they hold any money I make for weeks and dole it out in no logical sense. They are making huge interest on small sellers who don't sell enough to justify paying the monthly fees. They also set all the shipping fees for us small sellers so I have to raise my prices to make up for it which I'm sure is costing me sales. You also can't just ask a question without giving them a listing number, even if the question isn't about a particular listing. There are no options to just get a quick and easy answer to simple questions.

Amazon does not want nor encourage small sellers. The "rules" around sellers are ominous and small sellers can not compete.

Sellers Choice Awards:
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 EcommerceBytes Blog.


About the author:

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


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