If you’ve ever purchased something online, which most of us have done, there's an extremely good chance that you’ve placed an order on Amazon. Most people walk around as proud as they can be about shopping on Amazon. How many times have you asked someone where they bought something, only to hear the response “Oh I got it on Amazon!”? I don’t know about you, but as a brick and mortar business owner, this response always irked me a little bit. Every day I would hear someone, including my own family and friends, saying with pride that they got something (or almost everything) on Amazon. I used to use this as an opening for me to argue how and where they should spend their money, constantly driving them crazy about the importance of supporting their local businesses and not some huge mega corporation. While I still believe this philosophy, I have drastically shifted my opinions on the matter, once I realized that behind those Amazon sales are thousands of small and medium sized, family owned businesses. Yes, Amazon does sell millions of products, at lower prices with free shipping, which eventually leads to hurting a lot of brick and mortar shops (the ones that aren’t participating). But as much as I wanted to hate Amazon for doing this, I started to realize that they are not to blame. Amazon is smart (and getting smarter). They have completely shifted the commerce world and will continue to do so.
For us small and medium sized retailers, it is up to us to adapt our practices in order to join in the success of Amazon and improve our businesses. Amazon’s marketplace is always open for any of us to start selling our products on their platform, allowing us to reach customers that we would never have dreamed of doing with our own storefronts and websites. Amazon’s marketing reach is far greater than anything we could ever do on our own and we should be open to taking advantage of this. While Amazon will profit on every sale that we make on their platform, we also can grow our revenues and businesses, as well as our profits. When you list your products on Amazon, think of them as being your marketing department with deep pockets. They will constantly be putting your products in front of millions of buyers, giving you the opportunity to make sales that were never possible. A lot of sellers will worry about the fees and lack of margin, but always remember…you aren’t paying Amazon anything for the sale until it happens. (If you’ve set your prices properly…this is FREE money for your business!)
Another big turning point in my approach towards selling on Amazon was when I really started to realize how much local business I was losing to other Amazon sellers. There isn’t a way to know exactly how much business others are taking from me in my market (and I probably don’t want to know) but it was obvious that in store sales, especially on small goods, were declining. Instead of being complacent and complaining about this, I decided to do something about it. By syncing my in store inventory with Amazon, I now have thousands of products out there for buyers to find and purchase. And because of this, not only have we made up for the loss of local business, but we have grown our sales in these particular product areas in a way that would never have been possible in my own market. A friend of mine once told me “you can’t sell them all” when discussing our competition. This simple sentence made me realize that I cannot stress about the sales I may lose in my community but made me realize that I can be the one selling products to other communities to make up for the loss of sales and then some.
Another benefit to selling on Amazon for our shop has been that we have been forced to improve our selection, which ultimately helps our local customers as well. The way Amazon’s algorithm works is so that particular items you may carry will get ‘hot’ and start selling like crazy. When this happens, you will immediately start to realize that there may be varieties of these items that buyers out there are looking for as well and you can be the one to sell to them. We are constantly adding products to our catalog based on what we have learned while selling on amazon and this has drastically improved the shopping experience for our local customers. As our selection continues to grow (with security because we know we will be selling these items online), our in store traffic and sales continue to grow as welln because we are learning what shoppers are wanting and needing. Instead of telling customers “no” all of the time when they ask for certain items, more and more we are being able to say “yes, we do have that item in stock” and our customer’s loyalty grows with us because of this.
I will admit that it always stings a little bit when we sell on Amazon, knowing that Bezos and the higher ups are getting richer. But I have to take a step back and realize what these sales are doing for my business and my staff. As we continue to sell more on Amazon, we’ve been able to grow our staff, improve our selection, and expand our customer base beyond anything we ever thought possible. I will always understand a shop’s hesitance to posting their inventory on Amazon and every shop owner has to make the decisions that are best for their business. But I will also always encourage everyone, no matter what product category they sell in, to give it a shot and see what happens. There are millions of shoppers out there buying away as you read this…wouldn’t you like to be the one selling to them?