Selling on Amazon is one of the largest buyer destinations on the web and listing your products on Amazon gets them one of the highest possible levels of exposure to potential customers. They have high brand recognition and customer satisfaction that your items can benefit from. The biggest disadvantages are…

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    The cost. Amazon’s Pro option is one of the most expensive out there, comparable to a full service web store solution for what amounts to the ability to sell on a third party platform. On the other side, Amazon Advantage is one of the most cost effective solutions but is limited to only certain products.

  • Very little opportunity for branding or cross marketing of your other products. Amazon is, unsurprisingly, all about Amazon. While they give you a bare bones storefront with your marketplace account and Author Pages for writers, there are very few opportunities to build up a customer base either by promoting your other products or through brand recognition. If you’re just looking to push a single product or if the product itself is your only brand, then this may not be a concern.

The selling options on Amazon vary widely depending on what you sell. Let’s look at the options.

  • Amazon Marketplace Individual Account Pay fees only when the items sell. This seller account is limited to items already in the Amazon catalog. If you sell items such as physical media (printed books, CDs, DVDs, etc) that are usually available on Amazon anyway or are selling signed copies of your own book that is already on Amazon, this program allows you to list your items as a third party seller. (Ever notice the “Sell Yours Here” button on most Amazon listings? That’s how you list an item on Amazon Marketplace.) You only pay fees when the item sells. This program doesn’t help sellers with older collectibles, crafters or artists with a one of a kind product, or anyone with an item to sell that isn’t already in the Amazon catalog. For those items, you’d need…
  • Amazon Marketplace Professional Account Allows you to sell anything you wish (within their Terms of Service) on Amazon and gives you the power to create product pages for any item not already in the catalog. Also gives you access to Fulfillment By Amazon (called FBA) which, for additional fees, lets you send your items to Amazon for storage. They’ll also pack and ship your items for you once you sell them which can be a big time savings and FBA items are eligible for promos like Super Saver Shipping and Prime, giving buyers extra incentive to order. The downside? At the time of my writing this, a pro account costs a minimum of $39.99 a month which is expensive even amongst full featured web stores. There are much cheaper options out there but Amazon is the biggest retail fish so a presence there may be worth the money if that’s your goal.
  • Amazon Advantage A much cheaper version of FBA limited only to physical media rights holders. If you are a publisher, musician, filmmaker, artist, or author, you can sell DVDs, CDs, printed books and calendars or any other form of physical media through this program. For only $29.99 a year (less than a single month of a Marketplace Pro Account), Amazon will store your media items, sell them for you on their site (your items will appear no differently than items sold directly by Amazon and will be eligible for Super Saver Shipping and Prime), and then pack and ship them once they sell. If you own your content, it’s one of the best options out there to sell your stuff without much work or cost on your end. Biggest downside? Amazon takes 55% of whatever list price you set so you may need to price your content higher than normal to make your profit.
  • Amazon Webstore A standalone web store powered by Amazon. We’ll revisit this when we talk about webstore packages.

Amazon has a vivid community but, unlike many of the other marketplaces, it actively discourages sellers from using it to promote their items. Things like guides, lists and reviews can be powerful marketing tools and increase the exposure of items on the site but you’re penalized for including your own items or the same items multiple times. While there are ways to cheat the system and use dummy accounts to promote or review your own content, they are underhanded and overly complicated. In the end, the community on Amazon benefits the buyers more than the sellers.

Amazon also provides sellers with some advanced selling tools such as the ability to print your own shipping labels from home, seller protection policies, and storage for your items (with FBA). Their referral program, Amazon Associates, is also one of the most popular ways for bloggers and other websites to monetize their sites, giving a financial bonus to anyone who gets someone to purchase your item. Webmasters will not only be more likely to link directly to your items but, even without straight link, your items will also show in keyword widgets and cookie based Omakase banners automatically giving you a marketing edge. Lastly, their customer service is legendary which means greater buyer trust in the platform can result in more sales for you by association.