Just about anyone can set up an Amazon third-party seller account these days. Provided you fall into their requirements for location, age, and ability to be paid, it’s easy to set up a store account within hours and get selling right away. Except for a few categories of products (which change frequently based on Amazon’s discretion), you can make money selling new, used, or handmade products of just about any kind. But how can you become a successful Amazon seller?
With the platform changing all the time, it can be hard to stay on top of the rules and trends that propel the best sellers to the top and make it a bit difficult for everyone else. Amazon can increase your sales if you use it right, and staying on top of your business credit score can help you access better credit. (You can check yours for free with Nav.)
Here’s a quick rundown of six things you need to know to take your Amazon selling business to a level you can be proud of and reach more of the 95 million customers browsing there each month.
1. Focus on a Single Product or Product Category
While some sellers have done very well selling one-off items of things they find deeply discounted at local stores, this is rarely a scalable way to earn much on Amazon. With all the time you’ll spend creating listings, advertising, packaging, and fulfilling, it’s much easier to create a uniform process for sales and shipping when you are selling multiples of just one item – or several very closely related items. That’s why you’ll often see sellers focusing on tightly niched items, such as books or batteries. You can sell a lot of these items without changing much of the process, saving you time and eventually money.
2. Consider Amazon Fulfillment
Perhaps the most tiring part of the selling process is shipping. Unless you’ve set up a dedicated area for packaging – and have invested in commercial packing accessories and tools – it may be easier to send all of your wares to Amazon to have them ship out directly from their closest warehouse. You will lose some of the special touches of DIY (such as creating custom labels and ensuring the stable packaging), but you get some perks, as well. Fulfilled by Amazon comes with the benefit of having Amazon handle tracking, returns, and customer service issues. It comes with a bit of an additional fee, but shoppers will qualify for 2-day Prime shipping on all order (keeping you competitive with other Amazon sellers.)
3. Write Product Descriptions Carefully
Since Amazon allows sellers to create listings for entirely new products or list an item for an existing, inventoried product, it may seem that the easiest choice would be to click the “I have one to sell” button and be done with it. Unfortunately, product listings created by other sellers can be flawed, may be outdated, or can contain specific details that don’t apply to your individual item. Limited-edition colors, for example, may not apply to your listing. Books are another item that seem to confuse, as there are many editions (including trade paperback, hardcover, and ebook) to choose between. If your item isn’t exactly as described in an existing listing, take the extra effort to create your own and avoid causing disappointed customers and a higher return rate.
4. Know the Language
Condition is one category you should be very familiar with when selling. Do you know the difference between “new” and “NIB?” Are you well-versed in what makes a book “good” vs. “fair”? Don’t take the language of the seller for granted, and always rate your items conservatively. While you can command a higher price for an “excellent” item, buyers come to expect what they pay for. If it’s hard to tell just what exactly you have for sale, go with the lower quality listing choice.
5. Be Ready to Respond
If you are not choosing to use Fulfilled by Amazon, be ready to check your emails daily (if not more often.) Buyers will have questions even before they buy, and — after a purchase is made — there will be more inquiries to address. Issues such as tracking errors, broken product, or confusion about how an item work will all be directed to you. While this may seem like a bit of a burden, it’s part of being a business, and it’s far better to have questions coming to you (which can then be resolved) then get negative reviews that you can’t respond to effectively. Always make it easy to contact your business during regular business hours (and weekends and evenings are even better.)
6. Check Amazon Communications Regularly
In addition to the emails you’ll get from Amazon through your seller account, there is a thriving Amazon seller forum that can be useful to stay on top of trends, tools, and selling tactics. People are very generous with the level of detail they share, and while these discussion threads can be useful in getting your questions answered, they can also give you insight on your competitors and how to get an advantage. You will also get word on how to respond to policy changes (which seem to happen almost weekly to Amazon sellers.) Everything from fee increases to new categories of prohibited items will be discussed in the community boards. Make a habit to check in at least weekly to stay in the know.
How to Become an Amazon Seller: Final Notes
Becoming a successful Amazon seller won’t happen overnight. It will take a lot of perseverance to stay competitive, keeping in mind that changes happen all the time in Amazon’s world. By being an informed and proactive Amazon seller, you can avoid some of the mistakes that have caused other sellers to close up shop. Sometimes, being the best is simply a matter of holding in the longest and providing the most consistent shopping experience you can.
Not ready to open a big Amazon store just yet? Dabble in the fine art of selling with an individual seller’s account. While not eligible for some of the more innovative selling tools, these accounts are perfect for anyone wanting to clean out the garage and get rid of a few books, video games, or collectibles.