Amazon ships an average of 1.6 million packages per day. Yes, per day. According to CNBC, about 55 percent of people start their online shopping searches on Amazon. This means that if you have something to sell and you're selling online, if you don't have a presence on Amazon, you are missing out on over half of your potential market.
One of my favorite quotes is, The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today. If you're in ecommerce and the thought of selling on Amazon has never crossed your mind, well, you're behind the eight ball. The good news, however, is that it's never too late to get started. Today, I'm going to tell you how to get started and get your first 100 sales on this retail monster.
Get set up on Seller Central.
In order to start selling on Amazon, you need to create an Amazon Sellers account. Amazon goes through this step by step on its website.
There are over 20 categories open to all Amazon sellers, and then 10 or more that are only open to Professional Sellers. In order to list products in these particular categories, you will need special approval from Amazon, and in many cases, this approval is not easy to get. My family started a dermatologist-backed skin care and beauty website, DermWarehouse, and we sell in the "Beauty" category on Amazon, which is one of the most difficult to get this approval for. It took us eight months to get through all of Amazon's "gates." That's a story for another day, (or you can hear more about it on my podcast about selling on Amazon) but the point is to be prepared for this process to take some time and effort. Trust me though when I say that it will be worth it in the end.
Find a product that's going to sell.
Once you're all set up to sell on Amazon, the next step is actually deciding what to sell. If you have your own brand, you will need to go through the brand registry process, and that's another topic in and of itself. If you are reselling other brands' products, however, you need to decide which of these products to list on your Amazon store. This is a big decision, as you'll need to invest in purchasing inventory beforehand. There are several things to consider:
The cost of the products: The best advice I was given when I started selling on Amazon was to pick a product that you can sell for cheap. We were trying to break into the beauty category and as soon as I heard "sell something for cheap," I immediately thought of my baseball card collection. My business partner (and sister), however, came up with the idea of selling lip balm. This was perfect for us because it is relevant in our category, and even more importantly, we could stock up on a good amount of inventory without a huge financial investment. My sister and I have consulted with many brands that have sold millions of dollars per year on Amazon, so we knew this strategy has worked.
Amazon sales rank: Every product sold on Amazon has a sales rank, which is determined by one of Amazon's algorithms. Products are ranked within their category and a lower sales rank means that a product has a higher chance of selling and a better track record of sales. A product with a lower rank should take a shorter amount of time to sell, while a product with a higher rank will likely not sell as well or as fast. If you can find a product with a sales rank of under 10,000, you should be great to go.
Within Seller Central, when you go add a product, type in the ASIN or UPC code and you can see the product's sales rank. You can't, however, base your decision of what to sell solely on this number.
If you have no idea where to start in your product search, or want to get a benchmark of what a great sales rank looks like in your category, check the list of Amazon Best Sellers within your product category. You can also hire an Amazon consultant who will be able to help you in your product search as well as in all other areas of selling on Amazon.
Pricing competition on Amazon: Another important factor to consider is the price that other sellers are listing your potential new product at. For us, in the beauty category, if you are a legitimate, authorized seller like we are, the brands set the prices for all of the products. The suggested retail price (SRP) for the lip balm we mentioned earlier, for example, is $3.89. We cannot sell the product for any lower than this. So, we need to be very careful when deciding to list a product on Amazon because if there are other (unauthorized) sellers listing the products for lower than its SRP then we won't be able to make any sales on that particular product. Think about it -- if you go to buy your favorite sunscreen on Amazon and you see one offer for $30 and another for $50, which are you more likely to choose?
Even if you don't have to follow manufacturer pricing guidelines like we do, you still have to be aware of the listing prices of other sellers, as you don't want to get into a pricing war, driving your prices down so low that you'll never be able to make a profit.
Low prices and free shipping: While you don't want to start any pricing wars, you do want to price your products as low as possible, at least to start. Even if you're breaking even or losing a little bit of money in the beginning, making sure your prices are lower than anyone else's will get people in the door and get you the sales volume you need to really grow your Amazon presence. Ensuring your prices are the lowest will also help you get into the Amazon "Buy Box," which will lead to more sales.
Another way to ensure your price is the lowest is by offering free shipping. This is something, once again, that you can do just to start, if it's too costly for the long run.
When I say "get feedback," I don't mean get reviews for the product you're selling, I mean get feedback for your actual Amazon store. When shopping on Amazon, people want to know that they're buying from a trustworthy seller, and the best way to show customers that is to have reviews from other buyers that say so. Sellers want to know that DermWarehouse will get them their products fast, in perfect condition, and that they won't have any problems along the way. Having feedback from our past customers makes potential new customers trust that we're legit.
There are services out there that will automatically send an email to customers asking them to share their feedback for your store on Amazon. It's not easy to build up this feedback, and this is just another reason that it's so important to get a high volume of sales (more sales means more potential feedback). Once you get even a few reviews for your store, however, you will see the difference in your sales volume.
You can also include a postcard, letter or sticker in all of your packages asking for feedback and telling buyers that they can contact you directly if needed. We had flyers made up that we include with all of our packages that does just that and this not only increases brand awareness, but also reminds customers how important that feedback is for businesses like us.
Use Fulfillment by Amazon.
Once you find a product that sells well, start utilizing FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon). This will drastically decrease your workload (no packing and shipping products yourself), make you eligible for two-day Amazon Prime shipping (which many customers won't even consider making a purchase without), and lower your cost, as Amazon will take care of shipping expenses.