If I said that you can switch on your PC now and almost immediately grab a share of a five billion dollar business with over 35 million active customers – that’s also one of the world’s best- known brands, would you believe me? Probably not. But I have to tell you – with a bit of work and effort – you can.
Amazon’s bookselling site is one of the world’s most successful e-commerce businesses, accounting for over 5% of all online sales. And the staggering truth is that Amazon will gladly let you share in their success story. Are they crazy? No. It’s a testament to founder Jeff Bezos’s mission to be ‘the most customer-focussed business ever’. Are there any catches? Not really. Of course, nothing is ever that easy but if you know how and are determined it is an opportunity worth your serious consideration.
In this article you will discover how Amazon will help you set up your own Internet business. A business that will sell for you worldwide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with virtually no overheads and none of the risks or hassles normally associated with e-commerce.
Why on earth should I sell books?
Well, you don’t have to sell books. You can sell all sorts of other goods on Amazon today – including electronics and photographic equipment, music, DVD’s, videos, software, PC and video games, home and garden items and toys and games.
But books satisfy almost every requirement of the ideal mail order product. They’re compact, light and easy to ship, easy to describe, enjoy a high profit margin and a high selling price relative to their size – they have a worldwide market and are something that almost everyone buys at some time. Books are still Amazon’s core business, their biggest seller and, to cap it all, there is no better known global market for books than Amazon.
But doesn’t eBay do it better? I’m sometimes asked why anyone would prefer to sell books (or anything else) on Amazon rather than on that monster of e-commerce eBay. The answer is simple: Amazon has certain unique advantages over eBay, and for certain products it knocks its bigger brother into a cocked hat. First of all, selling on Amazon isn’t (usually) an auction. You get the selling price you want, and you don’t have to wait seven days to get it. It’s simpler and faster to list products for sale on Amazon and you don’t have keep relisting, so you can sell much more (some sellers have over a thousand product lines). Most times, it’s much cheaper to sell goods so you can sell for less yet make more. Lastly, unlike eBay Amazon’s administrative and payment systems are a breeze – when you sell a book all you need to do is post it to the buyer.
OK, there are a few snags: Amazon’s procedures and rules are a bit daunting at first. But stick with it. It all slots into place once you’re up and running. There can also be a fair bit of competition in some subject areas (more about how to outdo your competitors later).
How Amazon lets you share their success
There are actually quite a few ways you can join in Amazon’s success story. Amazon Auctions is much the same as eBay. Amazon Advantage is for authors and publishers. Amazon Alliances are special working relationships with large companies. But if you’re a private-seller-cum-small-trader or a small-mediumish sized business I think you’ll find Amazon’s Marketplace and zShops are the best ways to get involved.
Marketplace: Marketplace offers you an opportunity to sell books on the exact same page on Amazon’s website where Amazon sell the book themselves. So you get to compete with them head-on, and even get to undercut them on price (in fact you’re expected to!). Marketplace is for any new or used books, but not really rare or collectable ones Amazon Argentina. Selling prices are fixed – Marketplace isn’t an auction. You can list an unlimited number of items for free. A closing fee of 86p (on Amazon.co.uk) per item plus 17.25% of your sale price is charged on each sale but you don’t pay anything if your books don’t sell.
Marketplace is suitable whether you just want to make some spare cash, but also if you want to start a ‘proper’ small business.
zShops: zShops is an area of the Amazon website that enables you to sell books that are not currently being sold by Amazon. You can sell new and used books but it’s especially suitable for selling anything unusual, different, rare, collectable or valuable that might appeal to Amazon’s millions of customers. Again, zShops are not an auction and prices are fixed.
zShops is most suitable for higher-volume sellers. To sell most items at zShops you must have what is called a ‘Pro-merchant Subscription’ – more about that later. Because of it’s different charging structure zShops works out much cheaper than Marketplace for volume sellers – there’s a £28.75 monthly sub. to become a Pro-merchant but closing fees start at only 2.875% per item. (Check with Amazon for exact details as these fees are a bit complicated!)
You can operate both Marketplace and zShops, but experts I’ve talked to suggest it is better to start with Marketplace and think about getting involved in zShops later. (Although when you list items on Marketplace Amazon’s software will automatically list anything that isn’t already sold by Amazon on zShops.)
So now you’re a bookseller – what types of books sell best? You don’t really need to be interested in books to sell them successfully. Although you can sell almost any books on Amazon experienced sellers have found that certain books sell much better than others. They tell us that they have a lot of success selling books that don’t sell well on eBay. eBay is good for collectibles and very specialist or unusual books. Amazon is good for new and newish popular and other mainstream books. Many experienced sellers use both Amazon and eBay on the basis that what sells badly on one will sell well on the other!