Amazon for Retailers: Yay or Nay?
Think of the time and energy spent on creating the online store of your dreams. Web design, categorization, ordering functions, payment processing— it’s an uphill climb, but once it’s done and you’re actually a player in the online retailing business, you can feel like a million bucks.
That’s why may seem counter-intuitive to hand off some of your sales and marketing functions to a third party. Independence was your goal, so stepping backward feels awkward, right? Not necessarily— not if that third party is an e-commerce giant that can boost your bottom line.
Now in its 22nd year, Seattle-based Amazon.com is the largest online retail entity in the United States. With its own rather amazing story— Amazon has yet to turn a profit despite its wild popularity— its reach into American homes (and those around the world in separate retail companies) is astounding.
In part due to strategic and creative features such as Amazon Prime, a membership-based offering, Amazon commands an enormously loyal customer base. The company continually expands benefits available to Prime members, including a subscription to television and film content, and music streaming, plus free 2-day shipping.
Put simply, Amazon has done the work for you as it widens your exposure in ways you never dreamed possible. It boasts an estimated 85 million unique viewers every month. Why wouldn’t you jump on board as a seller?
Compare it to another high-volume sales platform: eBay. Originally launched as a venue for collectors and small-time peddlers to off-load wares, it has grown into an online presence nearly dominated by wholesalers and retailers. And while its early days featured items for auction only, all sellers are given the option to list merchandise for straight sale. But unlike Amazon, eBay customers are less attached to that platform as a brand. Amazon users are familiar with its layout and comfortable with the ability to conduct accurate, efficient searches.
Those searches are a hot selling point for e-commerce vendors, but the beauty of using Amazon as an alternate platform is its dominance in internet search engines. Plug in a product name to a Google page, and chances are excellent that the first retailer popping up will be Amazon. If you happen to be pitching an item in that category, your challenge just became easier.
Amazon’s base offerings are usually proprietary. But vendors selling the same products—new or used— are treated to a teaser feature on the product’s main page. In this image, you’ll notice active links that take shoppers to the same item available from Amazon sellers:
Should a buyer choose to venture beyond Amazon’s offering, they will find a list of vendors offering the same product, rated for condition, price, and shipping options. This is your opportunity to sneak in as a viable option for discerning customers.
While price appears as an enticement, the beauty of Amazon is its focus on features over costs. In general, Amazon shoppers value reliability and selection over bottom-basement pricing. Their objective is to find a quality product at a decent price, and experience seamless purchasing and delivery. This is good news for sellers who want to avoid branding as a cheap discount outlet.
There are practical pluses to choosing Amazon over eBay, including the ability to load bulk listings more quickly, and to bump up your prices just a bit over what you will sell for on your site. Naturally you will want to factor in the fees handed over to Amazon once you do make those sales. Their fee structure is complex and varied, and you will want to study each option to find which—if any —works best for you.
Another important point is performance. Yours, not theirs. Amazon is far more aggressive in monitoring quality and shipping time, soliciting input from customers and featuring product and vendor reviews on the listing page. The reviews are more in-depth, and are longer, than the cursory eBay feedback windows. This can be a blessing for those who are confident in what they sell and how they move their product from warehouse to the customer’s home.
Finally, nothing beats the fulfillment of building a clientele that may never have found you were it not for your decision to take advantage of a mammoth e-commerce presence like Amazon. Your reputation gets a boost by proxy, and customers looking for niche products just may fall in love with your individual store if you make their buying experience a pleasure.
Don’t take our word for it. Ask around, hop online to explore on your own, and go straight to the source. Amazon is happy to offer primers that will walk you step by step into their fold. Should you decide to jump on board, and your experience is ultimately positive, there’s no reason you can’t maintain a dynamic online presence while padding your sales volume through affiliating with the King of E-Commerce.
Memories on the Wall
We all have that friend who is always taking photos of things. Maybe you, like me, have become everyone’s spontaneous personal photographer. I can’t say that I mind.
Like most millennials, I thoroughly enjoy taking photos. Whether I’m clad in my real-deal DSLR, enjoying the spontaneity of old-school Polaroids, or simply armed with my camera phone, you can guarantee that I’m snapping away at something. I love to capture objects, places, and things that are both meaningful and visually intriguing, aiming to take away a photographic memento from each day.
I’m a proud digital photo hoarder, a lover of memories. But with so many photographs, how do I appropriately savor and showcase all of my favorite daily portraits and picturesque landscapes?
The Window Pane Photo Display is the perfect solution. The instant I saw it, I had to have it. Fashioned in the style of a rustic viewport, this multi-photo frame is great for displaying all of the highlights of a particular photographic collection. Decorated with a host of my most cherished candid snapshots, this intelligently designed display gives me the ability to offer guests a rare window into my daily life. With 16 square photo slots, this collage frame is also oh-so perfect for the avid Instagrammer. House your most popular grams in this charming frame and your friends will heart them even more in real life.
And what about those extra stunning photographs that deserve to stand on their own? For those special gems, I’d opt for this gorgeous Rustic Belle Frame. This beautifully antiqued Victorian-inspired frame is ripe with old world sophistication. Bordered by this floral encrusted vintage-style frame, your all-time favorite snaps will feel more like timeless works of cherished art. I’d love to pick up a collection of these frames, mount them throughout a bare hall space, and arrange an impromptu home gallery.
Instagram: A Marketing Bonanza
It’s nearly impossible to imagine living in times when picture catalogs were rare and expensive to produce. But those of us who soaked up the pages of the Sears Wish Book, and other legendary retail catalogs, recall with great fondness the magic of visualization and how it propelled our desire to shop.
Fast-forward to 2016, when image saturation is both a boon and a bust for merchants hoping to lure customers. Presenting photographs of your offerings is enormously helpful – particularly for those doing business exclusively online. Saying that social media has played a significant role in multiplying sales opportunities of e-tailers is a vast understatement. With players such as Pinterest, Facebook, and other venues offering space for both vendor listings and consumer shares, the promises of commercial prosperity on the World Wide Web have materialized.
Enter Instagram, a visual-based app that began as a way for users to share snapshots of family and friends. Its ethereal growth has led to a jaw-dropping 300 million users worldwide, many of who access the app several times daily. Commercial sellers have taken note and entered the fray, being selective with postings and taking full advantage of demographics that match their niche.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of using Instagram to promote your business is found in the habits of its users. They are already visually oriented and fond of narratives over simple text and photos. They look for stories to be told through pictures.
Right out of the box, the sellers’ first step is to build a following while understanding that the lack of interactivity is a limitation. Users can’t immediately access your website from Instagram. But media outlets certainly take notice of how many followers your site has, and if your wares fit their editorial purposes, they will do the footwork if you bring your product to life by incorporating how customers use or display it.
Understanding the basics of social media platforms requires a basic know-how, including the use of hashtags – the “#” character made famous by Twitter, and one that directs potential customers and followers to a special interest category.
Personalizing your offerings through photographs of events where they are featured is a fabulous way to engage media and customers alike. Vintage fashion curator Emme Wynn of Alexandria had a brilliant idea: why not form a partnership with a collection of wedding vendors that fit her aesthetic? The collaboration uploaded finished photographs on Instagram and targeted bridal publications. Wynn’s Etsy store, Gossamer Vintage, became a favorite, and before too long magazines were pushing her hashtag to help promote her shop and entice their readers. Also, by joining with merchants and service providers delivering to brides- and grooms-to-be, she created a holistic marketing strategy that focused on a singular event.
Hashtags are fun, but overusing them can be counterproductive. Set up a schedule for timed and themed events, such as a “Throwback Thursday” campaign, and watch your followers stay tuned each week.
It’s important to remember that quality is virtually everything. Present only the best photographs, and the most enticing, clearly written text, when uploading to Instagram. Followers are far more likely to notice – and to share – when the image is compelling. And keep in mind that while they will ultimately focus on the product, its presentation has the power to attract interest or be passed over. Showing a fashionable patio ensemble is fine; creating a warm feeling by illustrating it with guests enjoying an outdoor party steps up the effect by planting the psychological image of how it would enrich the experience of your customers.
For more tips on how to leverage the power of Instagram, soak up these tips from social media guru Stacey Herbert. She’ll guide you through a series of critical steps that will unleash the power of Instagram to build your brand and your business. Most important, have fun with your marketing. Prospective customers will sense your enthusiasm and respond in kind.