If you’re an ecommerce merchant and you’re not selling on Amazon, then chances are you’re missing out on a lot of potential revenue. With such a huge marketplace and vast global audience, you can do very well on Amazon if you know how to play the game. It’s easy to see the appeal, as they do a lot of the hard work for you. All you have to do is supply a product and let the traffic trickle in.
But there is reason to be wary of putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket, especially at the cost of building out your own store. One can be lured in by the promise of quick sales, particularly at the outset of your ecommerce business, but it’s good to be aware that it will only take you so far. Amazon comes with limits that can prevent you from cultivating your own brand and selling certain types of products. With a website of your own, the world is your digital oyster – it just takes a little more work.
One of the primary appeals of using Amazon for ecommerce is that it’s ridiculously easy to set up and get selling straight away. This speed and ease of use is attractive, and it’s often the reason why sellers choose that route over investing time and energy in a site of their own. But with today’s hosted CMS platforms getting better all the time, it’s actually easier than you might think to set up and populate an online store – no coding or digital background required.
While it’s possible to use Amazon to grow your ecommerce brand, it is on your own website that you will really start to be able to build sustainable brand equity. This is your home on the web, where shoppers will get a sense of what your business is really about, how it looks and feels and what’s behind it all. When shoppers buy through Amazon, more often than not they don’t even realize they’re purchasing through a third party, which isn’t great for creating a memorable identity.
One of the pitfalls of selling exclusively through Amazon is that you are never able to access your customers. Amazon keeps all of these juicy consumer demographic details to itself. And without knowing who they are, you can never reach out to them again. So how do you turn your one-time visitors into repeat customers? Well, you can’t.
Significant revenue opportunities are missed this way. Loyal customers are the holy grail of ecommerce, and if they like you enough they’ll become brand evangelists. When a customer makes a purchase through your online store, you retain their information, which means you can contact them again in future. Holding a sale? New item in stock? Let them know.
With this customer visibility, you also gain valuable insight into the kind of audience you’re attracting, so you can cater to them more successfully in future. You can see what they favorite, what they buy and how much they are happy to spend. You need this information to create a successful marketing strategy that is highly targeted, rather than a generic one that won’t resonate with as many people. You can also reach new customers, as you come to know your target audience. From your own online store, you have far more power and insight at your disposal.
As an Amazon seller, you may be aware that there are certain niggling limitations with its platform, in addition to the lack of customer info. Let’s start with presentation. The format of a product page on Amazon is always the same – product title, seller name (rather small and forgettable), images, description, spec, customer reviews. That’s it – you can’t do anything different, and you can’t link out to other sites or include any other kind of rich media, such as an instructional video.
Say you want to sell items that are personalized or require some sort of bespoke handling process. You won’t be able to do this through Amazon if you are using their fulfilment service, as it goes beyond their remit. Likewise, if there are customization options available, you will have to set up a whole different product listing for each offering. It’s all a bit… constraining.
With your own online store, you can throw all of these rules out of the window and display your product offerings in the best possible way, making the whole process more fun and intuitive for your customers.
Amazon is a giant no doubt, but they don’t completely monopolize the ecommerce market. So it stands to reason that if you are only selling your wares through this channel, you could easily be missing out on other sales opportunities. Where Amazon sells a bit of everything, smaller ecommerce stores tend to do well when they focus their efforts on a niche pursuit.
Investing in advertising for your Amazon store is a bit like throwing money away – you’re paying for traffic to a site that isn’t even yours. And really, Amazon doesn’t need any more traffic than it has already. Your money is much better spent building up your own brand, not that of an ecommerce godzilla equivalent.
When you have your own online store, any paid advertising can link directly to you, and what’s more, you can track it. Using tools like Google Adwords, Facebook/YouTube ads and shopping comparison sites, you can create a successful advertising campaign that feeds your business and creates clear, quantifiable results.
Amazon is like a huge block of flats – safe, towering, filled with hundreds of box-shaped rooms that are all the same. You can do little bits and pieces to make your own room feel more personal, but you’re limited by building rules and regulations. There is a place for Amazon, but it’s not for everyone and you certainly wouldn’t want to live there forever. An online store is like a home you’ve designed and built yourself, incorporating all your favourite fixtures and fittings, down to the last detail. It’s an altogether different kind of beast.
What experiences have you had selling on Amazon and other platforms? What were the main differences and benefits/pitfalls? Let us know in the comments.