In last month’s post, I described instances of giving preference to an Amazon customer rather than one from my own site. I hated that. It is one of the reasons I scaled down my Amazon listings.
For me, customer service is paramount. It is one thing an independent retailer can do better than the large box-shifters. But good service is possible only if the business survives, which is typically why merchants migrate to Amazon in one form or the other.
Nonetheless, Amazon has created a platform and promoted it so that consumers think they are Amazon’s customers — marketplace sellers are little more than fulfillment providers. So when they want a repeat purchase, consumers look to Amazon and not the independent sellers. Thus providing good service to Amazon buyers generates loyalty to Amazon, not those sellers. Never forget that. Accept this rule or leave the marketplace.
The 1-percent rule
It’s possible to survive on Amazon with one negative review or negative A-Z claim. But too many will seriously reduce your order volume. In my experience, marketplace sellers should keep the rate of dissatisfied customers to under 1 percent overall. One way of doing this is by having hundreds of orders.
I recently read about some Amazon sellers creating orders and sending free seeds to unsuspecting customers. This generated hundreds of trouble-free orders, which buffeted the retailers’ statistics and prevented problem orders from exceeding 1 percent.
I adopted a similar approach that was just as effective. I used to sell paintbrushes on Amazon that cost less than $1 each for under $2. The sales generate little profit, but no loss, either. I sold about 100 sets a day, which created a cushion against unreasonable customers.
Thus over the years of trading on Amazon, I played the system within the rules to ensure Amazon’s customers received no better service than my own. Unfortunately, there are only so many cheap fast-selling items, such as paintbrushes. Other sellers eventually copied the idea. Then Amazon itself started selling cheap paintbrushes, undercutting us all. That’s when I began scaling back my Amazon business. I did not want to spend the time locating a similar (cheap) product. But certainly there are plenty of opportunities.
The Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating the trend toward ecommerce. Amazon is well suited to take advantage. It’s easy to start selling on Amazon, and it’s easy to understand why consumers are attracted to the company. Many ecommerce businesses will likely need to sell on Amazon and other marketplaces to grow in the next few years.
My advice? Play by Amazon’s rules, provide excellent customer service, and don’t forget your own ecommerce site.