The Amazon selling has gone reasonably well, though not without bumps along the way. I sent our second box out last week since our inventory was getting a bit low. So that's a good thing. Our products are actually selling in spite of the "new seller" handicaps we're enduring.

We read the Amazon seller manual, but it was not readily apparent that newly listed products (as in, those never seen before on Amazon) would not qualify for an Amazon buy box. You may be wondering, "What is a buy box?"

Since Amazon is a seller of new and used products, anyone - retailers or not - can sell items on Amazon. So, if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer to sell, you can find the Kitchen Aid mixer like the one you have on Amazon, click the "Sell yours now" button, and put up your own Kitchen Aid listing. When buyers search for a Kitchen Aid mixer and come to the detail page describing the mixer you have, if they click to "buy now" or "add to cart", you're particular mixer will not be the item they will buy because you are not the featured merchant, and therefore do not have the "buy box." To purchase your particular mixer, a buyer would need to click the "New and Used" link on the Kitchen Aid detail page, where all other listings from non-featured merchants and resellers would be located.

So, retailers are competing to be the featured merchant. The featured merchant is the one who makes the sale if you just click to buy new (or add to cart), the button shown on the detailed listing page. All other merchants make their sales through the "new and used" listings. So, being the featured merchant, and therefore the winner of the buy box, is a coveted thing.

Now, it seems like, since we're the manufacturer and only retailer of our Cimple Drawer Dividers, we would be the featured merchant, right? Not so. We first have to earn a high enough performance score based on things like prompt shipping, customer feedback, a low number of returns, maintaining a steady inventory, etc.

Also, since we don't have the buy box, our listing does not advertise the fact that our products qualify for Super Saver Shipping and Amazon Prime.

You may be wondering, "Well, who is the featured merchant for your products?" Well, no one. That's why our product looks a bit peculiar on the detail and listing pages. Instead of having a "Buy New" option, shoppers only see a "1 new and used" option, meaning one non-featured merchant is selling this item. I cringe at that, because to casual Amazon shoppers, it looks like we have 1 (and only 1) set of of "new and used" drawer dividers available. Shoppers don't see that they can purchase multiple quantities until they've added our product to their cart.

This was really frustrating at first. We opted to have Amazon fulfill our products so the products would qualify for SS Shipping and Prime. That Amazon refuses to show that to shoppers was rather baffling. I understand the buy box concept. It's ingenious, really. The buy box is what makes Amazon such a competitive marketplace. But I wish there was a middle ground: A way for Amazon to advertise SS Shipping without granting us featured merchant status. Thankfully some buyers have taken the plunge and given us a try and figured out that multiple quantities and SS Shipping are, in fact, available. Our listings have risen in the ranks and hopefully it won't be too long before we'll be featured and "win the buy box," to use Amazon seller lingo. I don't know how long that will take. Their formula for deciding when to feature a merchant is a secret.

I think Amazon selling has potential for us, but the initiation hasn't been as smooth as I had hoped. Since Amazon prides itself in being a low barrier-to-entry marketplace, I wasn't expecting the new product handicaps we've encountered.

On the other hand...

  • by pricing our products very competitively, we've managed to get lookers, some of whom have become buyers
  • Amazon's fulfillment and storage rates are competitive
  • To sell as a merchant on Amazon, you pay a flat monthly sellers fee, no matter how many different products you list. This has inspired more product development on our part. Amazon's shopping cart is limited and doesn't work well with custom products. So, we're having to think outside the box, and Marathon has some neat ideas in the works.
  • Amazon's seller interface is nice with stats, graphs, etc.