• What to do about Competition on Amazon.com

    Competition.

    We can all pretty much agree it sucks. Except me. What? What kind of a person actually likes competition? The kind of person who cares about achievement: personal, professional, and competitive. As Americans, we are taught from an early age that outperforming our peers leads to doors opening. Keep your grades up if you want to stay on the football team. Spend an extra hour studying for those finals so that you can earn admission to the college of your choice. Do better than the rest so your vision for your life can be realized.

    Selling on Amazon.com is no different. But with over 2 million 3rd party sellers on the platform, what can you do to get ahead of the pack?

    Level 1: Improve your Metrics

    It used to be that if you sold enough, had great metrics (high customer feedback scores, on time shipping, fast response time to customer inquiries and provided positive resolution to problems) you could earn the right to compete for the Buy Box. By outperforming the general seller pool, you were promoted to the next level, and almost assuredly to a larger slice of the delicious money-making pizza pie Bezos was serving up to the chosen.

    Level 2: Use Amazon FBA

    FBA changed the game. With Fulfillment By Amazon, sellers no longer had to earn their way to featured status to win a shot at the Buy Box. This was by design, as Amazon can assure a positive customer experience by handling shipping and customer service in-house. This innovation proved popular enough that by 2013 more than ONE BILLION units shipped via the service.  Sign up for it and leave swaths of casual flippers eating your dust.

    Level 3: Offer Something Unique

    You don’t have to be a brand owner to be the only seller of an item on Amazon, though it certainly helps.  Charlene Anderson is a big proponent of locking down exclusives with manufacturers so that you can be the only, or one of the only, authorized Amazon seller(s) for a particular brand.  Debra Conrad, is well-known for recommending bundles (Match Up Related Products) as a way of discouraging competition.  The more complex your offering is, the more difficult it is to copy, which translates to more sales and a happier you.

    Level 4: Have Realistic Expectations

    If you are the only seller on a widely available product, consider yourself in a lucky position that will change as people discover the product themselves.  If you are a brand owner of a fast-moving product, be prepared for other sellers to notice and to bring similar items to market.  This business is ABOUT competition.  Staying a step ahead is INTEGRAL to your relevancy and survival.  As Bezos famously says, “Complaining is not a strategy.”  Complaining is standing still.  Competing, innovating, and going the extra mile is winning.

    Level 5:  Develop an Exit Strategy/Plan B

    Everyone knows I sell on Amazon.  Not everyone knows the other things I do to earn money, or the things I am working on to earn money in the future.  I’ve only been out of my day job for two years now.  In that time I have quintupled my income and created a full time job for someone.  This past month I paid off $21,000 in student loan debt carried by my parents for me for the last 15 years.

    Why I’m telling you this

    I am still very much in fundraising mode right now.  Believe it or not, Amazon FBA is not the best business one can be in today, though the attractive qualities are many.  Chief amongst these qualities is Amazon’s ability to provide rocket fuel to bootstrappers, of which I am one.  Use Amazon for what it is: a way to raise the money you need to create something more stable, more profitable, and more you.  I foresee a day, sometime soon, when people begin to report that quitting, or minimizing Amazon selling, was one of the best things they ever did for themselves as an entrepreneur.

    Short-term Competitors form Life-long Business Relationships.

    In 2014 Ryan Wateska and I launched Amazing Flips & Tips, a reseller braintrust and community that surprisingly did not fail, though we had never attempted something so bold.  Over the past year our community has made real change in the lives of our members and ourselves.  The connections we’ve made extend far beyond simply flipping products on Amazon. We’ve used Facebook the way Zuckerberg intended: to meet people we would otherwise not have had occasion to meet.  We may be competitors on Amazon.com, but we are in this for the long haul.

    FBA is not the Endgame

    Soon we will be building more complex, more bullet-proof, businesses. Selling on Amazon will always be part of my overall strategy, but for long-term stability, I believe it is vital to develop synergistic, but separate income streams.  

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