How to sell on Amazon

Selling on Amazon is the online equivalent of having Tesco stock your blueberry jam. Not only does this give you a huge potential audience within a trusted environment, but Amazon will also take care of payment processing and, for an additional fee, it will even store and ship your goods from its warehouses.

Amazon has a clear plan to be the world’s primary online shopping destination across a wide range of products and, as a small business, you can fight it or use it for your own purposes. Here we explain how to sell on Amazon.

How to sell on Amazon

Before setting up your shop, you need to decide whether you want to “go pro”. Go to the Amazon Services website, click “Sell on Amazon” and you’ll be asked whether you expect to “sell a little” or “sell a lot”. If you expect to sell more than 33 items per month then the choice is simple: opt for the latter and sign up for a Pro Merchant account. But what if you sell fewer?

The standard merchant account charges 75p per item on top of the normal seller fees, whereas the Pro account charges a flat rate of £25 per month (plus VAT), so once 33 items have been sold it becomes cheaper to pay the flat rate. However, there are other benefits to the Pro account that mean it’s probably the best choice for you.

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If you’re a business, it pays to select the “Sell a Lot” option

For example, there are some product categories that Amazon limits to Pro Merchants only; for example, if you’re selling PC software you’d need to go Pro. Pro Merchants also have a vastly better set of web-based tools they can use to add and edit their products, manage their inventory and interact with customers. Finally, only Pro Merchants can add products not already listed in Amazon’s database, so for our candle-making kit business we were left with no choice. If you don’t feel you can make enough profit to pay the £25-per-month fee then you’d be better off waiting until your business has grown a little before becoming an Amazon merchant.

Signing up

You can base your merchant login on your existing Amazon account, but it’s usually best to keep the business separate by setting up an entirely new account using a business email address and details. The process is pretty straightforward, although it includes various verification procedures that might take some days so it’s worth getting started as early as possible.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll arrive at your new home: the Seller Central control panel. You’ll spend most of your time in two of the sections on the left-hand side: Inventory and Orders. But before you add products, go through the links under Settings to make sure the information there is accurate and complete.

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The control panel lets you create products and manage orders

It’s particularly important that you ensure the Shipping Settings are correct. If you’re selling books, CDs or DVDs, then Amazon takes care of this by imposing its standard postal costs, but for other items it’s up to you. It’s usually best to choose a weight-based model for shipping rather than a price-based model since that’s how most postal systems work. Amazon allows you to charge a base price per shipment plus an additional cost per kilogram. Exactly what you charge will depend on the delivery methods you choose, but don’t shirk the calculation: guesswork is likely to result in losing money on post or, if you’ve set it too high, missing out on sales.

Adding products

To add the first new product, go to Inventory | Add A Product. If you’re selling a product that’s already in the Amazon catalogue, enter its name and click the Search button. Select it from the list and click the “Sell yours” button.

If you’re adding a new product, click “Create a new product”. You’ll then be asked to choose the appropriate category for your listing. Your starting point should be the category chosen by your competitors or those of the products most similar to yours.

On the Vital Info page, complete all the mandatory fields and as many of the optional fields as possible. The more information you provide, the more credible you are. And, of course, the better your customer will understand the product. Many categories include a mandatory “EAN or UPC” field – this is the barcode for your product. Don’t panic if you don’t have one at this point, as obtaining a barcode is pretty simple.

The rest of the pages apply both to products that exist in Amazon’s catalogue and new products. In this case, click Next to move to the Offer page. Again, complete as much information as you can in addition to the mandatory information. You can also enter a Sale price for a fixed period: I always like to discount new products as it makes them stand out in the Amazon search listings (reduced prices are shown in red) and, naturally, increases the conversion rate.

If you have a separate shop, the price on Amazon should be similar but not necessarily identical since the cost of sale is different. For example, on your own shop you’ll have the cost of your ecommerce software and hosting plus the cost of marketing (usually via Google AdWords) whereas on Amazon these are replaced by the monthly Pro Merchant fee and commission. 

The next step is to add product images. Add as many as needed to make sure the customer understands both what your product will look like when they receive it (a box shot, for example) and how it will look in use. Err on the side of adding too many rather than too few pictures.

The “Key Product Features” you list in the Description section will appear as bullet points under Technical Details on the product listing page so it’s essential you get these right. Make sure you give enough information here for the customer to be able to decide whether they’re interested in your product.

Spend time on the “Product Description” field; I still find it shocking how many sellers can’t be bothered to describe their products fully. Again, this appears on the product listing page and it’s probably the section most people scroll to first. This field supports basic HTML tags (although this is undocumented) so you can bold text and use italics as well as using the <p> and <br /> tags to split the content into paragraphs and lists. If you don’t use these tags, the text gets condensed into an off-putting single paragraph.

The “Search Terms” on the Keywords page might seem self-explanatory but Amazon automatically indexes the product title and manufacturer so there’s no point repeating those keywords here. Amazon doesn’t index your product description or bullet points so check whether there are keywords in those fields that need carrying across.

Finally, on the More Details page, although it isn’t marked as a mandatory field, you must insert an accurate shipping weight if you’ve chosen weight-based shipping. Once done, click “Save and Finish”. At this point, Amazon will check you’ve provided all the information needed and upload your photos. New listings and amendments to existing products take a few minutes to propagate through Amazon’s systems so don’t panic if changes don’t appear instantly. Once the listing has appeared, check the product detail page. Make sure the photos have successfully uploaded and that the bullet points and description are correctly formatted.

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Here’s our final product, now available to millions of customers

How to get barcodes

EAN is Europe’s product numbering format. Obtaining a new EAN is expensive as it involves joining the regulatory body for a hefty yearly fee. The good news is that you can obtain EANs cheaply from companies that have bought them in bulk and most will render the EAN as a barcode for you. I use Barcode 1 UK at around £25 for a single barcode. Important: your code does NOT need to be registered with the regulatory body unless you intend to sell it with multiple retailers.

For more information, please see the  MagBook.

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