As mentioned in our previous article about diversification, Amazon, Ebay and the other marketplaces are a vital part of your online strategy. But selling on the marketplaces is a lot more challenging than it once was. There is more competition than in the past, and unfortunately many manufacturers have implemented policies that give some companies an unfair advantage over small business owners.
We will focus a lot on Amazon themselves in this article, simply because they compete directly with you on their marketplace. However, all of the suggestions below will help you to differentiate yourselves from other online merchants, and combat fraudulent re-sellers.
We receive calls and e-mails on a regular basis about the multitude of MAP violations on the various marketplaces by Amazon or dishonest and fraudulent resellers. The reality is, Amazon plays by a different rules than we do, and the dishonest re-sellers are always going to be dishonest and find ways to work the system. You cannot control this, and it only holds you back if you spend too much time focusing on it. Having said that, please report all MAP violations to us ASAP. We will take them up with the manufacturer and get it corrected.
In spite of the many hurdles they put in front of you, and the advantages they have, Amazon and the other marketplaces are still one of the keys to your success. So how do we beat them? We must be better than they are in the areas that we can control, and honestly, it is not that hard if you put your mind to it.
Provide Outstanding Customer Service
Know your products inside and out. Make sure your customers have a way to contact you. Be sure your email address and telephone number is displayed prominently so it is easy for the customer to find. Be sure to respond to your customers requests quickly and accurately. Don’t view customer complaints and concerns in a negative way. Instead view them as an opportunity for you to better know and understand them. Listen to their concerns and instead of telling them what you cannot do, tell them what you can do for them. Make sure that they understand it is your desire to do whatever you can within reason to find a fair resolution. Do not allow yourself to be taken advantage of if the customer is clearly being unreasonable, but if you can find some middle ground, that is always the best solution. Remember, any reasonable customer with a legitimate issue, is someone who will become a loyal, return customer if the situation is handled correctly. Put yourself in their shoes. See if you can at least see their point even if you do not completely agree with it. Then act on any part of their concern that you can at least agree is reasonable. You will find that by taking this time with your customer, word will get out that you are a quality company. One upset customer will spread negativity to as many people as they possibly can. One happy customer will not say much to anyone, but at least they will keep coming back to you.
Bundle, Bundle, Bundle
One way to beat Amazon, and to separate yourself from the pack is to bundle products. Bundling is taking any item that you are selling, and then adding some sort of gift with purchase. This gift can be something related specifically to the item you are selling, such as an extra battery for a remote trainer, or it can be something completely unrelated like a magnet with your company information on it. Whatever the item, it should be something lower cost and it should have some sort of useful and perceived value to the customer. When you create a new bundle, you can then create your own unique listing on Amazon, Ebay or any of the other marketplaces. If the item you add to the bundle is something unique to your company, it will also make it much harder for others to copy, or in the case of Amazon “Jump” on your ASIN and simply replicate your product offering.
Don't be afraid to raise the price on your bundled product if necessary. You are in business to make money. Be sure to price your bundled product to ensure you make a profit.
Essential Pet Products will soon be offering bundling services as well as pre-bundled packages with a unique Amazon ASIN and unique UPC codes. This will help you overcome many of the issues we currently face in the marketplace. It will also help those who do not have the time or the warehouse space to bundle items on their own. Please keep an eye on your inbox and our website for future updates.
Know The Rules, and Warn Your Customer
There is a fine line when trying to warn customers about dishonest sellers, but it is worth the effort. Most re-sellers who are violating MAP are either not authorized by the manufacturer, or are selling stolen or used product. You should indicate on your listings and on your website that you are an Authorized Dealer. These sellers may have a better price, but at what cost to the customer? More often than not, the manufacturer will not provide any warranty to the customer. The seller may claim they are authorized and that the product is under warranty, however when the customer has an issue with their purchase, they will find that they are on their own. While some customers only care about getting the lowest price, and are willing to take a chance, many will appreciate the heads up and will prefer to pay a little more to have the warranty.
In the end, there will always be dishonest resellers. There will always be big corporate entities like Amazon who are simply mass discounters with a lot of influence, buying power and exposure. There will also be plenty of manufacturers who will join forces with companies like Amazon, manufacturers who in a large part have become successful due in part to the efforts of small companies and entrepreneurs like you. Unfortunately they will forget those who supported them when they themselves were small and struggling. We cannot control or change this, all we can do is hone our game, give better service, be more innovative and creative and support those who support us. If you focus on the things you can control, you will overcome the obstacles in front of you and find a path to success. As always, if there is anything we can do to help you, please let us know.