When it comes to the hyper-lucrative world of selling online, it’s difficult to avoid talking about Amazon. It doesn’t even seem reasonable to describe it as the gorilla in the room.
It’s more of a blob that has long since engulfed the room, leaving only small gaps through which smaller businesses may grow to reach the wider world.
For some, quite understandably, this is a reason to panic. Near-monopolies are dangerous things, and it’s certainly a massive challenge to compete with everything Jeff Bezos brings to the table.
But who says you need to compete with Amazon? It isn’t just a seller, after all — it’s also a marketplace with incredible reach and an appealing fulfilment model.
Companies with major ambitions can find it restrictive, but solopreneurs tend to benefit significantly from the presence of the Amazon ecosystem. And if you’re interested in building a career as a solopreneur, then selling through Amazon might be ideal for you. Here’s why.
The FBA network can do a lot of the work
Being an online merchant is far more complicated than it sounds to beginners because the online portion doesn’t go that far. Once you have an order, it’s back to the classic warehousing system: ordering, storing, handling, packaging and shipping the products.
That system is complicated and expensive (particularly if you’re working alone). Are you going to make enough money to cover the cost of storage alone? What happens if you want to scale?
Fulfilment by Amazon (also known as FBA) is a convenient cheat that lets you avoid most of the inconvenience.
The premise is simple: you pay Amazon to store your stock and process the orders to completion, and the only work you have to do is source the products, get them to the warehouse, and manage your Amazon listings. If you just want to dabble in e-commerce, why put in more work than you need to?
Amazon can handle some digital products
There’s no fixed limit on what you can sell online, and you might not want to sell phone cases or fidget spinners. Perhaps you want to sell music, or ebooks, or something else in a digital format. If so, you can use Amazon to good effect.
It doesn’t support all digital products (for instance, you can’t sell a multimedia training course with no physical presence), but it does support the ones that are typically most useful to solopreneurs.
The biggest one is ebooks because solopreneurs often put a lot of time and effort into establishing their expertise and building up groups of followers so they can market various written works to them.
The Kindle store presents a massive opportunity for anyone in that position, making it relatively simple to do everything from getting a book published (as this Jericho Writers piece outlines, it’s easy to DIY) to distributing training ebooks (like through Lynda, a highly accessible platform to use).
There’s less of a need to market products heavily
Marketing is a significant part of the average merchant’s workload because online stores don’t inevitably get traffic.
Unless you can pick up high rankings for relevant terms and/or drive traffic using promotional activity, you won’t get anywhere. But what if you sell through Amazon?
If you take that route, you don’t need to do any advertising: Amazon is the default e-commerce destination, so your products will get exposure to relevant people.
If you choose products in categories that get a lot of interest, follow the best practices for Amazon listings (because that part is vital for getting solid positions in Amazon searches). And have products that are worth buying (absolutely critical), then you should be able to make sales without putting in much effort.
It lets sellers piggyback off the trust in Amazon
Getting products listed on Amazon doesn’t just help them get found: it also helps them get sold. One of the underlying problems with new e-commerce stores is that people find it hard to trust them.
When you make a payment online, you take a small leap of faith in assuming that the process is secure and won’t unduly risk your important financial details.
If the store you’re on seems even remotely suspicious (for instance, through not clearly providing PCI DSS compliance), you might back out before placing an order.
But even if your operation is 100% new, you can sell through Amazon and get the complete trust of the shoppers. After all, your products are implicitly being vouched for by this massive organization with a generous return policy: what’s there to be worried about?
This avoids the need to focus on trust badges and other assurances, which frees you up to get more creative with your product copy.
For these reasons and various others, selling through the Amazon marketplace is a very attractive option for merchants who choose to work solo.
It saves them a significant amount of time, effort and money, all while getting them excellent exposure. So if you’re interested in the solopreneurial lifestyle, it’s definitely something worth considering.