Business development · 21 June 2017

The Amazon Academy crib sheet – what we learned about Amazon Marketplace

The world is your oyster with Amazon Marketplace
The world is your oyster with Amazon Marketplace

The Amazon Academy was held in Edinburgh last month to help small business take the plunge and get selling online. It was a great day for the attendees, but for those of you that missed it, here is a round-up of the key learnings from the event.

Amazon offers a suite of services for small businesses to help them compete with larger businesses on a more level playing field. This includes services like Amazon Marketplace, Amazon Web Services, and Amazon’s cloud-based voice assistant, Alexa.

Katie McQuaid, Director of Amazon Marketplace, UK, spoke at the event to show small businesses how they could benefit by selling their products through Amazon.

Put simply, Amazon Marketplace allows individuals and businesses of all sizes to sell products to hundreds of millions of customers through Amazon’s websites and mobile app.

“Selling on Amazon Marketplace is easy and you can get started quickly — just upload images and descriptions of your products and set your pricing,” explained McQuaid.

“You can manage your own inventory, fulfil orders from customers and provide customer service. Or with our Fulfilment by Amazon service you can have Amazon warehouse, pick, pack, ship and provide customer service when your product is ordered. Either way, your product can be available and visible to customers locally and globally.”

Half of Amazon’s total global unit sales come from third-party sellers, and in the UK specifically, 74,000 people are employed by businesses to support their selling on Amazon Marketplace.

Expand your horizons

It’s not just about selling online locally, the Amazon Marketplace is also a great way to for beginners to get exporting.

According to McQuaid, in 2016 alone, UK businesses selling on Amazon Marketplace achieved export sales of £1.8bn (29 per cent year-on-year growth), and the number of UK businesses exporting to European customers via Amazon Marketplace increased by more than 40 per cent.

The access to a global customer base helps of course, but other Amazon services also come into play here. For example, Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) can help small businesses make good on delivery promises.

“FBA enables sellers to use Amazon’s vast fulfilment network, staffed by tens of thousands of Amazon employees, to store, pick, pack and ship sellers’ products directly to customers,” explained McQuaid.

“Amazon takes on the logistics, customer service, and product returns. This convenience means sellers can focus on scaling and growing their businesses, without having to worry about logistics.”

Don’t fear the unknown

The Amazon Academy event aimed to show small businesses that the internet and technology are great levellers, and there is no reason a startup can’t sell on the same world stage as bigger more established companies.

“It’s democratised the ability to set up your own company, to the point where as long as you have a laptop, internet connection, and great product or idea, you can sell it anywhere in the world,” said McQuaid.

Yet for some businesses, the concept of selling online is still quite daunting. It’s important for business owners to gain the confidence to compete.

Speaking at Amazon Academy, Lynn Mann, founder of Supernature Oils recommended that “dinosaurs like [herself] need to get on board with digital”.

Her company struggled with a lack of digital skills and when it was growing they couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do it. They had to learn to hit the ground running. Now, they have hired a student with an interest in online marketing strategies.

“Going forward we see online as a big strategy over the next 18 months, with a big focus on exporting.”

It is of course natural to fear the unknown, but the important thing is not to ignore it – if you need help, find someone who can help you just as Mann did.

“Businesses fear they will invest money and not see a return. They worry that they’ll do the work to make their products available and to market them, but then struggle to manage inventory, to fulfil them, to provide local language customer service, to manage returns, the list goes on and on,” said McQuaid.

“Education is the key to addressing this fear. Government and big business alike need to help make exporting as simple as possible by removing the barriers and hurdles that make exporting seem daunting.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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