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The Guide to Selling on Amazon Marketplace

By Nora Inveiss - Reading time: 7 minutes

EDIT: Some information here is outdated. For the most up to date info on Amazon, read our new post here.

Can you imagine what 109,982,202 unique monthly visitors looks like? That’s what Amazon gets each month. And ecommerce retailers can get in on that traffic too, by selling on Amazon Marketplace.

Amazon doesn’t just sell their own products. Over 40% of everything sold on Amazon is through third-party sellers, on its marketplace. 

For ecommerce retailers, selling on Amazon’s marketplace opens the doors to a whole new wave of customers and sales. After all, the more places you sell on, the more opportunities customers have to find you.

So, how do you sell on Amazon? What should you be aware of? How do you drive more traffic to your Amazon store? You’ll learn all that and more in this blog post!

Amazon Facts and Stats

Amazon is a behemoth of online retail. What started out as an online bookstore in 1995 has evolved into something much, much bigger. It’s currently the biggest internet retailer in the US, drawing over 244 million active customers, and boasting services like Prime, Fulfilled by Amazon, and One-Hour shipping.

One poll conducted by CNBC found that 24% of online shoppers always search Amazon or check its prices when shopping for a new product, and 25% of shoppers do this most of the time. So 50% of online shoppers regularly browse Amazon.

What does that mean for you?

If your products are listed on Amazon, it’s another way for online shoppers to find you and buy from you.

Big Reasons to Sell on Amazon

1. Increase sales

Amazon has a high conversion rate. According to a CNBC poll, 24% of respondents say they make a purchase most of the time when browsing on Amazon, and 40% of people sometimes make a purchase. So not only do a lot of people browse Amazon, but they also buy.

2. Reach new customers

In a survey conducted with 2,000 US consumers, 44% of respondents said they use Amazon to start product searches. So if you list your products on Amazon, it’s another way for potential customers to find you.

As an example, about 7% of Startup Vitamins‘ profit comes from Amazon sales, with about 155 purchases per month. Its bestselling product – the Get Shit Done mug – gets about 1200 unique visitors, with a 5% conversion rate.

This doesn’t just apply to Amazon. They’re the top reasons to diversify and sell on other marketplaces (read more on multichannel selling here). Amazon is a great choice in that it’s already established, reputable, and super popular with consumers.

The Drawbacks of Selling on Amazon

1. Fierce competition

Amazon is already a crowded marketplace, so you’d be competing with a lot of other sellers. Amazon shoppers also expect low prices. Can your prices compete? If you lower your prices, how would that affect your profit margin?

2. Fees

The fees you pay depend on your plan and the products you sell. You can choose between a Professional, and an Individual account.

Go for a Professional account if you know you’ll have more than 40 sales per month. An Individual account is better if you have fewer sales. If you’re just starting out, it might be a good idea to start with an Individual account and upgrade if and when you need.

Here’s a breakdown of each plan’s fee structure:

Fees Chart

Take a closer look at Amazon’s fee structure
here.

3. Amazon’s rules

Amazon’s main focus is for the customer to have a good experience. So they have strict rules that sellers must comply to. And if you don’t follow the rules, you may get banned from selling on Amazon (forever).

Read up on Amazon’s seller policies here, and pay attention to these key points:

  • Orders must meet shipping deadline times
  • Keep up good ratings and reviews
  • Answer any customer questions within 24 hours
  • Tracking info must be passed along to your customer
  • At least one product photo needs a white background

If you use Printful, then some of these points (eg. shipping speed) are beyond your control, since it’s handled by Printful. Startup Vitamins has edited their Printful shipping settings so that all orders from Amazon are sent with expedited shipping. That way they’re automatically marked as priority and fulfilled in an average of 2 business days.

Selling on Amazon takes work. Decide if these drawbacks are worth it. If you have expendable cash, competitive products and prices, and extra time, it could be a profitable sales channel.

Setting up on Amazon

Setting up your Amazon seller account is easy to do. I recommend this video for a complete tutorial, but these are the basic steps:

  1. Create an Amazon account. If you already have one, click on “Sell” in the top menu bar.

Sell

  1. Decide if you want to sign up with a Professional or Individual account.
  1. Enter relevant information – your credit card, billing address and business address.
  1. Verify your account. Enter your phone number and Amazon will call or text to verify.
  1. Fill out basic tax information.

And there you have it. Once you’ve registered you’ll have access to Amazon Seller Central. Here you can track your orders, product listings, account performance, and more.

How to List Products

This is where it gets a little tricky. From experience with Startup Vitamins, we’ve found that listing products is a time-consuming, finicky process. We’ll walk through it using t-shirts as an example. 

To sell clothing, you need to do 2 things:

  1. Register your brand at Amazon (click here to apply)
  2. Get approval from Amazon to sell clothing (go here and click “Request approval”)

Once your brand is registered and you’ve been approved to sell clothing, log into your Amazon Seller Central account and go to Inventory → Add Products via Upload. This lets you add products in bulk and it’s how we usually do it. But it’s also possible to list products one at a time if you prefer.

Inventory -- Add product

Go to Download an Inventory File tab near the top left and enter your product category in the search bar. If you search for “T-shirts,” you’ll get 5 category results. Unless you’re selling sportswear, click “T-shirts” under “Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry.”

T-shirt category

Press the + symbol on the left-hand side and scroll down. Amazon will generate a template. This is your inventory file, where you fill out all information about your products. And it’s what you’ll use to upload your products.

You’ll need Microsoft Excel to fill this out. The latest versions might not be compatible with Amazon’s inventory file templates. For a full guide to fill out the file, click here.

Here are some tricky fields in the inventory file:

Item_type: You’ll find this under “Valid values” after you’ve clicked on the category you want. For t-shirts the item_type is music-fan-t-shirts.
Item keyword

Seller SKU: Any product identification that will help you recognize a particular product when the order comes in.

Product ID & Product IT Type: Leave this blank. Your products are custom and won’t have these. If you’re a brand registry owner, you’re not obligated to fill this field.

Department name: Choose which Amazon department you want to sell your product: men’s, women’s, girls, boys, baby-boys, baby-girls or unisex-baby.

Not all fields are mandatory. But you should fill out as many as possible to make your product easier to discover.

If you’re selling a t-shirt, you’ll probably have multiple sizes. Be sure to add size variations so they all show up on the same product page. Read this to learn how to add variations (it’s more complicated than you think).

When you’re done filling everything out, save it as an Excel file or txt. Here’s a sample of how Startup Vitamins’ inventory file looks:

SV list example 1

SV list example 2

SV list example 3

The next step is to upload this file, which will automatically generate your product pages and add products to your account.

Go to Amazon → Inventory → Add Products via Upload → Check and Upload your Inventory File. Upload your file, and Amazon will check to see whether there are any major errors.

Check File

When you’ve fixed any errors, you can move on to the next step – Upload File. This is where you upload your file, and Amazon generates your product pages.

Upload File

Moving forward, you can go to the Manage Inventory tab to see all of your uploaded products.

Manage Inventory

Possible Problems

Setting up your products can be frustrating. There will be errors, and it will take patience. When in doubt, contact Amazon for help.

From our experience, this is a problem you might encounter:

No Product ID: Since your products are custom made, they won’t have a product ID. When uploading products, Amazon doesn’t always register that it’s OK for you to not have an ID, and won’t let you upload. This is less likely to happen if you’ve registered your brand, and if you have multiple variations. If this is a problem for you, contact Amazon and explain that you offer custom made products with no ID number.

To check where you might have errors in your Inventory file go to Inventory → Manage Inventory → click Failed. Click on the product, then click Fix and see where you have the red ! signs.

Another way to check on errors is by clicking here and reading what each error code means (and then fixing them).  

Setting up with Printful

Printful doesn’t integrate directly with Amazon. So that means you have two options:

1. Submit orders manually

This is a good option if you’re starting out or have a low volume of sales. Just manually submit your orders to Printful once they’ve been ordered on Amazon.

This can get cumbersome if you have a lot of sales every month. And Amazon expects quick delivery, so you have to be on the ball and submit orders as soon as they roll in.

Watch this video about submitting manual orders.  

2. Connect your Printful account with ShipStation

ShipStation works as a middleman that connects your Printful account to other integrations. If you connect Printful, ShipStation, and Amazon Marketplace, your orders will go through automatically, and it’s minimal work for you.

But ShipStation is a paid service, so you’ll have to consider the extra cost to your bottom line (more info on their pricing structure here).

Click here to learn how to connect your Printful account with ShipStation. And click here to learn how to connect your Amazon Marketplace account with ShipStation.

If you have a Shopify Plus account, you can push products from your Shopify store directly to Amazon. Read more here.

How to Get Traffic and Sales for your Amazon Marketplace Store

Amazon gets a lot of traffic and sales. But you have to work hard to get a piece of that pie. Here are some tips to do that.

1. Use Keywords

Amazon’s search function is similar to Google’s. You need to use keywords so people can find your products.

SV Title Example

  • Use a descriptive title. Include the brand name, product name, size, color, any other attributes.
  • Fill out search terms. Think of as many keywords as you can that relate to what people search for when they want to buy your product.
  • Remember filters. Customers can filter out their search results. So if they search “t-shirts,” and then narrow it down to “Men’s shirts,” your t-shirt will get filtered out if it doesn’t specify that it’s a men’s shirt.

2. Get Good Reviews

Reviews are huge – and it’s one of the most helpful parts of shopping on Amazon. When customers are looking for what to buy, they pay attention to which products have the most and best reviews.

Amazon Review

Amazon automatically sends emails to all of your purchasers for reviews. So be sure to always give excellent customer service, and stand by your products.

3. Product Photos

This is important for Amazon, and every other online selling platform. You need good photos so your customers know what to expect. For Amazon, you should have 3-5 high quality photos, in different angles. One of those photos must have a white backdrop. Including a photo of packaging is helpful, too.

SV Mug

Conclusion

Getting started on Amazon comes with a learning curve. Prepare to be patient, and do a careful analysis before jumping in. Is this where your client base goes to shop? Can you afford the fees? Can your products and prices compete? Do you have the time to learn a new system and abide by its rules?

Amazon can be a profitable sales channel, so if you think you can hack it, jump in!

What are your experiences with Amazon? Got any questions? Post in the comments!

EDIT: Some information here is outdated. For the most up to date info on Amazon, read our new post here.

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  1. Victoria

    Great article but it would be helpful if you dove a little deeper into amazon with printful- I’ve looked into it but there’s not really a way to make it profitable without pricing yourself way out of your market. For selling on amazon, a good rule to go by to calculate fees is that they take about 1/3 of the selling price. So say I have a Next Level tank that costs me $16 to make on Printful. If I sell it for my usual $23.99, I am losing money since $16 goes to you guys, and Amazon then takes about $8. That’s without shipping factored in. So to make it worth while (and by worth while I mean to justify the time it would take to manually input the order) I have to sell it for at least $32. But it’s unlikely anyone would pay $32 for a tank they could find for $12 on Amazon already. Then there’s the sheer logistical issue – as you noted, Amazon is very customer-centric. The turn-around time for a printful order would cause issues in many cases since people on amazon are used to getting their orders next-to immediately. I’ve looked into this and haven’t found a way to make it work – but it appears it works for your sister company, Startup Vitamins – though I suspect that’s because you don’t pay the same price we do for printing. If you can write a compelling post on which products would work for Amazon’s model, that would be amazing.

    1. Krista Krumina

      Thanks for your comment, Victoria! I’m Krista from Startup Vitamins. Are you sure Amazon’s fee is that high – $8? Because here’s how we do this – we’re selling AA2001 t-shirts, which cost us $14.85 (Printful price) + $4.40 (Amazon fee). We’re selling our shirts for $25 + shipping $4.30. In the end we’re left with around $5-$6 profit depending on actual shipping costs. I agree, not all products are for Amazon, we’re focusing on those with the biggest profit margin – t-shirts, posters, mugs work well for us.

      1. Victoria

        Thanks for this. The general rule I’ve found when looking into it has been 1/3. The other issue though is the turn around time – you haven’t had customer complaints for turn around? Amazon customers are known for wanting things instantaneously.

        1. Krista Krumina

          We ship all Amazon orders within 2 business days – that’s the standard, so no complaints about that.

          1. Nora Inveiss Post author

            This is just a setting that Startup Vitamins created; it’s not automatically done for everyone. If you want this for your own store, you’d have to edit your settings.

  2. Robert H.

    Do you know if you can have multiple brands under one Amazon account, or do you have to set up multiple accounts?

  3. Eric Binkley

    Hello, Thanks for the article About Selling On Amazon. I have a few questions that I’m hoping you could help me with.
    1. How did you handle returns? Did you keep the Returns through Printful as recommended or did you do something else special for selling on Amazon?
    2. Shipping Set Up Thoughts? I’m sure amazon has negotiated better pricing than printful for shipping costs? So there will be a difference there. What About If A Customers Wants The Fast Shipping That Amazon Offers? How do you handle that?

    My thoughts are that at some point maybe I purchase some of my top sellers in advance maybe and then printful creates them and has them sitting ready? Is that possible down the road.

    Thanks again for tips,
    Eric

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Hi Eric! Glad you enjoyed the post. To answer your questions:

      1. We (Startup Vitamins) handle returns the same way as when customers order directly from our store – customers return their orders to Printful’s address.

      2. Products that are shipped by Amazon will have better shipping prices – we can’t compete with that. We set it up so that Amazon calculates our shipping automatically based on item weight + we’ve set minimum shipping costs per order. For example, standard shipping for a t-shirt to the US is $4.30, which isn’t too bad.

      All of our Amazon orders are automatically prioritized in our system – they all get sent out with Expedited 2-day shipping.

      3. We might offer something like that down the road.

  4. Damir

    You have probably heard that Amazon has introduced Merch by Amazon service. Can you please compare using ThePrintful for selling on Amazon vs. Merch by Amazon? As far as I calculated using Merch by Amazon is more cost effective compared to your drop ship method. Thanks!

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Great question! One of the key differences is that Printful offers more product options. With Merch on Amazon, you can just do t-shirts. Printful prints on posters, phone cases, canvas, and more. And Printful have tons of t-shirt models and colors to choose from. Printful also doesn’t have a limit to how many designs you can list, and we don’t charge a listing fee.

      In terms of cost, you could be right. However, if you sell with an Amazon Individual account and manually upload orders to Printful, it isn’t too expensive.

      It really depends on your needs. If you want more customization for your products and online store, Printful is a great choice. Merch by Amazon is also more geared towards app developers. So if that’s you and you just want a simple t-shirt, it’s worth checking out.

  5. Francois

    Hi Nora,

    I was wondering how you work out the Shipping Rate? With Printful I see that you have a different rates for shipping depending on the item (Clothing) as well as the quantity.

    What about other accessories?

    how do you handle that? Does shipstation handle that or is it set by Amazon?

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Hey Francois,

      You set your shipping rates through your Printful account. You’ll find info on all of our products here. Hope this helps!

  6. Dave

    Hi Nora,

    In order to enroll to Amazon Brand Registry, Amazon asks for a picture of the product (here, we’re talking about t-shirt) with visible branding. They also ask for a picture of the packaging including the branding. How can I provide these pictures using Printful?

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Hey Dave,

      Thanks for your question! You could order a sample product and take photos of it for Amazon. Here are a couple of branding tips:

      1. We offer t-shirts with tear away tags. So you could add your own custom label with your brand.
      2. We offer free branding stickers to add to your packages. Go to Stores -> Edit to upload a sticker.

      1. Chris

        Hello Nora,

        In regards to the tear away labels. How do you get them for Amazon shirts? I understand that with Shopify you have to just manually add the products just like hats but am a little lost here.

        Thank you

        1. Nora Inveiss Post author

          Hey Chris!

          Inside labels on Amazon work the same as Shopify or any other platform. So you add the product to your storefront, and then go back and edit to add your inside labels.

          Hope this helps!

  7. Mohamed Amine

    I’m a seller in Amazon for more than 6 months and I used merch.amazon as well. I’m considering to use printful to my Amazon orders because of the range of products it offers but there two main obstacles:
    – Long lead time for fulfillment: 2-7 days is wide range and is not competitive in Amazon where products are usually shipped in 2 days.
    – Cost is pretty high: Most shirt prices on Amazon are less than $20 with shipping and using printful will not leave any profit for sellers.

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Hi Mohamed,

      Those are very good points. For the long fulfillment time, Startup Vitamins adjusted their settings so that all orders from Amazon are sent with priority shipping. Priority shipping orders automatically get bumped to the front of the queue and get fulfilled quicker.
      The cost is also definitely something to keep in mind. Amazon shoppers expect low prices, so you have to figure out if the profit you’d make is worth it.

  8. Lisa Smith

    I am considering using Amazon to sell my tee shirt line. But I don’t have many products yet. Is it true that you must have 100 clothing items to sell on Amazon before they will approve you. This is taking into consideration that based on color and sizing. So if you offer 4 sizes of one particular tee shirt that is considered 4 products.?

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