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The Guide to Selling on Amazon Marketplace

By Reading Time: 9 minutes

EDIT: Some information here is outdated. For the most up to date info on Amazon, click 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.

Nora covers all things ecommerce for the Printful blog. She appreciates good dad jokes, new books, freshly baked cookies, and evening jogs.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.?

  3. Tom Buckland

    Becoming an Amazon seller comes with many factors to consider. Everything from how to sell, to what to sell, to where to sell not to mention all the rules and regulations involved can make the setup process intimidating for aspiring sellers. Not to worry! The following points are designed to make getting started easier.

    Here are the steps to become an Amazon seller:

    Register for a seller account.

    Determine your product’s Amazon category. Some categories require additional approvals unless you are a professional seller.

    Choose your selling plan, Individual Seller or Professional Seller. An individual seller is for those who sell less than 40 items a month. On top of referral fees and variable closing fees, you pay an extra $0.99 per item sold.

    Choose professional seller if you plan to sell more than 40 items a month. Instead of the $0.99 fee per item sold, you pay a $39.90 monthly subscription fee but also get the full benefits of professional seller tools. Referral fees and variable fees remain the same.

    After registering, you can start listing Amazon products in your Amazon Seller account.

    Once you all have these done, next step you should consider is to make your product lists SEO’d meaning it is optimized well to be on the top of the search list in search engines. SEO is an effective marketing strategy that will help your increase your sales growth.

  4. Mike

    Awesome stuff here! We just completed an article about a/b split testing for Amazon seller ppc. We’re seeing more and more sellers dial in their Amazon ads and technologies like ours can help them crush their competition. Organization and proper research is key.

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