Small businesses can become Amazon sellers to leverage both online, retail sales

While the pandemic was bad for so many businesses in so many ways. There was a silver lining if you happened to be a small business selling on Amazon, in which case, 2020 was likely a boom year for you.

From the start of the pandemic through mid-January 2021, Amazon reports independent third-party sellers – almost all small and medium-sized businesses – increased their Amazon sales by more than 55% year-over-year, and during that same time, the number of SMBs that surpassed $1 million in Amazon sales grew by more than 30%.

Given that, when I was recently given the opportunity to speak with Keri Cusick, the Head of Small Business for Amazon, I welcomed the opportunity. What I wanted to know is how these successful sellers do it and what the rest of us can learn from them.

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“More than half of all goods sold on Amazon are sold by third-party SMB sellers, and in fact, SMB sales growth outpaced general Amazon sales growth last year,” Cusick said.

From my perspective, there are several potential advantages for the small business by selling on Amazon. They are:

  • Instant credibility.
  • Traffic.
  • Amazon’s commitment to their small businesses partners.

One of the real challenges any small business has when getting into e-commerce is getting people to find their store online, and then, once they do, to be taken seriously.

Teaming up with Amazon solves both of those issues.

Needless to say, Amazon is one of the most recognized brands and most-visited websites in the world, ranking No. 11 globally. That traffic is your opportunity.

An Amazon fulfillment center in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo: Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images)

A digital pivot

Cusick shared the story of BlueZone Sports, a company that sells and rents premium outdoor gear out of its six stores in the Reno, Nevada/Lake Tahoe area. When COVID-19 hit, BlueZone was forced to temporarily close all of its physical stores and furlough all but 12 of its 75 employees.

The company had never put a lot of resources into e-commerce before, until it was forced to. When they did, they decided to go all-in on Amazon by having its ski and outdoor equipment on Amazon Marketplace.

This new-ecommerce profit center put BlueZone in front of a vast new audience, which allowed the company to actually grow during the pandemic: BlueZone had $6 million in sales in 2019, but finished 2020 at almost $11 million in sales, an increase of 83%.

When I asked Cusick what successful sellers like BlueZone did right, she mentioned a few things.

“First of all, there is a conviction for what they are bringing to the customer,” Cusick said, noting “it is not just about making money. These businesses have a passion for delighting customers and being great at what they do.”

Beyond that, she said, “you have to do the work.” In business there is always competition and, Cusick said, the best Amazon sellers embrace that fact. Creating a great store, selling great products, great customer service – they are all part of the equation and all take effort.

The good news is that there are a lot of tools available on Amazon to help you do that work and succeed as a result. Cusick noted a few in particular:

► Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) can make your online business life much easier. One of the toughest parts of e-commerce for the small business is not the selling, but the fulfillment of the order – packing, labeling, shipping, customer service and so on. FBA is a service that takes that off of your plate by allowing Amazon to handle that part of your business for you.

► Peer education: Cusick says that the best Amazon sellers “lean into self-learning.” A large part of the aforementioned $18 billion spent by Amazon was on a slew of learning tools for their SMB sellers.

For example, on Sell.Amazon.com there is a “Seller University” as well a lot of marketing assistance, peer-to-peer help, and more. She also suggested that the newcomer might want to check out Amazon’s Small Business Academy. And that is just for starters.

One of the many changes that happened during COVID-19 is the increase in online shopping generally, and on Amazon in particular. This is one of those things that isn’t going away and that’s good because there is still time to hop on the Amazon bandwagon.

It’s only going to get bigger.

Steve Strauss is an attorney, speaker and the author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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