How to Increase your International Sales with Amazon

Posted by Trevor Ginn - June 4, 2012 - Ecommerce - 1 Comment
amazon-selling

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer with a turnover of $50 billion and millions of users worldwide.  As well as being a highly successful retailer, Amazon also allows thousands of merchants to sell their products alongside Amazon’s own, create a massive opportunity to increase sales both nationally and internationally.

Amazon now has sites inUSA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China and Japangiving it exposure in many of the world’s major economies.   The process of setting up an account and starting selling takes minutes and requires absolutely no technical expertise.  What are you waiting for?

Easy to set up

Amazon marketplace sellers manage their sales through a control panel called Seller Central.  Whilst each Amazon marketplace is managed separately, the user experience is nearly identical across marketplaces. European accounts are managed through a ‘Unified’ account with a single logon giving the seller access to create and manage product offers on all of Amazon’s European marketplaces, however .com and .ca accounts must have separate logons.  The standard seller account on each site charges around $40/month.

There is very little set up required to enable to start selling on Amazon’s international marketplaces.  Sellers need to create an account specifying details such as business details and returns information.  They also need to specify their shipping rates which can be organised by price bands or by weight.

Setting up international bank accounts is a real pain, however Amazon will transfer funds into your local bank account in your home currency, provided you are Europe, US orCanada.  The exchange rate they use is not fantastic so for high volume sellers it may be worth investigating international bank accounts and arranging your own transfers.

A-Z guarantee reassures customers

All products sold on Amazon’s marketplaces are covered by their A-Z guarantee.  This guarantees that products will arrive as specified in the listing and in a timely fashion or the customer can claim their money back.  Whilst this can be a bit of a pain for merchants, the A-Z guarantee reassures customers that they are safe to buy from third party sellers.

Alongside the A-Z guarantee, Amazon marketplace also operatives a feedback system similar to eBay’s.

Language isn’t a barrier

Amazon is a catalogue based system with (supposedly) one listing per barcoded product.   Once a product listing is created by one merchant, other users can add their offers to it.  If you sell products which are barcoded, the chances are that quite a few of them are already listed and you can simply add your offer and start making sales.

Regarding customer service, Amazon expects sellers to communicate with customers in the language of the Amazon marketplace.  This is not a problem if you are selling into the UK, USA or Canada, but language skills can be require for other sites.  In my experience using Google translate generally gets the message across.

Things to consider

Delivery times and customer service

This is the biggie.  Amazon requires a high level of service in terms of delivery time and customer satisfaction.  If you do not think you can deliver items to customers in a timely fashion you should not be offering them for sale.  Remember that if your account has an ‘Order Defect Rate’ (basically the sum of negative feedback and claims) of more than 1% your account is in grave danger of being closed down. You are also expected to answer all customer queries within 24 hours. 

Tax

Sellers are responsible for any tax due on sales and you should investigate any tax or legal implications before selling on Amazon international marketplaces

Product considerations

Not all products are suitable or legal to sell in all countries.  For example, electrical plugs differ between countries and medical devices are not licensed to sell in all countries.

Return address

In its T&Cs Amazon states that sellers must provide a local address to which to return purchases or alternatively must offer free returns. However, in my experience this is not something which is strictly enforced.

International postage

Items do get more frequently lost or damaged when shipped internationally and so expect a high level of refunds.

About the Author

Trevor Ginn

Trevor Ginn is run the Hello Baby and the ecommerce consultancy vendlab. You can also read his blog or follow him @trevorginn
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