Amazon already accounts for nearly half of all ecommerce transactions and, with an increasing number of private labels, isn’t slowing down. What are the reasons to get on board with the marketplace, and more importantly, how can your business benefit from it?

On this episode of The Commerce Marketer, author and Amazon strategist Brian Beck discusses how to answer these questions and explains why all companies — both big and small, B2B and B2C — need to create an Amazon strategy.

Because it’s not really a question of “beat them or join them” at this point.

“Look, Amazon is a disruptive juggernaut, but as a product seller, it’s really just a shift of channel,” he said, emphasizing that there’s a clear benefit to selling on the marketplace. “More than half of Amazon sales are marketplace sales where they don’t own the product.”

But beyond the transactions, Amazon has become a product research search engine, and not listing your products means some shoppers may never see them.

“The thing that’s dramatically changed in the last five years has been the search volume,” Beck said, noting that Amazon has overtaken Google as the first place shoppers look: Sixty-five percent of product search starts on Amazon. “You’re risking irrelevance, frankly, if you’re not selling your product here.”

He acknowledges that selling on Amazon is nuanced and doesn’t work for some businesses. It might not fit with your curated brand experience or make sense from a margin standpoint. But unless you’ve got a good reason not to be there, he says, you should be.

“It’s one of the top search engines out there for products,” he said. “You’ve got to go where customers are searching and at least have a minimal presence there to present your brand well.”

Beck points out that Amazon research doesn’t always lead to Amazon purchases; shoppers often leave the marketplace to research and buy on other channels. “But if you’re not selling on Amazon, you’re not even in that conversation.”

What’s more, your brand not having an official presence on Amazon doesn’t mean that your products aren’t listed there — third-parties often sell your product if you don’t, and he advises retailers to do a search for their products.

“You’ve got rogue sellers out there,” he said, who may not represent your product well, as in the case of a cheese brand he consulted. “They were missing important product information, had inaccurate nutritional info, and even had images that made the cheese look moldy.”

Beck emphasizes the importance of knowing your audience, staying true to your brand, and figuring out how to differentiate from your competitors. Whether you fully embrace Amazon, limit your product selection on the platform, or avoid it altogether, you need to focus on your customers and have a plan in place.

“What are you really differentiating on, and is it still relevant if it’s just price, selection, and convenience? There’s a big company out there that does that better than anyone else,” he said. “Even if you’re not selling there, understand what they’re doing and how they’re setting expectations.”

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