I had the privilege last week to speak at the Sellers’ Conference for Online Entrepreneurs (S.C.O.E.) in Seattle, Washington. This annual event focuses on Internet retailers who sell their merchandise across multiple platforms (on Amazon, eBay and etsy.com as well as their own websites), but due to the event’s proximity to Amazon’s corporate headquarters, it is widely regarded as “the” annual trade show for people who sell on the Amazon platform.
In last week’s column, I wrote about some of the cutting-edge legal and tax issues Amazon sellers face, such as the proposed tax on interstate sales, “nexus” questions, and Amazon’s dealings with the 20 or so states that have passed “Amazon tax” laws.
Several of you wrote in asking for more information about what Amazon is planning to do to help their third-party sellers. The short answer is, “we really don’t know.” Unlike eBay, which depends entirely on third party sellers for its income, Amazon derives much if not most of its income from selling its own merchandise online, and there always seems to be some ambivalence at Amazon about how much support they want to give to their third-party sellers.
I plan to write more columns on this topic, so stay tuned.
The S.C.O.E. conference isn’t just about information; it’s also about resources to help Amazon third-party sellers become more successful. The event’s “vendorland” space featured exhibits by roughly 30 companies providing tools and resources for Amazon sellers. Here are some of the more interesting ones I learned about at the conference:
SellersToolbox, an online management software solution for Amazon sellers, has published a pamphlet titled “3rd Party Selling Information: A Quick Reference for Selling on Amazon.com” – for a free copy, contact Robert@sellerstoolbox.com;
Outright® is a bookkeeping and accounting software platform for online sellers who maintain accounts on multiple platforms such as eBay, Amazon and etsy.com (www.outright.com);
Samuel Shapiro & Company, Inc. is a third generation family-owned business (founded in 1915!), that provides customs brokerage, logistics and import/export counseling for international sellers (www.shapiro.com);
Chris Green, a leading Amazon expert , has just published a new book, “Arbitrage,” explaining how sellers can use their smartphones and software applications like ScanPower™ to identify items in their local stores that will resell profitably on Amazon – a process called “mobile scouting” ($9.95 paperback);
NeatOScan offers a “mobile scouting” app that also helps with inventory management not only on the “big three” platforms but on Half.com, AbeBooks and Alibris.com as well;
“Independent Retailer” is a new monthly wholesale purchasing guide, in glossy magazine format, published by Sumner Communications of Bethel, Connecticut – a one-year subscription is $24.00;
FillZ™ is a Web-based inventory, repricing and order management service );
SellerEngine™ offers a feedback manager service that analyzes all customer e-mails, identifies negative trends, reviews all neutral and negative feedback to pinpoint their causes, looks at all claims under Amazon’s “A to Z Protection Plan” for buyers, creates a detailed plan for improving your business containing specific action items, and writes the appeal which will contain a detailed plan that can convince Amazon you are taking the right measures to improve your customers’ experience;
If all that isn’t enough, SellerEngine’s “account rescue” service acts as your advocate with Amazon if your account is ever closed or “frozen” due to a misunderstanding (http://sellerengine.com);
EcomAffluence is a virtual store of home and kitchen products that also assists Amazon sellers on strategies for generating sales in Russia, Ukraine and other European countries ;
Janelle Elms’ Online Success Institute is a combination “boot camp” and network for Amazon sellers who want to make it into the big leagues;
ShipIt! is a multi-carrier shipping solution that uses an intuitive business rules engine informed by Web analytics to help sellers optimize their shipping strategy ; and
Kabbage™ is an accounts receivable and inventory financing firm that offers loans and other financing to online sellers with solid track records and Web traffic but whose credit scores may be an obstacle to traditional bank financing (www.kabbage.com).
At any trade show, you overhear snippets of conversations in the hallways, cocktail receptions and (yes) rest rooms. Here are two random but thought-provoking quotes from anonymous sources that stuck in my brain:
“Amazon requires that you not sell your merchandise anywhere else at a price lower than you sell on Amazon, but one way around that is to use eBay’s ‘best offer’ feature to allow buyers to offer a lower price than your fixed ‘Buy It Now!’ price”;
“Don’t get me started about 3-D printing! With the Internet driving margins down to zero and killing jobs, things are going to have to be made very cheaply because nobody will have money to buy things.”
The next S.C.O.E. will take place September 19-21, 2013 in Philadelphia. I will be there, and if you sell on Amazon, so should you. For information and registration, go to www.scoe.biz.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.