The Sellers Choice Awards winner in 2017 and 2018, Amazon has since finished in 7th place three consecutive years. This year, Amazon held onto their 7th position by the slimmest of margins – .005. A highly competitive marketplace, Amazon can deliver on eyeballs, but profits remain elusive for some sellers. Resolving issues for sellers was also an Achilles Heel for Amazon, finishing near the bottom in Customer Service and Communication.
In January 2021, EcommerceBytes readers rated the marketplaces on which they had experience selling. An introduction to the Sellers Choice survey along with a summary of the overall ratings can be found here, along with links to results for each of the 10 online marketplaces included in the survey.
Ease of Use:
Would you recommend:
Year Established: 1995
Description: Fixed Price listings, general merchandise
Amazon came in 7th place in the 2021 Sellers Choice Awards for Online Marketplaces.
Amazon brings sales, but some sellers said it’s difficult to find profits on the giant marketplace. Amazon attracts a great variety of sellers. Some pay a monthly subscription for a Pro account, others do not. Some are newbies, others noted they had been on the site for many years, with one seller noting they’d been on the marketplace since it opened to third-party sellers.
The respondents also varied in what services they use, including FBA fulfillment service and Amazon Handmade.
One seller said fees were much too high, and said it was unconscionable that Amazon competes against its own vendors.
One seller wrote, “They do not upgrade postage charges to customers when USPS increases their rates,” which is a real sticking point for many sellers.
Amazon has strict rules and metrics (that some sellers said change too often) – “I make a lot of money there, and not having to fulfill the orders is amazing, but every day I wonder when or how the hammer will fall,” one seller wrote.
Others said Amazon enforces its rules and policies inconsistently (some blamed “bots”).
What stood out to us this year was some sellers’ perception of favoritism – something Amazon might want to review. “Big sellers have definite advantages,” wrote one seller. “Very poor customer service for their 3rd party sellers, they don’t care about their sellers if they aren’t big mega sellers,” wrote another. Yet a third seller said, “They only provide service to big sellers, not the little guy.” And another wrote, “They favor themselves and bigger favorite sellers by controlling the search on the platform.”
Some sellers said they took the brunt of late deliveries during the pandemic – “there were many returns, and Amazon did not reimburse me for this loss,” said one seller. “They screwed small sellers over the holidays by not addressing the issues with the US Postal Service delays and then telling buyers to just request refunds from sellers for late delivered packages,” wrote another seller.
Amazon received a 5.27 in Profitability; a 4.88 in Customer Service; a 4.79 in Communication; and a 5.59 in Ease of Use. It received a 4.82 from sellers when asked, “How likely are you to recommend Amazon as a selling venue to a friend or colleague?”
Reader Comments:The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Amazon is the most profitable venue due to the volume of traffic.
Selling on Amazon is a great experience. Very profitable E commerce platform.
I am an Amazon Handmade seller. Amazon vets its sellers. It has great customer service for both sellers and buyers. It also has a very large customer base as its marketplace and I have many sales there.
As an individual seller, I am very limited still on what I can and cannot sell. What I have been able to list does move very quickly due to the large amount of daily traffic on their site.
I have been a micro seller of books since Jeff Bezos opened his online bookstore up to third party sellers. It has always been a side gig and now, in retirement, it is to supplement my income. I only sell books and I love finding and selling my books. But Amazon has no customer service for the little guys like me anymore. They used to. And the 3 fees I pay on each sale really add up, since most of my books sell for around $15.00. It really bothered me when Amazon copied eBay and started grabbing 15%, .60, from the $4.00 shipping allowance. That said, I will always be glad Amazon allowed 3rd party book sellers. People thought Bezos was crazy at the time.
I’m fairly new to selling on Amazon and as a beginner it is not very simple to get started, such as ungating, pricing errors etc. etc. Also when it comes to ungating, if denied, there doesn’t appear to be an explanation provided as to why, so you resubmit and then you are approved, with no difference in how you submit the first time. With that said, in regards to question #7. I am very likely to recommend selling on Amazon because my products have sold much quicker on Amazon than on eBay, Mercari, etc., etc.
Amazon’s seller support is improving. I got suspended for too many cancellations and corporate called me and walked through the appeal process. It happened also in 2017 and they through me to the wolves back then.
Metrics and standards change at random, without warning. Especially when selling with FBA. However, it is a HUGE market and approximately 40% of our transactions.
Easiest to list single items as product information is already there, but profit margin is extremely slim.
Profitable, higher traffic and margins, but very restrictive and nonexistent Customer Service.
Selling rules get pretty long and very detailed. From image posted, to packaging requirements – all done with keeping a consistent buying experience for Amazon customers, and therefore, logical for their brand value. For the correct ‘right-fit’ product line, it IS worthwhile to sell on Amazon.
A seller for 11 yrs, MUCH experience in the ways of Amazon. We do many millions, profitable but it is always a challenge since Amazon is MIA in any significant issues.
Advertising and ease of use is exceptional, but Pro Marketplace monthly fees and per item fees for selling DVDs is high for a small seller. Value of Pro (merchant-fulfilled) is in linking inventory to other venues.
Pros – best in class regarding traffic to site, fair fee structure. Cons – difficult to impossible to differentiate your product from others.
For the average seller I feel there is limited categories I can sell in, and I’m not even sure what I can and can’t sell – pretty confusing.
Amazon is peaches and cream – until something goes wrong. Then you are plunged into a Kafkaesque nightmare, the absurdity of which would be funny if they didn’t endanger people’s incomes and entire businesses over trivialities. It would make for very juicy headlines if it weren’t too complex to explain to people who don’t sell on Amazon. I make a lot of money there and not having to fulfill the orders is amazing, but every day I wonder when or how the hammer will fall (and I mostly sell used books, very low-risk!)
I feel like the site is easy to use and navigate and so is their selling tools. However with a lot of excessive fees and their lack of compassion for sellers, I am not the biggest fan of Amazon.
During the health pandemic online shopping increased, but due to problems at the USPS they were slammed/delayed and Amazon didn’t stand by their sellers when customers asked for refunds when packages weren’t arriving on estimated delivery dates.
Earlier this year when COVID hit, Amazon did not deliver to my customers on time. There were many returns, and Amazon did not reimburse me for this loss. As soon as I sell out of my inventory I am getting off this rip-off platform.
Poor customer service. I have found them unresponsive to important questions. They do not upgrade postage charges to customers when USPS increases their rates.
Amazon requires a specific model to be used when selling on their venue which is not applicable to every seller. They also use the same standards for the seller regardless of the product being sold, which is also not always accurate based on the product. Amazon does not provide the seller with anything but a cookie-cutter process model which can not be adjusted unless it benefits the Amazon bottom line at the expense of the seller. This in turn increases the cost for the buyer because less sellers are available to purchase a product, but hey “free” 2 day shipping (with paid membership, of course) woohoo!
We have to pay sales tax on anything shipped from warehouses that have them because the government says that the presence of the goods we provided amounts to a footprint in every state they warehouse from.
Ease of use is good. Trying to resolve issues and list new items is like pulling teeth.
I recently quit selling on Amazon because of their super slow payout times.
Amazon is very unfair to sellers. They require too fast of deadlines and reward bad behavior to buyers by allowing them to send back items and get full refunds.
Customer service is usually a bot, it seems like. I just appealed a case and lost – I sold a new $45 mug FBA and the customer returned it as defective. Amazon won’t reimburse me even though they’re supposed to be responsible for shipping FBA items safely. It took them 3 months to return it to me and it was broken. I think the customer received it broken and maybe they were supposed to choose a different reason for me to get reimbursed? Another example of my frustration with Amazon: I shipped a box of FBA merchandise in early December. It was delivered on Dec. 3, 2020. There have been no updates since then. The box has not been “received” and the items have not been processed. I can’t even open a case on it until Jan. 28, 2021. Yes, things do sell on Amazon but the cost for small sellers is very high and comes with endless frustrations.
Amazon is a good for traffic but with their high fees and direct competition, it is not very profitable. Amazon will remove some seller’s listings for asking too much but leave others with a higher asking price.
They owe us $3000 and have not released our funds due to a situation beyond our control.
It’s far from easy; people can list the same item for $1 which I sell for $50, yet they jack up shipping to cover their lost and get away it, yet I can’t do it.
Hijacking of listings, refund ripoffs, lack of ability to communicate with customers, price fixing.
Seller support not easy to use, Amazon UK, Japan and USA seller support is not linked, no seller support phone or live person available.
Amazon provides little support for sellers (difficult to appeal or win A-to-Z claims, or receive reimbursement for customer return labels, etc). There is little recourse offered when items sent to FBA go missing, and their product compliance process is lengthy and convoluted.
Fees are too high. If you find a good selling item, they require you to provide a receipt then they go to your source and buy up large quantities and undercut you, pushing you out of the buy box.
Amazon’s policies are not as good for small businesses. Big sellers have definite advantages. Also, their search is definitely broken, so getting your items found is difficult.
Very poor customer service for their 3rd party sellers, they don’t care about their sellers if they aren’t big mega sellers. Very hard to sell products on this platform any more, among many other reasons.
Have sold on Amazon for 10 years; it’s getting worse instead of better. Non-responsive to site issues; higher and higher fees; over-run with Chinese sellers; scammers galore.
Amazon is so large, I think that they have everything covered with faq sites, but everything is so hard to find. Also Amazon tends to let you ship items to them and then tell you you cannot sell an item or that somebody has said it is counterfeit or they do a return and the item is unsellable.
It is difficult to set up a selling account and get it approved. Then after you finally get it approved and spend time loading up the store with your items, a year later they just turn out the lights. They said it was because I had 2 accounts. I chose to just leave the account closed.
The fees on Amazon are too high. The seller support is non-existent. They have too many “bots” running things. They are constantly “fixing ” things that are not broken and end up making things worse. The only reason I still sell there is because they have the most traffic.
Unable to, or difficult to add personalized information, photos or specific details about an item. Having to wait for payment, trying to even find how to contact them is nearly impossible. They only provide service to big sellers, not the little guy. Also, closing my account(s) since Parlor was removed (I am not political, but that was just wrong and an attack of MY first amendment rights).
They do not listen to seller if there is any case against seller. Buyers misuse their power of negative feedback and a-2-z claim to exploit sellers. Amazon customer support do not listen to sellers.
I used to sell used books – had 6,000+ in my inventory. But now Amazon “hides” used books. At least the majority of them. Sometimes even when I’m a buyer and there’s “none” available when I KNOW that it’s a common title and they’re there SOMEWHERE. Tired of the undercutting too, especially when Amazon takes nearly 25% of your low dollar sales!
Very hard to qualify new items for sale. Help, beyond the online menus, is nonexistent. Their liberal return policies are killing other small businesses. They are influencing a lot of the general public purchasers to expect return policies that small business cannot compete with.
While Amazon used to be a site that was easy to use, it is getting harder and harder to use it as they break their own rules although sellers are not allowed to. They will tell you that something is wrong, but they will never tell you exactly what is wrong. For instance the other day I had a listing flagged due to ‘prohibited keywords’ in the title. So instead of saying what word might be prohibited, you are left to guess and try over and over again to ‘fix’ something that wasn’t broken in the first place. I sell in a particular niche and most of my titles are set up the same way with the same combination of words, which would mean if there really was something wrong, all my listing should have been flagged! They have not only been flagging listings for nonsense like the above, they are flagging listings for having a potentially high price, but instead of waiting for us to say, “You are right, we didn’t really mean to list a Harlequin romance book for $2,000, they have deleted the listing itself. The only price that might work is to list it at the rock bottom price that someone else has that won’t even make you $1 in profit! Some prices won’t work no matter how low we take them. They will even delete a listing when there are no other copies available! I sincerely wonder if Wall Street and shareholders are aware that Amazon is purposely trying to lower prices which makes for lower profits. I thought companies tried to make a profit, not to make less money. I have also noted that while my niche should have a 15% FVF, on some of my listings they are taking 17% with no explanation.
I am a 20-year seller on Amazon. The fees are too high, and creating a brand new listing is time consuming. If you wish to change an older listing because it was originally placed in a different category, it is nearly impossible to change the category.
I only sell on Amazon Handmade. Fees are very high and it takes forever to get paid. However, I do like that there is no penalty if you have to cancel an order.
They screwed small sellers over the holidays by not addressing the issues with the US Postal Service delays and then telling buyers to just request refunds from sellers for late delivered packages… and that’s just for starters.
Due to fee structure, the smallest of sellers have a hard time being profitable. Almost impossible to get customer service help with any question slightly out of the ordinary. Requires multiple interactions to explain any issue and AZ staff continually parrots stock answers until frustration grows and then they terminate discussions.
Continuously delisting my items for various reasons out of my control. Allow price gouging from approved sellers by restricting other sellers from listing in certain categories. Strict rules during the holidays that are not fair to experienced sellers with over 25 years of supporting the platform. I only sold 24 of 26 items so I can’t sell in certain categories during the peak selling period. Now I am getting delistings stating I can only sell it through FBA.
Amazon’s changes to their listing form really limits the seller’s ability to add relevant information about the item they are listing. Applying for the ability to list in a particular category is kind of a pain.
Costing 40 % to sell on Amazon, seller support is pretty bad, and they favor themselves and bigger favorite sellers by controlling the search on the platform.
The auto email messages indicating you as a seller need to “fix” something do not have clear directions. ie: third party shipping program, need to authorize. The directions of where to go and “fix” it does not apply. The menu items on your “account” that they say in the email to go to, do not exist. Also, messages that your item is priced too high is based on some sellers that are selling the item for 0.01 plus shipping but my item is priced with free shipping (example: another seller .01+4.99 shipping) but because mine is priced 4.95 with free shipping, Amazon’s system thinks mine is “overpriced” and therefore removed. It has become more and more frustrating selling on Amazon.
Booksellers are the big losers. Books started Amazon, and now we are the step children who have more than half of their shipping credit taken away and never receiving even close to the cost of shipping, plus a lot of other fees as well as “punishments” for returns and partial returns.
I sell on Amazon Handmade. Their listing platform is horrible and not user friendly. They do not promote these items the same as regular items. They keep your money for about a month before you are paid for a sale. Their percentage they keep is 25% for jewelry. Very high!
Amazon doesn’t follow its own policies. Allows buyers to commit fraud against sellers when buyers call customer service to file claims months after an order is received. It’s impossible to communicate with anyone who would actually help you. If you end up in a situation where a buyer is being unfair or taking advantage of you as third party seller, you’re out of luck. You can lose thousands and buyers may get an order fraudulently for free. There’s not even a way to report someone who uses the marketplace for fraud.
They do not allow unbranded items, which makes selling secondhand items harder. They also have unrealistic shipping prices for merchant sellers who ship from home. Postal prices are often at least 4-5 dollars more than what Amazon allows.
Product launches are tedious – uploading CSV data is a hassle and usually doesn’t work so listings must be done by hand.
Amazon has made it no longer worthwhile for small sellers to sell used CDs for two reasons. First they increased fees for media items to an outrageous rate. Second they have made it impossible for small sellers to sell most major labels.
Sellers Choice Awards:
We thank all readers who took the time to rate the marketplaces. If you have comments about the Sellers Choice Awards, please feel free to post them below.
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She’s a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of “Turn eBay Data Into Dollars” (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, “Blogging Heroes” (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.