In many ways, selling your products on Amazon.com is an eCommerce dream. You have a huge platform available to you with advanced setting options, and best of all, a built in consumer audience. Last year during the holidays, Amazon captured almost 40% of all eCommerce spending online. In fact, Amazon did more business than the next 21 retailers did combined.
One of the advantages of selling on Amazon—but also one of the potential pain points—is the sheer number of choices. You’ll need to deal with shipping, advertising, and page element options, not to mention a whopping three different seller platforms: Seller Central, Vendor Central, and Vendor Express. To help you along in your decision making process, we’ll summarize these three platforms below. We’ll walk you through the elements of each so you can pick the one that best fits your business model.
Seller Central is by far Amazon’s biggest selling platform. It’s open to everyone willing to set up a new account and pay the required fees. If you are putting products on Seller Central, than you are doing so as a third party seller. Think of Amazon as a large, open market with thousands of stalls. On Seller Central, you rent out one of those stalls yourself. You’re fully responsible for keeping the stall stocked with goods, and you have complete control over your own prices.
If you desire, you can have Amazon ship your products through FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) services. However, you still manage your own inventory levels and make decisions on how much to keep in stock. When you rack up sales, Amazon pays you out for your success every 14 days.
Vendor Central is Amazon’s invitation-only selling platform. In this scenario, rather than a third-party seller, you are acting as a supplier. You send goods to Amazon, who then sells them for you under the Amazon name. So when a customer goes to purchase one of your products, they are choosing the “buy from Amazon.com” option.
In exchange for your cooperation, Amazon will let you put extra work into making your product sell. This includes Amazon Vine, where top reviewers write reviews for your product before the product page even goes live. It also includes A+ content, such as videos, graphs and charts, and extra formatting for your images and product descriptions. You’ll face less competition, as Amazon almost always wins the “buy box”.
In this scenario, you are the supplier bringing goods to the stall that Amazon runs. Because they are in charge of the whole marketplace, it’s a bigger, fancier stall than you could run yourself. However, you also don’t have control over how the stall is set up. Amazon makes the decisions on the pricing and the inventory levels. In addition, Vendor Central doesn’t pay you as quickly as Seller Central. Instead of waiting 14 days, you’ll need to wait 2-3 months between disbursements.
The third option for selling on Amazon is a relatively new platform called Vendor Express. At it’s heart, it’s basically a mix of the two other platforms available. Like Seller Central, it’s open to all. Like Vendor Central, Amazon manages your inventory for you. However, it does not have the full range of options that Vendor Central provides, such as Amazon Vine and advanced marketing choices. In addition, you’ll typically need to provide Amazon with free samples of your products, and you’ll face longer disbursement terms.
If you’re invited to Vendor Central, it may seem like an obvious choice; the exclusivity alone makes it attractive. However, it’s not necessarily a great decision, depending on your business model. Not being able to control your prices can affect your margins and damage your brand.
If you are a large company, and Amazon sales are not your primary source of income, then Vendor Central has a lot of potential. You can sell your products without having to worry about managing your inventory, and you’ll get some big bonuses on marketing. However, if you’re already well established on Seller Central, and depend on Amazon to do your business, then moving platforms and relinquishing control of your well-honed strategy might be a big mistake.
As for Vendor Express? It’s a new experiment, that could prove to be the best (or the worst) of both worlds. Since it’s open invite, you might consider trying it out with a single product and reviewing the gains after a few months.
Ultimately, you want to carefully look at your own company and make sure whatever you choose best suits your end goals.
Emily Bell is a marketing expert who has worked extensively with several third-party Amazon sellers recording over $10 million in sales per year. She now works regularly with Amazon consulting agencies such as PPCScope and Egility. Her writing has appeared in Forbes and around the web.
No minimums. Fast access to top US and international talent. Rated 5 stars on TrustPilot.Get Started