This week we opened our second shop on Amazon Handmade! We want to explore selling on multiple channels as a strategy to making more sales. I’ve written about the benefits of starting a multi-channel strategy before and now I want to put it into practice. It’s never been a better time to take advantage of the huge search traffic that we can access on marketplaces.
We’re looking at it as another marketing strategy: we’re hoping that selling on Amazon Handmade can increase our reach – and our sales as a result. But, is it worth the extra time and money invested?
So without further ado, here’s the lessons we learnt from opening an Amazon Handmade shop…
Lesson 1: Make sure your handmade product is approved to be sold on Amazon Handmade first
Before applying to sell on Amazon Handmade, I just assumed that anything handmade goes – much like Etsy. Unfortunately that’s just not the case. During the application process, I realized that Amazon’s Handmade categories are very limited…
At the end of the day, selling on Amazon Handmade means sacrificing selling certain products, or not being eligible to sell on Handmade at all.
For us, we won’t be able to list our digital download products and potentially some future items we want to develop and sell.
Lesson 2: Allow time to register to Amazon Handmade
One thing I didn’t expect is the intensity of the sign up process for Amazon Handmade. Plus, once I was finally in, it was re-learning the interface and language that Amazon uses.
With marketplaces like Zibbet and Etsy, you can pretty much set up your shop and start selling your products within a few hours. But for Amazon Handmade, the process goes something like this:
- Apply to sell on Amazon Handmade
- If approved, you’ll receive an invitation to formally register to Amazon Handmade
- Wait for your account to be verified
- Set up your profile and upload your products
- Start selling
Step 1: Apply to sell on Amazon Handmade
Amazon Handmade is well known to have a strict vetting process for their handmade sellers. They require all sellers to submit an application to sell. Inside, you have to explain what you make, your process and show photos of your work. You can view the application form here if you’re curious.
The process sounds intimidating and I was doubting whether we would be accepted. We partner up with a printer who prints all of our orders for us and we also sell digital downloads in our Etsy shop – a no in Amazon Handmade’s eyes. In the end, we got accepted because our entire process is handmade and we do sell physical prints. So, if you don’t think you’re eligible, try anyway. You might be surprised.
Step 2: Register on Seller Central as an Amazon Handmade seller
We got approval the next day and I received an invitation to formally join Amazon Handmade as a seller (woop!) This is where you set up your account and verify your identity. This was a looooot longer than Etsy’s process. Amazon needs you to upload ID and bank statements to verify you and your business are actually real. This part took longer than expected – I spent a better half of a day just getting the right documentation, and then, you have to wait for it all to be verified.
Luckily, you can still continue to set up your shop and upload products while waiting…
Step 3: Set up your shop
Once registered, you can finally start setting up your shop by filling out your profile and listing your products. If you’re used to selling on Zibbet or Etsy, it’ll take a while to get used to the Amazon dashboard – Seller Central. This is used by all Amazon sellers, including non-handmade vendors.
What differentiates Amazon Handmade from regular ‘ol Amazon, is the Artisan Profile. You can upload your bio, photos and explain your story – treat it like an about page.
Lesson 3: Get ready to import your products one-by-one
This is the bit I dreaded the most – copying our Etsy products to our Amazon Handmade shop. At first I tried to do a simple bulk import by downloading our current shop data from Etsy and uploading it to Amazon Handmade. But, there was either something wrong with my listings, or I just couldn’t figure out the darn thing – no listings would upload 😔
I was going to have to import all my products one-by-one.
We only have 30 products to import, so I couldn’t imagine how crazy a seller with hundreds of listings could get. In the end, even if the product import tool did work, I’d still need to comb through and change every listing individually anyway.
Amazon Handmade tends to treat products a bit differently…
- The biggest difference between Amazon and Etsy is the search algorithm. Etsy favors keywords in titles while Amazon favors Keywords (Amazon’s version of Tags). They even mention it in their style guide: titles should be short, sweet, and represent only the main product, not specific customizations or options. You can add keywords later that will help your products appear in search, so you don’t need to add them to your product title. We’re still working on re-wording our titles and it’ll be a while before we’re comfortable that our choices work for the Amazon marketplace.
- All products need to have a SKU attached, a code that identifies the item. This is optional in Etsy. Amazon Handmade will generate SKU’s for you if you don’t add them in. But this is a good chance to create a SKU system for your shop.
- Even though Amazon requires all images to be set on a white background, the rules are more relaxed for Handmade sellers. They still encourage you to post images with neutral backgrounds and minimal props. That means our mockup style photos might be too busy. We haven’t had any trouble uploading the photos so we might transition these images out slowly.
- Plus, Amazon displays their thumbnails as squares. That meant that parts of our images were cut out. We’ll have to completely re-do our photos for Amazon Handmade which is pretty annoying and time consuming at this point. Even if you don’t intend on opening up an Amazon Handmade shop it’s worth shooting your photos in a way where your item won’t be cut out no matter what orientation it’s presented in – square, landscape and portrait.
Importing is the most painful part of the process…
The importing process was probably the longest and tedious part of opening our Amazon Handmade shop and we’re still not fully done. It wasn’t a simple copy and paste job. Here’s what our process looked like:
- First, I set up a SKU system for all our items to prepare them for Amazon Handmade. See our live product listing spreadsheet to see how we’ve set up our SKU’s.
- Copy the titles, product descriptions and photos over.
- Tags need to be manually typed into “Keywords”.
- It took a while to figure out how to put in our different size attributions because Amazon Handmade sellers can’t access features that regular sellers can. Instead, Handmade Sellers have their own section called “Customizations” where you can bundle personalization fields and attributions.
- Pricing is not so straightforward. Initially, our Etsy prices are in AUD but Amazon only allows you to list in USD. We had to convert our prices for each listing in the end. Plus, prices for variations are expressed as price difference between the default variation. Expect to sit down with a calculator next to you if your products have a lot of variations.
- We offer free shipping by calculating it into our product price. If you don’t include free shipping, there’s fields for package weight and dimensions you’ll need to input for your courier service.
- Listings take up to 15 minutes to show up so I was getting heart attacks that my listings disappeared after doing a bunch of work.
In the end, I was struggling to juggle other activities and I hired a once-off virtual assistant from Upwork to help copy the listings over for $50. It saved about 2 days of work and it was well worth it to focus on other aspects of the business.
Lesson 4: Understand the actual cost of selling on Amazon Handmade
Upon signing up there wasn’t much information about the costs associated with selling on Amazon Handmade. After getting approved I got this in my inbox:
Amazon provides a number of options for sellers to list products and grow their business. In order to access Handmade specific tools and support, you will register as a ‘Professional’ seller on Amazon. Professional sellers are charged a $39.99 monthly fee, but don’t worry, this fee is waived for Handmade sellers through December 31, 2019.
According to a few forums the deadline for the fee waiver has been continually extended. I’m not too sure when Amazon are deciding to flip the switch and start charging vendors. Once this does happen, there’ll be much more pressure to sell higher volumes on Amazon to cover this fee.
Don’t forget the product transaction fees
These are the fees every single time you make a sale on Amazon Handmade. I wish this information was more obvious during the sign up process. I finally found the pricing page for Amazon Handmade after some trawling.
All Handmade items have a referral fee of 15% per product sold – something to consider adding to your listed product price.
Lesson 5: Take advantage of Amazon’s unique features
Right now we’ll have to see whether Amazon Handmade’s higher fee structure is worth it. So far, there’s a lot of positives that we can’t ignore:
- Amazon is the biggest marketplace in the world. Even if shoppers aren’t looking for handmade items, if they search for items like ours, we have a chance of showing up.
- Amazon Prime and fulfilment services. Being part of the Amazon network means that sellers can have their items fulfilled by Amazon. So far, the cost of producing our products in bulk has us shying away from this option. It’ll definitely be more attractive the longer we’re in business.
Are you on Amazon Handmade? I would love to hear about your experiences and check out your Handmade shop. Add a link in the comments below.