You wouldn’t think that a company that specializes in industrial gases and welding supplies would be making money selling on Amazon. That used to be the case back in 2010 for Airweld, Inc., but now things are different for this online business.
“In our first year online, we sold a total of two items all year,” Tom Biederman, a vice president at the company tells me. “Today, we have more than 1,200 items on our Amazon marketplace site — everything from welding gloves to cylinder carts — and we’ve been very successful. Selling online has been profitable for us, and we’re looking forward to the holidays.”
Most of my clients who decide to sell online prefer the eBay/Amazon route. Yes, you pay a commission, but these online marketplaces — particularly Amazon’s — make it easier and more profitable for smaller companies that lack the resources needed to succeed on their own.
“They take care of everything,” says Biederman. “They do our search engine marketing, handle payments, returns and customer service issues. We have found the experience to be excellent.”
But just listing your products on Amazon doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically succeed. You have to play by the rules. And if you do things the Amazon way, you can do well.
The holiday season is coming up, and for many online businesses it’s their biggest time of year. So how do you make the most of the holidays if you’re selling on Amazon?
According to my friends at Airweld, here are few suggestions.
For starters, stay on top of your pricing.
“Amazon will do their best to make sure that your products are found when people are searching,” says Eric Terwilliger, another Airweld vice president who was one of the instrumental people involved in launching the company’s online efforts. “But the company can’t perform magic.”
If your prices are even slightly higher than someone else’s, customers are going to go there. The Internet is merciless. Customer service and intangibles are, of course, very important. But the dollar rules. So as the holiday season approaches, take the time to make sure you’re comparing your prices with others online. If you can afford to, consider being the price leader — it may bring you those first-time customers that could stay with you for years even after you return prices to their original amount.
Online shoppers go to Amazon because there’s a mostly true perception that they will get their products fast. You have to step up and make this happen. When orders are received, you have to have a process in place for getting them out the door and in your customers’ hands as quickly as possible. If Amazon gets wind that your products are being delivered slower than others, or if you’re receiving negative reviews from customers that complain of slower delivery, you’re going to get dinged by a lower placement on their search rankings and ultimately the loss of sales, warn both Biederman and Terwilliger. And that’s a holiday killer.
Have a dedicated person.
If you find yourself succeeding with your online sales, don’t cut corners. A few years ago, Airweld transitioned a person from one of their branches to being in charge of all online sales, and it had a tremendous impact on revenues. Airweld’s guy is in charge of inventory, pricing, setting up items, managing the site, getting orders out and dealing with any problems. Your holiday season will be much more successful if someone takes ownership of your sales.
Listen to Amazon.
The people at Amazon are watching and commenting on you, especially during the holiday season when traffic is higher.
“Amazon’s going to do the marketing for you,” says Biederman, “and as long as you’re doing a good job and obeying their recommendations, you’ll do well.”
Amazon handles the search engine optimization and will be making recommendations for you. If you’re told your prices are too high, then fix that. If it’s suggested that you give precedence to one item over another because it’s a better seller, then make that change. If someone leaves a negative comment, then address it professionally. Make sure you’re ready to do this before the holidays arrive.
Finally, be excellent at what you do.
Being a seller on Amazon’s marketplace isn’t just for the holidays. Like everything in life, you get out of things what you put into them. The most successful sellers, like Airweld, are committed to excellence.
“The best way to get repeat sales from your customers and continue as a featured reseller long after the holidays are over is to provide the very best customer service possible,” says Biederman.
If you’re selling on Amazon, or thinking of it, this could be a great holiday season. The guys at Airweld are already planning on it. How about you?