Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Amazon Is Firing On All Cylinders

Amazon.com appears to have become the darling of Internet Stocks at the moment, with a lofty share price and a stellar Q2 behind them. Anecdotal evidence, coming from 3P sellers who sell on both eBay and Amazon say their Amazon orders are increasing while their eBay orders are flat to down. Many sellers, are now just using eBay for cashflow until they can ween themselves off of the site. I don't anticipate they will completely withdraw from eBay but they certainly want to change their mix of sales. Because it can take up to 18 months to generate measurable sales from a sellers own website, Amazon is currently the best place to move their business. Sure it has some of the same marketplace dynamics as eBay but Amazon is a retailer that understand ecommerce. eBay is an auction site that grew so fast, so easily that they let things get out of hand and no one wants to be part of the renovation.

In media categories, many sellers are seeing Amazon sales equal to or greater than their eBay sales and with the all important 4th Quarter just around the corner, many sellers are hedging their bets. Many are expanding to Amazon now to get all of the kinks out before the all-important holiday shopping season.

Amazon's model is brilliant, if you ask me, because they have added breadth to their product offerings without having to carry any inventory; they get the best of both worlds. They can be very aggressive with their owned inventory, stocking limited breadth but tremendous depth leaving the breadth to their high margin 3P business. Because Amazon controls the marketplace (they don't call themselves a venue or a community) they have more control over merchandising as well as seller quality. When a category has too much product for the projected demand they close the category to new 3P business. This is a fluid operation that allows them to open again when the demand picks up.

Amazon's 3P business, IMO saved the company. Imagine where they would be without the margins from 3P sales that are now north of 35% of sales and growing. They have the media market sewed up. Half.com has become primarily a Textbook Sales venue that has two key selling seasons in August and January. If Half.com was a real challenge to Amazon they would be expanding to other countries.

A recent search of Amazon, pulled up Collectibles, Apparel, Sporting Goods Equipment, Cosmetics, etc. In the early days of Amazon they tried to carry this inventory and sell everything including the kitchen sink (and we all know how that turned out). Now, with 3P sellers they can make a handsome margin on product sales where they have no inventory exposure. They've found the "Holy Grail" for an online retailer. eBay can't compete because they don't actually sell anything. eBay has always had sales velocity because of auctions but that is slowing and apparently Amazon is catching up.

eBay is the "King of Auctions" and should have become the King of Ecommerce but that mantel has been passed to Amazon. eBay's bet on improving CORE may have actually marginalized them even more. eBay's like a 55 year-old former starlet who undergoes plastic surgery to recapture some of her youth.

Amazon has been around for as long as eBay but they seem to be hitting their stride now while eBay seems to have pulled a "hammy".

One caution for 3P Sellers who are looking at Amazon as the "Holy Grail", they are still a marketplace and you are advised not to "put all of your eggs in one basket". Begin the transition to your own website because it may take up to 18 months to drive significant sales through it.

You can find more information on Amazon 3P offerings at their website or visit the AmazonServices website.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazon's strict control over their sellers and search is why they're doing well and is also what you criticize eBay for doing.

Are you against eBay taking control over seller performance and search, or simply the execution?

Randy Smythe said...

I agree that they need to take control over their sellers but their execution has been pitiful.

You will find that sellers have few problems with fee increases when they get greater value for the increased fee. You will find sellers have little problem with the T&S seller crackdown as long as good sellers don't get caught in the mix.

I've told my friends at eBay this very same thing. I agree with the need for the crackdown but hate the execution.

Sellers should be treated as partners not cattle

Randy Smythe said...

I forgot to mention search. I believe eBay needs to control search as well but the fact eBay charge listing fees is a big problem.

How can you control search and yet charge the same listing fee for each item. Some items may not ever get "in the box" The prime sales area.

Again, it is about execution.