Amazon is a beast. That it’s responsible for 37% of all US e-commerce sales is proof of that.
It might surprise you that this number is actually lower than the year before, and lower than experts predicted for 2019.
So while people are spending more on Amazon, they’re spending more on other channels too. Invert the statistic above, and you have 63% of US e-commerce sales NOT on Amazon.
That’s a lot of money going to waste if your business only exists on Amazon, not to mention the increased risk of not diversifying. That’s why, once your business starts to get traction, you should think about expanding off Amazon.
Should I Sell On Amazon or Not?
First things first. This is not an anti-Amazon article.
Amazon still draws a huge amount of traffic. Customers and sales on Amazon are still growing. Organic Amazon sales are still more than enough to sustain a small-medium sized business.
If you’re getting started selling online, Amazon is generally the best option. It takes a lot of things off your hands. Like finding customers (though you still need to master Amazon SEO), and storage and fulfillment (if you make use of FBA). That way, you can focus on a smaller range of tasks as you’re starting your business.
It’s also smart to continue selling on Amazon as your business grows. The prospect of organic sales is too good to pass up, for a brand of any size.
Experienced and successful Shopify sellers have said the same. Amazon takes care of so many areas, letting you build your business a lot more efficiently.
However, that doesn’t mean Amazon is, or should be, your only port of call. There’s no reason why you can’t remain strong on Amazon, while building out other channels too.
The off-Amazon presence can add to your bottom line, as well as providing a safety net if things on Amazon drop off.
How an Off-Amazon Presence Helps You
There are many reasons that growing your brand outside of Amazon is a good idea. And as long as you have the resources (time, budget, manpower) to do so, very few downsides.
First of all, this gives you an extra sales channel, which will add to your revenue. Even if you only made 5% of what you make on Amazon, that’s still an extra 5% you didn’t have before. Who doesn’t want to make more money?
Second, establishing your brand and generating brand recognition outside of Amazon will help you sell more and have a higher conversion rate ON Amazon.
When you pop up on the Amazon search results, you’ll get more clicks if people recognize your brand. Also, as you’re not a complete unknown to the customer, there will be less doubt, and customers will be more likely to convert after clicking through to your listing.
This is all social proof, which is vital for making sales in e-commerce.
Finally, there’s always the possibility that you will want or need to move your operation off Amazon in the future. You might want to work without Amazon’s fees cutting into your revenue. You might be pushed out or targeted by competitors, or even suspended by Amazon.
Either way, it’s a lot easier to move your main sales channel somewhere else if you’ve already built out these channels. If you get kicked off
The only real downside to expanding is the time you spend building your off-Amazon presence. If you’re a solopreneur or a very small operation, you may not have the resources to do this. But if you want to start scaling your business, expanding is a must.
How to Start Expanding Off-Amazon
There’s no need to build a huge empire right away. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your multi-channel e-commerce giant.
It’s best to start small, building out your presence a piece at a time. This is why it’s best to start while your Amazon sales are still strong.
Here are a few key channels you can think about for expanding your reach.
The first thing you should have are social media accounts for your brand. Today, everyone is on social media, and businesses/brands are expected to be as well.
Facebook and Instagram are the biggest. You won’t find many e-commerce brands that don’t have a presence on these two networks.
Pinterest is another that can be great for many niches. Particularly if you are geared towards women (Pinterest’s user base skews female).
You can also create a YouTube channel and start putting out video content. Though this involves a lot more work than other channels.
With all these social networks, you don’t even have to be driving sales for them to be effective. It’s about creating brand recognition, and creating a community of fans within your niche. In fact, social media is most effective when you’re not sell-first all the time.
People see right through you if the majority of your posts are trying to sell something. But if, say, 80% of your posts are genuinely helpful, informative or fun, you’ll soon start to grow an engaged following. Which will be super valuable over time.
Build and Sell on Your Own Site
All Amazon sellers should look at building their own site before long.
You don’t need to be a programmer to do this. Platforms like Shopify and WordPress are relatively easy for beginners to pick up, with a whole lot of plugins and themes to do the heavy lifting you’d need a coder for.
One of the biggest benefits of having a site for your brand or business is the extra legitimacy it gives your brand. A proper website (www.[yourbrand].com) to put on your packaging, or to add to your social media profiles, makes a big difference.
It also gives you another place you can sell from, and a place to show off your entire range of products. And of course, if things go bad on Amazon, you have a site in place to move your attention to if necessary.
It’s fine to build a site and not sell on it just yet – building the site is the biggest step. Though it would be smart to start running some small external traffic campaigns to your site. This can give you a small boost in sales, and help you start building an audience.
Many sellers will redirect their site’s checkout to Amazon, where the actual sales take place. This is not a bad idea, as these sales end up helping your organic Amazon rankings.
You can also sell through your site but continue to store and ship from Amazon, using multi-channel fulfillment.
Build a Customer List
Building an audience goes hand in hand with building out social profiles and your own site.
Selling on Amazon has one big pitfall – you don’t own your customers.
When someone buys on Amazon, they’re an Amazon customer. You can’t get their contact details, you can’t market to them more after the sale.
This puts your business in a tough spot if you can’t rely on organic Amazon sales anymore.
Once you’ve built your site and social media profiles, you’ll want to use them to start building a customer list. Things like opt-in forms on your site, content upgrades
[By the way, this is exactly what LandingCube was designed for!]
Selling on Social Media
Paid social media ads leading to your site or to Amazon have been the go-to way of driving sales from external traffic. Now, many of these social networks are adding the ability for brands to sell directly on the platform.
In most cases, selling on Amazon or your own site is still better. Making sales on your site gives you more control over the process and your customers. While making sales on Amazon helps grow your rankings, bringing in more organic sales.
However, as these platforms develop more for e-commerce, it might be worth trying this out. Especially if you have a decent social media following.
The decreased friction from keeping everything in one place will likely help conversions. Whereas each time you send the customer on to another platform, that’s another chance for them to drop off.
Launch on Other Marketplaces
Finally, you might want to diversify your business and add more sales channels by launching on competing marketplaces.
Other online platforms that operate like Amazon include eBay, Walmart and Jet.
These platforms still don’t have near the traffic and sales volume Amazon does, but they are growing. And with less competition, you might have an easier time ranking your products on these platforms.
At the very least, these marketplaces can offer you another sales channel, which you can manage via multi-channel fulfillment.
The additional revenue helps cash flow, which can be re-invested into other areas of your business. And if your Amazon sales go south, you can turn one of these marketplaces into your primary sales channel.
Your Brand’s Off-Amazon Presence – In Summary
1.2 million new sellers started selling on Amazon in 2018. That’s because it’s easily the best platform to get started as an e-commerce business.
Once you’ve established your Amazon store and want to scale your business, you’re going to want to think about expanding off Amazon.
It could always be there as your main sales channel – there are many multi-million dollar businesses operating primarily on Amazon. But to grow your reach and diversify your sales channels, think about growing out your external presence, sooner rather than later.
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