Amazon is the first place most shoppers go when they need just about anything — after all, where else can you purchase a kayak, glitter pens, and a cat backpack on a midnight shopping frenzy?
In fact, well over 200 million unique monthly customers head to this one-stop shop before checking out alternatives to Amazon. And with a whopping 4,000 items per minute sold by small and medium-sized businesses, that makes the e-commerce platform a no-brainer for online retailers.
But there’s more to e-commerce than Amazon.
As a savvy seller, you want to scale your online presence and grow your audience base — and you probably already know that the e-commerce giant doesn’t always make it easy. There are several factors at play when it comes to success on Amazon (many out of your control), so it’s important to diversify your platforms and not dump all your eggs in Amazon’s basket.
To guide you toward the best decision, we’ll break down the pros and cons of selling on Amazon and dish out our best alternatives to Amazon Marketplace, so you can expand your reach and gain a better share of the market.
The Scoop on Alternatives to Amazon for Sellers
- Sell on Amazon, but anticipate challenges
- The 3 best alternatives to Amazon:
- Walmart Marketplace
- Instagram Checkout
- Alternatives to Amazon: How to choose the right one for you
Sell on Amazon, but anticipate challenges
Getting set up and launched on Amazon is straightforward — you don’t need to worry about building a website, warehousing products or handling customer service. Simply create your product listings, send your inventory to FBA, and you’re well on your way to selling your first product.
But getting found on Amazon is a different story.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out among a crowd of similar products — and larger companies, including international ones, will pay top dollar to sponsor products and get that coveted Amazon buy box.
Issues sellers encounter with Amazon:
- Amazon’s fees are high: Amazon takes a 15% commission every time you sell a product. Add in the cost to store, ship, and advertise, and you’re looking at 50% (or more!) of your revenue heading straight to Amazon’s pocket. And if the commission cost gets passed onto the consumer, you’ll have to sell products at a higher price to be profitable, meaning low-margin products may not be worth the effort.
- Amazon owns the customer relationship: As an Amazon seller, you don’t get access to personal information about your customers. This makes it impossible to remarket and build a rapport with the people who purchase from you. But that doesn’t mean you wash your hands of any customer responsibility — you still handle customer service issues, and must resolve those issues fast to save your reputation.
- Amazon listing hijackers: You work hard to create, manufacture and sell high-quality private label products. But listing hijackers can make a substandard copycat version of the same products and use your listing to sell their version of the product. Unsuspecting shoppers may not notice the difference, but when their product arrives, it’s your brand that gets the bad review (not what you need when you’re growing an online biz).
Despite these challenges, 85% of sellers on Amazon are profitable. It’s the ideal marketplace to get in front of a massive audience while moving volumes of products from your inventory.
But when it comes to scaling your business, diversity is key — and the road to success holds more than one e-commerce platform for your brand.
The 3 best alternatives to Amazon
There are a ton of alternatives to Amazon out there — but if you’re looking to scale, it’s important to choose the right ones for your business.
Here are the top 3 e-commerce alternatives that offer a space for sellers to list and promote third-party items.
1. Walmart Marketplace
Walmart has led the retail market space for decades, but in 2009 it shook up the world of e-commerce by opening a game-changing online platform for third-party retailers. Then in February 2020, Walmart made another bold step by introducing Walmart Fulfillment Service (WFS) — a direct alternative to Amazon FBA.
Here are the advantages of Walmart Marketplace:
- Limited seller fees: Merchants are only required to pay a referral fee for each product purchased. Each fee is product category-dependent, but you won’t incur monthly fees and closing fees as you do on Amazon.
- Endless product assortments: You won’t have SKU minimums or maximums with Walmart. So long as your products aren’t on the prohibited list, you can leverage your entire catalog on Walmart Marketplace.
- You’re in charge of the return policy: As a Walmart seller, you have more control over your return conditions and can set up terms that work best for your business while still being fair to your customer.
- The competition isn’t as fierce: Though Walmart hosts more than 70 thousand sellers, this number pales in comparison to the more than 2 million found on Amazon. Less competition means more customers looking at your products and a better chance of winning the buy box. 👌🏼
- Find new customers: Walmart Marketplace receives more than 120 million unique visitors each month, and an impressive 39% of consumers shopped on Walmart.com in Q1 of 2021. Walmart attracts a more budget-conscious shopper than Amazon, with 12% of Walmart customers saying they won’t purchase from Amazon due to high prices.
2. Checkout on Instagram
With over 1 billion users, you have a big chance of finding customers on Instagram. In fact, a whopping 83% of people say they’ve discovered new products on Insta. In 2019, the social media giant launched ‘Checkout on Instagram’, making it even easier for #InstaShoppers to buy in-tool.
Here are a few advantages of selling on Checkout on Instagram:
- Optimized for mobile: If you dig into your analytics, you’ll probably see a majority of your customers shop on a mobile device. Instagram Checkout links products straight from social posts or paid ads, making it seamless for users to love an item and purchase it on the spot. You can also tag product links in your posts, giving users the option to add items to their Instagram Cart or redirect to your website.
- Live shopping: Ever stay up watching those late-night QVC infomercials? Instagram Live offers the same thing for your business. Customers can purchase products in real-time when you host a live video on your account. This allows users to see your product in action and ask questions before they purchase.
- Multiple retailers, a single click: Instagram users can shop around on the social platform, adding products from different businesses to their carts. They can then checkout without ever leaving the app. Though it’s not as seamless as Amazon, where all items are purchased together, you can think of it as more of an open market or mall. Shoppers can hop around to different online stores without ever leaving and clicking away.
As an online retailer, it’s essential to have your own web presence outside of third-party selling — and Shopify sits top of mind when it comes to hosted e-commerce stores. With over 1.7 million active businesses and $2B in sales, Shopify is a fully-integrated online retailer solution with prebuilt online shops you can customize to fit your brand.
So, what are the advantages of selling on Shopify?
- Simplistic and customizable: Customers rave about how easy it is to set up shop on this e-commerce platform. You don’t need to be tech-savvy or have mad coding skills to build a beautiful, functional store because Shopify comes with a library of pre-built customizable themes.
- 24/7 customer support: Unless you pay tons of extra cash for support, you don’t usually get help from Amazon. But with Shopify, customer support is a different ballgame with around-the-clock support via live chat, email, or phone.
- Sleek app store: If there’s a feature you want, Shopify likely has an app for it. Their app store boasts over 1,200 plugins and apps to support your e-commerce biz. Plus, many of the apps support automation, which means much of your store will run itself (think: accounting, inventory management, and more).
- Your site is fully hosted: Some retailers shy away from hosting their online store because of the huge expenses. But as Shopify is fully hosted, you don’t need to shell out extra bucks to maintain your site online.
Alternatives to Amazon: How to choose the right one for you
Choosing alternatives to Amazon can open up doors for a growing e-commerce business — but whichever platform you choose, it’s vital to prioritize channels that will work best for your business model.
Here’s what to keep in mind when deciding where to sell:
- Storage: Do you want to warehouse and ship your products? Or do you prefer seller platforms that offer fulfillment? Storage can be a huge expense for online retailers and should be factored into your budget when deciding where to sell your products.
- Advertising: These days you have to pay to play, no matter where you sell your products online. Ad spend becomes a big priority on sites with competitive markets, so think about where your customers are more likely to find you and how competitive your market really is.
- Refund policies: How important is it for you to be in control of your refund policy? Third-party sellers tend to have higher refunds, but sites like Walmart allow you to create your own. The more control you have over your refund policy, the better relationship you can build with your customers.
The world of e-commerce is getting busier by the day as customers grow increasingly comfortable shopping online. Diversifying your online presence will ensure you get in front of a larger audience and don’t become too heavily reliant on a single platform like Amazon to generate all of your revenue.
So what are you waiting for? Diversify your brand and win back a little control from Amazon with the right sales channel for you!