I am making my way to the Amazon photo studios in Hoxton for what, I am told, is a very big launch to do with homeware. There's a certain buzz outside, video making and all, I sign up and grab a drink trying to take in the scenery. The studios have been turned into a marketplace with stalls that feature products, from ceramics, prints, jewellery to lights and candles. I have to admit, it smells lovely (family-ran business COSY GLOW's candles were responsible for that by the way).
It's been a year since giant e-tailer Amazon launched Handmade at Amazon, an online marketplace that was meant to rival ETSY. Handmade launched only in the US in October 2015 and as of September 22nd it launches in the UK and another 4 European countries too.
WHAT IS HANDMADE BY AMAZON
"Handmade at Amazon features handcrafted products across 10 categories including jewellery, home decor, artwork, kitchen and dining, and furniture. A third of the items will be available for personalisation". Wait, I thought that's what ETSY was all about.
NOT SATISFIED WITH ITS NEAR MONOPOLY IN BOOK SELLING, AMAZON NOW WANTS A PIECE OF THE ARTISAN WORLD TOO
I don't blame them. The votes are in. Consumers want more of these hand made, hand crafted, lovingly packed and kissed goodbye products and are prepared to pay something extra for them.
You have to apply for a seller account on HANDMADE at Amazon (you just open an account on ETSY). The director of Seller Services in the UK, Simon Johnson, believes that by having Amazon staff review a prospective seller's application, they will ensure that the products that are included in the marketplace will be factory-free and handcrafted. After you get accepted, you can set up shop and even have a shop-friendly URL to print on your cards.
Amazon's offer sounds like a blessing for the work of local artisans from across the UK. Amazon definitely markets this as a unique opportunity to join the club that can help you sell your products to their near 250 million customers who recognise Amazon as a household name.
BUT WOULD YOU BUY ARTISANAL PRODUCTS FROM AMAZON?
Let's be clear about this. When you think of Amazon, "artisanal" does not spring to mind, does it? You think technology, books (and here's an interesting article about why Amazon is bad for writers), cheap and fast. But artisanal products?
During the launch, I asked a few of the sellers that had come along why they had chosen to sell on HANDMADE. Everyone gave me the same answer: they wanted their product in front of a bigger audience. Other than that, they hadn't considered ETSY or other online market places or did not have much of an opinion about where they would sell.
Sure, but if the majority of Amazon's audience is not your target market, why bother?
BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS ON SOMEONE ELSE'S PLATFORM...
Comes with inherent risks. What if the platform is not available after some time? What if the fees increase? Whose rules do you need to follow?
Here's what you can't do with HANDMADE at Amazon
You are not allowed to advertise personal websites or anything similar. Thinking of dropping a business card in the package? Only if it directs back to your Amazon shop. On the contrary Etsy allows you to promote Facebook pages and other profiles which could help you generate income outside of the platform.
You can't build a big name for yourself. Because Amazon is already associated with the land of cheap, so selling your beautiful artisanal products on there, kind of de-values them. Do you really want to drop ship for them?
You don't get you money until you SHIP the item. So you cannot use the money to buy supplies. With ETSY, you get paid immediately.
You can't stop Amazon from going away and manufacturing a product just like yours if they see that it's popular. They do manufacture whereas ETSY does not.
From what I have been reading, the platform is not very seller friendly. You cannot bulk upload images so it takes for like ever to launch products.
Here's what Amazon can do
They can access your sales data. Nothing stops them from finding the big sellers, replicating their top selling products and selling them on at lower price to drive YOU out of business.
They can send emails like this, and dictate your pricing policy:
“We have identified that based on the current cost of some of your products, we are not able to sustainably offer them to our customers despite our highly efficient, high volume retail model.” The email went on to suggest a price reduction of 15% on a take it or leave us basis. Eek.
I'll seek out those first few sellers for comment this time next year. I'd love to see how Handmade helped them and I hope it will because most of them are freaking fabulous at what they do and all they want is follow their dream and be their own boss.
So please Handmade at Amazon. Make this work. For the sake of artisans.
Also read: Why I rage-quit Amazon Handmade