Is Becoming an Amazon Seller Worth It — and Should You?

Learn about the pros and cons of becoming an Amazon store to decide if it’s the right move for your eCommerce business.

In 2021, Amazon surpassed Walmart to officially become the largest retailer in the world outside of China. Thanks in part to the pandemic, Amazon now accounts for 41% of the U.S. eCommerce market, while its nearest competitor — Walmart — has only a measly 6.6% market share. 

But Amazon didn’t take over the market as a monolithic retailer. Instead, it essentially established itself as the world’s largest flea market

Today, literally millions of retailers have set up their virtual booths on Amazon, selling everything from products found in physical swap meets to custom-crafted handmade wares to exclusively sourced items direct from manufacturers. In total, these third-party sellers account for 56% of items sold on Amazon

Given the difficulty of competing with Amazon, it’s natural to consider whether you should just set up shop on Amazon, too. While it’s certainly possible to make money selling on Amazon, it’s not the right choice for every business. 

In today’s guide, we’re going to help you decide if selling on Amazon is right for your brand by explaining:

  • The basics of selling your products on Amazon
  • The pros and cons of Amazon selling
  • And questions to ask before starting

Selling Your Products on Amazon: The Basics

If you want to sell on Amazon, the process to set up your Amazon Seller Central account is pretty easy:

All new sellers need is:

  • A valid credit card
  • A phone number
  • Bank account details
  • A government ID to verify your personal info

That’s it. You can set up your Amazon business and start selling today!

However, if you want to really be successful selling on Amazon, you’ll need to prepare for these five pillars of your virtual booth:

  • Product listings
  • Paid advertising
  • Shipping
  • Customer service
  • Brand registry (if applicable)

Managing these pillars will help your Amazon booth become a profitable eCommerce outlet. That’s why we recommend learning more about them (and creating a plan for each) before you set up your Amazon seller account. 

Product Listings

Product listings show off all the wares you have to sell on Amazon. 

Amazon doesn’t really limit the number of different products you can list, and it doesn’t even start charging you for inactive listings until you have more than 100,000 SKUs. However, that doesn’t mean you should fill your booth with all the slapdash listings you possibly can. 

To be successful, you’ll want to optimize your product listings to show up in searches and convert potential buyers. So, you should limit yourself to only the products that are worth the effort. 

A product listing should include:

  • Title
  • Product features
  • Product description
  • Search terms
  • Images
  • Video
  • A+ content (if you’re a brand registered seller)
  • Dimensions and weight
  • Price
  • Product category

Not all of these are required — but the more of these items you include, the better. 

Amazon listing for Vitrazza Glass Office Chair Mat Rectangle 36 inches by 48 inches Chiaro Standard Clear. Image of the corner of a glass chair mat, with descriptive text pointing out product features.

A+ content is only available for brand-registered sellers. This means that you’re either the manufacturer of the product or their exclusive distributor on Amazon. 

Managing your product listing is basically the equivalent of SEO for an eCommerce website. You will want to constantly monitor, update, and optimize your product listing. 

You’ll also want to make sure you have your inventory management down. You can’t make sales for products you don’t have, and if you try, Amazon will penalize you.

Paid Advertising

Featured Product. Sponsored. Image of Atrantil bloating solution. Shop now.
A sponsored Amazon listing from our client Atrantil.

If your product listing is your SEO, then paid advertising on Amazon is your PPC

Ads on Amazon are easy to manage. You can either choose the terms you want to show up for and manage your bids on each term individually or let Amazon manage them for you. A good bid strategy will make sure you’re showing up for enough results to generate sales without cutting into the profit margin of those sales. 

After that, you just need to make sure you’re managing your product feed properly. Amazon makes this easy for you. Because it’s a closed system, the platform will automatically stop showing any of your items that are out-of-stock (OOS) or disapproved.

Depending on the campaign types you create, Amazon can also automatically choose the terms, categories, and product pages on which your products will be advertised. That’s why it’s so important that all the information in your product descriptions is as accurate and as detailed as possible (Amazon uses the fields in its automatic campaign placements).

Shipping

When you’re selling products on Amazon, you have to choose a shipping method. You can choose either fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or fulfillment by merchant (FBM), i.e. you. 

With Amazon FBA, Amazon handles the packaging and shipping of products from its warehouses. This costs more, but it comes with several benefits. 

Of course, you wash your hands of all the hassle of shipping products to buyers. However, when you use FBA, your products also qualify for the same shipping incentives as Amazon’s own products. This means free shipping to Amazon Prime members and non-members who meet the order value threshold. 

FBM means you manage shipping yourself. When an order comes in, you send it to the buyer. This can be more profitable if you already have well-developed logistics, such as a reliable drop-shipper. However, the lack of shipping incentives can be a big hurdle to overcome with customers. 

Amazon also offers Multi-channel fulfillment (MCF), which lets you use Amazon warehouses and shipping to fulfill orders you receive through all sales channels (your website, Facebook, etc.). This is a good shipping option to consider if you have an established online store but aren’t happy with your current logistics. 

Customer Service

Customer service is a tricky thing when you’re selling on Amazon. 

For a great many eCommerce businesses reselling on Amazon, the customers you get there are not in actuality your customers. They are Amazon’s customers, and your ability to manage a relationship with them is limited. Amazon doesn’t want your private label remarketing to these customers or building a relationship with them. 

It’s a little different if you’re a brand registered seller (more on that below). In this case, you have some degree of relationship with your customers on Amazon, and you should definitely do all you can to improve their loyalty

Regardless, Amazon has expectations that all sellers provide optimum customer service. Whether you are a third-party reseller or a direct-to-consumer brand, there are several benchmarks you’ll need to monitor, including late shipment rates and response time to customer messages. 

Fortunately, there are ways to set up your Amazon store to be flexible with shipping and still meet the platform’s standards. For example, keeping on top of your shipping schedule and holiday weekend settings will allow you to maintain a good account health score over three- or four-day weekends.

Amazon also takes some of the decisions about customer service (like return policy) out of your hands. 

All that said, failure to live up to Amazon’s customer service standards can lead to penalties up to and including a ban from the platform. 

Brand Registry

If your store is eligible, enrolling in Amazon’s Brand Registry program gives you more control over your brand and your customer experience.

The program gives you access to:

  • A+ content
  • Sponsored, branded ads
  • Free multi-page Amazon store
  • Expanded brand analytics
  • New seller incentives

By registering, you’ll be able to more directly build your own brand awareness (not Amazon’s) in association with your product lines and customer service — growing your customer base, even if they’re shopping on this platform instead of your eCommerce site.

Should I Sell on Amazon?

Now that you know how to sell on Amazon, the question remains: Should your brand sell on Amazon? 

For many retailers, Amazon represents a necessary evil. It’s an entry point for many eCommerce entrepreneurs. If you’re a startup with little upfront capital, selling on Amazon can be an efficient way to kick off your venture. 

But, if you already have an established online business, is selling on Amazon worth it? You might be missing big opportunities, but it might also be too much hassle for not enough profit. 

Consider these pros and cons, then ask yourself the questions below to help make your decision.

Should Your eCommerce Business Sell on Amazon? Pros: You can easily launch products on Amazon. Amazon comes with built-in reach. You can more easily influence product rank. Amazon can manage shipping for you. Cons: Your data is limited. Costs can be prohibitive for smaller businesses. Competition is fierce. Amazon's customers aren't your customers. Amazon doesn't care about your brand — only its bottom line. Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert. Grow.

Pros:

You can easily launch products on Amazon.

As we explained above, it’s easy to start selling on Amazon. If you already have product listings on your website, you can duplicate all those efforts on your Amazon product listings. 

It’s even easier if you’re working with an eCommerce digital marketing agency. Your team can take all your SEO efforts and convert them to Amazon listings. In our experience, most retailers can increase their gross revenue within 60–90 days, using a reasonable advertising budget on Amazon.

Amazon is also a great place to launch new products by helping you see if there is currently demand or a market for the product you’re launching. 

Amazon comes with built-in reach.

Amazon gets billions of visits every month. Many online shoppers start their shopping on Amazon, and there are some Prime members who shop almost nowhere else. Therefore, selling your product on Amazon is the only way to reach these shoppers. 

Plus, Amazon listings can rank high in Google searches, so this gives you another way to take up real estate on the SERPS (search engine results pages). 

You can more easily influence your product rank.

Amazon rewards its most successful booths with better product ranking and other benefits (like more space in the warehouse for Amazon FBA sellers). 

You can influence your rank by using Facebook and Google Ads to send traffic to your product listings on Amazon. This leads to more traffic and more sales, which will improve your product rank and help you get better sales within the closed loop of the Amazon marketplace. 

Amazon can manage shipping for you.

If you choose FBA, Amazon can easily manage your packaging and shipping using Amazon’s fulfillment centers. This not only saves you the hassle of shipping to those customers but also gives you additional benefits within the Amazon ecosystem. 

Your items qualify for free shipping to Prime members, plus free shipping when non-Prime shoppers meet the threshold purchase requirements. Free shipping is a big incentive, and it can lead to more sales for your products. 

Plus, with the chronic shipping delays plaguing eCommerce, using FBA puts the blame for delays on Amazon, not your brand. 

Cons:

Your data is limited.

Amazon collects tons of data about customers that come to its site. However, it gives very little of that data to you. That’s because it considers these customers its own, not yours.

Amazon advertising doesn’t retain any historical data older than two months old. So, unless you partner with a third-party ads platform, most of your advertising data will be inaccessible to your team. 

With limited data, it’s difficult to track how much of your Amazon sales may be cannibalizing your website sales. 

Typically, expanding to Amazon leads to an increase in gross revenue. However, this doesn’t always translate into an increase in profits, and Amazon’s stingy approach to metrics makes it hard to figure out why.  

The costs can be prohibitive for smaller businesses.

Selling on Amazon comes with costs. There are selling fees (usually charged on a monthly basis), referral fees, advertising fees, listing fees, refund administration fees, and possible FBA fees. If you aren’t moving all your merchandise fast enough using FBA, you can incur punitive storage fees and long-term storage fees, too. 

If you have high-volume sales, you can still be profitable — but for many struggling small businesses, these costs can eat up your margins, especially in crowded verticals. 

Your competition will be fierce.

With about two million sellers on Amazon, there can be cutthroat competition for sales. If you’re in a saturated vertical, it will always be a race to the bottom, with sellers trying to undercut each other for the lowest price. 

There are numerous anecdotal reports of competitors on Amazon using dirty tricks to sabotage rivals, though few are confirmed. 

Perhaps the dirtiest fighter of them all is Amazon, which always gives itself the inside track to the buy box. It’s hard to be profitable selling any item once Amazon decides to sell it. 

They are not your customers.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: When you’re selling on Amazon, you are selling to Amazon customers, not your own. 

(To be fair, Amazon has a lot of customers, so that might not be a problem for you.)

However, because Amazon restricts the data it gives you, it’s very difficult to create and maintain your store’s brand on Amazon. As a seller of your own branded products, you might be able to build customer relationships, but Amazon makes this very hard for resellers. 

Amazon also doesn’t want you to remarket to its customers, so it can be hard to justify using your social media and Google advertising investment to increase Amazon’s customers.

Amazon doesn’t care about you.

Amazon is concerned about its bottom line, not yours. As long as Amazon thinks your success feeds into its profits, it will encourage your efforts. 

However, once Amazon decides it will be more profitable to undercut you by selling the same or a competing product, it will do so. 

Plus, Amazon makes it hard to get help if competitors target you with underhanded tactics. It also favors its customers, even if they’re making unreasonable demands that can put a strain on your business. 

Questions to Ask

Rather than ask if Amazon is right for your brand, ask yourself: Is my brand right for Amazon? 

These three follow-up questions should help make the answer to the first one clear:

Questions to Ask Before Selling on Amazon. Signs Your eCommerce Brand is Right for This Channel. Does your brand have a history of success and sales? Do you have a reliable inventory pipeline? Can you commit time to product feed management? Can your business really be profitable on Amazon? Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert. Grow.

Does your brand have a history of success?

As a general rule, Amazon won’t save a sinking ship. That’s not their business. Their business is in promoting successful products and taking a rake from the profits. 

If you’re an independent brand, you should have already built a steady stream of buyers using your own website, a Facebook store, an Etsy store, or other channels. You should also have a sense that there is untapped demand for your product. 

Only after you’ve done that can Amazon help you tap into that demand to improve your profits. 

Do you have a reliable inventory?

Amazon is a great and hungry beast that must be fed. 

If you can’t reasonably supply the demand of a successful Amazon campaign, you might not be able to profit from an Amazon booth. If you’re a private label reseller who doesn’t have constant inventory, either in your own warehouse or Amazon’s, you will suffer. In addition, if you have your own shipping solution, it will need to meet Amazon’s difficult standards — or you might suffer penalties that will affect your future sales. 

For product manufacturers that can control their product distribution, Amazon can be a profitable channel, depending on your margins. Typically, you’ll split profits 50/50 with Amazon. 

If you can sell your merchandise and be profitable under that arrangement, it’s a good business model.

Can you commit time to feed management?

Having successful products on Amazon depends on continually updating your listings. This includes adding new visuals, product details, A+ content, and user-generated content to make your product more appealing than others. These all need to be user- and SEO-friendly.

You’ll also have to dedicate time to responding to customer questions. Amazon demands prompt responses from its sellers. 

Can your business really be profitable?

Most companies who are new to Amazon fail to understand their Amazon KPIs. An eCommerce website and an Amazon storefront will require different benchmarks in order to define success. 

Properly recognizing your added costs for selling on Amazon and labor costs for managing your Amazon store is essential. You might see higher revenues on Amazon, but you will often see higher costs, too.

Choosing the Best Path for Your Brand

If you’re an eCommerce business owner or marketer, you must have an Amazon strategy. 

For some businesses, setting up a virtual booth on Amazon can be a very profitable approach. For others, positioning themselves to compete with Amazon is the smartest approach. No, you won’t take the giant down — but with smart strategies, you may be able to live comfortably in its shade. 

If your brand isn’t quite ready for Amazon or is better suited for an independent path, our digital marketing strategists can help you improve direct sales and revenue on your eCommerce site.

Request a free proposal to see what Inflow can do for you today. 

How to Train Your In-House Digital Marketing Staff: 7 Actionable Steps

Discover how to train your in-house marketing team for improved campaigns, results, and more with Inflow’s seven proven strategies.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.

While most corporate and eCommerce brands work with agencies for part of their marketing needs, others are increasingly choosing to manage their efforts on their own. 

And who can blame them? 

Bringing your marketing experts in-house provides immediate access and collaboration, in-depth brand knowledge and, of course, a way to weather unpredictable economic conditions.

But, if you want your in-house marketing team to perform as well as an agency, you’ll still need to invest — specifically, in your team’s skills and ongoing development.

If there’s one thing Inflow has a lot of practice in, it’s training new digital marketers. Today, we’ll walk you through the seven strategies we use to keep our team members in tip-top shape — strategies you can use for your in-house marketers, too.

How to Train Marketing Staff: Tips for In-House Departments

Like with any other aspect of your digital marketing strategy, you get what you put in when it comes to training initiatives. 

The more continuous training you can provide for your team members, the more skills and knowledge they’ll be able to build — in turn, providing better campaigns and results for your brand. 

Forget to schedule professional development opportunities, and your marketing campaigns will start to stagnate (not to mention the fact that your team members will leave your company for greener pastures).

Here are a few ways to support your team in their training and development:

Step 1: Understand the capabilities of each employee — and their skill gaps. 

If you’re unsure what each person is capable of doing, it’s going to be hard to provide them with appropriate tasks to execute. 

Most leaders have a pretty good idea of what their team can and cannot do and has done in the past. This can typically be gleaned from internal meetings, resumes, and job descriptions.

But those will only take you so far.

To identify skills gaps and opportunities in a more structured, regular way, use a “Marketing Skills Matrix.” There are two steps to developing this document:

  1. Define the different roles within your marketing department and the different types of skills necessary to fill those roles (for example, copywriters, coordinators, strategists, and senior strategists).
  2. Assign a rating for each position (where a team member should perform based on their position).
A table with five columns as follows: Technical skill levels (On-Page & technical S E O), Copywriter, Marketing coordinator, inbound strategist, Sr. Inbound Strategist. 9 rows of data as follows: Technical skill levels: Keyword research, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: medium, inbound strategist: high, Sr. Inbound Strategist: very high. Technical skill levels: Site Architecture, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: low, inbound strategist: high, Sr. Inbound Strategist: very high. Technical skill levels: Canonical tags, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: medium, inbound strategist: high, Sr. Inbound Strategist: very high. Technical skill levels: Rel prev/next, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: medium, inbound strategist: high, Sr. Inbound Strategist: very high. Technical skill levels: Schema Markup & Rich Snippets, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: medium, inbound strategist: high, Sr. Inbound Strategist: very high. Technical skill levels: 301-Redirect strategy, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: medium, inbound strategist: high, Sr. Inbound Strategist: very high. The following three rows are under the category of Coding skills. Technical skill levels: H T M L, Copywriter: medium, Marketing coordinator: medium, inbound strategist: high, Sr. Inbound Strategist: high. Technical skill levels: C S S, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: low, inbound strategist: medium, Sr. Inbound Strategist: medium. Technical skill levels: Regular Expressions, Copywriter: low, Marketing coordinator: medium, inbound strategist: medium, Sr. Inbound Strategist: high.

How you define each skill’s “rating” will be based on your department’s goals and needs. Here are some general guidelines to start:

  • Low: You have little to no experience doing something, you haven’t used the tool, you’ve never completed that type of report, etc.
  • Medium: You have some experience here. You’re familiar with the tool/software/process and “know enough to be dangerous,” but you could stand to gain more with hands-on experience. 
    • For example: If a skill were an SEO tech audit, you might have performed one with the help of team members but you’ve never fully executed one yourself front to back. You still have a lot of questions for team members during the process.
  • High: You have a lot of experience with the tool/software/process. You can use the tool/software at a high level. You’ve executed the process front to back yourself, without the need for involvement from team members.
  • Very High: You’re an expert. Team members come to you when they need help with this. You wrote the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and can explain the process to others. You’ve executed this process many times and have multiple success stories/case studies to prove it.

Once you’ve defined the required skills for each position, give the list of skills to your employees and ask them to “grade” themselves in each area. At the same time, grade those employees yourself based on what you know and have seen them do. 

Then, lay out the required skill sets for their position, for the position they would like to grow into, and both of your assigned “grades.” 

It might look something like this:

A table with five columns as follows: Technical skill levels (On-Page & technical S E O), Required skills (strategist), Required Skills (Sr. Strategist), Current skills (self eval), Current skills (manager). Six rows of data as follows: Technical skill levels: Keyword Research, Required skills (strategist): high, Required Skills (Sr. Strategist): very high, Current skills (self eval): very high, Current skills (manager): medium. Technical skill levels: Site Architecture, Required skills (strategist): medium, Required Skills (Sr. Strategist): very high, Current skills (self eval): medium, Current skills (manager): medium. Technical skill levels: Canonical tags, Required skills (strategist): medium, Required Skills (Sr. Strategist): high, Current skills (self eval): medium, Current skills (manager): high. Technical skill levels: Rel prev/next, Required skills (strategist): medium, Required Skills (Sr. Strategist): high, Current skills (self eval): medium, Current skills (manager): high. Technical skill levels: Schema Markup & Rich snippets, Required skills (strategist): medium, Required Skills (Sr. Strategist): high, Current skills (self eval): low, Current skills (manager): medium. Technical skill levels: 301-redirect strategy, Required skills (strategist): high, Required Skills (Sr. Strategist): very high, Current skills (self eval): very high, Current skills (manager): medium.

In the example above, the employee is a strategist that wants to become a senior strategist. You can see that there are discrepancies in how they rate themselves in keyword research (“very high”) and how their marketing manager rates them (“medium”). This opens up an opportunity for discussion and additional training.

Note: Any development tracking tool like this should continually be updated to reflect industry updates and your department’s changing needs. Just like your employees themselves, the skillset for each role should expand and update over time.

Here are some templates to get started:

Step 2: Provide training to fill the gaps.

Once skills gaps are identified, you can provide your employees training to help them improve the desired skillset(s).

There are a plethora of possibilities, depending on your needs and department budget. Talk with your staff members and give them options to choose from; you want your team to be invested in the training path they choose, not forced into one they won’t use. (That’s why, at Inflow, we provide our team members an annual $2,000 development fund to allocate as they please.)

Here are a few options to explore:

Online Training

From self-paced lessons to months-long training programs, consider the following:

Our recommendation: Have every team member become certified in Google Analytics through Google Analytics Academy, especially with the upcoming transition to Google Analytics 4. This training course provides actionable teachings that can be applied to your marketing work right away.

Conferences

For a mix of industry training and networking, send your team members to a conference. But don’t just bankroll your employees’ getaway; add a couple of requirements to boost the value for your entire team:

  • Have them live stream a session they attend.
  • Ask them to post social media updates throughout their stay.
  • Let them turn their learning into a blog post for your website.
  • Require them to document their top takeaways and present them to other team members.

Internal Training

If you have a deep team, you don’t have to look externally for training options. Instead, use and share the knowledge that already exists among your senior team members.

Consider hosting a biweekly brainstorming session or a more formal monthly “lunch and learn” session. Challenge your team members to come with insights they’ve found over the past few weeks, or designate one sharer to dive deep into a topic (like advanced keyword research techniques, working with influencers, etc.)

Blogs

In today’s marketing ecosystem, it’s impossible to keep up with all the new content being published each week. Save some room in your staff’s inboxes by dividing and conquering your subscriptions. Then, if they find anything interesting, they can post in a Slack channel or bring their findings to your regularly scheduled meetings.

We recommend subscribing to the following publications:

For auditory learners, we recommend this list of marketing podcasts from Ahrefs

Step 3: Give them the tools they need to succeed.

To get the most out of your team, they need to be on the same page in regard to which tools to use in different situations. 

There is so much great software that can help you manage projects, plan capacity, gauge success, and keep tabs on how employees are feeling (and if they are staying motivated) that it can be overwhelming to keep track of it all. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself spending too much money on tools that are being underutilized and even have overlapping capabilities.

Take an inventory of your existing tools and ask your team: Which ones are they using most? Which are no longer necessary? Where are the gaps — and what other tools could fill those needs? 

Here are a few tools that our internal teams use:

  • Jira: For project management and team workload planning
  • Trello: For project management and collaboration internally, as well as with clients
  • 15Five: A weekly report from each team member of what has been accomplished, where struggles lie, how they’re feeling, and more
  • Screaming Frog: For crawling websites
  • Link Research Tools: A collection of tools for performing backlink analysis, looking for link opportunities, and evaluating the toxicity of a site’s backlink profile
  • CallRail: A powerful phone call tracking software

Auditing the tools we are paying for (whether they are being used and what they are being used for) is something Inflow does at least twice a year. 

Each tool you use should have a specific purpose, whether that is internally or on behalf of a client. New tools are released all the time that might be better for what you need to get done — and potentially at a lower cost than what you’re currently paying.

Step 4: Provide clear instruction and goals.

If you want your team to perform a certain way, you need to communicate what you want clearly from the get-go. Your instructions should be easily understood and followed to reduce back-and-forth communication.

Documentation is key to making this happen, and we recommend what we call our Work Breakout (WBOs) template.

In a nutshell, this tool breaks down a project into its various components and estimates the time it will take to complete each component. For each project component, there is a clear action item and/or deliverable. 

We track our time spent on each project component and, when the work is complete, we compile our data to see if the project went over or under budget (and try to identify why). 

After completing this exercise for a number of similar projects, you’ll start to see team trends, set better time estimates, and identify ways to become more efficient with your work.

Access our Work Breakouts Template now.

Icon: W B O template.

Step 5: Encourage questions and self-sufficiency.

How many times have you been in a meeting or working on a project and returned to your messages to see something like this?

1:10 p.m. John: Hey, [what is the best way to/what would you do if/how would you/where can I find] _____?

1:15 p.m. John: Never mind, I figured it out!

You should certainly encourage team members to ask questions when they don’t know something or are stuck — but, at the same time, people can often answer their own questions with a little trial-and-error.

As a general rule of thumb, we encourage team members to spend about five minutes researching a solution themselves before reaching out to someone else. 

When a team member does reach out to you, don’t give them the answer right away. Turn the conversation into a teaching opportunity by asking, “What would you do?” or “What do you think?” This will further encourage self-sufficiency and self-learning among your staff.

Step 6: Create processes and automate whatever you can.

There’s nothing worse than doing the same thing over and over again when it could be easily turned into a standardized process, made into a template, or automated. 

Creating this process often takes extra time up front; however, that time will quickly be eclipsed by all the time you save repeating that activity in the future. 

At Inflow, we create these automations for every kind of project we execute on a regular basis, including: 

  • Process (SOPs): Client kickoff call agendas, audience persona building, eCommerce content audits, hiring copywriters, etc.
  • Templates: Copywriting guides, site migration checklists, content marketing/editorial calendars, content briefs, etc.
  • Automations: Client dashboards, monthly reports, etc.

The more of your daily activities you can automate, the more time you will save in the long run — and the more time you will be able to spend on all of the other training methods above.

Step 7: Consult with the experts.

No matter how much you invest in your internal marketing teams, there will be times when the required expertise or knowledge is outside of their scope. This is where a consulting project with an agency can help.

You don’t have to commit to a long-term contract with an agency to mine from their experience. Instead, many professionals offer project-based consulting services to help your brand establish itself and create a marketing plan moving forward.

For example, here at Inflow, we frequently consult with teams on paid social media and organic social media strategies. Several of our clients manage these channels in-house, and our experts review their campaigns and strategies on a regular basis to provide feedback and new ideas.

It’s a win-win for our clients: They get access to our team members’ insights and experience at a limited cost, and they grow their in-house knowledge and capabilities through our training.

Interested in a consulting program or one-time project? Contact us today.

Continuous Team Training: An Investment that Pays Off

However large (or small) your internal marketing team is, you must allocate room in your budget for continuous training and development opportunities. Without it, your employees’ skillsets will stagnate (as will their job satisfaction), and you’ll end up paying more in the long run with failed digital marketing efforts.

We encourage you to speak with your leadership team to decide how the abovementioned strategies can fit into your business plans. Don’t forget to ask for your employees’ opinions, too; after all, they’re the ones you’re doing this for!

For more free training materials, check out our digital marketing resources library.

Or, if a professional marketing training/consultation is on your to-do list, reach out to our team and set up a call today. We’ll help you train your team on a revenue-generating strategy for your individual business anytime.

SSL Certificates for eCommerce: Effects on SEO & Conversions

Whether you’re looking for your site’s first SSL certificate or reevaluating your options, start with our complete introductory guide.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices. 

No eCommerce customer wants to buy from an unsecured site. Before giving their credit card information, addresses, and other information, they want to know their data is safe, not subject to breaches or other compromises.

For this reason, having a secured site obviously boosts your conversions. But did you know that securing your site with an SSL certificate can impact your SEO performance, too?

When we first published this piece, Google was pushing its secured site initiative, incentivizing website managers with a “rankings boost” for secure sites and alerting Chrome users of unsecured websites

Today, SSL certificates are a must for any site, eCommerce or not. Finding the right one, maintaining it, and understanding its SEO impact, however, continues to be a challenge for many businesses.

In today’s guide, we’ll give you the low-down on what your online store needs to know, including:

  • Which types of SSL certificates are available
  • How they may impact your marketing performance
  • And how to choose the best one for your site’s needs

Types of SSL Certificates

Whether you don’t yet have an SSL certificate on your site, or your current certificate is about to expire, you’ll need to periodically review your options. 

Clients often ask us, “Which SSL certificate should I choose?” — but first, they need to understand which types are available to them.

Currently, there are three major types of SSL certificates::

  • Domain Validation certificates (DV)
  • Organization Validation certificates (OV)
  • Extended Validation certificates (EV)

Within these three categories, you’ll likely find a variety of certificate options, including Wildcard SSL, multi-domain SSLs, and more. (Our client Sectigo compares all these options in detail.)

Here’s a nice breakdown of each category from HostingAdvice.com:

A table titled An overview of the basic types of S S L Certificates Available with three columns labeled: Certificate type, types of sites, and features. Three rows of data as follows. Certificate type: Extended validation (E V), Types of Sites: ecommerce, sites collecting personal info, sites where user trust is paramount, Features: 2048-bit encryption, Green bar to provide top-of-the-line trustworthiness, the types used by web giants like Twitter, banks, etc., issued in 3 - 5 days. Certificate type: Organization validation (O V), Types of Sites: ecommerce, sites collecting personal info, Features: Verified that the site is a registered government entity, 128-, 256-, or 2048 bit encryption, issued in about 24 hours. Certificate type: Domain Validation (D V), Types of Sites: Testing sites, internal sites, non-ecommerce sites, Features: Very affordable, issued almost immediately.

 As you can see above, if you run an eCommerce site, you’ll need both an EV certificate and an OV certificate at a minimum. But, given the affordable cost of a DV certificate, we recommend purchasing one of those, too.

Bottom line: The more security you can provide for your customers, the better browsing experience they will have. 

Choosing an SSL Certificate for Your eCommerce Site

SSL certificates are sold by certificate authorities (CAs). You can buy SSL certificates directly from the CA or sometimes more expediently and seamlessly through your hosting company. 

Here at Inflow, we recommend our client Sectigo, which also sells security certificates through SSL247 and Sitelock. They offer a wide range of options to choose from and can help you identify the best choice for your business. 

That said, there is no “bad” choice when it comes to SSL certificates. Because most providers offer similar products, your decision will come down to budget, desired warranties or guarantees, and your development team’s capabilities. 

When in doubt, speak with your internal stakeholders and ask potential providers plenty of questions, which will help you identify the best certificate for your needs.

Other options include:

How SSL Certificates Affect Your Digital Marketing

If you’re looking for a new SSL certificate, speak with your IT team and/or web developer. Together, you can evaluate your needs, options, and budget to choose the best option for your site.

As an eCommerce marketing company, we also recommend considering how your SSL choice will impact your digital efforts — mainly, your search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization strategies.

SSL and SEO

When Google first pushed SSL certification in 2016 as a rankings boost, it was part of their overarching strategy to deliver better (and safer) search results to their users in a time where manner websites were unsecured.

Today, the vast majority of websites have secured their certificates, begging the question: How much does SSL affect SEO in 2022?

Not as much as it used to.

For most websites, having an SSL certificate is just one small factor in a complex SEO strategy. In other words, you can’t just rely on an SSL certificate to improve your organic performance; you must also invest in technical SEO, content marketing, and other tactics.

However, in a situation where all else is equal with a competitor, having an SSL certificate could push your site over another in the SERPs.

In our opinion, an SSL certificate is more important for another strategy: improving your conversion rate.

SSL and Conversions

Bottom line: The more trust your customers have in your website, the more likely they will be to convert.

That’s why having an SSL certificate (as well as strategically chosen eCommerce trust badges) is more important for conversion rate optimization than anything else.

Trust is one of the biggest factors when users decide where to shop. Knowing a site is secure, especially when personal or payment information is requested, can make a huge difference in a customer’s purchasing decisions. 

If you can address this trust concern up front by showing your site to be secure, you overcome that objection before the user even has a chance to consider this factor. Displaying that little green lock through a customer’s entire browsing session allows your user to breathe easy from the get-go — and be more comfortable with the potential of purchasing from your site.

Three U R L bars in a vertical column. The top U R L for medium.com starts with a green lock and the text: Secure. The middle U R L for spotify.com Starts with an information icon and text: Not secure. The bottom U R L for framerjs starts with a red triangle containing an exclamation point and text: Not secure.
Source: Wired.com
A table with two columns labeled icon and what it means. Four rows of abbreviated information as follows: Icon: a globe, what it means: The site isn't using S S L. Icon: A green lock followed by https://, What it means: Google Chrome has successfully established a secure connection with the site. Icon: A lock with a yellow bell followed by https://, what it means: The site uses S S L, but Google Chrome has detected insecure content on the page. Icon: A lock with a red x followed by crossed out https://, what it means: The site uses S S L, but Google Chrome has detected either high-risk insecure content on the page or problems with the site's certificate.
Source: Netgains.org

Separately from SSL certificates, broad trust seals on your site also help conversion. But the familiarity the user has with your third-party trust seals can impact how much it helps; having an unrecognized logo on your site can sometimes hurt your conversion rate, so choose your trust seals carefully.

The provider of your SSL certificate need not be the same provider as other trust elements or security services. Displaying well-recognized trust logos (like Google Trusted Store or BBB) throughout the shopping process can have the same — if not a bigger! — impact on user behavior than displaying your SSL certificate brand, especially if that provider is not commonly known.

It’s also important to remember that, from a conversion perspective, the level of your SSL certificate is unlikely to have a huge impact. To the average user, the display difference between the levels of verification is unnoticeable. Additionally, very few users actually click this area to see the details of the certificate. 

Unless your site requires the added security for some reason — dealing in highly sensitive information, working with security professionals, etc. — you can probably get by with the cheaper options. 

As always, we recommend you test this on your site before committing to a long-term engagement. Most SSL companies will facilitate this testing as a free trial or short-term engagement.

Build Customer Trust with an SSL Certificate Today

Whether your site is eCommerce or not, having a proper SSL certificate is critical for building your customer trust. The more comfortable your shoppers are with your site’s security, the more likely they’ll be to make a purchase.

While it’s important to have a secure site and show trust badges, remember that these elements need not specifically name brands or display logos, especially if they’re not well-known. If you have a CRO team, they can run A/B tests to determine which logos most effectively move the needle for your site — and improve your overall bottom line.

Don’t have a CRO team handy? Inflow is happy to run these tests for you as part of a customized conversion rate optimization strategy. Whether you’re looking for a one-time audit or project, or you’re ready for a continuous testing engagement, we can build a proposal around your needs, budget, and goals.

Get started by contacting our team today.

reCommerce Website Strategies in the Post-COVID Age

Learn how to sell your pre-owned products and maximize your revenue with these strategies, curated from our work with KEH and Current Boutique.

Thanks to a multitude of factors, reCommerce — or the sale of secondhand goods — is expected to surpass $30 billion in sales by 2025. 

If your eCommerce brand buys and sells secondhand goods, you’re in a great position for this changing market. But, as the demand for these products increases, so will the competition from fellow resellers.

Therefore, now is the time to start investing in a digital marketing strategy that’s specialized for this niche.  

And this guide will help you get there.

Here at Inflow, we work with several premier reCommerce brands, developing customized strategies for this industry’s unique challenges and opportunities. Today, we’ll share how two of them — KEH Camera and Current Boutique — are finding success in this booming marketplace, including some strategies you can borrow for your business.

In the meantime, if you want our team to create a personalized strategy for your reCommerce brand, contact us anytime.

Table of Contents

What is reCommerce?

reCommerce — also known as “reverse commerce” — is the practice by which brands buy pre-owned products and resell them at a profit. 

But today’s reCommerce brands aren’t your run-of-the-mill thrift stores or online marketplaces like eBay or Etsy.

Instead, they are high-end brands with complex buying and reselling strategies. In many cases, they’ve spent years cultivating trustworthy reputations through in-depth authenticity research and stunning customer service. By offering reliable, quality products at a more affordable price, these brands have curated incredibly loyal customer bases that allow for rapid business growth. 

Popular reCommerce brands include ThredUp, The RealReal, and Poshmark, as well as the two clients we’ll discuss below.

Why It’s So Popular Today

The secondhand resale market is projected to double by 2025, growing 11 times faster than the broader retail clothing sector — and reflecting huge shifts in consumer behavior.

With fast fashion and mass production, today’s customers have more products than ever available at their fingertips. But not every purchase becomes a well-loved and well-used piece. 

Rather than let purchases sit forgotten in closets for years, people now have the option to sell those used products and recoup some of their losses, putting more funds back in their pockets and allowing them to start the buying cycle all over again.

While the reCommerce market has been steadily growing since 2016, the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 accelerated the growth to impressive new levels, for several reasons.

Secondhand Market is Projected to Double in Next 5 Years, Reaching $77B. Graph compares resale and traditional thrift and donation growth from 2012 to 2025. Arrows show the growth between 2021 ($36 billion) and 2025 ($77 billion) doubling over time.
Source: ThredUp

Inventory Shortage

With the pandemic’s disruptions in the supply and manufacturing chain, new products are harder to get a hold of — making the availability of secondhand products attractive to consumers and to retailers. 

On a retailer front, costs for new production continue to increase. At the same time, production of new products is taking much longer, due to backlogged materials and high employee turnover.

Procuring secondhand products from eager-to-sell customers can reduce those costs and build up inventory, helping your business better compete with higher shopper demand.

For the same reasons, pre-owned products are attractive to your customers, too — especially when they can’t get the items they want (like quality camera gear) any other way.

“With continued supply chain constraints, consumers who are looking to upgrade may not have the new gear available to them right now,” says Carey Kegel, senior director of sales and marketing at KEH. 

“It’s certainly a balancing act for us, because these supply chain issues provide a great reason for customers to come to us when they don’t want to wait for new — but it also presents a unique challenge when consumers who only want to buy new decide to hold onto gear longer that they would otherwise sell to us while they wait.”

Affordability

With inflation hitting its highest point since 1981, customers care about their wallets more than ever before. Pre-owned products allow customers to purchase those items they want at a cheaper price (and, as mentioned above, recoup costs for those items they wish to offload).

That said, the usual reCommerce customer isn’t the shopper trolling Craigslist and other direct-resale platforms. They want a quality product, not a product found at the lowest price possible. 

(We’ll talk more about that below.)

Sustainability

Finally, when it comes to the modern rise of reCommerce, we can’t ignore the sustainability aspect. 

A study by Carousell (an online resale marketplace based in Singapore) revealed that 30–45% of secondhand shoppers bought for environmental reasons, a statistic that’s echoed among U.S. shoppers, especially younger consumers like Millennials and Generation Z.

reCommerce allows customers to buy products new to them, without the eco-guilt of fast fashion and unsustainable commercialism. However, consumers can sniff out virtue-signaling like no other — so, if you use this as a marketing tactic, make sure you mean it.

“Sustainability is so important in the pre-owned space,” Kegel says. “Consumers have become increasingly more aware of their product consumption and how that impacts our environment. By shopping pre-owned, products have a longer lifecycle and stay out of landfills. Customers want to shop with companies that align with their personal values.

“But companies have to be passionate about it, too. You can’t just say it’s sustainability; you have to actually practice what you preach in your day-to-day operations.”

A reCommerce Case Study in Two Parts

A successful reCommerce digital marketing strategy incorporates not just the above-mentioned factors, but also specific customer data, vertical trends, and more.

To help you create your strategy, we present these studies of two brands — KEH and Current Boutique — who both saw increased revenue, traffic, and website sessions over the past two years.

reCommerce Trends: Feb. 2020-21 vs. Feb. 2021-22. Line chart comparing two client data sets (Current Boutique and KEH) of sessions, transactions, and revenue percent change. Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert. Grow.

We’ll detail some of the tactics they’re using to grow their business, so you can give them a try yourself.

Want our full list of recommended strategies? Download our reCommerce checklist now.

Download Our reCommerce Digital Marketing: Strategies for Success Now. Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert. Grow.

The Industry-Leading Camera Reseller

Since 1979, KEH Camera has been the original, premier reseller of professional, collective, and everyday camera gear for novices and enthusiasts alike.

As their digital marketing agency, our job is not only to help sell the secondhand inventory (the “Shop” program) but also to procure inventory through sellers (the “Sell” program).

Refining the Keyword Strategy

In some cases, audiences looking to shop and sell secondhand products may have some degree of overlap. However, to keep both inventory and sales strong, KEH uses specific strategies for each.

The most important factor: keywords for organic and paid search targeting.

Because most of KEH’s “Shop” customers know exactly which gear they’re looking for, the associated keywords must be very unique, highly targeted queries. Often, these include brand and product names, down to the smallest details. The more detailed the query, the higher the chance of a conversion

On the other hand, a “Sell” shopper is typically broader in their queries, using phrases like “sell my camera.” Because they’re not attached to any particular reseller, there’s a lot more room for error in this funnel — which is why our team works tirelessly to identify the keywords that drive the best results for the business (and, in turn, keep the inventory stock high).

Building Client Trust

Although KEH is one of the oldest camera gear resellers on the market, it lives in a vertical that gets more crowded by the year. It’s not just enough to bring customers to the site through organic and paid traffic; KEH must differentiate itself from competitors and prove why customers should choose them over others.

“The amount of photography expertise we have across KEH is pretty impressive,” Kegel says. “Our team is passionate about photography, and it’s important that message gets across in all of our marketing assets. Because of this passion, we know just how important it is to ensure our customers get the right gear for what they want to shoot — and that they can trust it is in the condition they expect.”

Here’s how they do it, for a total of 213% revenue increase from 2020–22:

Extensive Grading System

One of the biggest risks for customers purchasing from the secondhand market: getting a low-quality or inauthentic product. 

With this, reCommerce brands like KEH have a huge advantage over direct-sell marketplaces — but only if they take advantage of it. For that reason, KEH emphasizes the quality of products (and transparency of the business) with a comprehensive grading system.

Every product is inspected by camera tech experts, before being qualified as one of eight “grades” with clear expectations for quality level.

KEH Grading System, with eight grades: New, Like New, Like New Minus, Excellent Plus, Excellent, Bargain, Ugly, and As Is. Each is accompanied by a badge and comparative grades from other businesses.

This way, customers know exactly what to expect — eliminating the common quality concern of pre-owned products.

Flagship Emphasis

KEH’s experience is its biggest selling point and the focus of its marketing efforts. 

On its website, in email marketing, and in paid search and social copy, the right phrase can make all the difference to a prospective customer. So, KEH leans into its advantage as a flagship reseller, using copy like:

  • #1 Used Photography
  • Most Trustworthy
  • How We’re Different
Facebook Ad from K E H Camera. Graded by experts. Renewed with care. Photo of hand holding a camera in front of fall foliage. Shop Now.

Of course, to back up that trust, the brand also offers a generous 180-day warranty, a clear return policy, and plentiful customer testimonials.

Read more about KEH’s success — including a 213% increase in ad revenue and 11.4% increase in conversion rate — in our full case study.

The Designer Fashion Reseller

Current Boutique is an online fashion reseller that started with brick-and-mortar stores and has gradually expanded its digital presence over the last few decades. Since COVID, the consignment brand is reporting massive gains, for several reasons.

When COVID mandates prevented customers from visiting their physical stores in the D.C. area, Current Boutique’s team renewed their focus on online marketing — which has exploded, thanks to an increase in customers’ buying secondhand clothing online.

“The supply chain was never anything that affected us, because we get our inventory from the public,” says Carmen Lopez, CEO at Current Boutique. “In fact, because of COVID and people spending the last two years largely out of the office and out of social settings and at home cleaning out their closets, there’s been an immense amount of desire for people to sell their inventory or to transition their wardrobes.” 

Here’s how the brand is keeping customers coming back:

Using Actual Product Images

Customers trust the products they can see, especially when there is the potential for variety in quality and appearance. When they’re buying secondhand products, shoppers don’t want to see posed creative of models; they want to see the product they’re actually buying.

For that reason, Current Boutique’s most effective paid social campaigns all include actual product images — no models or produced pictures. By targeting top-of-funnel customers, our team has been able to spike interest from the audience, resulting in more website and product listing views. 

In total, Facebook campaigns using product images generated a 1.7x return on ad spend (ROAS), in comparison to 1.43x ROAS for non-dynamic imagery. In addition, those campaigns with product images saw a 300% increase in Add to Cart rate.

Current Boutique Facebook Ad, promoting "Milly - Multicolor Paisley Print Shorts, $68.99" and "St. John - Lavendar Knit Pants Sz 12, $198.99." Caption: "More clothes have been added to the collection! Shop pre-loved designer brands and make your entire closet sustainable."

If your brand sells secondhand products, remember this: Model or stock photos may seem attractive in concept, but customers who are buying refurbished products want to see the actual product as-is. That doesn’t mean your images don’t have to be high-quality; use best practices when taking unique, attractive images for your listings.

Don’t forget your copy and messaging, either, which are key opportunities to establish that customer trust.

“You have to establish credibility with your shoppers,” Lopez says. “You’re not just selling the products but selling your ability to evaluate them and price them appropriately for the fact that they are pre-owned.

“People have to believe you’ll treat them fairly. It’s a lot of messaging to cover.”

Targeting (& Retargeting) Interest-Based Audiences

Loyal customers are key to reCommerce success. But, to grow your brand, you also need to continually bring in new customers, especially those who may have never considered buying secondhand products before.

At Current Boutique, this prospecting occurs with strategic social targeting, using specific interest-based audiences.

Because Current Boutique prides itself as a reseller of authentic designer gems, our top-event (add to cart) campaigns target audiences who are interested in specific fashion brands, types of clothing (dresses, purses, etc.), and more. 

Current Boutique Facebook Ad, promoting Herbert's Furs - Vintage Black Coat for $1,334.99. Caption: "For a look that's all your own, Current Boutique has everything you're looking for. Choose timeless, quality, *and* sustainable with our selection of pre-loved designer gems. From clothing, to shoes, to accessories, we have the perfect piece you've been dreaming of — without those hefty designer prices. Shop styles from every decade and trend in our perfectly curated collection today."

The goal with these campaigns isn’t necessarily to convert; instead, it’s to motivate new customers to visit the brand’s website and, hopefully, add products to their carts — at which point, our team can retarget with strategic ads.

Using that data to create lookalike audiences, we then leverage our findings to identify new audiences who will follow the same behavior, creating a steady flow of site visitors for Current Boutique.

By focusing on Add to Cart campaigns to first bring shoppers to the site, our team saw a 32% decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA) and a 12% increase in ROAS when retargeting those shoppers later on.

Improve Your “reCom” Strategy Today

The reCommerce vertical is only growing in popularity and potential. If you sell or buy secondhand products as part of your business model, now is a great opportunity for you to expand your appeal and find new audiences that will grow your bottom-line revenue.

That said, reCommerce can be a tricky thing to market. You can’t always treat it like a traditional eCommerce store, which means you need to continually test and improve your strategy over time.

Fortunately, as KEH and Current Boutique show, there are a few guaranteed strategies to bring your brand success. We’ve detailed them all in our “reCommerce Strategies for Success” guide, which you can download below for free. Use the checklist to further streamline and optimize your strategy today.

Download Our reCommerce Checklist Now

Want an expert to test these strategies for you? Our experienced team can create a customized plan of action for your reCommerce site to maximize your sales and revenue. 

Request a free proposal now to find out what we can do for your brand.