By now, even in Australia, Amazon has become the name synonymous with online shopping.
While many Australians thought of Amazon as just an online bookstore, the introduction of amazon.com.au to our shores a couple of years ago has started to get the message across that amazon is more than just a bookstore!
Hugely popular around the world, especially in the USA and the UK, when the vast majority of the world think of shopping online they think of amazon.
You’d have to be pretty oblivious to mainstream news to not know that the founder of amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, is now the wealthiest person in the world, and it seems that this title has caused a bit of backlash.
There are plenty of memes and funny little pictures with quotes doing the rounds on social media all spreading the idea that we shouldn’t be giving Jeff or his massive company any more money and, instead we should be supporting small, local businesses and buying our goods from them.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice sentiment, and, after the year we’ve all had in 2020, we all know that small businesses need all the help they can get. But, did you know that you can actually shop on amazon.com (.au/.uk/.wherever) and still support small businesses?
Many people have the misconception that buying a product on Amazon is buying a product from Amazon, and it’s not necessarily the case. Especially in Australia where we’re all still relatively new to the world of shopping online on Amazon, it’s understandable that customers can find the amazon shopping experience a bit confusing.
Most of us don’t have a clear understanding of how Amazon works. Hopefully this article will help to clear it up a bit for you and show you that you don’t have to feel guilty about doing your online shopping on Amazon.
If you know what to look for, you can buy lots of different products on amazon that are actually being sold by small, Australian owned businesses.
How Amazon Works
The first thing to realise is that Amazon is not just a shop that sells their own goods but is also a selling platform where 3rd party sellers can list their items for sale (kind of like eBay – but different). There are 3 main ways in which a product can be sold on Amazon.
2. The item can be “Ships from Amazon and Sold By A 3rd Party Business”
3. The item can be “Ships from A 3rd Party Business and Sold By That 3rd Party Business”
Of these 3 options, there are a few things to consider. The first option refers to any items which are sold by Amazon and shipped from Amazon. These items will all have the “Prime” logo on them, meaning that customers with a Prime membership get free and fast delivery of this item.
These are the items you could potentially avoid if you really don’t want to contribute any more cash into Jeff Bezos’s pockets.
On the flip side, these products are often offered under exceptionally good deals – especially on special selling event days such as Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday so, depending on how principled you are about this, I still say they’re worth a look.
The second option is, in my mind, the best way to shop on Amazon. Here you are supporting businesses who are using the Amazon selling platform to its full advantage. These businesses have their products shipped to amazon fulfillment centers around the country (and sometimes the world).
The business benefits because Amazon has a huge audience to show and sell their products to, and Amazon handles the sales transaction and all of the shipping out to customers.
This is sometimes referred to as FBA or “Fulfilled By Amazon” as all of the stock is at the amazon warehouses and it is amazon who take responsibility for “fulfilling” the order.
The customers win because they get fast, Prime shipping from a shopping platform that they can trust and they get to bask in the knowledge that buying products this way is supporting that small business they have purchased the goods from.
The third option is a slightly riskier way to buy from amazon. To be honest I tend to avoid this way unless I can’t get the product I want one of the other ways.
In this method you are still paying amazon for the goods (so you’re safe in that way as amazon are amazingly customer-centric in offering refunds if something goes wrong with your order) but the goods are being shipped out from the business or 3rd party you are buying from.
Most of the time delivery this way will be a lot slower than ordering a product that is eligible for Prime shipping. Often (not always) the products will be coming directly from the factory in China so it can be slow and, unfortunately, the products don’t always seem to be as good as the pictures. Just something to be aware of.
How To Shop On Amazon
When amazon first started out as a bookshop they wanted to make it easy for people to find the book they wanted to buy. They didn’t want to have hundreds of different “listings” for the same product (like you would find on ebay). Instead every product on amazon will have only one listing but there might be several different sellers selling the product.
Amazon automatically allocates the “Buy Box” to the seller that their algorithm deems to be the best offer for you. But, this is not always the case, so it’s always worth checking if there are “Other Sellers On Amazon” available for the product you’re purchasing.
In this example you can clearly see that amazon themselves are offering the best deal for this book for me because I have a Prime account. If you didn’t have Prime the cost of shipping could make the other options more attractive – it’s always worth checking.
The Best Way To Shop On Amazon.com.au
So, what’s the best way to shop on amazon.com.au? I’ll teach you my method for safe shopping, fast delivery and finding the best deals.
First off, I have an Amazon Prime account. It has been so worth it for me and my family of 5 – especially during the very extensive period of time we Melbourners have spent in lockdown!
Free shipping alone makes it worth it for me but you also get access to movies, music, and ebooks so there’s a lot more to it than other “membership” type services out there.
When I search for an item on Amazon, the first thing I do is to click the “Prime. Ships from Australia” box.
This way I know that any items I am looking at are already here in a fulfilment centre in Australia so they won’t take long to get to me. Personally, I don’t have a problem with buying goods directly from amazon – they have some good deals and I’m happy with that.
If you’re not, then simply check the right hand side of the product listing page and you’ll find the part that will tell you if the product is shipped from and sold by amazon or if it is just shipped by amazon.
If it’s sold by a 3rd party then (unless you recognise it as a major brand) you can rest assured that your purchase will be making some small business owners somewhere very happy!
Scroll down that page and you can shop by category knowing that anything you purchase here will make an Australian business owner do a happy dance.
Will Amazon Kill Off Small Businesses In Australia?
So, does the growth of amazon and online shopping spell the end for small businesses? No! But it is going to have to change – and change is something a lot of us are uncomfortable with. But, don’t worry, the change will happen gradually – it’s already been going on for quite a few years now.
For small businesses to succeed into the future they’re going to need a strong online presence. Sure, they can (and should) do this themselves through their own websites but nothing beats a platform like amazon to get some eyes onto your products.
It’s like setting up a traditional “bricks and mortar” storefront inside a busy shopping centre instead of on a remote and deserted road. When businesses start to see amazon as a tool that they can use to their advantage rather than being the enemy, they’re going to start finding life (and business) easier.
The main message I’m trying to convey here is to stop feeling guilty about shopping on amazon.com.au – you can and will still support small, Australian businesses by shopping this way.
I know this because I’m one of them! My husband and I have a couple of small, family run businesses for which we use both amazon.com and amazon.com.au to help sell our products.
I can assure you that sales we make on the amazon platform make us just as happy as sales we make through our own websites. So please, do your online shopping on amazon and keep supporting local businesses.