The question of whether or not selling apparel on Amazon is a good idea has many brands sitting on the fence. They are not alone, since even the experts cannot seem to agree. What we do know is that some big names in apparel have already made the move to join the Amazon Marketplace. Among them are Mango, Kate Spade, Billabong, BCB Generation, and French Connection. Amazon itself has no less than seven of its own apparel brands, and is planning to add an athletic line. The online giant also made a move alongside popular clothing brand Forever 21 and other manufacturers in January this year to acquire American Apparel.
The platform has already climbed high up the rankings in the apparel department, indicating that early brand concerns about pricing control and brand image may be unfounded. Still, there are many angles to examine before making the leap onto Amazon. Brand manufacturers can certainly benefit from the cases below, and what they can teach us about apparel brands on the eCommerce platform.
Startups have a much better chance of reaping the benefits of Amazon’s ever-widening customer base. It is a great opportunity to build an online presence and showcase the brand and your products on a national and even an international scale. The Amazon system gives you a chance to effectively market your products and cultivate brand recognition as well as get a feel for the competition that you can expect to face over the long term. Once you have made a name for yourself, however, it might be a good idea to strike out on your own.
Pricing and Quality Comparisons
Established brands and Amazon’s in-house brands tend to have a lot of success selling apparel. But other sellers have great success selling apparel as well, when they are able to offer it for a more reasonable price. Your products will come under close scrutiny from the billions of shrewd Amazon shoppers. Unless you are able to offer either a distinctively unique product or an amazingly competitive price, your brand may not be able to gain traction.
A lot of products can be found on Amazon for cheaper than you can buy them at the manufacturer’s brick-and-mortar retail stores. As hard as that is to believe, this truth gives you an idea of how low you might have to go to remain competitive when selling apparel along with sellers and vendors who have established processes that allow them to shave dollars off their tags.
If you are still exploring the option of selling apparel on Amazon, you should carefully consider the level of service you are willing to offer. Amazon does provide customer service options to sellers, but if you are opting to take care of complaints and returns yourself, you must be prepared to run this at a very high level.
Customer reviews carry a lot of weight on Amazon, and as much as good reviews can give your brand a huge boost, poor reviews can squash your advantage right out of the gate. Many shoppers will make comparisons on the basis of these reviews. When there is little else to go on, they may even use reviews to make their decision to buy. If you are unable to maintain a high rating on Amazon, you will also lose the chance to be recommended by Amazon.
Barnes & Noble and Toys R Us made the move to join Amazon and did not end up doing quite so well. They are not selling apparel and they are limited to the retail sphere, but they are well-known brands that really should have done better. Here’s what went wrong – they are competing with Amazon. We can apply the same logic to selling apparel.
Amazon is now the second-largest apparel retailer, second only to Wal-Mart. If you as a brand are comfortable opening up your finances to this global retail giant, and do not mind going head to head with the future king, then you may have a chance to make a few bucks. When you have an established brand to preserve, however, it may be too much of a risk.
Let us not forget that being on Amazon means sharing a lot of data. The platform leverages the collective data that they gather on sales. This information that would otherwise be available to your team alone can harm your competitive edge if Amazon learns something new and uses it to advance its own interests. This can result in big losses for your company, and you will have been paying Amazon for the pleasure of using your data.
Opening up your brand to the online world can invite a lot of unscrupulous sellers to try and make a profit off of your name. Selling apparel on the Amazon marketplace will entail a greater effort poured into making sure that you can track and take down unauthorized sellers. These sellers tend to be fly-by-nights whose poor reputations can quickly tarnish your name. You may also want to update your distribution agreements to secure your presence on Amazon against other sellers who want to ride on your success wave by carrying your brand. Consider reevaluating any liquidation campaigns as well, which result in products showing up on the marketplace.
Considering your store alone, much attention must be paid to maintaining your branding in all the copy and images that you use on Amazon. Consistency is key to both preserving the image that you have cultivated outside of the platform and to building your reputation on it. Go back over your pricing as well, as it relates to your image, and work out an acceptable scheme that makes selling apparel on Amazon akin to a branch of your original store yet with pricing that is competitive enough to work well on the platform. When evaluating your plan, consider your customers and distributors, whose feathers you do not want to ruffle.