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Amazon is expected to once again be a top destination for shopping this week, thanks to its annual Black Friday event, and while you’ll find plenty of deals on big-name brands, Amazon is also making a concerted effort to promote the independent sellers on its site.
Amazon’s 2020 Small Business Impact Report found that over half of the products sold on Amazon come from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and the company says it has more than two million independent sellers and authors currently using its services. The e-tailer also reported a surge in people shopping via these independent third-party sellers over the holidays last year, with SMBs seeing “double-digit year-over-year growth” and “billions” of items sold.
The numbers come as Amazon faced increase scrutiny last year over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, amid accusations of poor treatment of workers. Company CEO Jeff Bezos was also a frequent target of protestors, both online and in person, with activists accusing him of profiting off the pandemic, without offering any real assistance to Amazon employees and customers. Bezos announced in February that he was stepping down as CEO, formally exiting the role he’s held for 25 years.
As the busy holiday shopping season rolls around, Amazon is no doubt hoping to win back customers, who may have taken their dollars elsewhere over the past few months. One way the company is doing that, is by more actively promoting its small business program, which offers a number of local goods for sale on the site.
How Can Independent Sellers Set Up an Amazon Store?
Much like eBay or Etsy, independent sellers can set up a storefront on Amazon, helping them reach a much larger audience than through their own sites or local boutiques. As more and more people do their shopping online — whether due to Covid or for convenience — these small businesses are relying on Amazon to keep their fortunes afloat.
For Pearl Sin, whose company recently launched a set of reusable bamboo towels on Amazon, being able to set up a storefront on the site has completely changed the trajectory of the business. “We were struggling to launch a product online without the infrastructure of a solid website or the foot traffic of a physical store,” says Sin, who left her office job to start her own business this past fall. “For us, the goal was always to sell on Amazon, so that we could expose the brand to more people beyond our friends, family and immediate city,” she says. “Amazon helps us reach a global market; it’s the same customer experience whether you’re in the U.S., Asia or Europe.”
Sin, who named her brand “MAVIS MIKI” after her daughters Mavis and Mikaela, admits it’s not always easy teaming up with “the big guys,” but she’s confident shoppers will see past Amazon’s occasionally cagey reputation, in favor of finding unique and novel items like hers. “Amazon may get a bad rap sometimes,” she says, “but for tiny sellers like us, being offered on the site makes a huge difference.”
How Do You Find Small Businesses and Independent Sellers on Amazon?
The best place to find independent sellers on Amazon is through their “Support Small” hub, which features gifts exclusively sold by small businesses. You can sort through the page based on items you’re looking for (I.e. beauty, books, toys), rooms in your house (kitchen, bedroom, bathroom) or the person you’re shopping for (mom, kids, pets, etc).
Outside of Black Friday, the most popular Amazon independent seller storefronts are found in the Amazon Handmade section, which offers a ton of jewelry, toys, stationery, housewares and made-to-order gifts. You can also read up on each artist in their profile to find out where they’re located and how everything is produced (as the name suggests, much of these offerings are handmade).
How Can You Verify the Seller on Amazon?
The best small businesses on Amazon should have a detailed profile page (or “seller page”), listing the location where the business is based out of, along with information about what the seller offers. Many sellers will also list any awards they’ve won or accolades their products have received (I.e. “Named as one of Rolling Stone’s 2021 Essentials“). Be sure to look for any safety certifications or proof of compliancy too, especially if you’re purchasing electronics or something you’ll be using on the body (think everything from massage guns to grooming and skincare).
Amazon’s “Support Small” section also has a “Meet the Business Owners” feature, where you can find out more about the people behind the products. The feature lets you filter search results by women-owned businesses, black-owned businesses, family-owned brands, and brands that support military families and young entrepreneurs.
How Can You Support Small Businesses on Amazon?
Aside from purchasing items from small businesses and independent sellers on Amazon, you can also support them by leaving a review. “Reviews are so important to us,” stresses Sin, who says she’s genuinely interested to read about people’s experiences with her paper towel alternatives.
You can also answer questions on the product page, to help other customers interested in the same items: What was the shipping experience like? Did the product arrive as pictured? How did you use the product? What unique features did you discover? The more you interact with the seller’s page, the more likely they’ll attract new customers.
Of course, if you’re still bearish on Amazon, there are ways to support small businesses off the site as well. Etsy has thousands of independently-owned brands and products available for sale, and you can also find unique gift ideas and products on the lesser-known site, Uncommon Goods. We’ve rounded up a host of other top Amazon alternatives here.
And there’s always the old-school way of supporting small businesses: actually logging off your computer and stepping into a physical mom-and-pop shop in your town or neighborhood. It’s something even the government is supporting these days — the day after Black Friday is now officially known as “Small Business Saturday,” with the U.S. Small Business Administration working to promote and encourage shopping with the nearly 32 million independent businesses in the country, not only on Saturday but all year long.