Mon | Sep 20, 2021
ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS

Yaneek Page | Registering to sell on Amazon

Published:Sunday | July 18, 2021 | 1:17 AM
Amazon outlet in Douai, northern France.
Amazon outlet in Douai, northern France.
The Amazon Prime logo appears on the side of a delivery van as the Amazon Warehouse location in Dedham, Massachusetts.
The Amazon Prime logo appears on the side of a delivery van as the Amazon Warehouse location in Dedham, Massachusetts.
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Amazon.com Inc, the global e-commerce and digital technology powerhouse, has finally offered Jamaicans the ability to earn money from their platform by becoming approved sellers, rather than exclusive spenders of hard currency on the site as...

Amazon.com Inc, the global e-commerce and digital technology powerhouse, has finally offered Jamaicans the ability to earn money from their platform by becoming approved sellers, rather than exclusive spenders of hard currency on the site as customers.

The direct income-earning opportunity emerged with the company’s decision to include Jamaica among 85 new countries approved to register accounts to sell on Amazon as of May 2021.

With the addition of new countries, Amazon now has a whopping 188 approved nations on their platform, just a few shy of the world’s full complement. In fact, before this expansion announcement, the company already had almost 10 million sellers registered, more than three times the population of Jamaica, however the majority of sellers are concentrated in a handful of countries.

Prior to this expansion, Jamaican residents who wished to set up a store on Amazon could not register with their local credentials and would need to engage third-party sellers as a medium for trade, which came with several risks and difficulties. As part of my research for this article, I had a colleague set up an Amazon account as a Jamaican seller. Below was the process as at July 12:

To sign up, we visited https://sellercentral.amazon.com/. We were prompted to complete a five-step process for registration, which comprised the following: business information, seller information, billing; store, and verification.

FIVE STEPS

The business information section required the company name; registration number, for which we used a local taxpayer registration number, or TRN, which was accepted; a registered business address, for which we used a home address; a phone number for verification; and the full name of the primary contact person.

Seller information asked for country of citizenship and birth, date of birth, proof of identity, residential address, and mobile number. Amazon also asked that we confirm whether the seller was a beneficial owner of the business or a legal representative.

Under billing we were required to input the details of an internationally chargeable credit card for which we were immediately charged a sign-up fee of US$39.99 or approximately J$6,240 monthly, plus seller fees, which are dependent on your registration type and the products you sell. It is, therefore, important for you to sign up only when you are ready to sell.

Of note is that the second monthly payment and any subscription and seller fees thereafter only become payable when active listings are launched and maintained in your Amazon store. No active listings attract no further fees. You will be charged the first month’s fee as you sign up, so ensure that you are ready to sell when you do.

The store step required information on the product, with questions such as: ‘Do you have a universal product code (UPC) for all your products?’; ‘Are you the manufacturer or brand owner for any of the products you wish to sell on Amazon?’; and, ‘Do you own a government-registered trademark for the branded products you want to sell on Amazon?’

The final verification step summarised the seller information and required the upload of proof of identity. For this step, a scanned copy of a Jamaican passport was accepted. Also required was a copy of a bank account statement for which a local bank statement was uploaded. We were then prompted to submit the application.

BANK ACCOUNT CHALLENGE

Once submitted, we received a confirmation email thanking us for setting up and directing us to log in to our seller central account to execute activation.

There was a significant challenge in completing the activation as the section titled ‘deposit information’ required us to assign a payment method to which Amazon may deposit the proceeds from our sales less the requisite fees.

There was no option for a local bank, which would have halted the process at that juncture. However, we had a chequeing account with a US bank, which was accepted, though this is unlikely to be a privilege most users would have. This deposit hurdle is an issue Amazon will need to address and that users should navigate before launching an account.

Another interesting observation is that although Amazon typically offers sellers the in-house order fulfilment option, which is encouraged for small-scale sellers who can or may ship directly to customers, that choice was not provided as a Jamaican seller. Instead, we were automatically enrolled in the ‘fulfil by Amazon’ or FBA option, which is typically recommended for large- scale operators with considerable volumes

FBA requires that products are sent directly to Amazon’s fulfilment centres, and they ‘pick, pack, ship and provide customer service’. The upside to this is that sellers can access ‘Prime’ customers and take advantage of Amazon’s world-class logistics and customer service once they can meet the strict packaging requirements, including package structure, size, bar codes, and others.

The company also warned that returns are a normal part of business and should be expected – clothing accounts for 75 per cent of Amazon returns – and that returns would be made to your registered address. The treatment of returns and associated write-offs or losses are important considerations when planning and budgeting your Amazon store.

Ultimately, the extent to which Jamaicans can capitalise on the vast earning potential of Amazon depends on proper research; knowledge of e-commerce and Amazon sales and trends data; strategic planning to include consistent supply, quality, and in-demand products; organisation; and effective budgeting.

Good luck to those who embrace this timely opportunity.

One love!

- Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’ s Make Peace TV series. yaneek.page@gmail.com