Why We Failed On Amazon But Succeeded On Shopify

Lots of people try to sell on Amazon and fail. We did. And although I don't generally like to dwell on my failures, I think in this case it might be helpful to share about it - in the off chance that you're in the same boat. 

Of course - my prescription for success is to sell direct-to-consumers via Shopify - which may or may not be the right solution for you - I get that. But if you've failed on Amazon then my best suggestion is to diagnose the root cause of the failure, look at it carefully, and then craft a new plan that is built on those hard-won lessons.

Reasons Why Sellers Fail On Amazon

There are a lot of ways to fail on Amazon. Let's document the most common (and I'll share which one snagged us):

  1. The product you're attempting to sell has low sales volume on the Amazon platform (this could be for a wide variety of reasons).
  2. The product you're attempting to sell has good sales volume on Amazon, but you can't source it cheaply enough to have any profit at the end of the sales process.
  3. The customer you're attempting to sell to doesn't shop on Amazon for the type of product you're trying to sell, (this is the way we failed - more on that later).
  4. The customer you're attempting to sell to on Amazon has tons of options and competition is fierce.
  5. The type of product you want to sell isn't gracefully supported by Amazon (this is the 2nd way we failed - more on this later).
  6. Your source of your product is sporadic, hard to scale, and ultimately frustrating to partner with.

This list could go on and on. There are tons of ways to fail on Amazon.

Down But Not Out

There is a real emotional toll to pay for trying to do something and failing. As I always say - it sucks to suck. I hate losing and when you're trying to sell on Amazon and it's not working - you feel like you're dumb. When you're in the middle of a failure - it's so easy to let doubt, fear, and frustration put a stranglehold on your hopes, plans, and strategic thinking. 

As we tried to step back and interpret the outcomes - we realized our two snags were:

First, a realization that our product (digital doll clothes patterns) was designed for seamstresses that were used buying paper patterns (at Joann's or other fabric shops) and our goal was to convert them to a digital shopping experience. So if they were not on Amazon looking for the item we wanted to switch them off of - how could we do it?

Second, our digital shopping experience wasn't something that Amazon gracefully supported - we wanted to sell digitally downloaded PDF files. Amazon just doesn't support that effectively. 

Given this ideal selling situation - you might wonder - how we got into selling on Amazon at all. Well, not being very smart, when Zulilly came calling and asked us to work with them to sell something on their site - rather than finding a way to get them to bend to our methodology - we decided to make a CD product (doll clothes PDF files on CD) so they could sell them on their site. This is the product we tried to sell on Amazon and failed with... it was a version of our product that we adapted to try to work on the Zulilly and Amazon system.

I know so many Amazon sellers - and they are so intensely focused on Amazon - that when I tell them my stories they go right into the 'fix-it' mode and try to help me resolve the challenges of selling our items on Amazon.

Ultimately, I reject their advice. Not because Amazon isn't great (it certainly is for many sellers and situations) but because every second I spend trying to fix something that is fatally flawed - is another second I'm not optimizing and improving my Shopify system that does work well. So I've decided I'd rather focus on winning on Shopify - than trying to no fail on Amazon. 

Why We Succeeded On Shopify

We succeeded on Shopify because it allowed us to sell what we wanted in the way we wanted to sell it - and that began to work effectively. Specifically,

  1. Sell the product we wanted to sell, (digital doll clothes patterns as PDFs).
  2. Sell in the method we wanted to sell (as digitally downloaded items).
  3. Create an environment that was uniquely suited to our ideal customer.
  4. Collect customers and welcome them back for repeat purchases via email marketing and social media strategies.

The Result Of Focusing On Shopify Instead?

In the last 90 days, we've had almost 500,000 unique visitors to our site (www.pixiefaire.com)! That blows our mind. Here's a screenshot of that from the (very cool) Shopify dashboard:

My Best Suggestions

If you're feeling like a failure because you're trying to sell on Amazon and it's not working well - then I hope this article has given you a couple insights to find your next path. You might have an awesome product idea! You might have a terrific strategy to serve your customers. You might be closer to success than you realize. Maybe the problem is the sales channel.

There is a massive world of customers, niches, and products that will naturally reside outside Amazon - and maybe you're in one of them. 

Take the time to really slow down and ask yourself:

  1. What am I trying to sell for the long-term (and can I build a profitable system doing it)?
  2. Where are my ideal customers currently residing and can I effectively sell to them in that location?
  3. Can I attract my ideal customers to my own site if they aren't currently congregating online in any one place?
  4. If Amazon is not working for you - can you determine the specific reasons - and formulate a plan that overcomes those hurdles?
  5. Never stop believing, planning, analyzing and refining what you do.

Thanks for taking the time to consider these ideas. If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to like us on Facebook and share it there with your fellow entrepreneurs.

Jason