The Web Retailer News Digest for July 2nd, 2021
Facebook has announced a host of new features to push the growth of business-to-consumer ecommerce on all its major platforms.
The new tools include Shops on WhatsApp and Shop listings on Facebook Marketplace. Perhaps the most important news is the promise that businesses will be able to set up their store just once and have it work across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The announcements were made in a live video stream by company CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said that there are already 1.2 million active shops on Facebook and Instagram, with over 300 million visitors per month.
There are 2.85 billion active users on Facebook, one billion on Instagram, and 2.5 billion on WhatsApp. That’s a huge chunk of planet earth made accessible by setting up just one store.
One store to rule them all?
For a long time, we’ve been waiting for the tech giants – first Google and then the social networks – to make a big move into ecommerce and knock Amazon off its perch. And they have made moves, over and over, but everything they have done has had minimal impact.
It’s reminiscent of the early days of online retail. eBay, as a pure technology company, had the model of the future and it was copied around the world. Amazon, on the other hand, was scoffed at for its old-fashioned way of doing business with warehouses, delivery vans and many, many employees.
But Amazon provided what customers wanted: a great range, competitive prices, fast delivery and a consistent experience. eBay looked like a chaotic flea market operating without a license in the parking lot of Amazon’s huge and shiny new mall.
Going back to Facebook, their announcements are certainly impressive. The potential to access all those billions of users by going through only one store setup process is mind-blowing.
But haven’t we seen all this before? The majority of consumers don’t seem to want a scrappy, variable, unreliable shopping experience, whether it’s on eBay, Google or Facebook. So as long as the tech giants keep giving that to them, they’ll keep turning it down, and go shopping on Amazon instead.
Read more at Social Media Today.
Amazon under investigation for fake reviews
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced a formal investigation into Amazon and Google, over concerns that they have not been doing enough to combat fake reviews.
The probe will look into whether the two firms may have broken UK consumer law by taking insufficient action to protect shoppers. The kinds of actions that Amazon and Google should be taking, according to the CMA, include:
- Detecting suspicious patterns of reviews, such as the same users reviewing the same products at similar times.
- Investigating and promptly removing fake and misleading reviews.
- Imposing sanctions to deter reviewers and businesses from posting fake reviews.
The CMA is also concerned that Amazon’s systems have been failing to prevent sellers from manipulating product listings – for example, by taking positive reviews from other products.
This is exactly the situation we covered in last week’s roundup. In that particular case, not only was a seller able to “borrow” reviews from another listing, the targeted listing was in fact one of Amazon’s own flagship devices.
Amazon Logistics now integrated with Shopify
Businesses who sell on Shopify and use Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) to ship their Shopify orders will now be able to track those orders from within Shopify, when they are delivered by Amazon Logistics (Amazon’s own carrier network).
It’s tempting to see Amazon and Shopify as sworn enemies, with one the embodiment of all that is wrong in the corporate world and the other the champion of small independent businesses.
The reality, of course, is more complex. Online retail is an ecosystem, with many companies playing a part in providing store platforms, hosting, warehousing, shipping and so on. Amazon does more of those things than most.
For businesses who already sell on Amazon using FBA, fulfilling outside orders (including Shopify) using Amazon as well is a natural choice. What do Shopify think about that? I doubt they lose a lot of sleep over it. Giving people a free choice of what other service providers they use is good for business… and good for not getting into hot water with competition regulators!
Read more at Amazon Seller Forums.
eBay sellers can add videos to listings… kind of
An announcement on the eBay UK Community forums says that sellers can now add videos to their listings, via the eBay API or third-party software, at no additional cost.
Just to be clear, this isn’t about embedding a video in the listing description, which is fiddly and time-consuming, and liable to be incompatible with mobile devices. It’s about eBay fully supporting videos themselves, in just the same way as photos.
eBay has had a varied history with listing videos. Years ago, there were several third-party providers specializing in video hosting for eBay listings. They have all closed down or moved onto other sectors. Then earlier this year, an announcement on the eBay US Community forum said that videos were available to selected sellers.
With the latest announcement, it seems that video capability exists but in a way that most sellers will be completely unaware of and unable to use. Even if you have a third-party listing tool, it will need to be updated to provide this feature.
Overall, it feels like eBay is not really sure if they want sellers to add videos to their listings or not!
Read more at eBay Community (UK).
Webinars in the week ahead
Various dates: Amazon advertising’s global webinar program rolls on with 20+ webinars scheduled, covering Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, reporting, optimization and tips (Amazon).
For US sellers
Various dates: Amazon small business Pathways series (Amazon).
July 8: Elevate Your Amazon advertising strategy (eComEngine).
For UK sellers
July 5-9: IRX Engage Summit 2021 (Internet Retailing).
July 7: Get ready for the latest eBay item specifics (Optiseller).
July 7: Amazon shipping settings automation (Amazon).
July 8: Breaking into mobile commerce with Wish (RWB).
Doing business with Amazon might cost a chunk of your own business
The Wall Street Journal has reported that some of Amazon’s suppliers, such as the companies that supply it with aircraft, have a clause in their contracts that allow Amazon to buy as much as 30 percent of their company at a price that can be well below market value.
That’s right, the cost of having Amazon as a customer is that you potentially have to sell a large chunk of your business to them. The price that Amazon pays is set in the contract, so if the supplier’s share price shoots up (perhaps influenced by the very same deal with Amazon being announced to the market) then Amazon can cash in.
Amazon reportedly pressures companies into agreeing to these clauses as a requirement to get the contract signed. So, while these agreements can be mutually beneficial, they might not be something the supplier can turn down if they want to do business with Amazon.
This isn’t the first time the WSJ has reported on Amazon using contract clauses that allow them to buy suppliers. In July 2019, the Amazon Accelerator program terms were found to provide extra incentives to businesses that agreed to be acquired for a fixed price. If Amazon then decided to buy a seller’s business, it could do so with 60 days’ notice for a price as low as $10,000.
To be clear, these aren’t Amazon’s standard terms of business for marketplace sellers or ordinary vendors. Still, next time you get a notice that the terms are being updated, you might want to check out exactly what has changed!
Read more at The Verge.