By BECKY GILLETTE
Studies estimate that online sales grew 18 percent in 2018, with sales through Amazon representing about 43-49 percent of all online sales. The trend to buy online is expected to continue to grow, which could be good news for businesses in Mississippi, which is the No. 1 state in the country when it comes to the fastest-growing small and medium businesses selling on Amazon.
“Online selling enables rural businesses to complement their offline sales in physical stores by reaching customers they wouldn’t otherwise have access to as easily,” said Nick Denissen, a vice president at Amazon. “Research shows that increased adoption of online tools and digital services could grow annual revenues of rural small businesses by 21 percent over the next three years and create 360,000 jobs in rural communities.”
According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study commissioned by Amazon, greater adoption of digital tools in rural America could add $140 billion to the U.S. economy by 2021. States in the South are expected to see the greatest benefit from increased online sales revenues.
Amazon seller David Ashley, president and founder, Address America, Jackson, said there is no doubt that selling with Amazon is critical to the business, which provides large, ornamental, reflective signs to identify the addresses of homes and businesses.
“What is really big for us and anyone selling on Amazon is we can have a little business in Jackson and have the same exposure as a company in New York, L.A. or Chicago,” Ashley said. “We are all on a level playing field with Amazon. And lower costs in Jackson give us an advantage over businesses located in big cities.”
He found it was difficult to identify houses, especially in the winter when sun goes down early. When his father-in-law had an embolism, the ambulance bypassed the house several times unable to find the address.
“I knew I had to come up with an easier and faster system whether helping with pizza delivery or emergency services,” Ashley said. “It is especially important for emergency vehicles to be able to see clear markings to find you easily even if it is 3 a.m. and rainy.”
The business was located in Ridgeland for 13 years, and downsized after the recession in 2008-2009 harmed business. They moved to a small office in Jackson and offsite warehouses. They outsource components from businesses in Jackson, Grenada and companies outside of the state.
“We put the signs together and then have people in our office customize them,” Ashley said. “We cut out the numbers on reflective material and apply them to the sign. Then we assemble, box and ship them out. We ship to all of North America.”
Ashley said the advantages of selling on Amazon are huge.
“We see that it is so much more efficient to promote on Amazon,” Ashley said. “Amazon has a reputation so customers are not concerned about any challenges. They know if they buy something through the Amazon marketplace, Amazon will stand behind it. Amazon won’t let a seller who is not honorable or respectable sell on Amazon because they will have to stand behind their products. If a customer has an issue with a product, Amazon is going to make it right. Most of the benefit is tagging along on Amazon’s coattails to be able to sell so much easier. It is an easy system to set up and sell products. Potentially, a person could put listings up and have sales the same day.”
The customer rating system on Amazon is another valuable feature. Ashley said when he looks at product reviews, he usually won’t consider buying anything with less than 3.5 stars. And his company works hard to get top ratings from customers.
“Building your reputation is important,” Ashley said. “We make sure the customer is always happy or they pay nothing. We will refund for any reason. Our obsession with customers is very important to our success.”
He said it is important to know the requirements for selling on Amazon including merchant-fulfilled Prime requirements that orders be delivered in two business days.
“Orders can come in as late at 2 p.m. in the afternoon and we guarantee they are shipped out the same day,” Ashley said. “We see that a large and growing number of customers are going with Prime. They like the fact they can get items shipped free after paying a fee to Amazon. We see online shopping as a growing trend. A few years down the road, you are going to buy just about everything online.”
To learn more about small and medium-sized businesses selling in Amazon’s stores, visit: aboutamazon.com/smallbusiness. For information about how to become a seller in Amazon’s stores, check out: services.amazon.com
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