Etsy has long dominated the handmade and craft marketplace since its inception in 2005. But the largest ecommerce operation on the planet wasn’t going to sit idly by and forgo their share of this burgeoning market.
That’s why Amazon launched its Amazon Handmade platform in 2015. Since then, the platform has slowly encroached upon Etsy as one of the leading marketplaces for handmade and crafted goods.
In this post, we’ll demystify Amazon Handmade and help you better understand if it’s the right platform for your eCommerce venture.
We’ll go over:
- Who’s eligible for Amazon Handmade
- How to join Amazon Handmade
- An overview of Amazon Handmade fees
- Specific benefits of selling on Amazon Handmade
- Best practices for maximizing profits on the platform
What is Amazon Handmade?
Amazon Handmade is a subset of the Amazon.com marketplace specifically devoted to handmade and crafted items. Its item variety, seller onboarding process, and user experience is very similar to Etsy (with a few key differences we’ll discuss throughout this post).
Amazon Handmade features crafted goods in the following categories:
- Beauty & Personal Care
- Shoes & Handbags
- Outdoor & Home Care
- Jewelry & Watches
- Kitchen & Dining
- Pet Supplies
- Sporting Goods
- Stationery & Party Supplies
- Toys & Games
How Does Amazon Handmade Work?
Amazon Handmade looks almost identical to the traditional Amazon.com shopping experience. Sellers of handcrafted and artisanal goods create a digital storefront, host photos of their products, and enjoy Amazon’s rich selling infrastructure.
Similar to the main Amazon marketplace, Amazon Handmade reviews are a huge value signal, driving credibility to sellers. In addition to reviews, users can filter by a number of important factors like price, category, artisan location, and more.
Amazon Handmade features a rigid quality control standard and artisanal audit process. Thus, the platform consists of exclusively high-quality wares, setting it apart from other craft marketplaces (more on this below).
Should You Sell on Amazon Handmade?
Before you invest time and resources in setting up your Amazon Handmade shop, consider the following pros and cons.
Pros of selling on Amazon Handmade
Huge Customer Base
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Amazon has more customers than any other online eCommerce platform in history. According to a 2019 study, 206 million people visit Amazon every month. With the arrival of COVID-19 and home-bound shoppers, that number has surely risen in 2020 and early 2021.
Also, in the US, there are more than 95 million Amazon Prime customers. Amazon has perfected the art of keeping their services “sticky.” Prime members who already frequent the site are much more likely to organically discover and purchase from an Amazon Handmade store.
Robust storefront customization and branding
Amazon Handmade offers sellers what they call “A+ content” capabilities and Stores. This means makers can create branded product pages as opposed to just the standard Amazon listings.
Sellers can customize their Amazon Handmade products pages with:
- Rich text
- Featured customer reviews and testimonials
Stores are custom, multi-page experiences with branded URLs. Think of them as your brand’s unique Amazon.com homepage.
This is great news for brands wanting consistent aesthetics across their online stores. But sellers also have an opportunity to optimize conversions through A+ Content configurations.
Amazon handmade fees are straightforward and fair
Amazon Handmade knows that nothing turns away the creative types like an overly complex fee system. Unlike Etsy’s fee structure, they keep things simple: sellers only pay a flat 15% referral fee on each sale.
There are no processing fees, transaction fees, and it’s free to list items. They also don’t require sellers to generate UPCs for each product (though, that may be a good idea to keep things organized).
It’s clear Amazon Handmade is trying to make the platform as approachable as possible with such a straightforward fee structure.
Amazon’s advertising engine is second-to-none
Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You mention a product in passing near an Alexa or other smart device. You open up the browser on your phone and you’re met with half a dozen ads on your social accounts and Amazon for that exact product.
If so, you’ve experienced firsthand just how powerful the Amazon advertising engine is. The good news is that until AI takes over (Terminator-style), you too can take advantage of this system as a Handmade seller.
Amazon offers sellers $50 worth of PPC ad credit just for signing up. You can use this to promote your storefront, particular products, and even advertise to specific countries and demographics.
Etsy offers advertising features, but they don’t hold a candle to the state-of-the-art advertising engine Amazon has spent billions of dollars perfecting.
Analytics help you optimize your Amazon handmade sales
In true Amazon fashion, they’ve really thought of everything a seller might need. All Handmade accounts include a powerful analytics engine with a multitude of helpful reports.
These reports include:
- Amazon search terms report — this reveals how well your products or store are winning conversions based on user search terms
- Repeat purchase behavior report — this report shows which products are repeatedly purchased
- Market basket analysis — use this report to see top products purchased alongside your products. This can help you identify cross-selling and bundling opportunities.
- Item comparison report — find out which Amazon Handmade products customers view together with yours
- Alternative purchase report — this report reveals what products customers purchase instead of yours so you can better analyze and beat your competitors
- Demographics report — this powerful breakdown of customers by age, income, gender and marital status, helps you better understand with and engage your audience
High bar for quality
Perusing through the Amazon Handmade listings makes one thing abundantly clear: this is definitely no Craigslist. Amazon has a very high bar for the quality of goods they allow on their platform.
On the surface, this may seem like a hurdle. But in reality, it keeps low-tier and junk items from crowding up the product directory. It also helps Amazon maintain their reputation of quality assurance and control — a reputation you piggyback off of if you sell on their platform.
Amazon makes no apologies for this high standard. The signup page even has a blurb stating as much: “We have an Artisan application and audit process to ensure we’re building a shop of genuinely handcrafted goods.”
Cons of Selling on Amazon Handmade
A rigid sign-up process
To become an Amazon Handmade seller, you’ll need to complete a formal artisan application process. As part of Amazon’s high bar for quality, these applications need to be thoroughly audited and approved by a human. This process can take weeks or perhaps even months.
It’s this exclusivity that allows the Handmade product directory to remain top-tier. However, you’ll want to bake these potential delays into your go-to-market timeline.
Amazon FBA support may confuse some customers
If you sign up for Amazon FBA, that means all customers shopping on Amazon must go through Amazon customer support. This can be confusing if customers have an issue with your product and contact you directly.
You’ll need to be extra intentional in educating your audience that any refunds, returns, or customer support issues must be handled through the appropriate purchasing channels.
You must be ready with quality promotional collateral
If you want to be successful on Amazon Handmade, you need to match the level of quality of the average brand on the platform.
This usually means being prepared with:
- A professional logo or typeface
- Compelling marketing copy for each product and your brand story
- Eye-catching and professional-looking banners and header images
- Quality, non-distracting product photos from multiple angles
Preparing these things is essential for the success of your business as a whole. But they do cost time and resources.
The ceiling is very low for growth with low-quality imagery and shoddy marketing collateral. Invest in a quality graphic designer or photographer and you’ll reap dividends now and in the future of your business.
What are Some of the Differences Between Amazon Handmade and Etsy?
The strongest differentiator between Etsy and Amazon is the Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) program.
Here’s how it works:
- You sign up for Amazon FBA at $39.99 per month + selling fees depending on your specific inventory
- You create your product listings, prepare them according to Amazon’s standards, and ship them to a fulfillment center
- Upon arrival, the products are held and fulfilled by Amazon’s inventory management staff
- In addition to fulfilling your orders in the standard Prime 2-day shipping window, Amazon will handle any customer service, refunds, or returns
This is a huge plus for business owners looking to outsource the stressful side of eCommerce to someone else. Obviously, you’ll want to crunch the numbers to make sure the monthly investment and selling fees make it worth your while.
Not all handmade items are eligible
If your handmade items don’t fall into one of the 14 categories mentioned above, there’s a high chance you won’t be approved on Amazon’s platform. Etsy has a more loose threshold for what constitutes “handmade.” Therefore, you’re more likely to find products that fall outside of Amazon’s predetermined categories on Etsy.
This also means you might run into a dead end if you start a Store with Amazon Handmade and want to expand your offerings from approved products to unapproved products.
For this reason, you’ll want to consider any future product offerings and business expansion goals before taking the plunge into Amazon Handmade.
Most customers expect fast delivery
Amazon has reprogrammed our brains to regard free two-day shipping as the baseline standard for shopping online.
In fact, it’s not even enough to have free shipping if the time frame is longer than two days (I think we all experienced this frustration while ordering holiday gifts in 2020).
The precedent of fast shipping presents a challenge for handmade sellers on Amazon Handmade. For better or worse, Etsy hasn’t set that expectation with their customers, giving Etsy makers a bit more leeway when it comes to shipping and processing timelines.
Unless you’re taking advantage of Amazon FBA, you’ll need to accurately manage your own inventory to prevent stock-outs.
This can be tough when you’re accustomed to making items on an order-by-order basis and not holding a lot of inventory on hand.
Whether you choose to manage inventory yourself or take advantage of Amazon FBA, you need some sort of inventory management system. We created SkuVault to be a one-stop inventory management shop for small and large eCommerce channels alike.
In addition to integrating with Amazon’s Seller database, SkuVault allows you to:
- Create product catalogs to keep your products organized
- Manage and analyze sales from multiple storefronts like Amazon and Etsy
- Streamline your picking, packing, and shipping process for happier customers
Setting a foundation of good inventory management practices is essential if you have any plans of scaling from a mom-and-pop operation to something bigger.
It’s handmade exclusive; no vintage
Amazon Handmade sellers are to be artisans (Amazon makes that clear many times throughout the promo copy). This means exclusively handcrafted goods, not vintage goods. Etsy, on the other hand, allows vintage goods (which they consider to be 20 years or older) on their platform.
How to Find Products to Sell on Amazon Handmade
Study the top performers in each category
Many of you reading this likely already have a specialty handmade item to sell. Some of you, however, may be starting from the other direction. You want to start a handmade brand but you’re not sure what you want to sell.
Either way, it’s important to study the marketplace to determine the best sellers in every category. From the Handmade homepage, click “Handmade best-sellers.” As of this writing, the top selling items seem to fall into three categories: jewelry, home decor and kitchen & dining.
Use these top sellers as inspiration if you’re looking for what to sell, or how to modify your existing offering to better suit the platform.
Verify demand for your handmade products
Once you have a firm grasp on the top selling handmade items on Amazon, you’ll be much more informed for your go-to market strategy. You’ll also have more insight into whether or not Amazon is a good market fit for you.
For example, if you don’t see products similar to yours trending towards the top in a respective category, that might be a signal to try another marketplace. Competition is good; it tells you that there’s demand for the type of handmade product you’re selling.
Ensure you have a variety of products when you go to market
The most successful Amazon Handmade stores go to market with more than one product. Just browse any Seller on the platform and you’ll see at least three to five products. It logically follows that you’ll want to be prepared with multiple (or at least multiple variations) of your crafted wares.
How to Sign Up for Amazon Handmade
Obviously, the lifeblood of any artisanal marketplace is its community of makers. Amazon Handmade makes it very apparent and easy to join the program with a large call-to-action right on the front page.
Here’s the step-by-step process for how to get on Amazon Handmade.
Step 1: Complete Your Application
Before you can start selling handmade items on Amazon Handmade, you need to apply. Navigate to the Amazon Handmade site, scroll down and click the “Are you a Maker?” banner.
Note that this application process will take about 30 minutes. You’ll need to enter some basic information as well as upload photographs of your products.
As mentioned in the previous section, it’s best to be prepared with top-notch photos and finely-tuned marketing copy.
Step 2: Apply for Handmade at Amazon
As mentioned above, this is the part that takes a while. The Amazon Handmade sign up process is straightforward, but strict.
Amazon prides themselves in maintaining a high-quality inner circle of artisanal creators. This means getting your Store, products, copy, and profile audited and approved by a human.
You’ll be expected to describe your Amazon Handmade listings in great detail, including what makes your products special and the materials that you use to make them.
Depending on the amount of applications, expect to wait at least two to four weeks to hear back from Amazon’s approval team.
Step 3: List Your Products
Once your Amazon Handmade account has been approved, congrats! The hardest part is over.
Now all you need to do is create your Store and list your products. The seller portal does a great job of walking you through the process, and Amazon has plenty of tutorial resources for those new to the world of ecommerce.
Just be sure to thoroughly fill out your tags, description, and meta information. This helps Amazon serve your products up to people with matching search queries.
How to Sell Handmade Products on Amazon: Some Best Practices
Study the top sellers
There’s a reason the top sellers are the top sellers. In addition to having a great product, they’ve also likely mastered selling on the Handmade platform.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Sort listings by the top sellers in your category, and study their success. Ask questions like:
- What kinds of images do they use to grab customers’ attention?
- What’s the copywriting style? How many words do they include in their product and Store descriptions?
- What A+ Content do they use to ensure a consistent aesthetic?
- What’s the purchasing experience like?
There’s no shame in stealing these best practices, especially when you integrate them into your existing brand aesthetic.
Explore Seller University and the eCommerce resources
In addition to all the benefits afforded to creators through the Handmade program, Amazon has generously supplied new sellers with tons of online resources to help them get started.
Their Seller University program is a series of in-depth video tutorials transforming even the most ecommerce-illiterate into an artisanal tycoon.
They also feature rich, high-quality PDF guides on particular topics such as item listing best practices, advertising, analytics, and more.
Use Top-Quality Images
Of all the pro-tips listed, this one might be the most important. You must have eye-catching photos.
Photos are undoubtedly the first thing users notice when sifting through the results pages. If your photos are taken in poor lighting or otherwise look amateurish, no one will click on your listing.
It makes no difference if you have Shakespearean marketing copy, a pristine brand aesthetic, and even an amazing product.
There are two things that will make your photos shine:
- A clean backdrop
- Diffused, bright lighting (natural light on an overcast day or a softbox)
If you don’t have the cash to hire a product photographer, you can achieve a pseudo-professional look with most smartphone cameras and a product photography lightbox like this one.
Tell your story in the copy
One of the reasons people shop handmade is because of the intimacy of items made by real humans with real stories. There’s tons of research that shows that people respond uniquely to narratives. It triggers a part of our brains that make us pay attention.
For this reason, don’t be afraid to get real with your audience and tell your story. Your marketing copy doesn’t need to be a feature dump. Just imagine you’re sitting across from a good friend at lunch describing why you love doing what you do.
Then, run that copy through a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway to ensure it’s concise, grammatically-correct, and readable.
Study the analytics
Amazon’s analytics engine is such a powerful tool, it’s kind of amazing that the platform offers it for free. This is such a goldmine of business insights that neglecting it should be a crime.
Imagine the selling strategies you could implement if you had a firm grasp on your buying demographic. This applies not only to advertising on Amazon, but connecting with them on social media and in person.
It also informs all aesthetic aspects of your brand (making your branding more feminine, masculine, appealing to younger vs. older audiences, etc.). And that’s just one report!
Making a regular practice of studying analytics will help you make smarter decisions faster and minimize your eCommerce mistakes.
Can You Actually Make Money on Amazon Handmade?
The simplest way to describe Amazon Handmade is, “you’ll get out of it what you put into it.” The high barrier of quality means there will be an investment of both time and money. Amazon demands the best.
The good news is that if you’ve got a handmade product that does meet that quality, you have the real potential to create a thriving eCommerce business exclusively on Amazon Handmade.
Is Amazon Handmade worth it? Absolutely.
Handmade is still relatively new. But with incredible analytics reporting, a straightforward fee structure, and access to Amazon’s ad system, listing your items on the platform is a no-brainer.
For more information on how SkuVault can integrate with Amazon Handmade and help you build a solid foundation of inventory management that scales with you, reach out to our team for a live demo today.