60% of Amazon sales are generated by third-party sellers
The figure underscores the importance of the marketplace to Amazon's business.
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
The figure underscores the importance of the marketplace to Amazon's business.
When it comes to selling physical goods through online channels, the Amazon model is dominant.
The company’s commerce business has four distinct components: A marketplace with a constantly expanding assortment of goods driven by third-party sellers, an advertising network that helps sellers stand out, a fulfillment network that delivers items quickly and conveniently, and a membership program that builds loyalty, while connecting shoppers to the other parts of Amazon’s consumer ecosystem.
Each of these elements are mutually-reinforcing. At this point, it would be difficult to grow one without another. A third-party seller on the marketplace likely buys advertising to stand out in a sea of brands, and uses Fulfillment by Amazon to store and ship inventory in part because it’s the most convenient way to access Prime customers.
Yet these parts also exist as their own lines of business that have helped Amazon unlock new avenues for growth beyond the rote sale of goods. Services provided to third-party sellers, Amazon Ads, FBA and Prime all generate their own revenue, and most of these are growing rapidly.
Just how important are they to Amazon?
The company offered some details on one of these areas in a new report this week: Third-party sellers. These independent sellers that list, manage and ship their own products are distinct from first-party sellers, which effectively sell items to Amazon and leave the ecommerce company responsible for the sale to the consumer. As Amazon points out, most third-party sellers are small and medium-sized businesses. First-party sellers tend to be the larger name brands.
As it turns out, third party sellers are very important to Amazon. Key stats from the report:
Independent sellers account for 60% of sales in Amazon’s store.
U.S. sellers sold more than 4.1 billion products—an average of 7,800 every minute. These sellers averaged more than $230,000 in sales in Amazon’s store.
Brand owners in the U.S. grew sales over 20% year over year in Amazon’s store.
Amazon sellers are based in all 50 states.
Over 260 million products were exported globally by U.S.-based sellers.
The results in part underscore how much energy Amazon has put toward growing the marketplace, and the uptake in sellers that has arrived as a result.
“Amazon invests billions of dollars annually to provide entrepreneurs with a constantly improving set of valuable tools and resources to help them gain access to capital, quickly launch in our store, build their brands, and rapidly scale and reach more customers,” said Dharmesh Mehta, vice president of Worldwide Selling Partner Services at Amazon, in a statement. “Amazon is committed to the success of small businesses, and we are excited to continue innovating on their behalf and help them grow into thriving success stories.”
Make no mistake: There is also a massive benefit to Amazon’s business. In the first quarter of 2023, third-party seller services generated $30 billion, and grew 20%. Compare that to AWS, which is typically seen as Amazon’s big profit driver, and you’ll find that the cloud division generated about $21 billion while realizing 16% growth.
While third-party seller services aren’t always running ahead of AWS, the fact that they are growing in areas close to each other is a sign of how much opportunity lies in the marketplace for Amazon. Factor in that Amazon’s $9.5 billion (Q1) advertising business is also tied in part to the marketplace, and it’s clear that the impact extends beyond a single budget line.
Amazon’s success with third-party sellers is a big part of the reason why the marketplace model is being widely applied across commerce. Walmart is doubling down on growing third-party sellers on its marketplace as it follows an ecommerce playbook that has similar components of Amazon, and Macy’s opened its ecommerce business to third-party sellers last year. Shein recently brought its own marketplace to the U.S., and the fast fashion platform is using it as a means to expand the number of categories.
While Amazon will likely to continue to couch its communications about third-party sellers in the language of support for small businesses, it is a major reason that the company has been able to grow to the giant it has become, and remain there. With the growth of ecommerce and the rise of retail media, plenty of others in commerce will continue to apply the model, as well.
For a bit more info on Amazon, the company also shared the below rankings in the report on third-party sellers:
The most-shopped categories from third-party sellers:
The five states with the most third-party sellers:
The quick commerce marketplace is partnering with Rokt to expand beyond CPG advertising.
In some ways, retail media campaigns function like promotions in a brick-and-mortar store.
With retail media, brands can reach customers with advertising on the websites where shopping is taking place. This proximity to the point of sale provides an opportunity for brands who are already selling within a marketplace to take advantage of opportunities to elevate their position in search results, and stand out from a crowd of listings. This is the same goal that many brands have when they purchase highly-trafficked space in a store. But instead of checkout aisle and endcap placements, there are now sponsored products in search results.
But that’s not the end of the story.
The fact that retail media is internet-based and powered by first-party data collected at the purchase level is poised to open up new opportunities to reach consumers that go beyond today’s norms.
One such example is the introduction of non-endemic advertising. This allows brands that aren’t directly selling a product within a marketplace to purchase ad space.
Why would a brand want to advertise in a place where they can’t make a direct sale? The thinking goes like this: The marketplaces have the audience, and the data on them that allows for precise targeting. They can be places to learn about a new product, just as much as they can be a place to buy.
One early example of the recognition of the opportunity in non-endemic advertising arrived this month. The quick delivery marketplace Gopuff partnered with ecommerce technology company Rokt to enable brands outside the CPG category to advertise on Gopuff’s app.
Under the hood, the companies are combining machine learning technology from Rokt that is designed to present relevant offers to customers with a Gopuff audience that is made up of Gen Zers and millennials, engaged and curious about trying new brands.
The partnership will enable advertisers to target customer segments by demographic and location. Customers will also receive offers to try new brands, such as Hulu, AdoreMe and Noom.
What sets this advertising approach apart will be the consumer categories where it is focused. Typically, ads on Gopuff are focused around the convenience store items already available on the app. Now, shoppers will see other kinds of products in the mix, and they will click through to checkout pages that are outside Gopuff if they are interested in buying. This also has the potential to change how advertisers approach media spend. It means everyone from a sporting goods brand to a car company can now consider Gopuff as they plan. They must also consider how these channels work together as a whole.
"We are thrilled to partner with Gopuff and enhance its ad business, helping it move beyond the CPG category," said Elizabeth Buchanan, CCO of Rokt, in a statement. "By delivering relevant offers to Gopuff users, Rokt will help Gopuff Ads' brand partners across all categories create more meaningful customer connections and drive incremental sales."
The partnership underscores how retail media networks have three key building blocks for digital advertising: They’re a destination that people visit with an intent to shop, they have the audience that brands want to reach and they have data that can help to reach the right consumers.
It points to how ecommerce marketplaces can not only become the new store, but also emerge as ad networks like Facebook and Google before them. It’s a big reason why retail media networks have exploded over the last year, and why growth is forecast to continue to accelerate.