The five Amazon marketplaces in Europe rightfully attract Central and Eastern European (CEE) online retailers, manufacturers, and private labels. But unlike Amazon in the US, where the trends come from, the European market has its own idiosyncrasies. What are they and how is it possible to seize the opportunity Amazon is providing to European companies? We spoke with founder and organizer of the European Seller Conference, the first conference for Amazon sellers in Europe, that’s being held this March in Prague.
Private label sellers could benefit the most from business connections
Why are you organizing an Amazon seller conference for private labels – are there specific challenges they face, as opposed to perhaps bigger brands?
My focus on private label sellers comes from two factors. First, this is exactly the kind of audience I target naturally. The first summit I organized back in 2016 was the European Private Label Summit. As a former website developer who was keen on building a side business, I was very interested in Amazon’s opportunities for people like me. So, in part, my content comes from my audience.
Second, there is a gap in the market. There are about 20 recurring Amazon conferences in the US that happen each year. There have been a couple of them in the UK, especially these big meet-ups in London, but they usually last only a couple of hours after work. As a CEE seller, you might feel like a minority, and there is not enough time get your money’s worth to make business connections. Or you could go to Germany, where they have many Amazon events, but they are mostly in German – so most of us would face a language barrier. European sellers have been lacking the opportunity to have an annual conference in English – for all nationalities – focusing on their content. The European Seller Conference aims to fill this gap. So far, we’ve sold tickets to people coming from over 20 nationalities.
VAT, localization, and costs are hot topics for most CEE sellers
What are some of the biggest challenges CEE Amazon sellers are dealing with?
I am not an industry expert, although I am repeatedly interviewing most of the industry leaders. So I can answer this question in an overview, but not in detail. The main struggle nowadays is VAT regulations and tax compliances in different countries. The UK has become very strict about it with ecommerce sellers last year. Germany is implementing strict requirements in 2019. In fact, if you do not get things sorted by March, Amazon will not let you sell in the German marketplace. Their government has decided to hold Amazon to a higher standard recently. This is a big deal, as Amazon Germany is the second biggest marketplace in the world (after the USA), so we may all be affected by it. It can be complicated and costly, especially if you join Amazon’s heavily promoted internal PAN European Programm.
What else is influencing CEE sellers significantly?
Localization of products is another one. The Amazon game is sophisticated and competitive; you can’t just go with Google translate or cheap translations and hope for the best. You ideally need an agency with ecommerce, or better yet, Amazon knowledge to set translations up for you.
Then there is the difficulty of collecting reviews in all 5 marketplaces. Each marketplace is a separate market and they usually do not share reviews. You have to do build your reputation separately, push recommendations in each market – meaning you have to be working in 5 different marketplaces simultaneously. A lot of other topics and costs are connected: proper localization, social proof from real buyers, PPC, keywords, etc. Although recently I did see UK marketplace reviews in English on some of the Spanish listings, so things might be changing soon in regards to reviews for multiple Amazon markets.
Is there a way to turn these challenges around?
To be a winner, you need to do two things. First, you need to think of Amazon as a long-term business. In the beginning, Amazon is merely an investment, but hard work pays off in the long run. Second, I see a great opportunity in encouraging consumers to buy locally. Once we teach people to source locally instead of buying from China, which is shifting but is still pretty common in Europe, both sellers and consumers can win this game – receiving orders much faster, having higher quality goods, saving on import taxes, and reducing their carbon footprints.
Non-Amazon sellers need to have a taste of the game first
How about private labels which are not selling on Amazon yet, but perhaps intend to – are there any specific challenges they’ll face?
Amazon is a completely different monster, that’s for sure. But it won’t be completely new. Most private labels already have some localization, translations, etc. You can use that know-how, but be open to learning. Amazon is a different game, with its own rules and algorithms, etc. I would say the best way to get to know the game is to visit an event like the European Seller Conference, where you can talk to B2C sellers from Norway, Ukraine or Spain who all make 7 figures but use completely different strategies. You can use what you learn from them as a shortcut to figuring out how you want to make your approach.
European sellers have one huge advantage over outsiders: they know the EU’s fragmentation and can cope with difference
What can private labels use to their advantage when selling all around Europe? Are there certain advantages to having 5 Amazon marketplaces instead of just one?
The biggest advantage is that European marketplaces are, as some people are saying, 3–4 years behind the Amazon.com marketplace. Whatever is happening in the US right now, it will happen in Europe, only a couple of years later. So now, while Amazon US is still growing, there is a huge opportunity for European sellers.
Language barriers and tax complexity make it harder in the beginning, but when sellers crack these things, sort out the documentation, have proper localization and descriptions, there is so much they can gain. There is a big potential in all five marketplaces.
European sellers have one big advantage over North American sellers or sellers from other parts of the world: Europeans are used to diversity. We have a sense of different cultures and different languages, and are able to understand cultural differences, shopping behavior, and overall mentality. Many sellers coming from outside of Europe might use cheap translations, and this makes their product sell very poorly. In general, you can’t duplicate an Amazon US strategy in Europe.
When it comes to content, what topics did you decide to highlight in the conference?
I selected the speakers carefully. I did webinars or virtual summits with most of them so I knew who was good – who could deliver valuable and engaging content. There was a big interest from speakers to participate and I had to curate topics. Most of the speakers, if you Google them, you are going to find a great track record. Kevin King, who is holding a workshop on the 3rd day of the conference, is super popular. Content-wise, we cover everything from VAT, taxes and fees, PPC and branding, to product launch, pricing, and localization.
Tickets to the European Seller Conference are still available. The conference will be held on March 28–30 in Prague.