Export Knowhow

Amazon Marketplace: Sell to customers across the world in one fell swoop

E-commerce makes the world seem limitless: With online retail on international marketplaces such as Amazon, even smaller companies can sell across the globe in one fell swoop. Numerous how-to guides, experts and videos offer tips and tricks for creating rapid revenue in global marketplaces. The question for Swiss exporters is: Is it really that simple? What do you need to know? In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions.

E-Commerce

Which countries can Swiss exporters sell to via Amazon?

Amazon operates 11 online marketplace sites worldwide. These are divided into three regions, each comprising three to five countries. Sellers choose either a specific region or individual countries from it. Limiting to one country can have consequences for the product ranking on Amazon.

Amazon Europe

  • Amazon.co.uk (Great Britain)
  • Amazon.de (Germany)
  • Amazon.fr (France)
  • Amazon.it (Italy)
  • Amazon.es (Spain)

Amazon North America

  • Amazon.com (USA)
  • Amazon.ca (Canada)
  • Amazon.com.mx (Mexico)

Amazon Asia

  • Amazon.jp (Japan)
  • Amazon.cn (China – only for sellers resident in the country)
  • Amazon.in (India – only for sellers resident in the country)

Tip: When selling to several European countries via the Amazon marketplace, it should be noted that Amazon has additional logistics centers in Poland and the Czech Republic in the EU. In the case of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), Amazon controls the storage location of the goods without any intervention from the supplier. This may also make a supplier liable to pay tax for the value of the goods stored in the storage locations, even if nothing is sold in these countries.

How can Swiss exporters sell on Amazon Business?

Amazon Business is a new marketplace for business customers on Amazon.com. The Amazon Business Seller Program is a free add-on program for professional sellers who use Sell at Amazon. In addition to selling to consumers, retailers can customize their offerings to meet the specific needs of business customers and take advantage of additional features optimized for business-to-business transactions.

Country selection checklist

Country selection must be planned carefully. Exporters and online retailers should answer the following questions in each case:

  • Is the product suitable for the individual target markets of the selected region?
  • Are you familiar with the laws and product standards in the chosen target market?
  • Have you conducted local market research to ensure that the product matches buyers’ local preferences?
  • Does the product need to be modified, or does the marketing, design and packaging need to be adapted to local customs?
  • Are you able to communicate and correspond sufficiently with buyers in the respective national language, or do you have sufficient knowledge of English?
  • Do you know if and how the company must be registered in the country (importer, tax liability)?
  • Do you know the country’s laws regarding product safety, guarantee, right of return, etc.?

Which country is suitable for getting started? Read more on the topic here.

Which laws, obligations and standards must Swiss exporters take into account?

In each country, different legal and industry-specific requirements apply to the sale of products to consumers (B2C). Therefore, get thoroughly informed regarding your responsibilities. The following areas must be taken into account, among others:

  • Taxes and duties
  • Intellectual property rights (e.g. restriction for parallel imports)
  • Export controls: You can read how to proceed here in the guide (German only).
  • Environment, health and safety
  • Product conformity
  • Markings and labels
  • Packing instructions

Are Swiss sellers subject to the same rules for selling via Amazon as providers from other countries?

Essentially yes, but due to the non-European origin of the supplier and its goods, Swiss exporters have to meet additional requirements. Among other things, some European countries require local fiscal representation (e.g. Italy, France, Spain) and the threshold for VAT liability in the countries is not applicable.

Is it better to start with a complete portfolio on Amazon, or is it easier to start with just one product?

For new Amazon sellers, it makes sense to keep things simple in the beginning. Amazon is a world of its own, whose ways of operating need to be learned. It is best to start with one product and use it to test the Amazon marketplace and all its functionalities: How is the product listed? What are the product and data requirements? How does the logistics process work? How does marketing work? How can traffic be increased?

Does it make sense to organize logistics via Amazon or to do it yourself?

If you list your products on Amazon, you can organize the logistics yourself (Fulfillment by Merchant) or Amazon (Fulfillment by Amazon), whereby Amazon takes over the storage, shipping and customer service for a corresponding charge. This also enables the Prime shipping option preferred by Amazon and its customers.  Fulfillment by Amazon, FBA for short, can be particularly worthwhile at the outset, as logistics for individual packages from Switzerland tends to be more complex for EU countries than for providers based in the EU. FBA also has the advantage that Amazon is considered the shipper and products are delivered in Amazon packaging, which is a trust-building factor for new customers. If you use FBA as an online seller, you should also be aware that Amazon sets high standards for suppliers. They must meet narrowly defined requirements, for example with regard to delivery, marking and labeling of goods to Amazon logistics centers. The overall service costs for FBA should not be underestimated.

To make selling on Amazon a success, does it make sense to manage all tasks alone?

The development of a successful export business requires knowledge and expertise for different tasks and questions, the simultaneous management of which can be challenging for entrepreneurs. With regard to export issues, it is worth calling in experts on export technology, logistics, legal, regulatory and tax issues.

If sales are made predominately via international marketplaces, is it still important to have your own website?

Even if foreign sales predominately happen via digital marketplaces, it is still important to maintain the brand and its content on your own website. If potential customers land on your website via search engines and social media, this can serve as a conversion driver for sales on Amazon and they can be forwarded to the Amazon product page to carry out the purchase. As soon as international customers are addressed via the website, it is important to ensure conformity with the legal requirements in the respective country. For example, it is necessary for Swiss sellers on German marketplaces to provide the same level of compliance with German data- and consumer-protection laws as a German provider in order to avoid receiving a costly warning. These are also enforceable in Switzerland on the basis of international legal agreements.

Selling via Amazon: Would you like to know more?

The international marketplace offers many opportunities and business opportunities for Swiss companies. For implementation to be successful, it makes sense to prepare solidly and clarify the risks and regulations. If you have any questions regarding e-commerce, please feel free to contact our consultant, Alexandra Schiller.

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