If you’re a South African with an eCommerce store, you’ve probably had, at minimum, one daydream about selling on Amazon. From the easily customisable backend UI and robust sales analytics to the streamlined conversion funnel for end users, Amazon has dominated the eCommerce industry by consistently being that good.
For a long time, this incredible tool has been just out of South African sellers’ reach. Sure, you COULD choose to sell your products in markets like the USA and the UK from Amazon Europe, but that’s not the same thing. It’s like seeing a chocolate cake in the bakery window and only being able to lick the glass.
However, in an exciting leaked plan from a few months ago, that was confirmed by Amazon advertising two new positions in Cape Town, it seems we’re about to see the launch of “Project Fela”, according to Business Insider.
This initiative heralds the launch of Amazon Marketplace in South Africa in Q1 of 2023, and it’s kind of a big deal. As an eCommerce seller, this is your “Archimedes in the bathtub” moment. It’s all about change.
Though we can’t predict exactly what Amazon South Africa’s regional rules and regulations might be, we’ve got a pretty good idea of the fundamentals based on global data. That’s why the FGX team has put together a nifty guide to what WE think selling on Amazon in South Africa is going to look like. Therefore, helping you to hit the ground running the moment the platform launches.
How to register an Amazon seller account in South Africa
Remember the adage, “you have to spend money to make money?” In this instance, that rings true. To be eligible for selling on Amazon, one must first register on Amazon Seller Central as a vendor, which will cost you a small amount of cash. There are a few initial choices involved, but we’re here to demystify them so you can pick the best option for your empire-to-be.
Required documents to open a seller account
To start your Amazon Seller Central account, you’re going to need the following information on hand:
- An email address
- A bank account and credit card
- Your tax information
- Your phone number
- Your government-issued ID
Sure, this feels a tad 1984. However, one of the reasons for such robust consumer trust in the Amazon brand is how extensively they vet their sellers. Consider all the time you just spent shoulders-deep in your filing cabinet as an investment in potential customer loyalty.
Should I choose an individual or professional seller account?
Once you’ve gathered all that essential info, it’s time to choose which seller option you’re going with. Amazon offers two plans, Individual and Professional (or standard and premium), and the one you choose is going to be entirely contingent on your business model.
Choose the Individual Seller option if you:
- Plan on selling 40 items or less every month.
- Don’t need advanced selling tools, such as customisation or bundling.
- You’re (realistically) not going to be poring over detailed sales reports.
- You might not know your exact business model just yet (but you’re still feeling enthusiastic about the whole thing.)
You want to pay around $0.99 for every item you sell or the equivalent in ZAR based on that day’s exchange rate.
Choose the Professional Seller option if you:
- Are looking to move high volumes of product (40+ units per month).
- You want to get serious about reporting and APIs, as well as get access to advanced selling options.
- You want to use platforms like HandMade (for the artsy ones) and LaunchPad (for the small starters).
- You want to pay a flat fee of $39.99 monthly (or the ZAR equivalent) that stays stable as you scale up.
Decided? If yes, good. If not, go back up and read those again. We’re sure you’ll figure it out. Currently the shipping fulfilment options for the South African branch of Amazon are unconfirmed. But upon announcement, be sure to come back and check the FGX blog for some valuable insights. We’ll bring you the good stuff.
How to upload products as an Amazon Seller
To sell products on Amazon, each individual product is going to need a product listing. This product listing will require a unique Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) which is a product ID that Amazon uses to identify the exact item you’re selling. If the product matches an item already on the site, you can skip this step. If what you’re listing is brand new to Amazon, you’re going to have to buy a UPC code (or, in regular people’s terms, a barcode) for your product. Registering this unique string of numbers starts at about $5 a code and doesn’t need to be renewed. When that UPC is yours, it’s yours forever.
The process is straightforward:
- Go to a reputable UPC generation website. We suggest UPCs.com.
- Figure out how many UPCs you need for your store and purchase that amount.
- You’ll get your 12-digit Universal Product Codes along with the barcode for each code you order instantly.
Now you’re ready to get to listing those goods! As you would imagine, there are products you can’t sell on Amazon. Live bees? That’s a no. Contraband and illegal substances? Also, a major nope. Mediocre drawings you did of your neighbour Gavin? Probably yes, but why would you want to?
Though some products on Amazon Seller Central are a no-go, regional and eCommerce regulations can prohibit you from selling harmless or innocuous products on the platform. We know these regulations will likely differ slightly when the company touches down on local soil. Here are the categories that are likely to be safe and some to look out for:
Product Categories with Restrictions:
According to Amazon, there are certain sub-categories that will usually get your product flagged for pre-approval before it goes on sale to the public. You should know that this pre-approval process usually means extra fees and time-consuming admin on your end. So, it’s worth considering your options if you plan on selling any of the following:
- Collectable Coins
- Personal Safety and Household products
- Entertainment Collectibles
- Fine Art
- Toys & Games (during the holidays)
- Music & DVD
- Automotive & Powersports
- Sports Collectibles
- Streaming Media Players
- Video, DVD, & Blu-ray
Product categories without restrictions
Though the above list of specific ‘gated’ categories is subject to change and almost always shifts depending on where you are in the world, you’re likely to find similar guidelines globally. Apart from those and things that are illegal to distribute anyway, you can sell an incredibly wide array of products on Amazon once you’ve purchased a UPC for them. Almost the whole of the eCommerce consumer base is your oyster. Or banana if you’re allergic to shellfish. It takes all types.
What should my product listing details be?
A good Amazon product listing is a work of art. By that, we mean it attracts an audience of admirers, it’s made up of a collection of intentional creative choices and sometimes your best bet is just hiring a freelancer to finish it. We’ll run you through the key facets of what makes a good listing:
Your product title should be between 80 and 250 characters long for optimised desktop viewing.
Amazon has a few rules for titles that need to be followed or your listing is at risk of getting rejected:
- Write out all numbers instead of using numerals (so ‘nine’ not ‘9’).
- Capitalise the first letter of each word.
- No use of the “&” symbol unless it’s in a brand name.
- Spell out units of measurement (so ‘centimetres’ not ‘cm’), but ONLY include measurements and sizes in the title if they’re necessary.
- Don’t add the colour of the item if it only comes in one colour.
- Do NOT include quantity, price, promotional messaging, symbols, or ‘best seller’ inferences.
(Sidenote, we think there would be many more well-adjusted celebrity children if this many rules applied to naming an actual human.)
Variations, simply put, are the variations of your main listing that your customers can choose from when making a purchase. These can be as simple as changing the colour of a shirt or as complex as customising the packaging size and flavour of a type of dog food.
These listings can improve the consumer experience, as they allow your audience to feel like they have choices. Your main listing is your “parent” listing, while your variations are your “child” listings. Choosing to list your products as variations rather than separate listings is probably right for you if:
- Each of your products has one or more slight variations, and you don’t want a massive storefront.
- Your products are incredibly similar and may appear to be the same listing appearing twice in your store.
- You have separate products, but they share almost the same description and title.
- The products share one parent product but with a few modular differences or add-ons.
Getting gifted a slab of chocolate is nice. Getting asked whether you want the one with whole nuts or the top deck is VERY NICE. Bear that in mind when crafting your Amazon customer journey.
These are the first quick snapshots your customer will see before settling into the sales funnel your listing establishes, so they better be effective. Think of them like the first five photos in your product’s Tinder profile, where every potential buyer is a soulmate. Here’s how to make them work:
- Be specific and concise about the stand-out features of your product.
- Point out what makes your offering stand out from the competition.
- Avoid flowery, descriptive language, which comes later in your long description.
- Make sure to know what your product’s top five features are, then highlight these.
- Start each bullet point with a capital letter, but DON’T end the points with a full stop. This subconsciously encourages your customers to keep on reading.
- Do NOT include promotional messaging or pricing.
Your product has got it, and it’s up to you to flaunt it!
Pictures may speak a thousand words but choosing the right ones for your listing will ensure that some of those words aren’t “what on EARTH is that thing?!”
Best practices for choosing the images that will make your listing stand out:
- The image should be an accurate representation of your actual product. No catfishing!
- Be in focus and unpixellated.
- Your main images should have a pure white background.
- 85% of the frame should be filled by the product.
- Your images should be 1000 pixels minimum in either height or width.
- You should make minimal use of props and set dressing.
It is your responsibility not to have your products end up on one of those Buzzfeed’ Instagram vs Reality’ listicles your aunt shares on Facebook, so be honest with your images.
Featured Offer (Buy Box)
The Buy Box is a section of the product page when a customer is checking out their cart, located in the right margin directly under the “Buy” button. In this section, Amazon displays other related products from third-party sellers to upsell them.
The conversion rates for this upsell section are incredibly high, and the good news is that your product could win a spot in that box! The products that appear here are chosen by the Amazon algorithm and optimising your listing increases your chances of appearing in the Buy Box.
Tips to increase your chances of Buy Box time:
- Make sure you’re on a Professional Seller account.
- Your item must be a new listing, not previously owned.
- You should check your Buy Box eligibility status in Amazon Seller Central.
- There must be inventory of your item available.
- If you have higher performance metrics than your competitors, it works in your favour.
- If you have a keyword-optimised product description, that’ll help you too.
Winning a spot in the Buy Box is almost like winning the Lotto but you have more control over the outcome because it requires skill, takes considered effort and is contingent on your actions.
Optimise and start selling!
Do you see how simple this is going to be? You’re just a few easy steps away from being that guy at the high school reunion with your own thriving business in 2023. Plus, if you pre-prep with these tips, you might be the first to the party. In a very large, very new car. If that’s what you’re into, of course.
Launching Amazon Seller Central in South Africa is going to draw thousands of local eyes – and wallets – into the eCommerce space. And if you act fast, those are yours for the taking. If you’d like to pre-emptively start building a marketing and digital strategy around your upcoming Amazon storefront, don’t hesitate to consult FGX Studios for a consultation to see how we can help. We see the potential in this opportunity, and we see the potential in your business. We’re here to make sure you seize both.