When it comes to eCommerce, Amazon is the undisputed king. The sprawling digital marketplace sells over 200 million products per year in America alone, and it’s consequently evolved into a crucial sales platform for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
But it can be understandably difficult for tiny startups to stand out and prosper on Amazon. That’s why last year the company decided to introduce a pioneering platform to help showcase ambitious startups and their innovative products.
Dubbed Amazon Launchpad, the service also provides a wide array of useful tools for small businesses, and pairs them with like-minded organisations in order to foster growth and collaboration. Launchpad relies upon partners like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Y Combinator to help identify potential — and although the platform may not be right for everyone, the benefits are worth considering.
What is Amazon Launchpad?
Amazon Launchpad is a unique platform that serves two core purposes. On one hand, it’s a marketplace within a marketplace that enables customers to sift through a range of cutting-edge and innovative items produced by vetted startups. On the other hand, Launchpad is an incredibly useful service point for small businesses in need of a helping hand.
Although Amazon provides a marketplace for scores of companies, Launchpad vendors are given a bit of special treatment. Launchpad product listings are inherently more user-friendly, and allow startups to weave all-encompassing, custom narratives surrounding their products with the help of larger images, videos and more space to write. Launchpad vendors also enjoy more opportunities to get noticed through in-house advertising and a special widget on Amazon’s storefront landing page.
Elsewhere, Launchpad offers fledgling startups plenty of logistical support via its Services Hub. The hub is essentially a space for participating vendors to seek out help from colleagues and more established service providers in order to bolster productivity. Help categories range from prototyping and manufacturing to funding and sales, and all participating service providers are guaranteed to respond to startup queries within seven days.
How Can I Get Involved?
Launchpad is admittedly a little bit selective in terms of who it takes on. At present, Amazon prioritizes startups funded by crowdfunding platforms, venture capital firms and other startup accelerators that are already part of the company’s existing network — which includes names like Kickstarter, Andreesen Horowitz and Hardware Club. That said, Amazon has said it is willing to consider startups supported by companies outside the network on a case-by-case basis. Existing Amazon sellers can also apply for the program.
In order to apply for Launchpad, you must first register as an Amazon vendor and upload some basic product information onto the site. You’ll then be asked to confirm an initial order and ship an initial load of products to Amazon’s fulfillment centers. That order will essentially be used by the site to evaluate whether there’s a genuine demand for your company’s products.
If approved to join Launchpad, vendors won’t be getting a free ride. They will be expected to pay Amazon an incremental referral fee at five percent on top of the site’s standard referral fee on each item sold. That additional fee applies to all seller selections, and is charged on the total sum paid for the item by the buyer — including taxes.
Is Launchpad Right for My Business?
Amazon Launchpad provides a unique set of benefits for budding startups. Not only does the program drastically bolster a company’s visibility on the world’s best known eCommerce marketplace, but it also helps connect startups with all of the resources and service providers they’ll need in order to establish themselves. That saves small business owners a whole lot of time and hassle.
But that’s not to say the platform is without its own set of drawbacks. First and foremost, as a Launchpad vendor you’ll be expected to take part in the eCommerce giant’s ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’ service — which essentially means risking shipping all of your inventory off to Amazon wholesale before a customer has even had a chance to buy anything. That’s pretty standard practice for larger, more established companies; however, it could potentially cut a slice out of a startup’s initial profit margin.
That being said, a vast majority of startups would likely argue this is a small price to pay for the all-encompassing support that Launchpad and Amazon’s global fulfillment network provide. At the end of the day, no two businesses are alike — so you’ll have to look at the pros and cons to figure out whether Launchpad is right for your startup.