An American Comeback on Amazon

An essential component of Amazon’s success is the explosion of China-based businesses that sell products through its vast digital malls.

But more than a year ago, Chinese businesses continued to sell a small portion of the content that Americans buy on Amazon. US-based merchants are gaining ground.

Experts told me that they do not have a satisfactory explanation for this changing balance of Amazon merchants in the US and China. Nor can they say whether it has been a long-term trend of growth in market share for Chinese traders, whether it is a vague or permanent reversal.

At the moment, most shoppers have not noticed that Chinese merchants sell relatively little content on Amazon. And the change could be another example of an unexpected shift in purchases asked by the epidemic.

But over the past half-decade, Amazon’s aggressive efforts to sue Chinese merchants have led to profound and trending changes in the online retail and global economies. If that event has lost steam, it’s worth looking at what it could mean for buyers, international businesses and the millions of businesses that make their living by selling online on Amazon and elsewhere.

I’ll go back to explaining how Amazon works: the company works partly like a traditional store that resells products purchased from manufacturers and partly like eBay. More than half of the products sold on Amazon come from this eBay-like approach of independent businesses that list their products along with what Amazon sells. When we buy a baby toy or phone charger on Amazon, the odds are that it actually comes from a Texas toy company or a large Chinese electronics group.

Starting around 2015, Amazon made it easier for China-based merchants to list products for sale. This has been replicated by other retailers, including Walmart and Chinese clothing company Shen, and has changed the online shopping experience both for good and for bad.

Chinese merchants are the source of Amazon’s power and the company’s biggest headache. That’s a big reason you can find almost any product on Amazon, and they’ve probably helped lower prices for shoppers. But Amazon’s critics also say the company has not done enough to protect buyers from risky or subversive products and consumer reviews manipulated by Chinese vendors that may be beyond the reach of U.S. consumer protection law.

Over the past few years, Chinese merchants have sold a growing percentage of what Americans bought on Amazon until there was a 50-50 split between sellers based in the US and China. According to e-commerce research firm Marketplace Pulse, the percentage of sales by Chinese merchants, however, fell from about 48 percent at the end of 2020 to about 42 percent in May.

US-based merchants are gaining a larger share of sales instead. Local Amazon merchants are also selling more than Chinese merchants in Britain and Germany. (An Amazon declined to comment on the changing mix of Chinese and local merchants.)

I asked Joozas Kaziyuknas, the founder of Marketplace Pulse, if the reason for these Chinese traders staying away was due to the temporary closure of factories in China due to the epidemic and the increased cost and complexity of shipping products from Asia. He said maybe not. Most merchants based in the U.S. buy and ship from manufacturers in China or elsewhere in Asia.

Kazyukanas said it was difficult to know exactly what caused the change, but some merchants were frustrated by rising costs on Amazon and Byzantine rules. There have been reports from China that product sellers are hoping to find websites other than Amazon to sell their wares to the world. However, that grip on the downsides of sales on Amazon is certainly not new, and is also commonly expressed by merchants outside of China.

Yaniv Serig, chief executive of Atyrian, a US-based merchant selling products on Amazon, is among the e-commerce experts who believe some Chinese businesses may have moved away from Amazon because they feared the company’s crackdown last year. Some merchants based in China, apparently to tamper with customer reviews.

The change in Amazon’s marketplace could be an opportunity for US-based merchants, including Molson Hart, a Texas toy seller I wrote about last year, who believes that US laws and policies give unfair advantage to online product sellers. China.

Knowing that the mix of sales between Chinese and local merchants has been changing for over a year now raises burning questions: If the growth of product sellers from China was a profound change in online shopping, why didn’t it obviously affect shoppers when the trend reversed? ?

I wonder if we’ve overstated the benefits of opening Amazon for millions of product sellers. Maybe having 20,000 Blender choices on one site doesn’t really help anyone.

  • “The war broke many of those ties.” For several years, Russian-speaking technologists from countries that were once part of the Soviet Union shared a townhouse in San Francisco. My colleague Cad Metz reports on how the Russian war in Ukraine tested the dreams of the House of Commons members of countries including Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Russia.

  • Social media has no answer for the lack of baby formula: Bloomberg News writes that Facebook, YouTube and other social media websites are flooded with recipes for homemade baby formulas that experts warn are unsafe. ,May require a subscription.)

  • What was wrong with the buttons on the dashboard? Jay Caspian Kang, who writes a newsletter for The New York Times Opinion section, writes about what’s wrong with his car’s touch screen and longs for the knobs and buttons used to set the temperature and control the audio system.

Rescuers helped release a 400-pound (!!!) stingray that was caught on a fishing line in the Mekong River in Cambodia. As Jason Beatle wrote for The Times, humans managed to avoid Stingray’s poisonous barb, which is capable of piercing bones (!!!)

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