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With over 3 million third-party sellers on Amazon, the e-commerce marketplace is a battleground of vicious competition. Sellers everywhere are vying for the attention of customers while staving off black-hat practices like counterfeit products, fake reviews, and customer fraud. Despite these setbacks, there are still several successful sellers that rise above these challenges. Those powerhouse sellers manage to generate millions of dollars in sales each year. Some of them are even seasoned sellers, having been a part of Amazon for nearly twenty years. They’ve seen the ever-changing marketplace evolve throughout the years and they’ve evolved too—with just a simple shift in their mindset.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

You’ve probably heard the term “growth mindset.” It’s become a popular buzzword in corporations over the past few years. The term was originally coined more than 30 years ago by Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol S. Dweck. In a study on how people handle failure, Dweck determined that there were two mindsets in response to failure:

Growth Mindset: The belief that you can improve your knowledge and capabilities, making it well worth the extra effort and persistence to increase skills and aim for even higher achievement despite failure. 

Fixed Mindset: The belief that your knowledge and capabilities are fixed traits, making it hard to justify additional effort to improve negative outcomes—especially when faced with failure. 

Growth-minded individuals are more willing to challenge the status quo. They use progressive problem-solving and reflective decision-making to overcome challenges. At Buy Box Experts, we asked ourselves “how does having a growth mindset differentiate the level of success across Amazon sellers today?” 

Becoming a Growth-Minded Amazon Seller

By applying the two different mindsets to the average Amazon seller, we found a number of curious distinctions about how they handled difficult problems—problems that would shock even the most established retailer. Some of those issues included: 

  • Having a product’s listing hijacked, which changes the listing to a completely different product
  • False claims filed against the seller, resulting in the seller’s account being suspended for a few days while the issue got resolved (but the seller ends up with no sales during this time)
  • Having competitors undercut the seller on price by selling products below cost
  • Competitors violating the seller’s design patent to create an exact copy of their product under a different brand name
  • Competing against dishonest sellers who make hundreds of fake product reviews for their own products—all within the first week of the seller’s new product launch
  • Dealing with having a listing shut down after a competitor has run a smear campaign of false, negative reviews on that listing—imagine having to write a Plan of Action to Amazon on how you will stop doing things that you never actually did! 
  • A constant need to cycle through the seller’s catalog and requalify each product regularly to ensure the individual items remain profitable for the seller, all while competitive activities change the assumptions the seller used when first deciding to carry a product

While these issues would frustrate anyone, the seller with a growth mindset recognizes that these challenges are all part of learning how to succeed in the ever-changing Amazon marketplace. The growth-minded seller responds to these issues by asking themselves:

  • What should I be doing to better protect my business? 
  • What auditing or detection processes should I have used to detect these problems earlier? 
  • How should I track data and metrics to gain a better understanding of the overall Amazon landscape? 

Looking internally at one’s own capabilities, assessing current skills, and evaluating processes to gain new insights and improve business on the Amazon marketplace represents the actions of a growth-minded Amazon seller.

Adapting to Amazon

Amazon’s changed over time. A decade ago, new sellers could find sales success just by “throwing products on the site and seeing what happens.” They didn’t really need to understand what they were doing and there wasn’t as much competition. Now, there are very low barriers to becoming an Amazon seller. In fact, thousands of sellers are added to the platform every day, and many of these new sellers still don’t have any selling experience. Programs like Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) make it operationally easy for people with no logistics or operations experience to jump into retailing. Inexperience, lack of understanding, and the ease of joining the Amazon marketplace have led to many new sellers being harshly ill-prepared to succeed on Amazon. With such a large pool of competition, it is much less likely that a new seller can stumble their way to success without first going through a lot of unexpected challenges. 

This game isn’t for the light-of-heart—or those with fixed mindsets. For someone with thin skin who’s unwilling to learn the ins and outs of being an Amazon third-party seller, they’ll quickly realize that this sort of day-to-day competitive activity isn’t like running your neighborhood lemonade stand. 

Someone with thicker skin and a growth mindset understands that this journey is a rocky road and that there will be many things out of their control. As new challenges arise, it’s often an immediate sink-or-swim situation where the seller must act quickly. The seller also has to understand that the Amazon representatives won’t extensively explain new changes or policies. Although they’re dealing with unfair enforcement processes, the successful seller stays grounded, recognizing that each setback is an opportunity to learn. They quickly develop a strategy by networking with other Amazon sellers and embracing new resources like conferences, newsletters, and Amazon masterminds. 

Is Selling on Amazon Worth It? Yes—And Here’s Why

Being able to quickly deal with setbacks, adjust to new practices, and modify assumptions are all part of being properly equipped as an Amazon third-party seller. Certainly, all sellers likely go through a phase where they ask “is selling on Amazon worth it?” Those with a fixed mindset would say no and give up, but those with a growth mindset think differently. They’ll consistently examine their practices and strategy, asking themselves, “how can I improve to make selling on Amazon worth it?” A growth-minded Amazon seller will look at what they need to change about their own game plan so that they can win on Amazon and better serve their customers’ needs.

If you want to be successful on Amazon, the journey must be part of the goal. Yes—you want to be paid (and hopefully profitable) as a full-time Amazon seller, but you can’t sign up thinking that you’re going to immediately get a slice of the huge Amazon marketplace pie. What you’re really signing up for is the unique opportunity to improve your business management skills. You’ll learn how to handle constant uncertainty without freaking out too long every time some big discouraging change happens. If you go in with a growth mindset, you’ll find that you’ll become a much better thinker, having gained an unparalleled ability to adapt and strategize. If you want long-term success on Amazon, you’ll need a growth mindset, and you’ll need to surround yourself with employees and teammates who share the same perspective. 

Finding ongoing success on Amazon is still a big challenge, even for those with a growth mindset. However, a growth-minded seller recognizes that it’s the preparation and celebration of the journey that makes the whole process worthwhile. So, for them, yes: selling on Amazon is worth it. 

James Thomson is a partner at Buy Box Experts. He is the former head of Amazon Services—the team that recruits tens of thousands of new sellers to the Amazon marketplace each year. He was previously Amazon’s first Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) account manager, a banker and management consultant.

James is also co-founder and president of PROSPER Show, the continuing education conference for large Amazon sellers. He earned a Ph.D. in Marketing (B2B Pricing and Distribution) from Northwestern University (Kellogg), as well as an MBA from Vanderbilt University (Owen) and a Bachelor of Science from University of Alberta.