Amazon 'Storefronts' Gives Small Businesses a New Platform

September 17, 2018

By Amanda Weston

Reports that Amazon employees, in China and elsewhere, were soliciting bribes as a way to delete negative product reviews have led the company to say it would take "swift action" against anyone found abusing its system.

"For Amazon, we have very, very high standards with data protection," Nick Denissen, VP of Marketplace Business at Amazon, said in an interview on Cheddar Monday.

"We have very clear business and employee ethical conduct rules, and we're currently investigating these claims, and then we will take appropriate actions."

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that some Amazon employees were offering information that could give independent merchants selling on its platform an advantage. The problem was particularly prevalent in China, where a combination of low wages and explosive e-commerce growth has made bribery more attractive.

Brokers would offer sales metrics, reviewers' email addresses, and a way to delete negative reviews. Payments reportedly ranged up to more than $2,000.

Chandra Steele, senior features writer at PC Mag, said the opportunity for abuse is huge given how many businesses now sell goods and services via the platform.

"Half of the things you buy come from third-party sellers, so it's a very big deal," Steele said.

“We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties," An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement.

The report comes as Amazon launches its new Storefronts shop. It allows customers to shop exclusively from American small- and medium-sized businesses.

The curated collection includes more than one million products from almost 20,000 businesses across the country. Denissen said half of all products bought on Amazon come from these mom-and-pop shops.

"With Amazon Storefronts, we wanted another innovative and new shopping experience for our customers to discover the great selection that small and medium-sized businesses offer," Denissen said.

Amazon has also launched its first national TV commercial featuring small businesses using the portal.

Holly Rutt, owner and founder of Little Flower Soap Co. which is featured in the ad, said her business has doubled since she launched her business on Amazon Handmade in 2016.

"Right away I started connecting to a different customer than I had every reached before," Rutt said. "I noticed over half my sales were to men, where before almost 100 percent of my sales had been to women on other platforms that we were selling on. And then also this helped us sort of diversify, so that helps our business's health and stability and to grow."

Rutt called herself "lucky" to be featured in the Storefronts launch and said she has felt supported by Amazon from the beginning.

As Amazon Storefronts launches, Rutt said she is prepared to do between 100 and 400 orders per day. On launch day, she was already receiving an order every two minutes.

Amazon could decimate 150,000 retail jobs by 2022, according to estimates.

For full interview click here.