Ecommerce Selling Models: Advantages & Risks in an Exclusive Seller Relationship

John LeBaron

October 7, 2020

So you’ve got a product, and you’re trying to sell it on Amazon. You might be wondering, “How many sellers should I have?” Is more truly merrier? Or is being exclusive the better option?

The truth is that bigger isn’t always better in ecommerce. The more sellers you have, the harder it gets to control your brand online. This can lead to price erosion and create other nasty situations that eat into your brand’s profitability and ultimately its growth.

So what about a more exclusive relationship? When successful, an exclusive seller relationship on Amazon and other marketplaces can put all of the cards in your corner, give you maximum control of your brand, and help you offer a stellar customer experience that’s harder to maintain with a bigger pool of sellers. While having an exclusive Amazon seller isn’t for every brand, it may be a great fit for yours.

The most common ecommerce selling models

Before we dive into the advantages and risks of an exclusive seller relationship, it’s helpful to look at the other ecommerce selling models that are available to brands to get a sense of how an exclusive seller compares.

There are seven common ecommerce operating models that brands can look at when deciding their online strategy:

  1. 3P Unmanaged: This is the most chaotic of the models. In a 3P Unmanaged scenario, there’s no active management of your brand, which means you have no control on pricing, inventory, or content.
  2. 1P: This model is when you sell your product directly through a retailer. It gives you listing control, merchandising, and up-front POs but also limits your inventory and gives you no pricing control. It can also be expensive.
  3. 2P: 2P is the Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) model. You don’t have to negotiate with Amazon with FBA (a big plus) and it requires limited investments, but it also gives you no control on pricing, inventory, listings, or advertising.
  4. 3P: In this model, you are the retailer. You own and ship your products without going through Amazon’s fulfillment centers. In the 3P model, you have a potential for higher margins and better control on inventory, listings, advertising, and merch, but you have limited capabilities and it takes a larger chunk of investment.
  5. Hybrid: This model leverages the 1P and 3P strategies. You have inventory control, lower risks, and better negotiating power, but you also have to navigate Amazon’s buyers and maintain compliance with their policies.
  6. 3P Network: This is the “more the merrier” model we talked about earlier where you work with a network of authorized sellers. A 3P Network gives you pricing control, inventory control, and diversified risk, but it also gives you less control and can eat into your margins.
  7. 3P Partner: When we talk about having an exclusive ecommerce seller, this is what we mean. In the 3P Partner model, you work with one partner to sell your product. We’ll dive into the pros and cons of the 3P Partner model below.

Breaking Down the 7 Common Ecommerce Operating Models on Marketplaces | Pattern

Advantages of a 3P Partnership

There are many notable benefits that come from working with an exclusive Amazon seller rather than the other selling models we reviewed previously.

Simplicity

Instead of dealing with ten different sellers or a big master distributor that sells to these sellers, working with one seller makes directing your strategy much more streamlined.

Concentrated expertise and investments

Working with one partner eliminates the chaos of working with many partners with varying degrees of proficiency in different marketplaces. The right 3P partner is very motivated and well-equipped with the tools to improve the performance of your products and help your brand succeed. They’ll provide focused attention on investments for content, SEO, and customer service.

Buy Box and ad spend consistency

You are guaranteed Buy Box ownership with an exclusive Amazon seller. Pretty exciting, right? In addition to giving you the Buy Box, having a single seller allows you to maintain consistency in your ad performance and ad spend because there aren’t multiple sellers with different advertising strategies vying to win the Buy Box and causing Buy Box suppression.

Price integrity

The risk of price erosion goes up when you’re working with multiple sellers because partners are more incentivized to get ahead of the competition (read more on our eBook about the Profitability Death Spiral). With a 3P partner relationship, competition goes away. You’re able to maintain price integrity and create price sustainability across all distribution channels.

More seller accountability

An exclusive Amazon seller who abides by your policies makes your life significantly easier, because you don’t need to play whack-a-mole to hunt down sellers breaking the rules. Enforcement and accountability are far more linear. Not to mention, this model is available across more marketplaces for brands who have a global presence.

Common Ecommerce Selling Models Available on Marketplaces | Pattern

Risks of a 3P Partnership

Although there are myriad benefits to having an exclusive Amazon seller, there are some risks you should be aware of if you’re considering this model for your brand.

All of your eggs are in one basket

This is the clearest risk of distributing your product through an exclusive Amazon seller. If something happens to that seller, maybe they go out of business or they mess up on their warehouse orders or get shut down by Amazon, that can leave your brand very exposed and even cut off your distribution completely.

Channel stuffing is limited

Some brands do really well by stuffing the channel with lots of inventory, even if it’s unsold inventory (channel stuffing allows distributors to temporarily increase their sales figures and profit measures). By working with a 3P partner, your ability to channel stuff is limited, because the relationship between what you sell to your exclusive seller and what they end up selling to the end customer is very linear.

Your partner has more leverage

By choosing one seller, you’re creating an interdependent relationship where your partner has more leverage. If they decide they aren’t going to sell your product, you’re left scrambling because you don’t have redundancy built into your partnership.

In a 3P relationship, a seller can tell you they need an additional two points of margin to make their business work. You either need to acquiesce to their demands or find a new partner and start over. This can make 3P relationships daunting.

Do the advantages outweigh the risks?

While there are some risks, having an exclusive Amazon seller ultimately gives your brand greater growth and more control (see our case study with Thorne). Brands who have chosen a 3P partnership have streamlined their sales process and seen big successes as a result (browse Pattern success stories here). The key is choosing the right partner.

Profitable Growth and Brand Control Ecommerce Selling Model Spectrum for Exclusive 3P Partner | Pattern

This is where Pattern can help.

Pattern is an exclusive Amazon seller that uses data and technology to help brands optimize their performance on the marketplace. We help your brand thrive in every possible category, including SEO, advertising, product photography, customer service, returns, shipping, and more, at no additional cost.

We operate as an exclusive Amazon seller so that we can provide personalized attention and the best outcomes for your brand. We don’t charge our brand partners anything for our services so that our incentives are exactly aligned with theirs—selling more on marketplaces and growing profitable revenue.

If you’re interested in learning more about having an exclusive Amazon seller, other ecommerce models that may work for your brand, or a partnership with Pattern, contact us in the form below.

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Sept 20, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 20th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to raise pay and add extra work benefits for delivery drivers Following the rise in fuel prices and protests by Amazon workers, the ecommerce giant is raising its delivery drivers’ pay and adding more work benefits. Amazon has mentioned that it will be investing $450 million into rate increases along with an education program and a Delivery Service Partners program. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/amazon-to-raise-delivery-drivers-pay-and-add-more-work-benefits/) Amazon announces it will give away shipping software to merchants at no cost Amazon has recently announced that it will be giving ecommerce merchants free software to manage shopper orders on and off its platform as it extends its reach. The ecommerce giant will be ending monthly costs for sellers using Veeqo, a shipping software it recently acquired and instead offer to them a new, free shipping software. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/amazon-to-give-away-shipping-software-to-merchants/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Walmart unveils new virtual fitting rooms In an effort to drive clothing sales, Walmart has launched virtual fitting rooms while competitors reduce spending amid the cost of living crisis. The virtual try-on tool can be used by Walmart customers to virtually measure the clothing items and see how the products would look on them. Shoppers will now be able to see how over 270,000 clothing items on Walmart’s ecommerce site would look on their bodies. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/walmart-launches-virtual-fitting-rooms-to-drive-clothing-sales/?utmsource=Retail+Gazette+Subscribers&utmcampaign=2da7f0f8f8-EMAILCAMPAIGN202209150742&utmmedium=email&utmterm=0d23e2768b6-2da7f0f8f8-61040615) THG slashes sales and profit expectations The Hut Group has slashed its forecasts for 2022 as rising interest rates, inflation and energy costs take a toll on consumers. Previously, THG estimated its sales growth to be between 22-25% but after a recent evaluation, has lowered this prediction to between 10-15%. Initial predictions did not take into account the negative effects of ceasing sales in Russia and Ukraine along with the impact that the cost-of-living has had on consumer spending. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/thg-slashes-forecast-as-cost-of-living-crisis-hits-consumers-wallets/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- DHL and Post Office team up to provide click and collect services Through a partnership between delivery company, DHL and Post Office, a new click and collect service is to be tested at Post Offices before rolling out to over 1000 branches across the UK. Online shoppers will now have the option of choosing their local Post Office as a collection point, and DHL will fulfil the delivery aspect, opening up networks for both parties. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/post-office-partners-with-dhl-express-to-provide-click-and-collect-services/) US consumer watchdog plans to further regulate the BNPL sector The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has raised concerns regarding the collection of consumer data and the fast-growing nature of the BNPL sector, which includes companies such as Affirm and Klarna. The CFPB is worried that these companies could be negatively impacting consumers’ financial health and aims to put better regulations in place to ensure consumers are safe and empowered. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/us-consumer-watchdog-to-start-regulating-bnpl-sector/) Japanese ecommerce market estimated to grow by 6.9% in 2022 The ecommerce market in Japan, largely dominated by domestic online retailers including Reakuten and Mercari, is set to reach $194.3 billion USD in 2022, after seeing an annual compound growth rate of 5.2% between 2018 and 2021. This makes Japan the fourth leading ecommerce market globally, following China, the US, and the UK. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/13/japan-ecommerce-market-to-grow-by-6-9-in-2022/) Ecommerce brands are spending more on TikTok ads TikTok may soon be surpassing Facebook and Google as the most lucrative advertising channel, with ecommerce brands spending 60% more on TikTok ads in Q2. Facebook is still ahead as the top choice for ecommerce advertisers but only grew by 5.6% from Q1, while Google grew 20.5% in Q2, and Snap declined 10.8% in Q2. [Read more on SearchEngineLand](https://searchengineland.com/ecommerce-brands-spent-60-more-on-tiktok-ads-in-q2-387876)
Sept 13, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 13th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon scales back on US warehouse facilities Amazon is shutting down two facilities with 300 employees, discarding plans for 42 facilities, and delaying plans to open a further 21 buildings across the US. The ecommerce giant is scaling back on hiring as well as the expansion of its vast delivery network, as it was left with an excess of space following its rapid expansion during the pandemic. [Read more on Business Insider](https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-closes-2-facilities-scraps-plans-42-new-buildings-report-2022-9?r=US&IR=T) --- Other Marketplace News --- JD.com is ‘betting’ on ecommerce grocery market Amidst a slowing economy and a decline in ecommerce, Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com has increased its urgency to seek new growth engines. The company is looking to boost its online grocery business through offline partnerships and expansion into lower-tier cities, where it may be able to unleash more consumption power. [Read more on The Star](https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2022/09/08/chinese-ecommerce-giant-jdcom-bets-big-on-online-grocery-lower-tier-markets-amid-slowing-economy) Shopee shuts operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico Sea’s ecommerce arm, Shopee, has shut local operations in some LATAM countries but will continue to maintain cross-border operations in a few markets. Latin America is Sea’s most important region following South-east Asia, accounting for close to 19% of its revenue in 2021. The move away from these countries is largely due to increased levels of macro uncertainty and rising interest and inflation rates, and rather putting a focus on its core operations. [Read more on Straits Times](https://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/seas-shopee-shuts-operations-in-argentina-chile-colombia-mexico-sources) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Instagram scales back in-stream shopping elements Instagram is re-examining its approach as it hasn’t been able to make ‘fetch’ happen. ‘Fetch’ in this context being the online shopping trends which have become all-consuming in China, and what Western social platforms have been hoping to add into their apps to make them more addictive and revenue-generating. Consumers have not been swayed by the latest shopping tools on TikTok and Instagram, leading to Instagram scaling back its in-stream shopping program. [Read more on SocialMediaToday](https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-scales-back-in-stream-shopping-elements-as-it-re-examines-its-app/631276/) FedEx Express supporting the growth of cross border ecommerce FedEx express has expanded its international commerce shipping service to four more markets across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) region in an effort to support the strong development of ecommerce in this region. Three of the fastest growing markets, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam are leading Southeast Asia’s ecommerce sales, which is set to reach $100 billion by 2023. [Read more on Post & Parcel](https://postandparcel.info/149889/news/e-commerce/fedex-express-supports-the-growth-of-cross-border-e-commerce-within-the-amea-region/) India ramps up hiring as companies prepare for shoppers Ecommerce companies are getting ready for the festive season by rapidly expanding their temporary workforce. As ecommerce in India grows, the country is predicted to have 372 million online shoppers by the end of 2022. The festive season this year, running from October to December, is expected to see a two-fold increase in logistics and delivery alone. During this period, companies are predicted to add 20% more to their existing workforce base, with a 8-10% higher pay scale compared to last year. [Read more on Business Insider India](https://www.businessinsider.in/business/ecommerce/news/the-great-indian-festival-of-hiring-e-commerce-companies-gear-up-for-indias-shoppers/articleshow/94000346.cms)
Sept 6, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 6th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon announces new inventory and distribution service, AWD Amazon has launched Amazon Warehousing and Distribution (AWD), providing inventory and distribution services to its sellers as a means of addressing current supply chain issues. AWD is now available for sellers using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), i.e. outsourcing their fulfilment to the platform. Amazon has plans to expand the service outside the platform in 2023. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/02/amazon-introduces-new-service-to-help-solve-supply-chain-challenges/) Amazon Web Services (AWS) launches in the UAE AWS, Amazon’s cloud-computing platform offering, has launched its second region in the Middle East and now provides its services in the UAE. The move will now allow anyone in the UAE who utilises cloud technologies to harness AWS’s advanced platforms and APIs. An estimated $11 billion USD is expected to be added to the UAE’s GDP thanks to the implementation, with an average of 6,000 external vendor jobs to be created annually. AWS is now available in 87 zones across 27 regions, with sights set on expanding further across Australia, Canada, India, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/30/amazon-web-services-launches-region-in-uae/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Lazada to launch in Europe Alibaba-owned ecommerce platform Lazada is set to launch in Europe, marking a refreshed internationalisation push from the company. The move follows toughening economic conditions and performance in Southeast Asia, advancing the need to tap overseas markets. In Europe, Lazada will face tough competition from giants like Amazon and Zalando. Lazada’s exact entry strategy is to be confirmed and will be reliant on macroeconomic and market conditions, according to Lazada CEO James Dong. [Read more on DigitalCommerce360](https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2022/09/01/alibabas-lazada-to-take-on-amazon-zalando-in-europe-push/) Chinese ecommerce giant Pinduoduo to launch cross-border platform in the United States Pinduoduo, a Chinese ecommerce giant rivalling Alibaba and JD, has announced it will be launching a new cross-border ecommerce platform. The marketplace is set to launch in the United States next month, as part of the company’s larger push into new markets. Pinduoduo found success in China thanks to its rock-bottom price offerings and harnessing of social commerce marketing, emulating strategies similar to fast-fashion giant Shein. [Read more on Yahoo Finance](https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/pinduoduo-launch-international-e-commerce-034129263.html) Alibaba launches its biggest B2B sales event, ‘Super September’ China ecommerce giant, Alibaba, has now launched its month-long B2B sales event ‘Super September’. The event provides 40 million buyers and 200,000 suppliers with the ability to connect on the platform, showcasing a ‘virtually unlimited’ number of products. The event hopes to foster new cross-border business relationships to tackle supply chain challenges currently faced by businesses. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/alibaba-launches-super-september-b2b-sales-event/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Klarna’s losses quadruple in first half of 2022 BNPL provider, Klarna, has reported losses of $581 million USD for the first half of 2022. This figure is almost four times larger than a year earlier, where $129 million USD in losses were reported. The company attributes the losses to employee costs, technology investments, and rising credit losses. Klarna’s figure reporting comes amidst worsening economic conditions, fresh legal and regulatory scrutiny, and pressure from Big Tech competitors. [Read more on The Financial Times](https://www.ft.com/content/483451db-9221-4ca4-83a6-b4ddc6bfcfbb) [Read more on the Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/31/klarna-losses-more-than-triple-as-consumer-spending-slows) One fifth of Snap employees to be laid off amidst poor financial performance Social media platform Snap (‘Snapchat’) has announced it will be laying off 20% of its employees and closing out a number of projects following a year of poor financial results.The move will see 1,200 employees globally lose their jobs, saving the company an estimated $500 million USD in costs. Snap is currently valued at $20 billion, an 84% decrease from its valuation of $130 billion last year. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/snap-to-lay-off-20-of-its-workforce-and-wind-down-a-number-of-projects/)