I agree that e-commerce platforms — for example, Amazon — don’t always provide a level playing field (not just to small businesses, but merchants in general), but I don’t subscribe to the idea that a new marketplace is ‘the’ solution.
IT’S ABOUT THE REACH
The fact of the matter remains that merchants want to sell on Amazon, and will continue to want that for a foreseeable future, because of the unparalleled reach Amazon offers them. Till the time another marketplace can offer that, or even a fraction of that, the chances of that marketplace being a ‘preferred destination’ for the merchants will be slim to none.
Sure, any competing marketplace with more competitive and/or relaxed terms for merchants may attract the merchants in the short-term, and it will help the merchants keep a larger share of the pie on each individual transaction, but businesses are in the business of making money. And after all is said and done, the amount of money the merchant will make on Amazon will always outshadow any competing marketplace — by leaps and bounds. Now, if the marketplace has gained a strong foothold with the consumers, it will be able to be one of the sales channels for the merchants, but at the end of the day, they will still prefer selling on Amazon because that is where the real money is. Even if they are making less cents on each dollar of sale made.
THE PRICING FACTOR
Yes, Amazon may take you out of the ‘defacto’ buy box and put you in a list of ‘other buying options’, but that is just business prudence. You need to understand that Amazon is in the business of making money — which is does by charging a commission on the sales made. The keyword being ‘sales made’. So Amazon needs to ensure that the options put in front of the potential customers are the ones that will help them make a purchase with the least amount of deliberation. If you are able to assist with that, great. If not, someone else will.
It is also noteworthy here that it is not just the price component that helps you get the ‘buy box’, your reviews matter a lot. That’s the reason why sellers are so gung-ho about getting a good review for the purchases you made. The higher a seller is rated, the better are the chances of it featuring in the buy box, and the buy box is what drives a bulk of the purchases on Amazon.
Yes, you violate the terms and rules, and you could be kicked out. And that is there to protect the customers.
Amazon hasn’t built this massive empire on the backs of sellers alone. It wouldn’t be of any help to Amazon if there are countless buyers on their platform but there are no customers. It won’t help Amazon, it won’t help the sellers. A ghost town helps no one. So Amazon brings down the axe mercilessly. It needs to do that. One of the major reasons why customers all over the world prefer transacting on Amazon is the amazingly positive buying experience they get to have — from start to finish. Sure, there are bad experiences along the way. Hey, even I have had a few of my own. But more often than not, you can count on Amazon to have a good buying experience.
While delisting sellers may seem harsh, it is for the good for customers, and the good sellers as well.
AMAZON DOES HAVE ITS OWN SET OF PROBLEMS
I would in no way imply that there aren’t countless problems plaguing Amazon, and it needs to cover a lot of ground to take care of its vendors and customers both, and most of all, its employees — both full-time and contractual. But the problems you have highlighted in your story, I am not sure I could stand behind those as the glaring problem Amazon needs to address.