What Amazon is and How to Save Money Shopping

Last updated: April 19, 2017 - 12:59pm EDT

Shopping can be therapeutic for some people, but for others, it can be a real hassle. Sometimes, only certain stores will have the kinds or brands of products that you want. Those stores might be a fair distance from where you live, so you have to spend time and gas money to get there... and, of course, you can even get stuck in traffic. Even if you get to the store, they may not have the item that you want in stock. And let's not forget the conundrum of having to visit multiple stores if you want to shop around for the best price on an item.

With Amazon.com, you can avoid these pitfalls and keep your shopping experience simple by shopping online. If Amazon isn't selling what you want or need, a third-party seller on Amazon might be. You can also get your items delivered straight to your door through common postal services, so there's no commuting needed on your part. You can even become a seller yourself, and put some of your stuff around the house up for sale if you need more space, cash, or both.

So what exactly is Amazon?

Amazon is one of the largest online marketplaces in the United States, if not the world. Users can buy items from Amazon or a third-party seller on Amazon, or sell their own items. Orders are then delivered using common worldwide courier services. The company also sells its own line of technology items.

How does Amazon work?

When you visit Amazon, you are entering one of the largest online marketplaces available in the world. There are millions of products available for sale, and most are ready to be shipped right to your door. Simply create an account, and then begin browsing the website. You can even search for an exact product you’re looking for, or something like it.

Amazon home page

If you find a product you like, simply click on it to learn more about it and see related products. Once you know you want something and are ready to make a purchase, add it to your virtual shopping cart. When you’re done, simply head to the virtual checkout, just like you would in a real store! Enter your billing and shipping information (or save it to your profile for quick checkouts in the future), and then complete your order. While you’re waiting for your new products, you can track your shipment on Amazon every step of the way. It’s that simple – and always will be.

What can I buy on Amazon?

There are more items than you can possibly imagine available on Amazon, just like there is on other online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon’s top competitor. Some of the most popular available options include:

  • books and e-readers
  • home and garden
  • sports and outdoor supplies
  • music
  • health and beauty
  • grocery
  • automotive and industrial
  • electronics
  • computers

Is Amazon safe and reliable?

Amazon is as safe and reliable as many other established online e-commerce websites, and has one of the best reputations for customer service. It secures and protects your personal and financial information, and it doesn't put you under any obligations to purchase items.

The ecommerce company also tends to be very reliable when it comes to shipping times, as they often meet their estimated time of arrival. Especially if you live in the United States, you’re likely to receive your items within a week, as most sellers ship the items within 2 business days. International shipments can sometimes take much longer due to customs issues, but you can always track your shipment and utilize customer service if you ever experience an issue.

One of the most important things to make sure you do when buying on Amazon is to ensure you are making purchases from a reliable seller. Always read product and seller ratings before confirming your purchases. This will eliminate many potential problems you may have after receiving your goods. To learn more about this, and get tips on how you can stay safe while using Amazon, be sure to check out our article on Amazon safety.

3 Ways to start using Amazon

1. Use it for all of your online shopping needs – especially for books or gifts.

Amazon's main function is as an Internet-based marketplace. Its basic process is pretty simple, and similar to what you'd encounter in a real-life retail store:

  1. Create an account, or log in if you already have one.
  2. Search for items that you'd like to purchase, and then add them to your virtual "shopping cart."
  3. When you have everything that you want, proceed to the virtual "checkout" counter.
  4. Enter your address and credit card information, so that they know where to send the merchandise and how you're going to be paying for it.
  5. If you've purchased physical merchandise, Amazon will send it to you via a common courier service such as UPS or FedEx.  OR, if you've bought digital merchandise, you can download it right from the website onto your computer!

2. Become a seller yourself and participate in Amazon’s third-party selling program -- earn some money or expand your small business.

In addition to selling items itself, it also allows third parties to sell items on its website.  Whether you're only looking to sell a few items or are looking to fill bulk orders, Amazon can accommodate you.

  1. Choose what class of seller you want to be -- Individual (less than 40 items/month) or Professional (40+ items/month) -- and set up your account.
  2. List the items you're interested in selling.  Whether they're already being sold on the website or are new products, just enter how many you have of each item, their condition, and how much you're asking for them.
  3. When someone places an order for your stuff, you'll be notified.  You can then work out the delivery details through Amazon, or make arrangements with a courier service on your own.
  4. Based on what you've sold, you will receive regular direct deposits to your bank account.  Cha-ching!

3. Pick up one or more of Amazon's cutting-edge digital technology products.

The company has expanded beyond being an online marketplace to creating some of today's most cutting-edge digital devices and services.  These include:

Kindle

Amazon Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is probably their most well-known original product.  It's a specialized computer known as an "e-reader" that allows you to read all manner of printed material.  Whether it's a celebrity or politician's biography, the hottest fiction on the market, or even just your daily city newspaper, you won't need a bookshelf to store it all... Kindle will take care of that for you. And no paper cuts!

Fire Tablet

Amazon Fire Tablet

Like Apple's iPad, Amazon's Fire Tablet is a tablet computer.  It's designed with maximum portability in mind, and sports a unique, easy-to-use interface.  While it's geared towards entertainment (such as playing games, watching movies, taking photos, and even reading books like on the Kindle), it also has several common practical functions that you'd expect on a regular computer.  These include sending, receiving, and reading emails, as well as creating, editing, and sharing documents in Microsoft Office.  You can browse the Internet on it, too.

Fire Phone

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon's mobile "smart" phone, the Fire Phone contains many similar features to the Fire Tablet.  In addition to being able to send and receive phone calls (obviously), you can use it to play games, listen to music, watch movies, take photos, and browse the Internet.  You can even use it to stay organized with a calendar program, access to your email client, and support for creating and editing Microsoft Office documents.

Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV

Fire TV is a little box that turns your television into a do-it-all entertainment hub. Watch the movies and TV shows that you want to watch, when you want to watch them through services like Netflix, YouTube, and HBO Go. Find and listen to your favourite music from a library of millions of songs, or even play games!

Amazon Alexa and Echo

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Alexa is the new voice-activated personal assistant. It's analogous to other similar systems on the market that you may have heard of, such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana. Echo is the name of the compact household device that comes equipped with Alexa; it responds to many different commands or questions. Make your life easier with an Echo!

4 tips to saving money with Amazon

1. Compare prices of products you want with other sellers, or opt for something similar.

When you find something you really want, don’t just buy it right away. Remember, there are thousands of registered sellers on Amazon; look for someone who may be selling the same product for a lower price. If they aren't, you may still be able to find a very similar product for a lower price.  Then, you can decide if you want to settle for something slightly different, as long as you’re getting a better deal.

2. Utilize coupons and promotions, both on site and from other websites.

There are many websites out there that could offer discounts on your order. Try a cursory search for “Amazon coupons” before completing your order to see what’s available for you. You can also check the Amazon website, as site-wide promotions are often advertised on their homepage.

3. Buy products that are eligible for Free Shipping.

Amazon offers free shipping on many items on the website.  If your order is made up of these eligible items, you can save plenty on shipping costs, which are often what drive up the price of your order. Nothing is more frustrating than finding something at an unbelievably low price, and then realizing the shipping costs more than the item! As you’re shopping, check if the items you're looking at are eligible for free shipping.  This will usually be indicated underneath a product’s star rating.

Get Amazon free shipping

If you want some more information, check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to get free shipping.

4. Join the Amazon trade-in program to earn credit.

Amazon offers a trade-in program that lets you send in items you may have from around the house that you no longer want or need.  If they are items that Amazon or its sellers want or can sell, you will get credit on your account that can be put towards future orders. This is a great way to earn some quick cash while de-cluttering your home.

5. Buy in bulk when prices are low.

If you find a great deal on a product you buy all the time (or have bought before and know you will buy again), be sure to buy a few of them. Prices can fluctuate so much, but a great deal never goes out of style.

How to become a seller

Signing up and registering to become an Amazon seller is quite simple. And we’ve outlined the steps below:

  1. Visit www.amazon.com and scroll to the bottom.
  2. Click Sell on Amazon under the “Make Money with Us” heading.
  3. Click the Start Selling button.
  4. Sign into your account, or create a new one.
  5. Choose to be an individual or professional seller.
  6. Follow further instructions based on your product/business.

Setting up a Seller Account on Amazon

The history of Amazon, and why it’s so popular

Amazon was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos in Seattle, Washington. It began as an online bookstore, offering “everything from A to Z.” As it grew, it expanded its offerings to DVDs, video cassettes, and music CDs.  Over time, it began selling more and more products, and eventually allowed its users to sell their own wares. Recently, the company has launched its own line of cutting-edge technology products, including the Kindle e-reader, Fire TV media player, and Echo voice-activated assistant. All of these have been generally well-received by the public.

Amazon is so popular because it was one of the pioneers of the online marketplace. It also charged reasonable fees to its sellers, which allowed its product offerings to expand exponentially. They also conquered world of book sales by eliminating the middle man, allowing it to offer some of the lowest prices.

4 advantages of using Amazon for online shopping

Most people use Amazon for a beyond-convenient shopping experience, right on the website.  Here are 4 of the many advantages that they enjoy by doing so.

1. Find more items in stock with tons of sellers, including with Amazon itself.

Worried that your local store might be out of something you want?  Someone on Amazon might have it and would be willing to sell it to you, or Amazon itself might have one.  The website shows you prices and stock levels for different versions of a wide variety of items.

Amazon product offerings

2. Enjoy the convenience of straight-to-door courier delivery of orders.

Can't make it out to the store, or don't want to spend the time and gas money to do so?  Orders are delivered straight to your door with common courier services such as U.P.S. and FedEx, which you can easily track.  Some of its content can even be put straight onto your computer!

Amazon delivery

3. Trade in your used items for store credit.

If you have stuff lying around the house that you don't want anymore, send it to Amazon!  They'll give you store credit so that you can buy what you really want or need.

Amazon trade-in program

4. Wish Lists keep track of your must-have or want-to-have items, so you can always monitor prices and availability.

Got your eye on an item, but can't afford it right now?  Or is there an item that you buy all the time and don't want to have to keep searching for it every time you want to buy it?  Add an item to a Wish List and keep track of it!

Amazon Wish List

Best ecommerce websites like Amazon

There are many competitors to Amazon out there, all with their own unique spin on the online marketplace. One of the largest is eBay.com, the online auction website where buyers can bid on the items offered to purchase at prices often well below retail. Overstock.com is another popular alternative, which began as a marketplace to sell surplus goods from failed ecommerce websites. NewEgg.com is another well-known Amazon competitor, but it specializes in offering the best deals on electronics. Learn much more about all of these competitors in this detailed article.

 

In the rest of our Amazon course, we'll show you how to set up an account and how to start making purchases! This includes tricks like how to search for items, how to track an order, and how to put together an Amazon Wish List. We'll also go over things like how to return orders that you have an issue with, as well as how to trade in items for store credit. Take some of the legwork -- and guesswork -- out of shopping by joining Amazon today!

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