The worst Amazon scanning app in the world: In record numbers, the Amazon Seller app gets confused for a sourcing app, becomes a sedative of the reseller masses.
Which Amazon scanning app is worse than none at all?
There is such a thing as something that is worse than nothing at all. And that’s something constricting that gives you the illusion of benefits.
Over the last year, the Amazon Seller app has been sedating thousands of Amazon sellers, making them just comfortable enough to feel they don’t need something that actually works.
Here, I’m going to tell you in great detail why I think the Amazon Seller app isn’t just a substandard option, but is actually costing you a lot of money.
Why free can be expensive
When Amazon debuted it’s Amazon Seller app, a free mobile app for sellers, it cast a spell over many sellers. Not because it was good, but for one reason: It was free.
The app never claimed to be a full-functioning inventory sourcing app. It’s function was to allow sellers to manage their accounts on their phone. But the app does have a “Product Search” tab, and a “Scan and Sell” function.
And because of this, something very bad happened: Thousands and thousands of Amazon sellers confused it for a scanning app. It became viewed (almost religiously) by many as an acceptable, free substitute to paid Amazon scanning apps.
The consequence? Thousands of sellers unaware of how a real scanning app functions, and the hidden costs of a “free” app.
Amazon never said it was a scanning app
Nothing I’m saying is an indictment on Amazon, or suggests any deception on their part.
The responsibility lies with sellers so eager to cut costs, they will cost themselves thousands of dollars down the road to save themselves $30 today.
3 reasons the Amazon Seller app is costing you money
- It’s slow.
- It’s really, really slow.
- You aren’t using all the better options because the app works “good enough.”
I’m going to tell you in more detail all the reasons I think this app is costing you way more than it’s saving you. So read on….
What the Amazon Seller app good for?
- Managing your seller account.
How the Amazon Seller app is costing you a ton of money
Your Amazon profits are in direct proportion to how quickly you can scan inventory. This is hard math. All other factors being equal, the seller scanning 60 books a minute is making 20 times more than the seller scanning three books a minute.
I will challenge anyone to a live scan-off: The Amazon Seller app against any paid app you choose. In terms of speed, the Amazon app is going to lose every time. And by a factor of five, at least.
And as your scanning speed decreases, your Amazon revenue decreases in direct proportion.
Speed test: The Amazon Seller app versus a paid app
Here are the steps when you want to scan an item with the Amazon Seller app, using a Bluetooth scanner:
- Tap “Search Amazon to sell” field
- Click on the result.
- To scan another item, click “Search” to start over.
What happens when you want to scan an item with Scoutly (and any other paid app):
And to scan another item, no clicking required. You just scan again.
The Amazon Seller app is not worth it
In other words, the Amazon Seller app is exactly the app I would wish on my worst FBA seller enemy.
It is virtually impossible to do any serious volume with so many steps.
A review of the data: Paid apps vs. Amazon Seller app
Amazon Seller app:
- Often displays multiple results per scan (including Kindle – what?)
- Sales Rank
- Reviews (Why?)
And after clicking the product….
- Lowest merchant fulfilled price (you must click a tab to view either new or used – you aren’t shown both).
- Lowest FBA price
Note that the data displayed when you scan is exactly what you’d see if you typed the ISBN into Amazon.com. Yes, the Amazon seller app is little more than the Amazon website – with some limited data thrown in if you have the patience to click through.
Data displayed Scoutly (should apply to all paid apps)
- FBA offers (all in the lowest 20 – the most allowed by Amazon)
- Lowest 10 used offers.
- Lowest 10 new offers.
- Net profit.
- Amazon sales rank.
- Average sales rank.
(+links to various other sites to inform a buying decision, such as Keepa)
And it does all of this with one scan, one screen, no clicking.
The only thing free about the Amazon Seller app is the download. From that point on, it’s costing you money. The reason is called “opportunity cost.”
Using a slow scanning app with multiple steps profoundly limits the amount of inventory you can process. And consequently, the amount of inventory you can sell.
Paid scanning apps allow you to scan 60 items a minute. And with the Amazon Seller app…. I estimate it’s something closer to 12. And that’s being very generous.
All other things being equal, that’s the equivalent of cutting your revenue down by 80%.
And suddenly, “Free” starts to look very, very expensive.
The only benefit of the Amazon Seller app
After my last post, covering how Amazon scanning apps are no longer allowed to display (most) FBA data, I got some questions about the Amazon Seller app. Here’s the situation, to clarify:
The Amazon Seller app does appear to show the lowest FBA offer – even if it is not in the lowest 20 offers (No third party apps are allowed to show this).
This is among the most significant pieces of data an FBA seller can have, and would alone make it a reason to switch over from any other app just to have access to this information.
But wait, it’s not that simple
In fact, every Amazon scanning app I’ve used gives you access to this data too. You just have to click through to Amazon to see it. But here’s the thing: The steps to get there with paid apps are:
And with the Amazon Seller app?
- Tap search field.
- Find & click product.
Only one extra step, so not a big deal, right?
It kind of is a big deal, because first of all you’re only seeing the lowest FBA offer. If you click through form there, it does not take you to a page showing all FBA offers. It only shows you the lowest 20 third party offers – FBA or not.
In fact, while it’s a positive that you get to see the lowest FBA offer at all, there is no way to see any other FBA offers if they’re not in the lowest 20.
This is a problem because it happens often that I’ll omit the lowest FBA offer as a factor in my buying decisions, simply because its a lowball offer and doesn’t matter. I plan for that one to sell out, and I’ll be the next in line – at a much higher price. Just the way I like it.
With the paid apps I’ve used, with one click you can be taken to an Amazon page that only displays FBA offers – all of them.
The Amazon Seller app doesn’t reveal any FBA offer except the lowest, meaning you are forced to make a buying decision with insufficient data.
In short, the Amazon Seller app means more steps, less data.
Bad news: the Amazon Seller app relies on your cell signal
I gave up on “real time” apps a couple of years ago. These are apps that give you live pricing and sales rank data, pulled live from Amazon at the exact moment you scan. The problem is two-fold:
- They take an extra 1 to 10 seconds per scan.
- They depend on having a cell signal.
I won’t use these apps anymore. Basically, once Amazon stopped allowing third party apps to show most FBA data, the last advantage of some of the “live data” apps was gone. And according the my priorities, speed is next in line. So I went right for a scanning app that lets you store Amazon’s database in your phone and gives instant results – no cell signal required.
Since there is virtually no benefit to “live” data for FBA sellers (your prices are already 2 to 7 days old by the time they hit the warehouse, remember?), I don’t know what we get for waiting that extra several seconds per scan.
Not to mention, such apps become painfully slow and often unusable if you don’t have a strong signal.
For this reason, I consider any app that relies on a cell signal to be a drawback. And the Amazon Seller app is one of them.
The app is even slower if you don’t have a barcode scanner
If you’re relying on your phone’s camera to scan barcodes, using the Amazon Seller app gets much slower.
Using your camera is a fine alternative for hobbyist sellers who pick up items to resell every now and then. For everyone else, I have another opinion….
Giving up thousands to save yourself pennies
The things we do to save ourselves $30 can cost us $30,000 (and more).
I am very familiar with starting an Amazon business and needing to bootstrap in a serious way. Most of my earliest book inventory came for free from dumpsters. I’m extremely sympathetic to starting with nothing, and needing to use any free option available to get off the ground.
But this is only a viable explanation for using a free Amazon scanning app for a few weeks. Maybe a month.
The reason again comes back to simple math. Any scanning app you pay for will pay for itself many, many times over.
I’ll make a bold declaration: If I had only $30 to my name, I would sooner put that towards a sourcing app than inventory. There are sources of free inventory. There is no free sourcing app that won’t cost you money.
The Amazon Seller app creates an invisible ceiling
The reason they call it a “glass ceiling” is that you can’t even see it’s there. Which is what makes the Amazon Seller app such a liability: It works just well enough that we don’t see what it’s actually costing us.
It’s worth closing on the point we started with…
There’s one thing that is worse than nothing at all: Something stifling that gives you the illusion of benefits.
PS: If you find the Amazon Seller app to be a huge benefit to your business, and you think I’m off base with the opinions I’ve expressed, leave a comment below and tell me why I’m wrong.
Peter, you’re preaching to the choir. No, the Amazon seller app is NOT a scanning app. I laugh inside when I see people using it as such. But then I cringe because I know many of those people are reckless, pricing their books way too low and driving profits down for everyone. But of course, Amazon wants prices low.
One of these hobbyists saw my Bluetooth scanner and asked me about it. I said how great it works and how the $260 it cost paid for itself in no time. She then mumbled “oh, well I’m still researching those, I don’t know yet”. I’ll stop ranting.
Peter Valley says
She’s the reason people like us do so well.
I get that a good bluetooth scanner and app will let you scan so much faster. But it isn’t sourcing that’s slow for me. I have rooms full of books. It’s listing them (including pricing them and describing their condition) and shipping them out that takes so much time. That’s the slowest part of the process. (And second would be inventory management: looking at old inventory, repricing, etc)
Spot-on. No question Amazon Seller is a junky app. But the real cost is in listing time, especially the pricing and prepping of just. One. Book. At. A. Time. If you’ve got 20 or 50 of something to list, and they’re all new, great – ship them out immediately. Processing and prepping used books is a time vacuum.
Once again, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of “all things Amazon FBA.” 🙂
Alan Tregoning says
I absolutely agree. Using the free Amazon app is like going back to the days of the text message system (scoutpal anyone?). I still have the Amazon price check app on my phone that I use if i am just out an about and need to check one or two things. Otherwise I am still using the PDA/socket scan setup I have used for years. It is blazing fast and allows me to rip through books at blazing speed. As for only getting the top twenty price results, once you know this you can read into the scan results by looking at the number of items for sale. If there are no FBA results listed but 400 used copies starting at $0.01 there is a good chance the cheapest FBA copy is in the $4-$5 range and not worth my time. If I am not sure, I can set that book aside and scan it with the Amazon app once I have hit everything else at the end.
Peter Valley says
Interpreting the number of MF offers to glean the rough number of FBA offers will be the subject of an upcoming post.
I’m approved to sell DVDs <$25. I occasionally use the Seller App to see if I can list a particular item. But, you're right, it's sooooo slooooow. DVDs are all I ever use it for.
I agree with you…to a point. While I don’t think the Seller App should be a stand in for sourcing, it does give newer sellers information the scanning apps do not. Namely: selling restrictions. I don’t use it regularly, but if I have a hunch something is hazmat or possibly in a category I’m not approved in to sell, I also scan it in the seller app and it gives me this information. Also, you can set defaults such as shipping costs, whether you want MF or FBA as a default, and others I can’t think of off the top of my head. Also, some items don’t show up in other apps at all while they show up in the seller app. Just my 2c.
Peter Valley says
All true. And it’s good for newer sellers just testing the waters.
So, what app do you recommend for Android?
Peter Valley says
I use FBA Scan.
Mike H says
Good article, thank you.
I was looking for an offline scanner (mobile reception in this area is terrible) but when I contacted the FBA Scan people I found out it’s US only (and .ca for live scans). Do you know of any other sourcing apps that have an offline database mode I could look into for UK usage?
I currently use Profit Bandit but signal issues sometimes render it useless, there are two charity shops in this town alone that I don’t even bother going into any more because there’s no reception.
Shawn Searcy says
I agree that the Amazon App isn’t a Selling App, I use it as a helper tool, in the past I had some issues with items I purchased, then to find out when home I wasn’t cleared to sell, especially Blue Rays & DVD’s by certain companies. I agree it’s slow, uses up battery on my phone quickly. Recently I’ve been using the Inventory Lab App Scoutify yet moving to ScanPower, “garbage Data in = garbage Data Out” which comes up to lower profits…
Geez, the silly things some sellers will do . Faster equipment and software, faster processing time is the key to fast growth and success . I personally prefer to use a personal data assistant PDA laser scanner.it’s much much faster than even the fastest phone scouting or sourcing app. But as far as apps profit bandit seems to be working out very well
You are speaking the truth – I HATE that app. I have used the Amazon PriceCheck (free) app, which I found to be quicker – but not much – and contains more info. As my business is growing, I need to find a better sourcing tool. Perhaps the “secret” app you mention above is my salvation…cheers!
Peter thanks for writing this. I know a very smart person who was one of like 20+ people who were hired (as a contractor) to work on that App and it’s a pure case of ‘way too many chefs in the kitchen’. All hail the smaller more nimble apps (Amazon would be better off just acquiring one of them).
Peter Valley says
That’s interesting. It didn’t appear to me Amazon was trying to compete with paid apps, but perhaps they are and didn’t see what makes the other apps great.
John Freeman says
Are there 3rd party apps that have a warning for restricted prducts? I’ll never forget the time I bought $800 worth of Duncan Donuts coffee to sell. My app said it was fine and very profitable. There were listings still for the product on Amazon. Recently, Duncan had stopped allowing the sale of their merchandise on Amazon, before my purchase. I could not sell. I sold them on Ebay and just beat breaking even by a little. after a ton of wasted time.I returned the rest smaller batch by batch to Target because Target keeps tabs on large returns and will ultimately limit the returns of those who abuse their return policy. I felt guilty about returning most of the purchase. A manager assured me the merchandise would be destroyed. The wasted time and money and the unfairness of it all, made me angry for days. Think if it had not been a returnable situation. There are plenty of restricted products you would never that were without Amazon Seller.
Peter Valley says
FBA Scan has warned me about restricted products before, but I can’t guarantee they are all-knowing.
What scanning app would you recommend for IOS, and what is the monthly fee for using it?
Peter Valley says
I use FBA Scan and assume it’s available for IOS, but not certain. It’s $30 a month.
I use FBAScan on my iPhone. It works great.
I prefer NeatOScan as it allows you set up triggers based on Condition, Price and Sales rank. When I first started looking at apps 2 years ago it was the only one that allowed triggers based on condition. When I tried FBA Scan I had to specify if I wanted to look look at new OR used, I couldn’t look at both. With NeatOscan I was able to and basically I’m able to scan without looking at the app, just listen to the sounds. My 2 cents for what it’s worth. FBA Scan may have updated their app, at the time I suggested this feature.
I tried NeatoPricer too (neatoscan’s scanning app). What I didn’t like about it was the lengthy amount of time and taps it took to pull up live FBA pricing on an item, compared to FBAScan, which does it rather quickly and with one quick touch.
While the sounds in the ear are nice with the triggers, I found that I was still looking at the screen to grab books that failed my triggers but still had good FBA value. Granted, if you’re in a hurry to scan before a crowd of other scanners makes short work of things, that’s when the audible triggers are worthwhile.
I started off with the Amazon app and glad I did. It caused me to spend HOURS in the stores, gave me lots of time to look at books and helped me learn the business. That being said, after a couple of months I started using a database system. Are there really that many serious sellers who use the Amazon app??
Thanks for the kick-in-the-pants. For some reason I had fallen prey to this trap even though I have the FBA Scan app on my phone right next to the Amazon “Seller” app. You should do an updated scanning app review.
Good article, but you are mistaken about one thing- the Amazon seller app is not even good for managing your seller account, at least not for merchant fulfilled sellers. For one thing, there is apparently no way to be notified of a return request so you either have to have them all automatically approved or get the notifications through emails or PC access anyway. Darrell
I am brand new to this business and can use all the help I can get. Your comments and suggestions are so appreciated
Light and Blessings to all
Good article on why the paid apps are better. However, paid apps will not let you scan 60 items a minute on the LIVE database…maybe on a local database but AZ throttles that many looks into their catalog.
Peter Valley says
Good point. I’ll edit to clarify this.
I know this is an old post, but the Amazon app is much better now, if you are restricted to camera only. The paid apps I have tried usually look horrible and don’t work well at all. Usually worse than the free Amazon Seller App. Big exception is Scoutify (comes with Inventory Lab sub) is pretty good, and works well. I have a scanfob BT scanner coming tomorrow, and I was researching apps to use with it. FBA Scan is probably the only one I haven’t tried yet. Combining a local database with a BT scanner should be way way way faster that what I was doing. With photoscanners, I had to just select things to scan by gut instinct rather than scan EVERYTHING.
Thanks for the suggestion of FBA Scan.
Following up on Steve’s comment, today I was scanning with Profit Bandit in an environment that required that I be a bit discreet. So that’s how I missed restricted items. Twice. If I want to scan fast, I’ll go with the third-party apps, but then I need to verify with the Amazon Seller app before making the final purchase. I was loving the FBA Scan but lately it’s been unreliable in its functionality. (Their tech support has been great though.) I haven’t tried Scoutify yet. But yeah, local database plus a Bluetooth scanner would be the way to go.
Thanks for the article.
Are there any scanning apps that will tell you what an item has sold for in the past?
I’ve noticed lately that FBAScan is worthless is dtabase mode, the resutls are so off they require verification in live mode or by check amazon directy. The guy in tech support is disinterested at best and just keeps insisting I’m using it incorrectly. I’ve used FBAScan for almost two years, and it’s gotten unreliable in my opinion.