Amazon To Let Shoppers Bargain For Lower Prices With New “Make An Offer” Option

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Amazon, pushing hard to pick up more business during the holiday season, wants you to make a deal. Taking a page from the likes of eBay and Priceline, it is introducing a new dutch auction-style feature. Users can now “Make an Offer” on a product, suggesting a lower price to the vendor than the one listed on Amazon.

Amazon is rolling this out across about 150,000 items initially — one-off products ranging from sports and entertainment collectibles to art — and it says that the plan will be to extend this to “hundreds of thousands of items” by 2015.

The move seems to be a clear bid to compete against the likes of sites like eBay for more business for its marketplace from third-party vendors, who can use this as a way of shifting items that may have more flexible pricing, or for items where the value has not been firmly established because of their one-off nature.

Importantly, this gives also buyers somewhat more transparency on pricing, and keeps the negotiation within Amazon’s walled garden rather than being taken offline, where Amazon would get no commission, or finished before a sale is made.

The other person this is intended to help is the third-party merchant that sells on Amazon’s marketplace. This is one more way to connect customers to a merchant, and once you are on a product page the merchant may choose to recommend other items he/she is selling that you might like to buy.

Amazon says it was launched in response to requests from those merchants.

“The new ‘Make an Offer’ experience is a game-changer for Amazon customers looking for great prices on one-of-a-kind items, and for sellers looking to communicate and negotiate directly with customers in an online marketplace environment just like they do normally in their own physical store or gallery,” said Peter Faricy, VP for Amazon Marketplace, in a statement. “In a recent survey of our sellers, nearly half of the respondents told us that the ability to negotiate prices with customers would be important to drive more sales on Amazon. ‘Make an Offer’ delivers that functionality and makes customers feel confident they are getting an item they want at the lowest price possible.”

It’s also a natural progression for Amazon as it continues to extend its marketplace model further into one-off items like fine art — which it started to introduce in 2013. Galleries and antique shops have always built their trade on people bargaining for items.

The initial range of items on offer is interesting. I found, very quickly, the Picasso woodcut pictured above that was originally listed for $125,000, then marked down to $100,000, and then offered under the “Make an Offer” scheme.

While other items in the current catalog of “make an offer” products include this football helmet signed by Tony Romo, it looks like Amazon plans to take the model beyond one-off items and to more everyday goods, similar to what eBay does today.

Amazon is clear to point out that this is “not an auction format” in that you are not actively bidding against others and seeing the price creep up in the process, against a pre-set deadline where a virtual hammer will drop.

“All negotiations are 1:1 and private between individual customers and sellers,” the company notes. “A seller is able to accept a customer’s offer at any time. The intention is to lower prices, and a customer negotiating with a seller will never pay more than the listed price.”

Amazon says that sellers who want to offer an item under the “Make an Offer” option add the feature when they list the price. Prospective buyers who are interested in using the feature then send a price to the vendor, who then either accepts, rejects or counteroffers. If and when a price is agreed, a user will be able to add the item to his/her shopping cart, at the negotiated price, to pay for it.

The news comes at a time when Amazon is pushing ahead not just on holiday deals online but also continuing to look at other ways of extending its sales platform. Recent developments have included adding private label home essentials, by way of Amazon Elements, restaurant takeout and delivery, as well as bike messenger delivery trials.