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An Illustrated Five Step Guide
图解五步指南

Earlier this week Reuters broke the news that the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has called on Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos to testify on
本周早些时候,路透社爆料称美国众议院司法委员会已传亚马逊公司的创始人杰夫·贝佐斯(Jeff Bezos)作证:

“Allegations that the online retailer uses data from its own third-party sellers to create competing products”
指控它利用第三方卖家数据来创建竞争产品。

The allegations are, and have been for some time, that Amazon engages in uncompetitive practices when it comes to how they compete with third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace.
指控已经有段时间了,即亚马逊在亚马逊商城上采取非法手段与第三方卖家进行竞争。

Amazon’s platform for buying and selling consumer goods has since 2018 has enjoyed a 50% market share of all e-commerce in the United States. Starting in 2009, Amazon entered this marketplace as a seller, competing side-by-side with third-party vendors of popular “near-commodity” goods through their “private label” AmazonBasics. Since, their offering has expanded to over 1500 items and been joined by 100 other brands also owned by Amazon, selling first-party products alongside over 2,000,000 third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace.
自2018年以来,亚马逊的消费品买卖平台已在美国所有的电子商务中占50%。2009年开始,亚马逊作为卖方进入该市场,并通过其“ 自有品牌 ” AmazonBasics 与第三方卖方竞争。此后,他们的产品范围扩展到1500 多种,还有100个其他品牌也归亚马逊所有,与亚马逊市上的200多万个第三方卖家一起销售产品。


Introduction
介绍

One way to dive into this topic is by way of analogy to the noted antitrust case United States v. Microsoft Corporation, where the latter was accused of abusing monopoly power. Their defence, although multi-faceted, relied on the nature of network effects, colloquially defined as “demand-side economies of scale” or:
深入探讨此主题的一种方法是,探讨微软公司被指控滥用垄断权的案子。他们的辩护虽是多方面的,但仍依赖于网络效应,通俗称为“需求方规模经济”或:

“The effect that an additional buyer/seller of goods or services has on the value of that good or service to others”
“商品或服务的买方/卖方对该商品或服务给他人带来的影响”

In the Microsoft case, the “service” was their operating system Windows, and their “abuse” was to leverage their (somewhat) natural monopoly position— a consequence of the indirect network effects that arise between users and developers of/on Windows — to generate insurmountable barriers to entry.
在微软案例中,“服务”是它们的操作系统Windows,而“滥用”是指他们(某种程度上)的垄断地位-Windows和Windows上用户和开发人员之间发生的间接网络效应结果-形成一层壁垒。

In the Amazon case, their “service” is their marketplace and their alleged “abuse” is similar: they are accused of exploiting the advantages of their 50% market share in e-commerce to create competing products that in effect make it impossible for third-party vendors of undifferentiated products to compete.
在亚马逊案件中, “服务”就是他们的市场,所谓的“滥用”也很相似:他们利用自己占据电子商务市场半壁江山的优势,生产同类产品,使得第三方卖家难以竞争。

In my humble opinion (and I am no lawyer) Amazon’s conduct is not breaking any laws. Having studied how the company govern their marketplace however, does leave me with concern for third-party vendors. As such, consider this guide a warning, if you will, to third-party sellers.
以我的拙见(我也不是律师),亚马逊的行为没有违反任何法律。对它的公司如何占据市场做了研究后,我确实开始对第三方卖家感到担忧。因此,如果你将成为亚马逊的第三方卖家,不妨将这份指南当做是个警告。

“How Amazon will force you into bankruptcy”, in five simple steps:
亚马逊如何使你破产,只需5个简单的步骤。

Amazon selects a popular, high-volume undifferentiated product category and enters with their own version, highlighting it as “Amazon’s Choice” for the category (“mini post its notes”). Photo: Amazon.com
亚马逊会选择一个受欢迎,大批量未分类的产品,并输入自己版本的商品,并用“亚马逊推荐”进行突出。 照片:Amazon.com

Being the operator of a marketplace, Amazon has a unique informational advantage. Not only do they take a cut of every transaction on their platform, they also retain the data about which products sold at which price between which buyer and which seller, by individual transactions and in aggregate. This gives them unique opportunities for “exploitation”.
作为市场运营商,亚马逊具有信息优势。他们不仅从平台上的每笔交易抽成,还保留了买卖双方每笔成交的价格。这也给他们“剥削”提供了机会。

Put yourself in Bezos’ shoes. In order to reliably deliver your service, which in some areas includes same-day shipping, Amazon to a large degree is beholden to its suppliers. On the Amazon Marketplace, those suppliers include third-party vendors. If something goes wrong at a third-party vendor, Amazon’s customers are dissatisfied. The negative effects of supply limitations are not limited to those suppliers, in other words, but spill over to Amazon. A remedy to this, is for Amazon to take control their supply chain. That is, they can move into producing the items which their consumers turn to and rely on.
把自己放在贝索斯的鞋子里。为了可靠发货(包括在一些地区当日发货),亚马逊很大程度会依赖于他的供应商。在亚马逊的市场上,刚刚提到的供应商也包括了第三方供应商,如果第三方供应商出了问题,亚马逊的客户会不满意。供应限制的负面影响不仅会影响这些供应商,换句话说,也会蔓延到亚马逊自身。对这一现象的补救措施是,让亚马逊控制供应链。也就是说,他们可以参与进生产商品的过程。

Being Amazon, which products should you begin producing first? Well, those exhibiting inelastic and high demand seem to be a good place to start. Which would that be?
作为亚马逊,你该先生产什么产品呢?好吧,那些不太会反弹和高要求的企业似乎是个很好的起点。那会是什么呢?

“Let’s take a look at last month’s numbers”
“让我们看下上个月的数据”

It’s common sense for them to utilize their privileged information to improve their competitiveness and margin. Thus far, I don’t think they are stepping on many toes.
对他们来说,利用特权信息来提高竞争力和利润会是常识。目前为止,我不认为他们在惹事生非。

2.Amazon Undercuts the Price of the Original 亚马逊降低原价

Having decided which product categories to enter based on which products are most popular in their marketplace, Amazon next sets out to price their first-party versions of such goods. How much should they cost? Again, we go to the numbers.
在根据亚马逊市场最欢迎的产品类别决定进入市场的产品后,接着亚马逊会作为产家,为这些产品定价,他们会花多少钱?再一次,我们转向数字。

Even when the third-party product is a best seller, Amazon gives its own third-party alternative the feature “Amazon’s Choice” for the product category “baseball practice set”. Photo: Amazon.com
即使当第三方卖家的产品是畅销款时,亚马逊会给自己和第三方产品类似的产品标注“亚马逊推荐”。照片:Amazon.com

Here, many of us likely disagree. Amazon is the 28th largest company in the world. They can afford to sell products with sub-optimal margins for a while. So they do. And have done for decades. They inevitably price their first-party products at or below the price of third-party sellers, partly because first-party products are known to be perceived as less valuable than those by third-party brands.
这里,我们许多人可能会不同意。亚马逊是全球第28大的公司,他们有能力以一段时间出售次利润的产品,当然他们也做到了。并且已经这样做了数十年,他们不可避免地将自己的出厂价定在或低于第三方卖家的价格,部分原因是因为众所周知,出厂直销产品的价格会低于第三方品牌的价格。

“Although Amazon is a publicly held company, its investors have tolerated years of razor-thin margins, which has partly played out by way of Amazon selling products at next to no profit or even at unprofitable levels.” — James Thomson
““尽管亚马逊是家上市公司,但它的投资者多年都利润微薄,这部分是因为通过亚马逊出售商品所得的利润微薄甚至是没有利润的。” — 詹姆斯·汤姆森”

As a third-party seller, how long can you survive with sub-optimal margins?
作为第三方卖家,你能有以利润出售产品生存多久?

3.Amazon Assimilates the Original 亚马逊模仿原件

Having understood which products to buy and how to price them based on the private information they generate in their marketplace, Amazon next sets out to increase the volume for their own version of the third-party product. “What should it look like, what should we name it, how should we market it?”
在理解如何根据市场行情定价和选择需要购买的产品后,亚马逊接下来会生产这些产品的“复制品”,并增加销量。“它看起来会像是什么,我们该怎么命名,又如何卖它?”

When Amazon’s first-party alternative isn’t the most popular, it is featured as “Amazon’s Choice” for a seemingly tautological product category “amazon basics hex set”. Photo: Amazon.com
但亚马逊的“复制品”不最畅销时,它会被作为“亚马逊之选”系列中的“亚马逊推荐”,

Inevitably, Amazon will name the third-party version approximately exactly the same as the most popular third-party version (for SEO purposes, if nothing else) and take similar product photos. This is not uncommon (read: Hotelling’s Law). Indeed, it is a well-known phenomenon in both supermarkets and retail for vendors who offer first-party alternatives to third-party items to assimilate the packaging, messaging, price and positioning of their offering. They do it in order to minimize switching costs for consumers. Indeed, it has been proven to be rational by the so-called “median voter theorem”. I thus find this to be the spirit of fair market competition.
不可避免地,亚马逊为第三方商家产品的命名和最畅销的第三方商品一样(如果没有其他要求,这是出于最优化搜索的目的),并为它们展示类似的商品图片。这并不少见。
在超市零售业中,的确,在超市和零售业中,对于那些可以让厂家模仿第三方厂家商品包装、信息、价格和位置的供应商来说,这是众所周知的现象。他们这样做是为了最大程度地减少消费者的转换成本。实际上,这已经被所谓的“ 中值选民定理 ” 证明是合理的。我认为这体现了市场公平竞争精神。

In my opinion, Amazon could however refrain from highlighting their own versions of the product as somehow “the best choice” ), especially when the original has more reviews, higher average reviews and sell at the same price. But, that’s just my opinion 🤷🏻‍♂️.
我认为,亚马逊可以避免用 “最好选择”的方式突出展示自己的商品,尤其是当原始商品有更多评论、更高的评价,同时是以同样价格出售的时候。不过,这只是我的个人看法。

4.Amazon Steers Buyers Away from the Original 亚马逊引导买家远离原始商品

The next step is where we get really icky. Thus far, what I’ve discussed is well known. I believe however, I am the first to write about this:
下一步使我们变得非常邪恶。目前,我所讨论的众所周知。但我相信,我是第一个写出它的人:

As a third-party seller, let’s say, of lunchboxes, you’ve been selling your version for years and accrued over 400 positive reviews. You’ve answered 128 questions about your product in order to ensure that customers are satisfied, and they are! 4/5 star average for your brand of “EasyLunchBoxes”. God bless America.
因为一个第三方卖家说他已经卖多年出售饭盒,并且有了超过400条的正面评价。你已经回答超过128条关于产品的问题以确保顾客对商品满意,并且,你“EasyLunchBoxes”品牌的平均星级高达4星(5星满分)!

Amazon highlights its own product for the search term “easy lunchboxes”, its main competitor in the product category. Photo: Amazon.com
亚马逊在搜索“携带方便的饭盒”时,在它竞争产品的产品也突出展示自营产品。图:Amazon.com

To generate volume, and so boost their own product’s “average rating vs popularity ratio”, Amazon clearly doesn’t mind stepping on some toes.
为了增加销量,并提高自己产品的“平均评分与受欢迎程度”,亚马逊显然不介意惹出矛盾。

However, highlighting their own version of a third-party product — which is more expensive and lower rated, by fewer people —seems unnecessary. Especially, I think, for the search term of the name of the third-party version, “Amazon’s Choice for ‘easy lunchboxes’”. Yuck.
但是,突出显示自营的第三方商品的“复制品”(更对,星级更低,也更少人评价)似乎是不必要的。我认为尤其是搜索“易携带的饭盒”时,在展示搜索结果时,突出显示“亚马逊推荐”的商品。

5.The Third-Party Seller Leaves Amazon 第三方卖家离开亚马逊

At this point, Amazon has won. As a consequence of their market share, consumers will keep buying their consumables from Amazon. As a third-party seller, you’re left with an unenviable dilemma:
在这点上,亚马逊赢了。因为市场份额的结果,消费者会继续从亚马逊上买东西。作为第三方卖家,你会面临一个困境:

Stay and try to compete with an Orwellian Big Brother; or
Leave, increasing your consumers’ switching costs and your own customer acquisition costs, effectively limiting your addressable market to < 50%;
留下并和Orwellian 老兄弟竞争;
或离开,增加消费者的转移成本和自己的客户获取成本,这会让你可以寻址的市场限制到<50%。


Key Takeaways
关键要点

Amazon with its Amazon Marketplace, much like Microsoft with its Windows, Apple with its iOS and Google with its Android, operate what we in research refer to as intermediary economic platforms in two-sided markets. That is, they provide services which help one group (of sellers) interact and transact with another (consumers). As a consequence, they retain information advantages which they can exploit to increase the quality of their service, at the expense of one side of their platform (producers) to the advantage of the other side (consumers). The allure of their services are simple and natural, a consequence of network effects. Summarized:
亚马逊和它的亚马逊市场,就像微软的Windows,苹果的iOS和Google的Android,都在在双面市场运行我们称为中介经济平台的东西。 也就是说,它们提供的服务可帮助一组(卖方)与另一组(消费者)进行交互和交易。结果,他们保留了信息优势,可以利用信息优势来提高服务质量,而平台生产者的一方却要牺牲消费者的利益。由于网络效应,它服务的吸引力却是简单自然的。总结:

1.Amazon’s Marketplace in the short term lowers customer acquisition costs for sellers (they have a 50% market share), and opportunity costs for buyers (they can buy everything in one place);
1.亚马逊的市场可以在短期内降低卖方的客户获取成本(他们拥有50%的市场份额)和买方的机会成本(他们可以在一个地方购买所有商品);

2.Amazon acts in a dual role in its market place. In their role as a platform operator, Amazon has access to unique, near complete information about which products are more successful and why. As such, they — with their 50% market share of all e-commerce in the U.S. — possess a competitive advantage which they can exploit to generate better margins for themselves. They do so by assuming a dual role as both platform operator and a seller with privileged, private information;
2.亚马逊在其市场中扮演着双重角色。作为平台运营商,亚马逊可以获取有关哪些产品更成功和它们成功原因的完整信息。因此,它们在美国所有电子商务中占有50%的市场份额——拥有可以更好获得利润的竞争优势。他们通过同时作为运营商和拥有特权的、私人信息来做到这点;

3.Market concentration enables Amazon to get away with it. If there were a viable alternative to the Amazon Marketplace in the U.S. (as there is to Uber, in Lyft), producers (sellers/drivers) could choose to not deal with the platform operator that competes with its own sellers. If/when Uber starts implementing autonomous cars in certain areas, drivers in those areas can choose to not compete with Uber and instead drive for Lyft exclusively. As it stands right now, third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace have no viable option. There simply is no Lyft in e-commerce that can minimize customer acquisition costs in the way Amazon can ;
3. 市场集中度使得亚马逊可以摆脱困境。如果美国市场上有亚马逊的替代品(如Lyft的Uber那样),生产者(卖方/驾驶员)就不与作为自己竞争对手的平台打交道。如果Uber在某些地区开始使用自动驾驶汽车时,这些地区的驾驶员可以不与Uber竞争,而是专门驾驶Lyft。目前而言,亚马逊上的第三方卖家没有其他选择。电子商务中没有类似Lyft的公司可以减少亚马逊的客户获取成本。

This final point is where Amazon differs from supermarkets and retail, which have been known to engage in similar practices. As a consequence of their enormous (somewhat) natural monopoly, Amazon is in the enviable position of having no competitors. They are unique, they know it, and they take advantage of it.
最后一点是亚马逊和超市、零售店的不同,即使它们采取的做法类似,但由于亚马逊的垄断地位,亚马逊处于没有竞争对手的地位。正因为他们是独一无二的,他们知道自己可以利用这一点。