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How to Support Small Businesses on Amazon and During Prime Day

You can shop small and local businesses on Amazon -- it'll just take some patience. Here's everything you need to know.

amazon delivery box
Angela Lang/CNET

Amazon Prime Day kicks off next week on July 12 and 13, featuring savings on a huge range of products. While it's easy to find practically anything you're looking for at low prices, shopping at the world's biggest e-commerce site might not even occur to you if you prefer to support local businesses. Amazon can be a tough sell for those who want to shop small -- especially since Amazon's fees cut into small-business owners' profits.

However, you can support local businesses through Amazon if you're willing to take just a few extra steps to navigate the site -- and be vigilant while shopping. And if you're an Amazon Prime member or frequent shopper, you can also find Prime Day deals from small businesses, including a selection of internet-famous products and viral picks

Plus, now through July 11 (right before Prime Day) you can enter the Prime Day Small Business Sweepstakes. All you need to do is register and make a qualifying purchase on a small-business product from a participating retailer on the site. For every $1 you spend during the promotional period, you'll get one entry into the sweepstakes. Thousands of winners will be eligible for a selection of prizes, including tickets to special events and Amazon gift cards. 

We'll walk you through how to search for products using Amazon's small-business feature, how to shop small on Prime Day and alternative ways to shop locally.

How to know if the product on Amazon is from a small business

Amazon Small Business badge

Look out for the Small Business storefront icon. 

Screenshot by Courtney Johnston/CNET

Amazon doesn't make it easy to identify products -- during Prime Day or otherwise -- from small businesses. When doing general shopping or browsing deals, you'll need to look for the "Small Business" storefront icon (an image of a small shop). Keep this in mind when you're following the instructions below, since Amazon will often stuff pages with sponsored listings. 

You can also double-check before purchasing a product. Go to the listing of the item you want to buy, look below the "About this item" information to find the "Additional Details" heading, where the Small Business icon is located. 

How to find small-business products on Amazon on your laptop or desktop

Shopping small on Amazon is an easy habit to adopt, once you know how to find the merchants and what icon to look out for. Amazon doesn't showcase this feature on its main page, and it's not easy to find on mobile devices (keep reading if you want to shop small on your phone). 

You can access Amazon's small-business search engine on your desktop in two ways.

  • From the main Amazon home page, select the hamburger menu (three-line navigation bar) labeled "All" on the top left, directly underneath the Amazon logo. From there, scroll down to Programs & Features > See All > Small & Medium Businesses > Shop Small & Medium Businesses. This will bring you to Amazon's Support Small search engine. From there you can search for products within the Support Small department. 
  • From the main Amazon home page, enter any of the below search terms in the main search box: shop small; small businesses; support small; support small businesses. Amazon will return search results as normal, but a round blue storefront icon with a "Support small businesses selling in Amazon's store" banner will show above the results. Clicking on the icon or banner will lead you to Amazon's Support Small search engine.

If you know what you're shopping for, you can use this search engine to look for products. Just double-check that the department now reads "Support Small," and then type in the name of your product. 

Amazon small business landing page
Screenshot by Courtney Johnston/CNET

How to shop small businesses by item or category

You can also check out a variety of categories highlighted on the Small Business landing page

If you want to browse even more, you can also choose from several product categories on the Small Business Curated Categories page.

Once you click on a category, you can browse or enter a product name in the specific search engine to narrow your search results.

amazon-small-business-categories.png
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

How to shop local small businesses by region

If you want to support small and medium businesses in your region, you need to take an extra step. Navigate directly to the Shop Local page, then select the region you'd like to support. Note that the filters are not by state or city. 

amazon-small-business-regions.png
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

Regions include:

Once selected, you can use the Amazon search bar to search for all items in that region, or use the departments on the left to filter the results using the standard Amazon product categories. 

amazon-small-business-owners.png
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

How to shop by business-owner type

You can also shop by business-owner type by selecting Meet the Business Owners at the top of the Small Business Curated Categories page. Business types currently include:

Once you select a category, you'll land on a page with a search bar at the top, the traditional Amazon department filtered on the left and a main display of featured shops and products within that department.

How to shop small businesses on your phone

It's possible to shop small using a mobile browser or the Amazon Shopping app on your phone, but it's a clunkier process than a desktop browser. One way is to go straight to the Small Business Curated Categories page or the Shop Local page, and then proceed to search by category or region. 

The other option is to enter "support small" in the Amazon search engine on your phone, then click on the round blue storefront icon with the "Support small businesses selling in Amazon's store" banner. That will lead you to Amazon's Support Small search engine. (If this option doesn't work on your phone app, try going to the Amazon website via your mobile browser.) From there, you can search for items, but keep in mind that you'll get a mix of results from different businesses. If you want to make sure it's from a small business, look for the "Small Business" icon on the listing. 

With both options, it's harder to search directly for an item though. 

What kind of locally made products are there on Amazon?

Though you may not be able to buy everything you need in a specific region, there are a lot of products to choose from. Here's a list of common and niche products you can buy on Amazon from small US businesses in different regions.

  • Pacific: If you have a family member (OK, admit it, it might be you) who's gotten unusually attached to a pet during the past couple years of remote work, this handcrafted pet portrait necklace by LA-based Mignon & Mignon might be just the gift that you, er, your family member needs to keep pets close while returning to the office.
  • Southwest: Hold yourself accountable to reducing your carbon footprint with a collapsible FinalStraw -- a metal straw with silicone tips designed to be easy to carry around and quick to clean.
  • Rocky Mountains: The autobiography journal from Rocky Mountain-based shop Promptly Journals could make an excellent gift for the storyteller in your life.
  • Midwest: Shop small for garden essentials by exploring Midwestern Sow Right Seeds' collection of non-GMO heirloom seeds, like its Herb Garden Seed Collection.
  • Northeast: Find a stylish and practical solution for wrangling your video game controllers and accessories, like this charging dock for the Nintendo Switch, which holds the console, controllers and just under 30 games, made by Skywin in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 
  • Southeast: For a classic southern treat, check out Brittle Brothers Peanut Brittle, a handmade, gluten-free snack with a variety of flavors and seasonings to try. 

What other options are there for shopping small businesses? 

There are other sites that aim to help you support local businesses and find American-made products, even if these sites may lack Amazon's scope (and the delivery speed of Amazon Prime). These include:

  • Etsy: Offers handmade, vintage and unique gifts; has a filter for US-based shops.
  • Cultivate: Provides links to American-made products; has a Chrome extension. 
  • ShopwhereIlive: Serves links to local small businesses.

Many small businesses also have their own online shops. An easy way to search for small businesses near you (if you don't have a specific one in mind) is through the American Express Shop Small Now tool. Enter your ZIP code or turn on location services and this tool will serve up local businesses near you. You can also use Yelp or Google Maps to search for local businesses in your area.

What is the cost of selling small on Amazon?

Like all sellers on the site, small businesses pay fees to list and sell products through Amazon. It currently has two selling plans, one that costs 99 cents per unit sold -- designed for businesses selling less than 40 items per month -- and one that charges a flat $40 per month. And there are other fees small businesses need to take into account, including Amazon's referral fee (between 8% and 15%); fulfillment fees if Amazon picks, packs and ships orders; and miscellaneous storage, advertising and premium account expenses.

What this means is that small businesses would likely keep more of their profit if you were to shop directly from them. But Amazon gives small-business owners an option when visiting a physical store just isn't possible or if they're unable to operate an online shopping platform and fulfillment service on their own.

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