Arts & Reviews

iHerb vs. Amazon

By: Alexandra Li and Sahana Vijay Krishna

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iHerb and Amazon are among the largest e-commerce shops for health and beauty products today, with both sites boasting an impressive number of customers, a large selection of items, and fast shipping speed. These factors make it difficult to decide which site to shop from. Here, we review both sites side by side and compare their selections, prices, site and app designs, shipping, customer service, and other factors to decide which site ultimately champions the other.

Selection:

  • Amazon: Amazon has an impressive selection with thousands upon thousands of products that one can choose from. Sadly, because of its marketplace-style design, products are not curated, and duplicate listings, unclear information, and even fake products are all issues that come from not shopping on Amazon with caution. It is important for the consumer to take it upon themselves to check seller ratings, reviews, and to shop responsibly.
  • iHerb: iHerb products are certified authentic and site listings are clear and specific. But overall, iHerb does have a smaller selection of products than Amazon, though iHerb does boast more unique items like algae and bee propolis supplements. 

Overall, if you are looking for a very specific product, you may have better luck shopping on Amazon. However, if shopping for general health and/or beauty products, iHerb is the better option, as it does not carry the same risks and inconveniences that Amazon has.

Pricing:

  • Amazon: Amazon’s prices fluctuate quickly. Because Amazon is composed of many individual sellers, as inventory fluctuates and new sellers enter the market, Amazon’s prices are somewhat inconsistent. In addition, this model means that Amazon cannot have sitewide sales, though Amazon does have sales for specific items. However, Amazon has overall very competitive prices, especially for general and popular items. Amazon’s own brand Solimo often undercuts competitors because of their incredibly low prices, though this does raise other concerns regarding the ethicality of Amazon’s business model.
  • iHerb: iHerb prices are generally quite competitive, usually around or slightly lower than market price. iHerb also has sales from time to time, with a recent sale being 20% for International Women’s Day, with these sales usually being according to holidays.

Overall, Amazon has slightly better deals than iHerb, though the discrepancies between the prices are too small to decide which site is better. At times, especially during holidays, iHerb can beat Amazon with their site-wide sales, though the fluctuation of Amazon’s prices makes it hard to predict the pricing of goods in the future. 

Site/App Design:

  • Amazon: Both the app and the site are simple, basic, and easy to navigate. All pages, whether it be an item listing or viewing orders, are easy to read and understand. 
  • While iHerb’s website can look a little old-fashioned, it is easy and simple to navigate. The app generally is also easy to navigate, however, the orders page can be hard to navigate, especially when an item is back ordered/shipped separately.

Overall, Amazon’s app and website are more convenient and easier to navigate than iHerb, though iHerb’s site and app generally do not pose a huge challenge for the user.

Shipping:

  • Amazon: Amazon has a $25 minimum for free shipping, though shipping speeds differ. Prime members enjoy faster shipping than non-Prime members, but while Prime members do enjoy such perks, the cost of membership may make this an unwise investment, especially for those who do not plan on using Amazon much. Overall, shipping speeds are fast and tracking is available. If shipped by Amazon, Amazon does not use the public shipping system (USPS), though international goods go through a different process. When ordering goods internationally, shipping takes significantly longer and usually is delivered through USPS.
  • iHerb: iHerb has a $20 minimum fee for free shipping and has very speedy delivery. Orders are quick both domestically and internationally, with domestic orders taking as little as two days to be delivered, without having to pay the Prime fee. 

Overall, iHerb beats Amazon’s shipping speed. Because not all products are sourced from Amazon’s warehouses, shipping speed can vary, especially for international goods. However, if you are a Prime member, iHerb and Amazon’s shipping performance is fairly similar.

Customer Service:

  • Amazon: Typically, defective or otherwise damaged products can be replaced or returned, though communication is typically conducted directly to the seller and not through Amazon. Some items are guaranteed by Amazon, which makes this process smoother, especially when dealing with a stubborn seller. There is also the option to directly talk to Amazon customer service.
  • iHerb: iHerb offers chat and email options and regularly emails updates on order and package status. Generally, iHerb customer service is prompt and responds quickly and directly.

Overall, iHerb beats Amazon in terms of customer service, largely due to Amazon’s current marketplace business model. Having to contact individual sellers can be headache-inducing, depending on how agreeable the seller is. However, when contacting customer service for more general purposes, iHerb and Amazon are similarly matched in that they offer chat, call, email options.

Other Factors:

  • Amazon: Amazon has an alarming pattern of treating its workers poorly, without hazard pay, low wages, and long and hard hours. In addition, Amazon has repeatedly attempted to block its workers from unionizing, which is deeply concerning considering unions would help improve the aforementioned conditions by giving workers greater bargaining power and greater benefits. 
  • iHerb: There are little to no complaints about iHerb’s treatment of its workers. A positive of iHerb is that its international operations are known to be almost as speedy and efficient as its operations domestically.

Overall, Amazon’s treatment of its workers raises the question of whether Amazon is a company worth your patronage. Of course, considering how convenient Amazon is and how it dominates the e-commerce market, it is difficult to avoid using Amazon, especially in the COVID-19 era. iHerb, in contrast, does not raise any ethical issues in general, making iHerb a clear winner in terms of other factors.

Altogether, iHerb is the better choice compared to Amazon because of its far more reliable products, regular competitive prices, faster shipping, navigable site/app design, elevated customer service, and other factors. Although Amazon is the go-to website for most people to shop online, the flimsy product selection, shifting prices, inconsistent shipping for non-prime members, difficult customer service, and reputation of mistreating workers calls into question the principles of the tremendously acclaimed company.

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