Key Steps to Brand Visibility on Amazon – Cracking the Behemoths Code
Amazon has come an exceptionally long way from its roots as a marketplace for books. Since 1995, it has grown to become the biggest online marketplace in the world with 5.7 billion visits a month. By launching on Amazon, merchants can, of course, direct some of those 5.7 billion visits to their products. But how does a seller crack this behemoth’s code? And how can they successfully market their items in such an oversaturated product landscape?
It is not enough to just set up as a merchant on Amazon; that won’t get your product selling. This ebook will discuss the marketing and promotional strategies needed to gain success on Amazon, as well as the ways in which merchants can expand their brand beyond Amazon itself.
Starting out on Amazon
To begin selling on Amazon, a retailer needs to choose their plan: either an Individual or Business account, the latter being appropriate for companies that sell more than forty products a month and who want access to sales reports and APIs. From there, a brand will need to provide a bank account number, a credit card, tax information, and a phone number; fees will vary depending on the retailer’s plan and selling costs are per item sold, including referral fees.
Amazon shipping fees apply, even when a brand fulfills orders themselves (FBM or Fulfillment by Merchant), based on the type of product and the shipping service the end consumer chooses. Of course, if a retailer chooses to use Fulfillment by Amazon, those fees will apply.
Listing Products & Product Detail Page
Once a retailer registers, they will have access to Seller Central, a portal to manage their entire Amazon business, from inventory updates, business reports, daily sales, and more. Then, it’ll be time to begin listing products; to do so, a merchant can start by matching an existing listing or begin a new one if they are the only seller of a specific product. For the most part, products are required to have a Global Trade Item Number; brands will also need a SKU, product title, product description, product images, and search words.
Since listings are what customers will see, it’s important to have great images, applicable listing variation (sizing, color, etc), and consistent product codes. Next, it’s important to have a thorough product detail page, that is simple and easy to digest for a customer (bullet points to describe key aspects is a good way to organize this section). This would also include applicable keywords and frequently asked questions.
Having competitive pricing is imperative for any merchant on Amazon, considering the sheer amount of product that’s available. Brands should constantly be aware of their competition’s pricing and how it fluctuates, making this kind of surveillance a key part of their business strategy.
Branding itself is an integral way for merchants to begin to figure out pricing; does a brand want to be a low-price leader in a relatively more expensive market? If a brand chooses to be a low-price leader, then it’s even more vital that they keep track of competition’s costs; also, always keeping their items at .99 is a good way to keep fees as low as possible. However, if a seller is offering more premium products, it’s important to keep prices a bit higher, since customers may be skeptical if costs are too low. If a merchant is new to selling, figuring out this sort of pricing may require some trial and error.
To make merchants’ lives easier, auto-pricing can be utilized (a tool that automatically changes product price based off of other sellers’ shifts). Additionally, because of Amazon’s high fulfillment costs, a lower-priced product (under $10) may need to consider bundles or multipacks.
Another way merchants can keep customers engaged is to list their Amazon prices slightly higher than the prices on their own site, or include a promotion to buy products directly from the brand itself, to redirect consumers to their D2C shop. However, this is only advantageous to premium merchants who are selling unique products.
Finally, merchants can always consider outside repricing tools, like Repricer Express, to alleviate the headache of navigating the complicated world of Amazon pricing.
A retailer will have to choose the right fulfillment option. There are three choices: retailers can fulfill themselves (Fulfill by Merchant), use Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), or use the services of a 3-pl. Of course, if a retailer is fulfilling orders themselves, they’re responsible for shipping and the inventory. FBA allows retailers access to the perks of Amazon’s customer service, returns, and Prime advantages. FBA fees are charged per unit sold or by inventory storage fees. The advantage of a 3PL is that all of a retailer’s product can be fulfilled in one place, regardless of the sales channel (Amazon or not). However, it is important for retailers hoping to partner with Amazon to choose a 3PL that can support the behemoth’s many requirements.
Once a retailer has established their Amazon selling page, the next step is figuring out marketing and how to make their products stand out.
Once a retailer has their store set up on Amazon, the next step is to begin utilizing all the marketing tools Amazon has to offer in order to sell seamlessly and well.
The FlyWheel Effect is a term coined by author and researcher Jim Collins to describe a business strategy that involves many key interventions to get the business going, or, metaphorically, a flywheel spinning. On Amazon, this strategy is put into effect by offering concrete ways to create traffic to the platform, utilizing low prices and great customer service. These tenets improve the variety of products; thus, Amazon can further improve its pricing structure, keeping the flywheel turning.
Amazon Merchants can take advantage of the FlyWeel effect by analyzing data to track products’ performance. However, brands must be sure to review Total Advertising Cost of Sale (total revenue and gross profit) versus Advertising Cost of Sale.
Optimizing Product Listings
Moreover, sellers should focus on what makes their items unique; this means including the benefits of a product versus the features. Of course, product listings also rely on good imagery, so investing in great photos is another surefire way to optimize merchandise.
Amazon is almost like a search engine; in many instances, customers come to the site in search of a type of product versus a specific brand. With this in mind, brands should utilize a SEO method to their items’ key words and optimize them. Retailers should make the title of their products factual and detailed (without mentioning the merchant name) and eliminate any kind of punctuation or capital letters, to mimic how one searches for products.
A seller should put themselves in the end consumer’s shoes. What words do they suspect a customer would search in order to find their product? To do a deeper analysis, merchants should consider using tools such as Keywords Everywhere or Wordstream to find applicable key words. Sellers should also run a search through Amazon’s own engine to discover what language competitors’ are using.
This may sound like an oxymoron, but negative keywords are another vital way for merchants to gain visibility on Amazon. A brand that specializes in inexpensive alternatives to expensive products, for example, shouldn’t be lumped in with the more costly merchant (thus, the more costly merchant’s name should be added as a negative keyword).
To determine what negative keywords to filter out, look out for keywords that get a lot of traffic, but few conversions. If a keyword is too commonplace (such as ‘pants’), making keywords more descriptive (such as red cuffed women’s pants) should create higher conversions, thus saving (and perhaps increasing) profits. To identify negative keywords, merchants can use the Customer Search Term Report in Seller Central, filtering for spend and looking for the keywords with no sales.
On the flipside, merchants can utilize auto campaigns to identify search terms that are converting and add those keywords to their manual campaigns.
Upselling and Cross-selling
Studies say that it’s easier to retain customers than find new ones. That being said, upselling and cross-selling are perfect ways for a brand to increase their Amazon bottomline and attract existing customers. To cross-sell and upsell well, brands need to make sure that their accompanying products work well with items customers already have in their cart.
Furthermore, merchants may want to add the opportunity for a customer to upgrade their product or add a similar one to their cart. Communication is also key here: merchants must make known the value of their upsell to the customer’s purchase.
Reviews & Customer Service
Good reviews may seem like a no-brainer for anyone who is planning to sell on Amazon. Glowing feedback will emerge if a merchant ships on time, has good, durable products that match the descriptions given on the site, and great customer service (answering customers’ questions and being prompt with replies, having thorough knowledge about the products being sold, and remaining patient and flexible).
Amazon is also known to reward brands with great reviews by pushing them to the top of search results. To streamline these good reviews, sellers should utilize Amazon’s review collecting feature in Seller Central and even consider reaching out to consumers via email for their reviews.
Amazon is arguably most known for their shipping times, so maintaining quality shipping is vital for any Amazon merchant. To be on top of shipping, brands should continually check Seller Central to track their outgoing orders and make sure their customers remain happy. If a seller uses FBA, however, Amazon and its famous shipping times are responsible for all outgoing products and will remove low ratings that are due to shipping times (since the merchant is not responsible for those).
Paid & Sponsored Ads
Sponsored ads are a great way to build brand awareness because they show up above Amazon search results and can help a merchant showcase multiple products. When put together with key words or branded searches, they are perfect for top-of-the-funnel advertising. Brands can optimize their ads by including custom headlines, logos, and ASINS (Amazon Standard Identification Number), and also direct customers to their storefront and listings page.
Each item a merchant sells will, of course, produce varied profits. Analyzing the profit margin of each item will give merchants the data they need to decide what could use some paid advertising.
PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns help brands gain visibility by showing their products as the top search result for appropriate keywords. Amazon provides sellers with varied ways to display their products, through Sponsored Product Ads, Headline Search Ads, and Display Ads, all of which work by targeting applicable keywords to push a seller’s items to the top of search results, based on a bidding system. Paid advertising generates traffic to merchants’ product pages, improving the product’s visibility in search results. This kind of traffic can result in an increased chance that a product will receive an Amazon Choice classification, which gives a product more eyes and attention.
To create a PPC Campaign, a merchant begins by visiting Seller Central. They then decide on the items they want to promote, choose appropriate keywords to target, and set up an ad campaign with optimal budget, timeline, photos, and product titles. A merchant can also utilize the help of an outside tool, such as PPC authority Urtasker, to help produce the best campaigns.
Sponsored products are the most favored ad option, appearing above, below, and next to search results in addition to product detail pages. Sponsored Products use category-specific targeting, matching products with others that go well together, increasing the likelihood of new customers. This pairing is known as Product Attribute Targeting and gives merchants the chance to show their items next to top-rated products. This is especially useful if a merchant sells parts or additions to another, perhaps bigger, product.
Cracking Amazon’s Deals
Amazon is infamous for showcasing relatively inexpensive products, so customers flock to the marketplace for deals. To utilize this hunger for low-cost products, sellers should consider launching a Lightning Deal, which must be initially approved by Amazon itself. These deals are time-constrained, marked-down items that consumers find on Amazon’s Today section; the time restraint encourages shoppers to buy as soon as possible.
Lightning deals are 4 to 12 hours long, can only run once in 7 days, and merchants should have their planned quantity available at least seven days before the Lightning Deal begins. These discounts can in turn attract more customers to sellers’ pages and products, improving sales.
As discussed, consumers shop on Amazon because they expect great customer service, product availability, and fair costs; brands that meet these expectations are awarded Buy Box and high rankings in the “more buying options” section of the website, providing more eyes to their products. In short, Buy Box is where a merchant can really excel. This reward is found in the white box on the right hand side of a product page, where most consumers buy their items (80% of sales are through Buy Box). When a customer goes to buy said product, the merchant that is highest ranked by Amazon will show up in that space, therefore making more sales in their product category. Because of Buy Box’s integral and coveted title, it is imperative for merchants to learn how to beat the behemoth’s code and grab that spot.
There are many key ways to receive the coveted Buy Box title: a seller has to have a Professional Seller account, for one, sell new products (as opposed to second-hand or vintage), have prompt shipping time, a low order defect rate (the number of defective products can, of course, hurt their score), transparent delivery tracking rate, high ratings, good customer response time, a high number of reviews, a low cancellation rate, and available stock. Of course, in order to optimize all of these variables, a seller may choose to invest in some marketing tools, such as Feedvisor (AI-based pricing technology) or Feedback Genius, which sends customers automated surveys to observe any negative reviews. By following all the advice listed in this ebook, merchants will have a higher chance of winning the Buy Box title and increasing brand awareness.
However, as prolific and large as Amazon is, it is not wise for a brand to solely depend on the Amazon marketplace. There are many things that have historically gone wrong when a retailer does something against the behemoth’s liking: unintentionally breaking a rule or angering even one customer can get a retailer’s account suspended. With Amazon’s own history of white-labeling products, there are ample ways retailers can lose money.
To counter these kinds of issues, a retailer should not only create their own D2C website, but also expand their marketplaces and have a non-Amazon related fulfillment partner. A good way to approach additional marketplaces is to find ones that aren’t huge conglomerates; rather, a D2C brand should search for ones that are specific to their kind of product.
Let’s say a retailer’s core tenet is sustainability; a marketplace like Cerqular, that only carries sustainable brands, would be a good fit. A luxury apparel brand, for example, could be suitable for The Lobby. Or, if a brand carries children’s products, Maisonette could work well. Taking marketplaces a step further, let’s say a retailer is a Black-owned business: a sales channel like Blk + Grn could help further their customer base.
Additional Fulfillment Partners
Once a brand partners with these additional marketplaces, they will need an easy way to fulfill all those new orders. A 3-PL that can easily and seamlessly integrate with multiple marketplaces is key so a retailer won’t feel overwhelmed doing it all by themselves. Project Verte, for example, can connect to over 100 different marketplaces, and can provide custom-built APIs. No matter where a retailer sells, whether it’s a dropshipping account, a wholesale one, a big box retailer or even through Amazon, Verte can support that arm of a retailer’s business.
Additionally, Verte’s technology comes with a platform that aggregates all those channels, so a brand is never left in the dark about how orders are doing on each sales avenue. Moreover, this platform provides inventory forecasting, using AI data, so retailers will know what their business will look like weeks or even months in advance.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is partnering with a fulfillment company that can meet similar demands to Amazon, like 2 day shipping and AI-automated pick, pack, and shipping capabilities. Verte’s network of warehouses, for example, can support 2 day shipping to 90% of the US, keeping customers content and also reducing carbon emissions.
Cracking the code of selling on Amazon is no easy task. But with the right amalgamation of marketing tools, knowledge of the marketplace, and a good fallback strategy, a brand can really grow. It is also vital for sellers, especially FBA sellers, to have the right warehouse partner that can support Amazon FBA prep and meet all of Amazon’s requirements. If a brand does not meet these requirements they risk losing their FBA status and the Prime Badge.
Conclusively, being agile, flexible, and on top of the next big ecommerce trends are all ways a merchant can increase brand visibility and continue selling through, no matter what obstacles come up.