For many third-party sellers – this place of business is literally their home street address. Obviously, this public display of information becomes a real privacy and security concern that must be addressed.
If you want to build a “future proof” business for yourself – you may want to consider diversifying away from ecosystems like Amazon that control almost every aspect of your business.
For me, diversifying away from Amazon is a goal I have been working toward over the past 2 years after 3 years of doing nothing but Private Label on Amazon.
I started to see clear patterns in how Amazon was positioning itself with FBA, and using third-party sellers to bolster revenue, while at the same time, creating several multi-million dollar “niche” industries (such as advertising, support consulting, legal services, etc.) – not to mention, Amazon itself was using 3P sellers’ successes and openly creating their own “Amazon” brands (brands like AmazonBasics and Solimo).
What kind of lifestyle is living in perpetual fear of being undercut by Amazon, or shut down for no good reason other than that a rogue algorithm one day decides you have *one* word in your listing or a bad (and untrue) customer review that is “ban-worthy”…
I don't know about you, but that's not the kind of “carefree lifestyle” I signed up for when I signed up for selling on Amazon.
Fortune Favors the Bold . . .
I am not writing this to scare newcomers away from Amazon, but I do want newcomers to know that selling on Amazon isn’t designed for everyone.
It’s not as easy as it was in 2015 and even those of us who have been on that long (or longer) are starting to feel the squeeze from multiple directions.
For newcomers looking to achieve an income that completely replaces a “9-5” job – please be sure you know the reality of what it takes to accomplish this.
It will take years. It may require working long days sometimes, and it will absolutely require working capital and cash flow to scale. And, eventually, you will need to start spreading out to using other selling channels. Channels like Shopify, Etsy, eBay, and Walmart.
Additionally, you will need to always be working toward developing your own unique products (or products that exist but can be modified and improved), and then finding the right mix of products to sell for your brand and target market.
Bottom Line . . .
The more ways you can provide value to your target market, the better positioned you will be to have a sustainable and healthy business.
If you have been struggling with selling your Amazon products through social media then please read on – this post will show you exactly how to do just that! And – be sure to read all the way to the bottom to get access to a live walkthrough video demonstration that will show you how to perform target audience research.
There are thousands of articles on the web and “gurus” preaching the importance of social media in helping you promote your products online.
In fact, here are just a few enticing stats that should convince you that having a good social media presence online for your brand and products can help you sell more:
71% of consumers who've had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. (Ambassador)
76% of U.S. consumers have purchased a product they saw in a brand’s social media post (Curalate)
The challenge most of us face as sellers on Amazon (or other eCommerce channels for that matter) is that we don't really know how we should go about it.
We end up reading what feels like a million articles, watching hours of YouTube videos, and spending thousands on courses and training – with very little to show for it at the end.
Don't worry – you're not alone!
The reason why so many of us miss the mark on social media marketing can be summarized by three critical “bottlenecks” to social media marketing success:
Not choosing the right demographic to engage with
Not choosing the most appropriate platform for the audience that is going to buy the product
Not creating the appropriate “top of funnel” content to direct traffic to the core offer
Let's go over how to solve each of these three bottlenecks in more detail.
How to Choose the Right Demographic to Engage With
There are several social media platforms to choose from and many people are under the false impression that you have to master all of them to be successful. This just isn't true. In fact, if you look at most major brands today, they all have social media accounts (or “handles”) for the major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest) – but most brands focus on using just one for communicating with people that would be looking to buy their products.
Which platform you choose to focus your advertising and engaging customers with is going to depend largely on a) who the most likely to buy your products and b) how they are gathering information to make an informed buying decision.
When you think about the who and the how, you can start to piece together the what and the where – what are your customers using to make purchasing decisions? Where are they going to hang out to get this information?
Demographic Breakdown Example: Designer T-Shirts
For example, let's say you were selling something in the clothing niche. Something like a designer t-shirt.
The first question you should ask is: Who actually buys designer t-shirts? Are they younger than 30? Mostly men and not women? What sort of other common interests do they have? How do they collect their information?
When you're researching your target audience, you have to turn into a private investigator. You can use a number of resources but my personal favorites are Google search using a Chrome extension tool called Keywords Everywhere and Facebook Audience Insights, which is available to Facebook Business account holders.
When I am trying to find information on my target audience, I just start by going to Google and typing in the main search term associated with my product. In this case, it's “designer t-shirts”.
Using the Keywords Everywhere Tool, I see off to the right-hand side, a list of related and relevant search terms, along with estimated search volume, as you can see here. The green highlighted terms are the ones with the most monthly search volume according to Google and Clickstream.
Based on the search results and the Keywords Everywhere tool, the top related search terms are “designer t shirts on sale”, “designer t shirts mens”, and “luxury t shirts brands”…
What I am really interested in however, is what is listed under the “People Also Search For” – because this is going to give me more specifics into what people are interested in that are related to the product.
I see that four of the first five returns are all brands – True Religion (they sell designer jeans), Givenchy, Versace, and Chanel.
I am really interested in the fact that there are over half a million searches for True Religion Jeans. With that much traffic, chances are that Facebook has some good data on people that follow this brand. So let's go to Facebook!
Using Facebook Audience Insights to Do Market Research
The next step is to take this information and go into Facebook Audience Insights.
I start my search by letting Facebook know I want to search for everyone on Facebook.
Then, I want to select the United States as my Audience.
Next, I am going to start defining my audience based on the fact that they like True Religion Brand jeans. I type in “True Religion” and sure enough, this comes up as an option!
Looking at the Demographics tab first, the very first thing I see is that my target audience is nearly split between men and women, with a little bit more women (but overall, there are a bit more women than men on Facebook anyway).
The second thing that stands out is the age group. Nearly 80% of both genders that like are aged between 18-44 years old.
Third, nearly half of our audience is single and well over half are college-educated.
Thinking about how demographics ties into purchasing decisions, younger, single, but educated crowds tend to be focused inward, place a higher importance on good looks, and “upward mobility” in the social ladder.
The next thing I go to are the Page Likes. I notice that there seems to be a lot of interest in people, brands, and media that are targeted heavily toward people in the African-American community. Musicians such as Blac Youngsta, TV such as Black Entertainment TV (BET), and other influential black entertainers, sports figures, and brands.
The next tab over is the Location tab. When I click on this, it shows me that there are certain locations in the United States where there is a higher population interested in the “True Religion” brand and potentially designer t-shirts as well. I look at the cities and the States here, and note that it may be worth testing targeting just to a select number of States and cities to start with.
The last tab I want to look at is the activity tab. This tab tells me two pieces of information: How much my audience is engaged with posts on Facebook, and what type of device they use to get their information.
I learn that my demographic is responsive to ads (the click on them) but they do not take promotional offers.
This is a good piece of information to have, as it tells me that if I were to advertise on Facebook, or elsewhere – promotional offers may not be the best advertising strategy.
However, if I created an ad that directed my audience to a “trust building” offer off site, then it may serve as a valuable bridge my customers to my brand and products.
The other piece of valuable information I receive from this tab, is that over 80% of my target audience uses their mobile device (aka Smartphone) to use Facebook. Again, if I were to advertise on Facebook, I need to be very aware of how I am delivering ads and that the format is optimized for mobile devices. Otherwise, I will have a difficult time communicating anything or even getting my ads displayed.
Now that we have addressed the problem of not knowing our target demographic, we can now address the problem of have some good information about who are designer t-shirt audience is, we can develop a strategy for reaching our future customers on social media.
How to choose the most appropriate Social Media Platform for your Target Audience
Looking at the previous exercise in which we found out about our target audience for designer t-shirts, we discovered that our target audience (*based on the data obtained through Facebook Audience Insights*) is:
Mostly aged 18-44
Evenly split among men and women
Live in Urban Centers
Use mobile devices to get their information
Are influenced by advertising but not by promotional offers
Knowing this information, we can take this and look into what sort of social media platforms would reach our audience given the product being sold, their gender, age, ethnicity, and location. Turning to Google, we can start doing a bit more research into what social media platforms are more popular than others for this demographic profile. The first thing I do here, is go to Google, and start a search:
“Most popular social media platform ____”
The blank part is going to be filled in based on these demographic attributes.
“Most popular social media platforms by age”
If I type this as a search query, I get several results including an article from Pew Research center – which is a well-established independent research and polling firm out of Washington, D.C.
Based on this information, it tells me that those aged between 18-44 prefer mostly YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook.
Similarly, I type in
“Most Popular social media platform for African-Americans”
And I see an article by Black Enterprise, which declares that Instagram is the favorite among this ethnic group.
My other piece of research involves the product I am selling.
Thinking about clothing and fashion in general, this is a very image driven product category. As such, I need to think about the primary use of each social platform, how it structures and presents information and content. Then I need to look at these formats and how relevant they are to my product niche.
Instagram seems to fit nicely because it is all about sharing images and videos, rather than words.
How to Create Relevant “Top of Funnel” Content for your Target Audience and an Irresistible Offer
We are almost done with our analysis and research. The final piece to converting your social media traffic to sales is to create content for your target audience that includes an irresistible offer – a call to action that directs your potential customer to go to your listing and make a purchase.
The first thing you need to do is create what is called “top of funnel” content.
Think about a funnel, it is wide at the top, and then gets progressively narrower as you move to the bottom.
The very first step in this process is to engage with your potential customers. The best way to engage with your target audience on social media, is to start a conversation with them. If you're on Facebook, you might want to consider creating “fan club” page or group that is based on the niche you're selling in. In the designer t-shirt example, think of other topics such as music, art, and entertainment that your target audience is interested in.
Once you start engaging with your audience, you need to provide them with valuable content. By content, this could be how-to information, news, funny memes, videos, and interviews. What you share with your audience will depend largely on what they are interested in, so to do this you need think again, about what your prospective customers already like. Knowing the types of brands, people, and information they are consuming already will help you in providing them value of your own for your own products and services.
If I go to Instagram and look at True Religion Brand Jeans, I can see that they have a great Instagram profile. They have over half a million followers. Note how they have a consistent “theme” for their fashion, using a mix of genders, and ethnicities. They also have mixed media, a blend of professional photos and videos.
Building trust requires that you provide value consistently over a period of time. It also means, becoming an “authority” in your niche. The only way you can become an authority figure in your niche is to consistently provide high-quality content and information for your target audience. Over time, as you provide value to your audience regularly, they will reciprocate their appreciation by coming to your pages frequently and engaging with your content and with others.
Create Your Irresistible Offer
The final piece of this equation is the irresistible offer. This is where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak – because after you have engaged with your audience, provided value, and built a solid foundation of trust – it's now time to introduce them to your product so they can purchase it. Creating a good irresistible offer will depend on a number of factors such as price, how many other complementary products you have in your brand line, and what your target audience is receptive to in terms of an offer.
Here are different types of irresistible offers you could provide your customers:
Payment Plans (“make 3 easy payments of…” or “choose between monthly or annual plans”)
Bonus Gift or Premium Access
Bundle or kit complementary products together
Add a “Risk Reversal” Incentive (free returns, no hassle exchanges, 30-day money back guarantee, etc.)
Let's go back to our designer t-shirt example. Rather than guess what offer might work the best – I can use the information I gathered during my audience research to help me make an educated decision. Remember that one of the major brands that my target audience was interested in was True Religion Brand Jeans. If this brand is popular with my audience, then some deductive reasoning can lead me to make a hypothesis that what offers True Religion is providing their customers, may work with my customers as well. When I visit the website, I immediately get this pop over, offering me 10% off. Note that there is a scarcity timer on the pop up (30 hours) – which gives a sense of urgency to take the discount and make a purchase before time runs out.
I note at the top another offer: Free shipping with orders $150 or more.
Lastly, as I scroll down further on the page, I note that they offer a seasonal-themed discount of 40% off “Fall Favorites.”
Based on the on-page offers, I can conclude that having a number of incentives and discounts can help move my customers toward making a purchase.
It is not an uncommon practice for eCommerce stores to “split test” a number of offers and measure the results over time. Sometimes, it takes a combination of offers to pull in as many different segments of your customer demographic as possible. So, don't be afraid to experiment, test, and measure your results.
In this article, you learned about how to effectively promote your products using social media by addressing three critical bottlenecks to social media marketing success:
Not choosing the right demographic to engage with
Not choosing the most appropriate platform for the audience that is going to buy the product
Not creating the appropriate “top of funnel” content to direct traffic to the core offer
You then learned about how to choose the right demographic to engage with (your target audience), how to determine which social media platform works best for your audience, and then you finally learned about how to engage, provide value, and build trust with your customers.
As you can tell, social media marketing success isn't about short term bursts of sales, but a long-term marketing strategy that should be managed and deployed carefully with research and planned for long-term growth.
If you're patient and work for the long-term gains rather than short-term bursts of sales, you will be rewarded!
Check out the Video Walkthrough Below, and learn how to conduct target audience research:
A common mantra among many in the Amazon Sellers community with regard to launching products is to “go all in” on Amazon Sponsored Ads.
It goes something like this:
List your product
Set up an “automatic campaign” and let it run for 4-6 weeks
Pull a report and look at the data
Look at conversions on search terms and add poor converting search terms to a negative keyword list, and add good converting search terms to a manual campaign
Lower bids and budget on Automatic
Start a research manual campaign using the results from the Automatic campaign
Run for 4-6 weeks
Pull a report and look at the data
Look at conversions on search terms and add poor converting search terms to a negative keywords list and scale up bids on the best converting search terms.
Continually optimize and fine tune every 10-14 days (accounting for reporting lag)
Rinse and repeat.
While this basic ten step strategy can work well for some out of the gate, for most new sellers on Amazon, they will typically see poor results.
It’s important to first highlight what “poor results” means in the context of sponsored advertising.
Poor Sponsored Ads results would mean:
At a minimum, not breaking even
Low to zero conversions on main search terms related to the product sold
High Ad Spend to Sales (ACoS) ratio (this ties into not breaking even)
Note: “Poor Results” does not necessarily mean “not making a profit” – that is, a profit entirely off of sponsored ads generated sales.
A successful Sponsored Ads campaign would mean:
At the minimum, breaking even.
Converting highly on main search terms related to the product sold
Reducing ad costs to a profitable TACoS (Target Advertising Cost of Sales) while not compromising impressions on ads for the potential of high conversion clicks.
The Amazon Sellers Sunk-Cost Fallacy
The challenge most sellers have with this rough-outline of a plan, especially for those launching new products into the marketplace, is that they end up wasting a lot of ad spend thinking that the more money they spend on campaigns (increasing budgets, increasing cost-per-click bids) will somehow make things “better” for them in terms of converting a click to a sale.
There is a name for this line of thought, and it’s called the sunk-cost fallacy, which can be translated simply into “throwing good money after bad.”
The reason why sellers do this comes down to not understanding what the primary motivating factors are for converting a shopper’s click on an ad placement to an actual sale.
The “4 P’s” that Influence Your PPC Conversions
To convert on an Amazon Sponsored Ad, there are a number of factors at play here, but I will only focus on what I consider the top three, which I call the “4 P’s”:
Yep, product selection is crucial.
If you sourced a product that doesn’t have demand, and did not source it at a cost that yields a net profit of at least 3 times your total cost of goods, then you have just set yourself up for a very tough road for profitable advertising.
In terms of advertising, if you selected a product that very few people are interested in, you won’t receive many impressions. No impression = no views. No views = no chance for a conversion. Pretty simple.
The flip-side of this is selecting a product that everyone wants, but there are so many different options that shoppers become overwhelmed by the choices. There’s too much competition on the same product.
The way to combat this is to differentiate your product – but don’t differentiate so much to the point where it confuses shoppers as to what you’re actually selling.
So if you’re looking to be different, look at it from the perspective of adding perceived value where others in the marketplace are not.
Hint: Differentiation in 2019 (and beyond) does NOT mean just adding a “bonus e-book” to your listing! This tactic is “2015” and really doesn’t help with most listings.
What you need is to add a complimentary item to your product or modify it’s core functionality so that it does something different than all the other products.
An example: A garlic press with a garlic press cleaning tool and garlic crusher roller
Amazon favors “comparative-priced products” in its marketplace.
Notice I used the word comparative – notcompetitive!
Just because you have the lowest price, doesn’t mean Amazon or shoppers will favor you.
What the algorithms and shoppers are looking for is a “competitive spread” of different price points.
So when you first launch your product, you should always be testing price points with your customers and see how slight adjustments (by 10% or so) up or down every couple of weeks, plays a role in your sales and ad placements. You might be surprised by what you find out!
Shoppers favor proof that a product is high quality and will perform exactly as they are expecting based on the product’s title and feature bullets.
Proof on Amazon means one thing and that is reviews, and if you are just launching your product you won’t have any.
If you are again, selling a product that is attributely the same as another competing product in terms of perceived value and quality, the product with more reviews will typically have better sales conversions.
Position actually is a combination of a few factors. And by position, I am talking about ranking on main keywords and search phrases.
The first critical factor is – how much competition is there in front of you and behind you? If you’re launching a product in a category that is already saturated with similar items with little to no variation – you’re already swimming against the current for achieving ranking.
The second factor is – how much of a parity is there between you and your competition with regard to the pricing and proof as mentioned above?
It will be much easier for you to compete in advertising and achieve rank through sponsored ads when you are swimming with like-sized fish… in other words, all of you have similar prices, similar number of reviews. Alternatively, if a few sellers have 1,000 reviews and similar prices – these sellers will receive the lion’s share of sales, while the rest of you fight for the scraps.
PRO TIPUsing a tool like JungleScout Pro Chrome Extension, extract the first 3 pages of search results for your product’s main search term. You can extract the results into a CSV file and open this up in Excel or Google Sheets.
Next, sort the sellers listed by number of reviews, and look at the first 10. Do the first ten sellers make up 50% or more of all total reviews? If so, then you are likely selling a product that is brand dominated.
Use my *affiliate link* and get a special 30% off discount:
The third factor in positioning is conversion itself. And yes, this is sort of a “chicken and the egg” type of factor because to obtain conversions, you have to get sales, and to get sales, you have to be positioned usually in the top 1 or two pages. But, it’s worth highlighting because it does play a critical role in how you’re positioned from an advertising point of view, because the Amazon algorithms typically favor sellers that can demonstrate they can consistently convert when they are *not* advertising.
Now that you have an idea as to what the “4 P’s” of conversion are, you should now understand what you need to do to create high-converting Sponsored Ads Campaigns.
Three Ways You Can Improve Your Sponsored Ads Campaign Success
1. Optimize your Listing
The absolute “prerequisite” to converting an ad click to a sale is to have an optimized listing. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having high quality images, a well-written title, feature bullets, and “optimized” search terms and backend keyword data.
You can think of “optimized” as meaning “relevant.” How relevant are your keywords, search terms, and images? Do your images accurately describe, without saying anything, what the main function and benefits are? Does your title accurately describe exactly what your product does in the images? Do your feature bullets accurately describe all the benefits that come along with the functions of the product?
2. Test Price Points and Discount Methods
Next, you need to start testing your price points to see where your “sweet-spot” is in terms of achieving the maximum profit margins to sales conversion ratio.
Start by simply offering a discounted price (not an on page discount or coupon), and use this as the control price.
Test this for 2 weeks. Pull a detail sales and traffic report at the end to show you what your session to unit sales conversion rate is.
Then, after this test, boost the price and offer an on page coupon or discount. Run for 2 weeks and then pull a sales report and look at the results.
Test different ways for 6-8 weeks until you have determined the best pricing strategy for your product and target audience.
3. Get Reviews
No one will deny that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get verified and “white hat” product reviews on Amazon for private label products.
That said, obtaining reviews is mostly a numbers game. A certain percentage of your customers will leave a review. And a great proportion of them won’t.
Across all Amazon categories, the average review conversion rate can range between 1% and 10%.
Ironically, items that are more likely to be expected to FAIL or have a limited lifespan, and then meet or exceed customer expectations, are the items that get higher review rates!
Think about phone charging cables, electronic devices, and consumable/replenishable products (like food and pet supplies).
Products considered commodity items – those things that we buy once and expect to function as it should out of the box and last a long time – typically won’t get many reviews.
Knowing what a reasonable review conversion rate should be for your product and category should give you an idea as to what to expect in terms of results and strategy for getting reviews.
Put yourself into the shoes of the customer. If you bought your product, what would absolutely move you to go through the effort of leaving a review?
If you answered “an outstanding product that performs as stated” – then you need to be sure you’re offering a product that does just that.
Many sellers who are selling on Amazon right now haven’t even touched the products they are selling to customers!
Don’t be this kind of seller.
You need to KNOW your products inside out. Have a small stock on hand at all times. Know exactly what the customer is going to get and how they get it.
PRO TIPHave a few friends order your competitors products. Have them take photos of all the products or even short videos of their “unboxing” experience. Ask them for their opinion about what they did or did not like. Knowing what your competitors are up to can help you improve your products and beat them on their weaknesses.
Alternatively, if your mindset toward reviews is that the only way you would possibly entertain spending time on writing one is if someone offered a discount or free item – then you will need to think outside the box and work within the terms of service of Amazon about asking for reviews without running the risk of offering incentives in exchange for reviews.
So, now that you know what it takes to do well with sponsored ads, you’re probably wondering – “So when are Sponsored Ads NOT a good idea?”
When Sponsored Ads Aren’t a Good Idea (to start)
Quite simply, if you cannot address the “4 P’s” above, you probably are not in a good position to start up Sponsored Ads in full earnest.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t start a very modest campaign with a low daily budget (like $10 per day) and low CPC (under $0.75) to start, just to “warm up the algorithms.”
But remember that your conversion rates here will not be very good unless you are selling a product people want, have it set to a price that is comparatively competitive, has enough reviews to add credibility to the offer, and is well-positioned in the marketplace organically.
It is important to understand that while you're selling on Amazon, and Amazon certainly wants you to spend money on their advertising platform, you can drive traffic and get better ROI when you take a pragmatic and holistic approach to driving organic sales. It goes back to that chicken and the egg paradox of selling on Amazon – you cannot convert highly without organic sales traction. You cannot get organic sales traction without being seen.
In my next post, you will learn about ways to get sales traction WITHOUT Sponsored Ads.
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Over the past couple of weeks leading up to Q4 of 2019, Amazon has announced several new updates that all Amazon sellers should be aware of. Here's a summary of what's been happening in the “jungle.”
The first one of note is the Live Creator App for iOS.
Live Creator allows Amazon sellers to create LIVE video streams demonstrating the use and application of their products.
This is a powerful marketing and brand-trust building tool that all sellers should strongly consider implementing in their marketing toolbox.
Sellers are able to engage with potential buying customers in real time via livestream comments. You can answer questions about how your product is used, why it's unique, and better than your competing brands.
To start using this feature, and learn more about it visit Amazon.com
IP Accelerator Program
Amazon has established it's own intellectual property rights program for Amazon sellers. This program is made up of “pre-vetted” legal services that have partnered with Amazon to provide trademark registration services for brands.
As part of the program, sellers that use this service will be granted certain protections against infringement. Amazon states:
Brands will benefit from automated brand protections, which proactively block bad listings from Amazon’s stores, increased authority over product data in our store, and access to our Report a Violation tool, a powerful tool to search for and report bad listings that have made it past our automated protections.
Sales Tax Collections Expanded to 34 Total States as of October 1st, 2019
As of October 1st, 2019, Amazon will calculate, collect, and remit sales tax for a total of 34 states with the inclusion of ten more states added to the mix.
According to Amazon:
Based on changes to Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, and Utah State tax laws, Amazon will begin calculating, collecting, and remitting sales and use tax for all orders shipped to customers in these states on October 1, 2019.
For most sellers this comes as welcomed news as sales tax collection up until these latest sales tax laws have been implemented, has been entirely left up to sellers to work out. The challenge is that most sellers are poorly informed and a great deal of accountants and tax professionals don't understand the complexity of “economic nexus”.
The sales tax automation service TaxJar has a great article explaining what Economic Nexus is but to summarize:
Even if you do not have a physical presence in a state, if you pass a state’s economic threshold for total revenue or number of transactions in that state, you’re legally obligated to collect and remit sales tax to that state.
Do you know what your economic nexus is for the products you sell are on Amazon? What if you also have a Shopify store but fulfill your items through Amazon? With TaxJar, you can automatically connect your selling account to their service and have them locate the states you owe sales tax to, calculate, report, and file automatically. Sign up for a free trial of TaxJar here.
The more I help businesses online, the more I become aware of how important intent-based marketing is.
Intent-Based Marketing, in simple terms, is placing your products or services in front of the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
Just because *you think* you know your customers, doesn't mean you truly know that what you have is what they want at the particular time you present it to them.
Additionally, you could spend a lot of time and money targeting customers on a platform (like Facebook), only to discover that your audience doesn't make purchasing decisions on Facebook, but rather on Pinterest.
Or, perhaps you're completely missing the mark in terms of who you're targeting for your product because you haven't done the proper demographic research based on intent rather than a stereotype.
For example, most people would assume that people searching and buying baby products would be in households with children.
1. Navigational/Branded Search (the user is looking for a specific piece of information or a brand) 2. Informational (the user wants to learn something about the product) 3. Transactional (the user is ready to buy the product or is ready to enter the phase of purchasing)
If you're providing transactional information or hitting customers with a sales page when they are in the navigation or information gathering stages – you may struggle to convert.
Likewise, if you are not providing a “bridge” of content to give potential customers who are in these phases to cross over to reach your product – then you will lose them completely, and they will exit out of the buying process altogether and move on.
A sales funnel then, should have at least one “bridge page” – like a blog, where your entire intent is dedicated to educating, informing, and providing value to your audience without any expectation of it resulting directly in a purchase.
Step 2: Build Confidence and Trust by Asking “Why” instead of Answering “What”
The foundation of this principle lies within the physiological and psychological reasons for why people purchase products to begin with.
Sinek goes on to say: “…People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And what you do simply serves as the tangible proof of what you believe.”
In this regard, as sellers and marketers, we need to focus on guiding customers through a story about their company's core values, the reasons for why we offer the products we sell: 1. We have to communicate WHY we do what we do. 2. We have to demonstrate the DISCIPLINE of HOW we accomplish it through values and principles. 3. We have to have CONSISTENCY in WHAT we deliver to prove that what we say and do are legitimate.
These three components make the framework for one very important element:
Step 3: Build your Sales Funnel with a Clear “Story Brand” Message
Marketing expert Donald Miller, author of the best-selling book Building a Storybrand, says that we can accomplish this in 7 ways:
We make the customer the hero of the story – the customer, not your brand, is the primary focus.
We position our brand as the solution to an internal problem – for example, someone may buy a security camera because they just got robbed, but the internal problem, the emotional reasons for why they are going to invest hundreds of dollars on one, is because they want to feel safe and protected.
We serve as a friendly navigator and guide for the customer. As Miller states; “Customers don't want another hero to compete alongside them.”
We develop and present a well-intentioned plan for helping the customer get exactly what it is that they want without confusion.
We challenge customers openly to take action. This means, we must include a very clear and obvious call to action on our sales funnel – whether it is a button at the top that says “BUY NOW” or “SIGN UP HERE” – the intent of what we want the customer to do should leave no questions.
There also must be clear messaging as to what will happen to a customer if they DON'T take action. Miller says: “If there is nothing at stake in a story, there is no story. Likewise, if there's nothing at stake in whether or not I buy your product, I am not going to buy your product.”
We should never assume that people understand how our brand can change their lives. We must tell them.
Now that you have discovered the basic components of an intent-based sales funnel, you can begin creating it. Before you begin, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing your target audience and developing a clear blueprint outlined that addresses the three steps highlighted in this post:
1. Understand Your Customer's Journey 2. Build Confidence and Trust by Asking “Why” 3. Build your Sales Funnel with a Clear “Story Brand” Message
Without these three steps, you will not be able to develop a clear message or effectively challenge customers to take action on your offer.
The last thing you want to do is frustrate and confuse your potential prospects! As Donald Miller aptly states: “When you Confuse You Lose!”
How I personally prefer to write my feature bullets and descriptions is to focus entirely on BENEFITS (the WHY) and then follow up with the FEATURES (the WHAT and the HOW).
I write this way because, from a purely psychological point of view, people are ego-driven and care only about themselves in the context of what they are looking for to meet their immediate need/want/desire.
For example, let’s say you sell a wireless security camera.
Shopper John is on Amazon today because yesterday afternoon someone stole a package off his front porch.
John has some core feelings and needs that have to be met right now:
He feels like his privacy and security has been violated
He wants to PROTECT himself, his family, and his property from future violations
He wants to stop feeling this way NOW.
He thinks that having a security camera will ELIMINATE these uncomfortable feelings and HELP his family to stay safe in the future.
So we have a very clear understanding of what John is feeling and wanting right now. That’s why he’s on Amazon searching for a “wireless security camera.”
As a seller of a wireless security camera, your product is exactly what John needs to solve these problems:
Eliminate the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty
Fulfill the desire to be a protector for his property and family
The above are the BENEFITS of your wireless camera. The camera allows John to have 24-7 visibility on his front porch so he can see who is coming and going.
By having this level of visual control, John can leave his house with peace of mind, knowing that everything is recorded. If something is ever stolen from his front porch again, he will be able to see who it was and send this information to law enforcement for investigation.
Now that we have a good idea about WHY your product is the solution, HOW will that be accomplished?
This is where the FEATURES are used to accurately describe the functionality of the product.
The features will be the components and functions of the actual wireless security camera that are going to provide the benefits of safety, security, “peace of mind”. These could be features such as:
Night-Vision enabled for day and night security
Anti-Theft enabled to prevent camera removal or vandalism
Wireless control by Smartphone App
Other features may help reverse or reduce risk in the purchase – such as “easy to set up”, “Alexa voice activation compatible,” and “excellent optics” …
When you’re writing your feature bullets, you can mix up your features and benefits in a way that makes the most sense in terms of how it reads to the customer, so it’s not necessary to adopt a “hard and fast rule” of always with benefits. Rather, focus on the quality of the content within the bullets and that it reads naturally (in the natural voice).
How to Structure Your Feature Bullet Statements
Knowing the Why behind having a security camera, and knowing our features that could address the reasons for why someone would want a wireless security camera to begin with, let’s write out some optimized bullets.
Again, while I don’t think there is a definite order to go with here, you should always experiment with the ordering of features. I typically sequence my bullets in this way:
Features and Benefits that validate the customer’s emotional reasons for wanting the product to begin with
Features and Benefits that validate functionality and use
Features and Benefits that answer commonly asked questions
Features and Benefits that reduce risk (risk-reversal statements)
Features and Benefits that are “throw away” statements (such as “bonus” items and things that will help your indexing of important keyword phrases but not might be read by the customer because many people won’t get to the 5th bullet and in some categories, only the first 2 to 4 are highlighted, depending on how many characters you use per bullet – such as in Beauty and Personal Care)
Now that you have a general outline of the sequencing, let’s start writing it out for our wireless security camera.
I used a popular brand of wireless security camera sold on Amazon (eufy) as a basis for the content, but I rewrote it in a way that follows my methodology. Some content has been modified and does not reflect the features actually being sold.
SECURE YOUR HOME 24-7: Gain the peace of mind that you deserve with a 100% wireless full 1080p HD resolution surveillance system with IP-65 weatherproof night vision technology and an anti-theft alarm built-in
365 DAY BATTERY LIFE: Designed to run one full year on one battery charge (or 3 years in standby mode). Data backs up to the pre-installed 32 GB microSD card which is more than enough to store a full year’s worth of video data
SUPPORTS UP TO 16 CAMERAS: You can add up to 16 cameras to the base station (included) to add even more security points to your home for complete coverage
EASY INSTALLATION: Easy and frustration-free set-up with 3 different installation methods: 3 easy ways to install: 1) screw onto the outdoor mount, 2) stick onto the magnetic mount, 3) stick on metallic surfaces
NO MONTHLY FEES: With our SmartApp, Use your mobile device to access high-resolution live streaming of what the camera sees in real-time, and warn trespassers they’re on camera
It is worth noting that if you do sell in a category that displays your feature bullets as shown below, you should pay special attention to testing the character length (about 150 characters or less is ideal) of your bullets and ensuring you can get as many bullets displayed (ideally the first four):
The feature bullets are not just about the features (functions and attributes of your product).
They should be a balanced blend of features with benefits that paint a mental picture of what your product is and how it will be used.
A listing can have well-done images, which truly are worth “a thousand words”, however, sometimes this isn’t enough.
After all, we have a two-dimensional listing attempting to re-create a three-dimensional object that a shopper cannot hold and evaluate in-person, the way the would be able to if they were in an actual store.
When you write a great set of feature bullets, you are helping your customer validate their purchasing decision and eliminating any doubts that when they click “add to cart,” they are getting exactly what they want.
Additionally, every time a customer purchases from you based on a search that has targeted key search phrases in your bullets, you are signaling to Amazon’s A9 algorithms that your listing is relevant, which helps your organic search page position.
The feature bullets are just one of several components you should focus on when writing your listing, but in my opinion, they are among the top three along with your Title and Images.
Finally, as a parting piece of advice: Writing optimized bullets is a valuable skill that takes practice, trial, error, and success.
As with all skills, you must keep trying and testing. Don’t give up or get discouraged if your bullets don’t quite “hit a bullseye” the first time. 🙂
Be sure to keep an active log of your changes always – and be sure to pull your business reports before making bullet changes and after so you can see if your changes had a positive or negative impact on sales conversions.
This will help you keep a big-picture view of your listing performance over time.
During my first summer selling on Amazon, I was absolutely beside myself.
What seemed like an overnight “flip of the switch” – my sales TANKED.
For several months I was averaging 15-20 sales per day on just my one product at the time – sometimes more.
And then, all of a sudden, 3 sales… 1 sale… even 3 days or more with no sales at all.
I frantically started changing my titles, images, bullets, description.
I increased my PPC bids on sponsored advertising.
I ran a gazillion Facebook ads.
I did everything I could to increase traffic and exposure to my listings.
And still, nothing.
Then I went to a few Facebook Amazon seller communities at the time and asked around. Turned out everyone else was experiencing a similar plight.
Fortunately, a seasoned veteran chimed in:
“It’s called the summertime slump. Hardly anyone shops online during the summer months, unless you’re looking for swimsuits and camping gear!”
Why the Slump?
For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is at its best, and people are outdoors more often than indoors.
Sales naturally decline during this time of year simply because people are not focused on shopping. They are more likely to be on vacation, traveling, or away from technology more often.
Dealing with This Reality
As a new seller experiencing their first summer season, this was reassuring news, but also, quite disheartening.
If it’s like this EVERY summer selling online, then it really is “feast or famine” selling on Amazon!
This reality was one I wasn’t personally willing to accept, because I wanted this to be a year-round source of business revenue.
Having big gaps in revenue limits your cash flow, and limits your ability to remain adaptive and flexible.
Five Ways to Help Beat the Summertime Selling Slump Blues
After experiencing my first summertime slump, I decided that it would be critical to my businesses growth that I develop and implement a plan for continuing momentum during the 3-4 slower months.
Owning a business is not a static activity. There is always something in your business you can be doing to help build, improve, and scale it.
Here are five things you can start implementing to help improve your sales and keep your business growth optimal during the slow time of the selling season:
1. Evaluate your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your brand (conduct a SWOT analysis).
Use this time to reflect and evaluate your current position in the marketplace.
Developing a cohesive strategy for improving your brand’s visibility and competitiveness in the marketplace can help identify gaps in your business that may be hurting your sales overall and also help pinpoint opportunities for growth within your market.
2. Run the numbers on all of your products. Are there products that are not selling fast enough and are sitting at FBA warehouses collecting costly storage fees?
Check your inventory performance index scores for all active products. Are you in the “Green” for all these? Remember that Amazon can and does penalize sellers when their seller performance metrics do not meet certain standards, such as having high order defect rates, inventory stock levels, and excessive inventory.
Additionally, check your sell-through rates. Identify products where you’re receiving low traffic consistently (accounting for seasonality) and evaluate why that is the case. Is it because you’re not doing any promotions/advertising? Or is it a low-demand product?
3. Summertime is the time to be placing your orders for Quarter 4. If you plan on selling your products during quarter 4 (and you should because that’s when everyone is on Amazon making purchases!) then you should be spending part of your time this summer placing orders with your suppliers and arranging for production of inventory, so that it can arrive at the Amazon fulfillment centers in plenty of time before the holiday season approaches.
A good rule of thumb is to have your inventory for Quarter 4 in no later than October 1st to ensure you are in stock for the full duration of the peak selling season.
4. Use this time to research products that you can sell year-round, or are summer-specific.
If you’re struggling to sell your products this time of year, now is a good time to research more products to add to your mix, and make up for lost revenue.
When researching products, focus on overall profitability first (I personally look for products that will give me a 3x-5x net profit, accounting for all landed costs, fees, advertising costs, and other operational expenses tied into getting a product to Amazon FBA and live in the marketplace).
Look for products that would be bought year-round – not just during the holiday season. For example, personal care, grocery items, and pet supplies would all be things people buy no matter the time of year.
And, if you have a brand that is not niche-specific and will accommodate a variety of products from different categories, then consider sourcing products that are in niches that are popular during the summer months such as sports, outdoors, automotive, and travel.
5. Now is a good time to learn new business skills, improve your marketing knowledge, and build exposure for your brand and products
As mentioned before, business is dynamic and if you are not an active participant, eventually, your business will stagnate, plateau, and then die.
During these slow times, you can help your business grow by actively seeking new information on how to improve your sales, creating new content for your brand’s website blog, developing new product videos, and increasing your marketing channels.
And, now is also the perfect time to build your own circle of influence by establishing strategic alliances with other sellers, joining a private mastermind, reading books on marketing, and building customer relationships.
Whether you implement one or all five of these strategies, remember that ultimately, you are in control of the growth of your business.
If you rely completely upon one marketplace like Amazon to determine the outcome of your success, you are leaving a lot of potential profit and growth on the table.
Stay agile, and remain tenaciously dedicated to your business, 365 days per year.
With the worldwide accessibility of the Internet, and the numerous outlets providing “direct to consumer” products – what is to say that your potential customers won’t just go straight to the manufacturer and buy from them instead?
A lot of consumers are doing just that and it’s undercutting many private label sellers.
As an eCommerce seller, you are in fact, a barrier between what people want and how they can get it!
It sounds counterintuitive to think this way, but in thinking about yourself as a barrier, you can then work on ways to “break down” (or improve) what you are doing to prevent people from buying from you.
So, how do you create these barriers?
Quality (perceived and actual)
Value (perceived and actual)
On Amazon, customers are more likely to go with a brand that is established and has positioned their products to add the most value possible in terms of quality, trust, and affordability.
This isn’t theory or speculation.
Amazon has divulged this information time and again to sellers through their news releases and marketing tool “beta tests” – ranging from repricing tools, to obvious “spikes” in traffic for sellers each time they get a positive verified review, to new sponsored advertising features.
How to Break Down the Selling Barriers
Fortunately, you can lower the barriers to selling your products by focusing on 5 tried and true principles of business.
Sell products that people want, and know where they are.
Rather than try to bring people to your products, you should find products that people already need, want, and buy. While this might not be possible when introducing an entirely brand new product (as in, something you invented and patented yourself), if you’re sourcing a garlic press, for example, then you should not be struggling to sell it as long as you know where the people are who want to buy it.
Know your numbers in terms of pricing
Pricing for profit isn’t your only objective. Ultimately it is the market and consumer that will determine what you can reasonably set the prices of your products.
Price too high, and you’ll be undercut by competitors that sell at volume and can dictate lower set price points. Price too low and you may not make a profit or devalue your brand.
Finding a balance between profit, market competitiveness, and consumer perception is a matter of testing your target market for price elasticity. That is to say, measuring how much raising or lowering the price has little impact on the demand for it.
Deliver high-quality products and have that reflected in your product images and a product demonstration video
Image is everything and especially online where customers cannot hold, feel, and evaluate a product in person as they would in a brick and mortar retail store – customers will turn to your product images to make a critical assessment as to whether or not the product you’re selling matches what they are searching for.
Make sure you have professionally done images – high resolution, with a mixture of in-use, lifestyle, and infographic “explainer” images, as well as a product demonstration video.
Add value to your products with added features and options
If you’re struggling to stand out from the other sellers that are offering similar products – a great way to add actual and perceived value is to either improve upon what is already on the market with an added feature or include an additional complementary item along with it (bundle).
Not only can you add perceived value to your product this way, but for just a little bit more in actual cost, you can increase your profit margins.
This same model is used by fast food restaurants every day. They will offer a burger for $5.99 but then they will ask you if you want to add fries and a Coke for an additional $1.50. The profit margin on the burger is only 25% but the profit margin on the fries and the Coke is around 75-100%.
Build Brand Trust
I was having a conversation with a friend about her looking for new wireless earbuds for her kid on Amazon.
She mentioned that she saw that one of the first results on page one was some obscure and unknown brand that had over 7,000 5-star reviews.
She told me, “at first I was like -hey, this has over 7,000 5-star reviews, it must be a great pair of earbuds!”
Until she scanned down the page and started reading the reviews.
Almost all of them were fake and most of them weren’t even for the product being sold!
After more research, she decided to go with a brand she knew and trusted but had a review rating of 3.9 instead.
My friend’s mentality/thought process is not unlike many people shopping on Amazon right now.
Thanks to media attention – consumers are becoming more aware of the black-hat tactics being used by sellers to abuse the system and take advantage of Amazon’s inconsistent enforcement and oversight.
The unfortunate residual effect is that all sellers on Amazon now are looked at with more scrutiny – so even those of us that are legitimate and ethical sellers may not be seen as trustworthy!
One way to build brand trust and loyalty, while helping combat the blackhatters, hijackers, and scammers is for sellers to focus on building a true brand.
Retain legal counsel and have cease and desist letters drafted and ready to go to send to infringing parties
Develop a strong brand presence outside of Amazon (your own “dotcom” brand website/storefront, social media pages, etc. – make sure you have a physical mailing address, and a toll-free 1-800 support number).
Eliminating as many barriers for your customers and making it as easy as possible to purchase your products with confidence should be every seller’s main focus.
You don’t have to be seen as a middleman – but a friendly bridge that connects your brand and products to what hopefully will become a tribe of repeat loyal customers in the future.
Do You Need Help With Improving your Sales and Marketing Efforts?
Amazon just announced that starting on July 22, it will suppress (read: REMOVE) listings from its search engine that do not comply with its Title Guidelines.
This is a major announcement and will impact many sellers who are unaware of how to properly write a listing title and follow the rules.
As a seller who has seen an influx in “bad behavior” and “bad actors” on Amazon – using tactics to attempt to circumvent the Amazon indexing algorithms to position higher in the organic search results – I see this as a good move.
However, what this will likely mean is that Amazon's scanning algorithms will pick up many “false positives” in terms of title violations. For example, if a brand name is made up of ALL CAPS and registered as such, then if the brand name is in all caps, then it might be flagged and removed from search.
Be prepared for a wild transition phase as sellers who are in violation scramble to change their titles to be in compliance. This will most definitely cause algorithmic “surges” for not just the organic search but PPC placement as well.
Given that the change will occur AFTER Prime day, the change should be less impactful.
Here are the guidelines, according to Amazon
[NOTE: Since the first news release, Amazon has changed the title length restriction from 50 characters to 200 characters (probably due to the massive “push back” from sellers)]
MUST NOT EXCEED 200 characters for ANY product in ANY category. Even if it states in the style guidelines a recommended limit under 200, as long as it does not exceed 200 characters, your listing will NOT be suppressed.
Capitalize the first letter of each word.
Do not use ALL CAPS
Kindra's Question: What about sellers that might have brand names registered in ALL CAPS?
[UPDATE ANSWER: From three different Amazon support team members, I have been told that the algorithms *should* “skip over” brand names that are capitalized.
Conjunctions (and, or, for) and articles (the, a, an) should not be capitalized.
Don't capitalize prepositions with fewer than five letters (in, on, over, with).
Numbers and symbols:
Use numerals (2 instead of two)Spell out measurements ( 6 inches not 6″ )
Don't use symbols, such as ~ ! * $ ?
Kindra's Question: What OTHER symbols won't be allowed? Commonly used symbols: “-” and “|” for example – are these still acceptable?
Include the size and color in “child” ASINs for variations1
Don't include price or promotional messages, such as “sale” or “free ship”
Don't use subjective commentary, such as “Hot Item” or “Best Seller”
Your merchant name for Brand or Manufacturer information should not be included unless your product is Private Label
Note: IF you are private label, you can use your brand name in the title and you should.
And about Titles Using Variations (Parent-Child)
In Variation Relationships, remember that only the title of the parent ASIN is shown on the detail page.
This means that the title for the selected child ASIN will appear once the ASIN is added to the customer's cart, so it is important to include the variation attributes (such as size and color) in the title for the child ASIN.
Example parent: Crocs Beach Clog
Example child: Crocs Beach Clog, Lime, Medium (Women's 8-9 M US/Men's 6-7 M US)
There's already quite the discussion about this change in the Amazon's sellers forum. For an entertaining and thought-provoking read, you can visit the thread here
What do you think? This seller seems to think it's a good idea:
In my opinion, rarely should one feel compelled to write a title past 50 characters, although 150 I find is a great “sweet spot” for higher conversions and keeping within most title guidelines for the major categories. Some categories like Lighting only allow a max of 50 characters.
And 50 characters is the recommended length because of mobile optimization. Amazon is giving us these guidelines for a reason. They have all the consumer data! They know when, where, and how shoppers are making purchases.
When Amazon says “200 characters MAX” – it's not just some arbitrary amount they pulled out of the sky – they are have done the research and the research shows that titles with shorter titles are converting better. Titles that read naturally and don't look spammy are converting better.
Use this information to your advantage and crush the competition, so that Amazon doesn't crush you!
Need Help Getting Your Listing Optimized And Ready for July 22nd?
Amazon released three major updates in 4 days to kick off the Summer selling season of 2019.
These changes are definitely going to impact sellers so I thought I would write an article about it to help keep everyone up to speed.
By the way – it’s probably a good idea to read the News section in your Seller Dashboard!
Amazon is notorious for sneaking in big changes and announcing them with little to no warning.
Here’s what happened:
Sales Tax Collection
On June 7th, Amazon announced that starting in June, it would be collecting sales tax for Amazon sellers for orders shipped to Idaho and New York State.
According to Amazon, however:
Currently, services provided in New York are not included in Marketplace Tax Collection. Amazon is currently working with the state of New York to confirm the marketplace’s responsibility as it relates to services and your existing tax settings will continue for services.
Services provided in Idaho are included in Marketplace Tax Collection.
This moves the total number of states that Amazon is automatically collecting sales tax for to 10. Be sure you check with your professional tax advisor and certified public accountant to ensure you are in compliance with all of your local, county, and state tax laws pertaining to tax collection for eCommerce transactions. These laws differ so much, there is no “universal” code within the United States that applies to all.
And, consider signing up for an Amazon Seller-friendly service like TaxJar, which can help streamline the process of collecting and remitting your taxes.
Price Per Unit Requirements
On June 10th, Amazon announced that it will now be requiring sellers that sell US consumable products to enter “price per unit” and “unit-count” attribute data in their listings. This change will apply to the following Consumables product types in these categories:
The change will apply to the following Consumables product types:
This change was designed to help improve the shopping experience for customers and bring more transparency in the marketplace for comparison shopping.
According to Amazon: All new listings are to include the unit count attribute, which was previously optional. Unit count includes a value (unit_count, e.x. “5”) and a unit type (unit_count_type, e.x. “ounce”). The unit type will be restricted to the following units:
foot (recent addition)
square foot (recent addition)
Data submissions without this information will fail. The scope of this change includes any product-level data submissions, whether through Excel templates, Seller Central, or XSD feeds.
Additionally, Amazon is requiring sellers that are selling US Consumables in the categories above, to require updates to existing impacted listings to include the unit_count attribute. ASINs without unit count information or with invalid values in the unit_count_type attribute will still require this information when listings are updated.
It is important to note here that any updates that do not include this information will be rejected.
New Video Upload and Management Feature
This should be welcomed news for all sellers. Amazon announced on June 11th that it would be rolling out the ability to upload product videos to all sellers. This feature was previously only available to vendors and to a limited extent, brand registered sellers.
What Amazon found through research was that shoppers who watched a product video on a listing page were 3.6x more likely to make a purchase than those that did not watch the video.
So it makes sense that if Amazon gave this ability to all sellers, this would increase the chance for video watching time, and therefore, increase the opportunity for sales for sellers AND for Amazon.
Now, any seller may upload a video to their product listing page!
Amazon has listed some current and future features that will be rolled out eventually:
You will be able to:
Associate a single video to multiple products
Upload multiple videos for a single product
Use auto-generated thumbnails
Track the status of the upload process
Coming soon: Viewership metrics
This new feature can be found in your seller central account dashboard menu by going to Inventory > Upload & Manage Videos
I highly recommend that you invest the time and marketing budget to develop a short (2 minutes or less) impactful video for your product. Make this a priority for this summer in preparation for the holiday shopping season!
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