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Amazon Selling

[NEWS] – Amazon Releases IP Accelerator Program, Live Video Creator

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.”

Live Creator

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.

The live stream video content is broadcast via https://amazon.com/live

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.

To learn more about the IP Accelerator Program, and Apply, visit the Amazon IP Accelerator Page

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.

Categories
Amazon Selling

[How-To] Sell More Online by Removing Barriers for Customers


When it comes to selling online, a key concept to keep in mind is that you, the seller, are the “middleman” between your product and the customer.  

There is nothing stopping a shopper from skipping over you, and from a statistical point of view, nearly all of them will  (in 2018, the average US eCommerce website conversion rate was only 2.6%).

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?

  • Product Offering 
  • Price
  • Quality (perceived and actual)
  • Value (perceived and actual)
  • Brand trust

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.

 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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%.  

  1. 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.  

This means doing the following:

  1. List your products using UPC/EAN codes bought directly through GS1 https://www.gs1.org/
  2. Register your brand name with your country’s trademark registry office (USPTO.gov  for the USA for example). 
  3. Register your products/brand with Amazon’s Brand Registry service 
  4. Retain legal counsel and have cease and desist letters drafted and ready to go to send to infringing parties
  5. 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).

Conclusion

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?

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Amazon Selling

[Important] – Amazon to Suppress All Listings Not in Compliance with Title Guidelines

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)]

Title Length: 

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.

Capitalization:

  • 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?
  • Don't use Type 1 High ASCII characters (Æ, ©, ô, etc.)

Product information:

  • 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:

Seller Forum Comment about Title Guideline changes

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?

Categories
Amazon Selling

Amazon Updates for June 2019 – Videos, Sales Taxes, and More…

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:

  • BEAUTY
  • BODY_CARE_PRODUCT
  • FRAGRANCE, HAIR_CARE_PRODUCT
  • HAIR_REMOVAL_AND_SHAVING_PRODUCT
  • LUXURY_BEAUTY
  • MAKE_UP, SKIN_CARE_PRODUCT
  • HEALTH_MISC
  • DAILY_LIVING_AIDS, DIETARY_SUPPLEMENTS
  • HEALTH_FOOD, OTC_MEDICATION
  • PERSONAL_CARE_APPLIANCE
  • SEXUAL_WELLNESS
  • BABY_FOOD
  • GROCERY

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:

  • fluid ounce
  • ounce
  • pound
  • gram
  • count
  • 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:

  1. Associate a single video to multiple products
  2. Upload multiple videos for a single product
  3. Use auto-generated thumbnails
  4. Track the status of the upload process
  5. 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!