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Amazon Selling sponsored ads

When Using Amazon Sponsored Ads Isn’t a Good Idea

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:

  1. List your product
  2. Set up an “automatic campaign” and let it run for 4-6 weeks
  3. Pull a report and look at the data
  4. 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
  5. Lower bids and budget on Automatic
  6. Start a research  manual campaign using the results from the Automatic campaign
  7. Run for 4-6 weeks
  8. Pull a report and look at the data
  9. 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.
  10. 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:

  1. At a minimum,  not breaking even
  2. Low to zero conversions on main search terms related to the product sold
  3. 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:

  1. At the minimum, breaking even.
  2. Converting highly on main search terms related to the product sold
  3. 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”:

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Proof
  4. Position

Product

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

Price

Amazon favors “comparative-priced products” in its marketplace. 

Notice I used the word comparative  – not competitive

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!

Proof

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

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.

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. 

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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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 Business

[How to] Build an Intent-Based Sales Funnel for Your Products

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.

But in fact, nearly 40% of purchasers of baby products live in households without children… Think – Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents.

When developing a sales funnel for your products or services, keep in mind that the journey always starts with “why”, leads to a “how”, and ends with the “what” – which is your product.

These considerations will help direct you toward building a well-designed sales funnel that “graduates” your prospective customer into a sales conversion.

Step 1: Start by Understanding the Customer Journey

According to Jim Yu, CEO of SEO company BrightEdge, there are three types of searches:

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”

Leadership expert and Best Selling Author Simon Sinek says: “It's not WHAT you do that matters, it's WHY you do it.”

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.”

Simon Sinek's Golden Circle
Most Businesses Start with What – But they Should Really Start with WHY.

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:

Authenticity.

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:

  1. We make the customer the hero of the story – the customer, not your brand, is the primary focus.
  2. 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.
  3. We serve as a friendly navigator and guide for the customer. As Miller states; “Customers don't want another hero to compete alongside them.”
  4. We develop and present a well-intentioned plan for helping the customer get exactly what it is that they want without confusion.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. We should never assume that people understand how our brand can change their lives. We must tell them.

Summary:

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!”

Need Help Building Out Your Sales Funnel?

Categories
Amazon Selling Business

[How-To] Write Optimized Feature Bullets for Your Amazon Listing

Begin with the “Why”, End with the “How”


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:

  1. Eliminate the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty
  2. 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:

  • Cloud-Backup Storage 
  • Night-Vision enabled for day and night security
  • Anti-Theft enabled to prevent camera removal or vandalism
  • Wireless control by Smartphone App
  • Weather-Proof Case

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:

 

  1. Features and Benefits that validate the customer’s emotional reasons for wanting the product to begin with
  2. Features and Benefits that validate functionality and use
  3. Features and Benefits that answer commonly asked questions
  4. Features and Benefits that reduce risk (risk-reversal statements)
  5. 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):

Example of Feature Bullets

Key Takeaways

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.

Categories
Amazon Selling Business

[POST] How to Beat the Summer Sales Slump Blues

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 PANICKED.

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!”

Amazon Monthly Traffic Trends

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.  

Shopify has a great tutorial and downloadable SWOT Template here.  You can also watch this video to see an example of a SWOT analysis, using the popular US-based coffee brand Starbucks as an example:

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.Amazon Inventory Performance Index

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. 

Use Amazon’s holiday and events planning calendar to get an idea as to when to plan for “sales surges” during the year. 

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.

Categories
Amazon Selling

(Guide) How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings – 2019 edition

In this step-by-step guide, you will learn the steps required for listing optimization so that shoppers reading your listing will understand what you're buying and why they should buy it.

You'll also learn how to write your listing content for Amazon's “A9” search algorithms so that you are properly “indexed and ranked” for your product's most relevant and traffic-generating search term phrases.

Step 1: Optimize your title.

For indexing, the product listing title is the #1 most important string of text in your entire listing.  There are some very basic guidelines you should follow to ensure that the Amazon A9 search algorithm is indexing and ranking you properly for what you’re selling:

  1. Make sure your title has your primary traffic generating keywords ordered FIRST after your brand name.
  2. Be sure to capitalize the first letter of each word.
  3. Do not use special characters or punctuation (hashtags, quotation marks, periods, exclamation points) – commas are okay if used sparingly and it makes sense.  It is better to use the pipe symbol “|” or dashes “-” to separate phrases.
  4. Do not use any promotional or marketing language (“sale”, “best”, “warranty”, “guarantee”, “deal”)
  5. Be sure that your title does not exceed the max character limits
  6. If you have a product that has size, dimensions, and/or colors, put that at the very end, in parentheses.  An example:  Marvel Avengers Captain America Mens Graphic Shield Design T-Shirt (Blue, XL)
  7. Pay close attention to how your title reads naturally as if someone's actually searching for your product (write in a natural and phrase-driven voice)
  8. Mobile optimization: ensure your most relevant and traffic intense search phrase is at the front so that is visible to those shopping using the Amazon mobile shopping app.

Step 2: Optimize your images.

  1. The main image should have a pure, white background (no “pixelation” or “artifacts” ) and should fill up 85% of the image frame.  No text is allowed.
  2. All images should be “zoomable” which means that if a shopper hovers their mouse cursor over the image, they will be able to see a high-resolution close up of the product.  This will require images be uploaded with at least 2000 px on either side (width or length)
  3. Incorporate a mixture of high-resolution lifestyle images and infographics explaining the features and benefits of the product when in use.
  4. Avoid using stock photography.  Invest in having professional photographs taken of your products in use and on display.   People have keen eyes and can generally tell the difference between a “photoshopped” image and something that is really being used in the photo.

Here is an example of a listing with a good main image combined with lifestyle images (using the tried and true “stainless steel garlic press” example):

https://www.amazon.com/ORBLUE-Garlic-Stainless-Mincer-Crusher/dp/B00HHLNRVE

Step 3:  Write Benefit Driven Feature Bullets

Aside from your main images, price, and number of reviews, often times your feature bullets will be the final “conversion factor” in determining if a shopper browsing your listing is going to click the “Add to Cart” button.

Pro Tip:  Write bullets as if you were answering common/frequently asked questions or “concerns” the shopper has.  Think here about the specific utility and function of your product and why someone is wanting to buy it to begin with.

Well-written feature bullets will lead with the feature and follow up with the benefits behind the feature.  Alternatively, you can lead with a benefit statement, a use the features of the product to highlight benefits.

Here is an example that was taken from the listing referenced in the link above.  The features are highlighted in blue. Benefits are highlighted in red.

The Orblue Stainless Steel Garlic Press is a food-grade garlic crusher and mincer that sports an ergonomic design for quick and powerful processing with minimal effort. FDA approved for food safety.

How to write great Amazon Listing Feature bullets:

  1. Lead with features, follow with benefits
  2. Note how many characters you are allowed (most categories allow up to 500 characters) and utilize as much of this space as you can using keyword driven statements relevant to your product.
  3. Remember, as with the title and other content in your listing, be sure you are only using the most relevant and related keywords and search phrases so that the search algorithm will display your listing to potential buyers that are actually wanting and searching for what you’re selling.

Step 4:  Use your Description to Restate your Feature Bullets and Add More Detail

Did you know that when you check your listing on the Amazon mobile shopping app, the description, NOT the feature bullets appears first?

Think about how this impacts the ability for you to communicate the key features and benefits of your product to all those shopping using their smartphones (which accounts for more than 50% of all Amazon sales).

Write your description in such a way that outlines the same statements in your bullet points, but utilize the extra space here to make your statements more complete.

If you are brand registered and have Enhanced Branded Content enabled, you should use this feature to replace the description by leading first with your features and benefits as the description block will be replaced by the enhanced content.

Here’s what a good Enhanced Branded Content page optimized for mobile looks like.  Note that the seller has outlined the key features and benefits at the top.
optimized enhanced branded content listing on mobile

Here is an example of how to NOT write your product description – notice how the seller just talks about their business and warranty information.

Not to mention the fact that it’s written in poor English (likely a foreign seller). This forces the shopper to scroll to the bottom to learn more about the product itself.

It is recommended that you keep scrolling time at a minimum as people are likely not to spend a lot of time reading.  Attention spans are short and the sooner you can communicate your features to your potential buyer, the better.

Example of How Not to Write a Product Listing Description

Step 5: Optimize your Backend Keywords

Depending on the product and category in which you sell in, you may have the following attributes available to enter attribute data associated with your product.  These attributes are keyword and search-indexed, which means that Amazon’s A9 algorithms use the data in these fields to match customer search criteria. Amazon also uses it to target sponsored ads.

This is why it’s important to fill these fields out completely if you have them available.

These fields are:

  • Intended Use
  • Target Audience
  • Other Attributes
  • Subject Matter
  • Search Terms
  • Platinum Keywords (for Platinum Merchants only)

Let's say you're selling a men's blue ski jacket and you're trying to fill these fields out.

Intended Use would describe the most ideal uses for your jacket.

  • Skiing
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Snowboarding

Target Audience would be the people who are most likely to buy your product

  • Men
  • Women
  • Unisex -adult

Other Attributes are fields that describe other features associated with your product that might not already listed in your feature bullets.

  • easy to fold
  • dries quickly
  • easy pull zipper

Subject Matter are fields that contain information about the topics related to the intended use of your product.  In this case, skiing.  You can use Amazon's search results for “ski jacket” to come up with ideas as to what subjects your product is related to.  Just go to Amazon and search for “ski jacket” and note the sub-categories the search results are connected to.

use Amazon's search to find out what related subjects are connected to your product

From this list we see that we could add several subjects, but the most relevant to “men's ski jacket” would probably be:

  • Men's Skiing Clothing
  • Men's Activewear
  • Men's Snowboarding Clothing

In Conclusion

A highly optimized product listing is critical to converting traffic to sales on Amazon.  Of course, there are other key factors at play here – the primary ones being price and reviews.  Without a competitive price and social proof, despite a “well-optimized listing”, you will struggle to get sales for your products.

If you still are having difficulty achieving sales after implementing the 5 steps above to improving your on-page and backend content, you should look at your the type of product you’re selling, the price in relation to your competition, and the number of reviews you have.  There are always ways to improve your sales without having to get hundreds of reviews, but you must “win the sale” in other ways through other marketing strategies such as external promotions via social media, influencers, and paid advertising.

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Categories
Amazon Selling

[Rumor] Did Amazon Change Its Sales Ranking Algorithms?

Rumor has it that Amazon has Changed the Sales Ranking Algorithms.

Every once in a blue super blood moon (or usually the first Tuesday of every month), Amazon changes their sales ranking algorithms.

This has been a pretty consistent occurrence for the past year or so, and for those of us that follow Amazon's patented A9 search technology, such changes are nothing revelationary or shocking (albeit disruptive).

The problem is that whenever these changes happen, it really sends a shockwave of confusion, panic, doubt, and unnecessary speculation as to what Amazon is doing.

Afterall, if we can put a finger on these changes, then we can find a way to “Crack the Code” and gain a competitive advantage.

However, this really doesn't serve us very well in the long-term.  The best thing to do is to try and understand what is happening, and then pivot and adapt the best way we can – and do so as quickly as possible.

So, What's the Rumor?

A tactic some sellers have been implementing or have implemented in the past is to give away their products at a really steep discount (greater than 50%).

The premise behind this strategy was that it would boost their sales rank (BSR) and (if the item was being purchased using a “super url” of some sort – which is considered rank manipulation by the way and against TOS) – they could also boost up their rank for keywords as well.

Panic or Not?

Now, I sense a lot of people are probably asking questions like:

  • If giving away products at a big discount isn't counting at all toward page ranking, then what do I do?
  • Do we NOT give products away at a discount at all anymore?
  • How is it possible for a new seller to rank to page one for a product?

All of these are valid questions and concerns.  So let me address these concerns one by one.

What Do We Do Now?

The first important thing to consider is, we don't know for certain if Amazon is NOT including discounted items sold in their sales ranking calculations.

It's a hypothesis.

But let's just use what we DO know to validate the theory.  We DO know that Amazon has been stripping reviews from listings where the purchase was made using a discount code of greater than 40% in many cases.

If Amazon is not allowing reviews for these items discounted greater than 40%, then why would they also count it in the sales ranking as well?

So the first thing you should try (if you have been giving products away at greater than 40%) is to stop doing that and adopt a launch strategy using discounts of say 25-40% instead.

If this positively impacts your sales and page rank, then you will have your answer.  If there is little to no change, then this confirms the theory is true.

Do We Bother Using Discounts Anymore?

Absolutely.  Discounts will continue to serve as a viable means of promoting your products.

You should use them but you should use them smartly.

But should you be using discounts to manipulate rank?

Amazon clearly is making a statement with this rumored change, that it does not want sellers arbitrarily inflating their sales or page rank.

They want customers to make the ultimate judgment (and rightfully so).

Remember that your private label product is likely being judged and tested against many others of similar products.  Amazon wants your product to win based on its own merits, on many factors, not just price.

How To Rank For Products Now?

Ah, so now we get down to probably the most important question in people's minds.  Ranking to Page 1.

Here are a few things you can do to get sales velocity:

Start an Amazon Sponsored Products Campaign (PPC) Right Away

Understand that when you participate in Amazon’s Sponsored Products program, you are “priming the pump” for not just pay-per-click sales, but ORGANIC sales.  Why?  Because whenever a customer purchases your product through a sponsored ad using a relevant keyword search term for your listing, it increases the relevance score for your product in the marketplace organically for that keyword.  This, therefore, helps boost your page rank and your sales.

*Important note about Sponsored Ads: it’s entirely possible to run your advertising campaign at a loss or break even during your first month or even two.  This doesn’t mean, however, that you aren’t profiting organically based on the sales from these campaigns.  Of course, you will want to consistently fine-tune and decrease your Acos ratio  (advertising cost of sales) over time – but this is a long-term and “forever” type of strategy – you don’t want to NOT advertise your products.

Utilize a launch campaign strategy

 A launch campaign is a great way to ramp up sales velocity.  A typical launch campaign consists of giving away batches of your product away at a steep discount for several days.  There are a few ways to go about this.  There is the fast (less effort on your part) and expensive way or the less expensive and long way (more effort on your part).   

  • The fast, more expensive way:  Sign up to a service like Viral-Launch.  Give them a total of 80 units to give away at 10 per day for no less than 8 days.  This will not just help you achieve sales velocity, but improve your page rank for the main keyword for your product.   You can get 50% off your first launch here
  • The slow and less expensive route (maybe):  This technique will take some time (8  weeks) and also require some knowledge about email marketing, list building, and good copywriting skills.  It involves building a Facebook page, conducting market research, creating a viral giveaway contest, collecting emails, and then promoting tiered discounts to the email list using time scarcity.   The details about this tactic are too lengthy to go into in this post, so look out for a supplemental guide and workshop in the future on how to do this!
  • Less than stellar results but may help give a boost in other ways:  Try an Amazon Giveaway!  When you do this, you are essentially buying your own product at “full price” which means that to Amazon, this is just like if someone made a purchase!  Obviously, this can temporarily boost your sales velocity and rank.  You can do this twice per month without Amazon blinking an eyelash, and if sales go stagnant, it can even help revive your listing! 

You can create an Amazon giveaway for your product by going to your Seller Dashboard and clicking the Advertising tab.  Then click on “Promotions.”  Then you’ll see this:

amazon giveaway set up instructions

 

Click on Create and set up a giveaway.  Now, follow the steps in this image (you may have to zoom in to read it clearly):how to create an amazon giveaway

 

 

Conclusion

No one knows for sure if Amazon is or is not using discounting sales in their calculations for sales rank.  And even if they are not, remember that sales rank is a moving target – it fluctuates hourly, sometimes even minute to minute.  So trying to base your performance and sales just on sales rank alone is probably not an efficient use of your efforts.

What is important is maintaining consistent sales velocity comparative to other competitors selling similar products to yours in the same category.  Selling consistently means driving traffic to your listing consistently and converting.  As a seller, your primary focus should always be on traffic and conversions.

Categories
Amazon Selling

How to Get More Product Reviews in 2018

How to Get More Product Reviews in 2018

One of the top questions I see posted on Facebook and elsewhere online by new and veteran eCommerce sellers is: “How do I get more verified reviews for my products?”

In today's post, I am going to show you one tactic I have used for nearly three years now quite successfully in getting VERIFIED customer feedback for my private label Amazon.com products.

This strategy is best shown visually as I wanted to show you actual examples of how OTHER successful sellers are deploying this strategy to get hundreds to thousands of customer reviews.

Before you Watch the Video

Before watching this video, I want to just say that the #1 thing you can do to get “5-star feedback” – for any product – and on any eCommerce platform (whether it's Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, or eBay) – is to offer a high-quality product that people will LOVE.

The Hard but Real Truth About Reviews

The fact is, most online shoppers don't care about you, the seller.  They don't care about making your sales conversion rates skyrocket.

The truth is, most online shoppers care only about themselves.

What's more, they probably did a lot of research to ensure they got the BEST product at the BEST price possible.

How to Get More Reviews (without being pushy, spammy, or slimy)

Watch this video below, and you'll learn exactly how to get more reviews for your products.  This is a strategy that is fairly inexpensive to do (about $.10 cents per unit) and will help increase your chances of a getting a verified feedback for your product.