Marketing on Amazon

February 5, 2020 Jesse Stein Jesse has founded, operated and sold multiple Internet-related ventures over the last 20 years. Most recently, he started and ran DietSpotlight.com, a leading nutrition website with more than 120 million total visitors and 325,000 subscription-based customers. In 2018 Dietspotlight was an Inc 5000 fastest-growing company.

With over 195 million users a month, Amazon is one of the most popular online sellers and one of the largest sites on the internet. If you’re an eCommerce seller, this market is one you definitely need to tap. Learn how to optimize your profile, boost your brand, and use Amazon Ads to get your products in front of the customers you’re looking for.

The Amazon Marketplace

Part of Amazon’s success comes from the company’s high-quality standards and great customer service. There are few drawbacks to associating yourself with the Amazon brand, and you get an amazing host of benefits in return.

Who Should Sell on Amazon?

Anyone can make a seller account on Amazon. However, there are a few types of merchants who do particularly well with this platform.

  • Merchants selling their own products. Even if you have your own eCommerce store, setting up an Amazon seller account can be a great way to access a wider market.
  • Merchants who have an Amazon-friendly vendor agreement. Selling trademarked products without permission from the manufacturer is a violation of trademark law. However, if you have an open vendor agreement, you can sell and ship those products through the Amazon marketplace.
  • Merchants who sell used, refurbished, or collector items. From limited edition items to amazing thrift store finds, Amazon can be a great place to sell used and refurbished goods. Just remember to be honest about the condition of the item before you sell it.

Product Research

Most Amazon sellers already have a product that they want to sell. But if you’re just starting out, you might want to conduct a little product research before you order your first round of inventory.

First, decide what category you’re interested in. Do you want to sell books, beauty products, household items, or hobby supplies? Amazon is a huge marketplace, so browse the current bestselling items in your category of choice.

Once you’ve identified a bestselling item, compare the similar items in the same category. Are those items receiving enough sales? You can’t see direct statistics, but you can take a look at the keyword volume and the number of customer reviews.

Finally, consider how much the products tend to sell for, and compare that to the wholesale cost of each item. Your goal is to find items that don’t cost a lot to manufacture and which can be sold for somewhere in the $10-$50 range. When you’re starting out, avoid selling extremely cheap products; you won’t make enough per transaction to make the sales worth your time.

Seller Central vs. Vendor Central

There are two types of merchants on Amazon: sellers and vendors. The relationship you choose will determine which portal you have access to and what services Amazon offers to help you succeed.

Most merchants on Amazon are sellers. Sellers list their own products, manage their own inventory, and are responsible for their own marketing. Being a seller is the best choice for most new companies because you’ll have the most control over your own success.

A vendor simply ships their products to Amazon and lets the retailer do the heavy lifting. If you choose to be a vendor, you won’t make money off of individual sales. Instead, you’ll sell your products to Amazon at a wholesale price. Vendors get premium marketing opportunities and an excellent customer service relationship, but they also have to spend more time and money to get started.

Fulfillment by Amazon

If you’ve ever wondered how Amazon Prime can promise 2-day shipping for individual sellers, the answer is Fulfillment by Amazon or FBA. This service makes it, so you don’t need to package or ship your own products; you just have to manage your product listings and seller page.

To use FBA, you’ll need to send Amazon an inventory of your products. You’ll pay a monthly fee for storage space, and you’ll need to keep an eye on inventory levels so that you don’t run out.

In exchange, Amazon will make sure that your items are available to Prime users. They’ll also favor your products in search results and offer you excellent customer support.

FBA is the best path to Amazon success for most normal merchants. However, the service might not be for you if you don’t maintain a large inventory, sell your items extremely slowly, or care about product packaging for the sake of your brand.

The Amazon Buy Box

Unless your products are completely unique to your brand, there will definitely be other merchants listing the same product. This means that you’ll need to compete for your chance to appear in the Amazon Buy Box.

The Buy Box is the white rectangle that appears in the upper left corner of a product listing. When customers click on the yellow “Add to Cart” button, they automatically purchase their product from the seller, who currently has Buy Box status. Customers have the option to go through individual sellers, but very few take the time to do this.

Under the “Add to Cart” button is a section called “Other Sellers on Amazon.” This area typically lists two-three other sellers, giving you another chance to compete for attention.

Amazon’s algorithm for the Buy Box typically cares about price, quality, and customer reviews. If you have the best product at the lowest price and are using a Professional Seller account, your product will be shown.

Competing for Buy Box space isn’t easy. Most sellers prefer to create unique versions of their products by adding a logo or an essential feature. This allows you to have your own product listing and Buy Box without any competition. But if you’re reselling a popular product or trying to sell a collectible item, you’ll need to pay close attention to your Buy Box status.

Repricing Software

Repricing is the practice of changing the prices on your Amazon listings to keep up with market standards. Sometimes, you’ll need to drop prices to compete for Buy Box space. In other cases, you’ll want to raise prices to get extra profit from high-demand sales.

Watching the fluctuating marketing and manually updating listings is too much work for one person. Instead, most merchants with medium or large inventories take advantage of repricing software. Depending on the software you choose, your prices will be automatically updated based on a rule you’ve set or a pre-programmed algorithm.

Repricing is an important way to maximize your Amazon profits. Choose a tool you like and learn to use it exceptionally well. Remember to check in with your automatic software regularly to make sure it’s working as intended.

Branding Your Seller Page and Product Listings

Branding is at the core of all digital marketing. If you’ve created an Amazon account, then congratulations – you have yet another platform to showcase your brand.

Amazon isn’t that different from other platforms, and the same branding and optimization standards apply. As a general rule, fill out every box that you’re given access to. Always make sure that you’re using the words, colors, and digital assets that you’ve already developed for your branding guide.

Professional Seller Accounts

Maintaining an individual seller account on Amazon is free, although you do pay a $0.99 fee for every item that you sell. But if you want access to the most features and brand protection, you should consider paying for a Professional Seller Account.

Professional Seller Accounts cost $39.99 a month and remove the per-item fee. If you sell more than 40 items in a month, this fee seems like a no-brainer. The account also comes with inventory management tools and the Amazon Market Web Service, which you’ll need to use things like repricing software.

The most important benefit of being a Professional Seller is that it’s the only way to get Buy Box eligibility. Professional Sellers are also given priority in product searches and can be approved to sell in high-value categories like Jewelry or Collectibles.

SEO for Amazon

Amazon is a search engine, and that means you’ll need to flex your SEO skills. Amazon decides which products to display based on factors like product price, sale volume, and customer reviews. You can’t necessarily control these factors, but you can control whether your product listing is relevant to the keywords that your customers type in.

Title

Optimizing your product title is extremely important for making an Amazon sale. Many products have extremely long titles stuffed with every possible way that the item could be described. Keyword stuffing is never a good idea; it confuses customers and damages your brand.

Instead, come up with a short title that includes your brand, the name of the product, the item color, and any other specific details. If you have space, you can start adding keywords after this important section. Use title case, and spellcheck everything before you publish the listing.

Product Features

At the top of every Amazon listing, you’ll see a set of bullets describing the main features of the product. This is the first thing customers see, and the keywords listed here are relevant to the search engine.

Keep this section short and skimmable. Add the essential details, but expect customers to scroll down if they want more information. Place your focus on product benefits and key features that will help customers immediately see if your product meets their needs.

Product Description

If you scroll down on an Amazon listing, you’ll see a large section with in-depth product information. You can include images, large amounts of text, and even tables that compare other products from your brand.

Put your design team to work on this section. Visuals are extremely important for encouraging sales, so use great photos of your products. Remember that any text that’s part of an image will be visible to customers but won’t show up in search results.

Questions and Answers

Customers have the option to ask questions about your items on the product listing. These questions can be answered either by you or by other customers.

Answered questions are excellent because they provide information to new customers. Customers can search this section for answers before they ask something of their own. Be proactive about your responses, and give as much information as possible.

As tempting as it is, you can’t actually ask your own questions in this section to make an FAQ. Instead, try adding more information to your Product Description to preemptively answer any concerns the customers may have.

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are extremely influential to future customers and Amazon’s algorithm. If your product has great ratings, you can expect more sales and higher placement in the search engine. If your product has low ratings, customers will start to prefer your competitors instead.

Getting a bad review is unfortunate, but it isn’t the end of your selling career. Amazon has several options to help you restore the customer relationship and clean up your product listing.

First, check to see if the review is legitimate. You can report faulty or spammy reviews to Amazon. Curse words and content that isn’t related to your product are grounds for automatic removal.

Next, respond to the customer review. This will send a message directly to the customer and open up a line of communication. You’re not allowed to offer compensation or pressure the customer to change the rating, but you can absolutely ask them there’s anything you can do to improve their customer experience. Respond promptly for the greatest chance of a successful review change.

Setting Up Amazon Ads

Amazon Ads are a form of paid media marketing exclusive to Amazon. If you aren’t getting the sales you’ve been hoping for, you should definitely consider sponsoring your products or adding them to the Product Display.

Amazon Advertising Console

The Amazon Advertising Console is basically PPC advertising for Amazon. You select keywords that you want to target. Then, you’ll be able to choose one of three different types of ads.

  • Sponsored Products: Sponsored products show up at the top of Amazon search results for that keyword. They’ll also have a small line of text that identifies the product as sponsored. If you’re trying to compete with other sellers, this is a great way to guarantee visibility.
  • Headline Search: Headline ads appear in the header of a relevant search page. Since these aren’t sponsored products, they can link to either a product page or your seller page. You can also customize the images, title, and copy for these ads.
  • Product Display: Product display ads are another way to promote your products without using keywords. Instead, you’ll choose relevant interests and categories, and Amazon will push your products to customers who are browsing those pages. These ads show up in different places all over the site and get a large amount of visibility.

All three of these ad types use a pay-per-click model. You won’t pay for impressions, but you’ll be charged a small fee every time someone clicks on your ad.

Amazon Advertising Platform

Amazon Advertising Platform, or AAP, is a demand-side platform that uses Amazon’s customer base. Using AAP will allow you to serve banner ads and videos to customers both on the Amazon website and on other publishers that Amazon works with.

AAP ads are particularly useful for remarketing. If someone has already looked at your product, you can ask Amazon to show them more ads for the same product when they visit an affiliated site.

Unlike ads from the Amazon Advertising Console, all AAP ads use an impression-based model. These campaigns can be great for boosting your brand images and don’t necessarily have to direct back to a product page.

SEM on Amazon

Amazon is a search engine, so you’ll need to brush up on your search engine marketing practice before you get started. Make sure you know how to identify your audience, conduct keyword research, and write compelling PPC copy.

Much like Google, Amazon will suggest related keywords while you’re creating an ad with something called “match types.” Broad match adds keywords throughout your text and will reach the most customers. Phrase match adds relevant keywords before and after your text. Exact match is extremely restrictive but can be a good choice for highly specified products.

To save on your advertising budget, make sure to restrict keywords that don’t bring in sales. You might want to restrict similar, but unrelated products, colors that you don’t offer, or even phrase variants that you have noticed are unsuccessful.

Finally, make sure you’re not bidding on the same keywords with multiple campaigns. If you have multiple different ad groups, choose a different relevant keyword for each one. Sharing keywords will result in higher bid costs and lower results overall.

Amazon Ads Best Practices

The definition of a “good ad” differs for every platform. When you’re advertising on Amazon, you should think about how customers tend to use the service and what features they will find more attractive.

  • Visuals: Amazon is a digital storefront, but customers still want to be able to see your product. Pay careful attention to your product photography, and use colorful and engaging visuals for other elements of your brand. If you’re given the option to use video, go for it; customers respond well to seeing your product in action.
  • Promotions: Coupons and sales are almost always successful in eCommerce environments. Take advantage of the promotion opportunities that Amazon offers. Don’t forget to check your analytics to see if the sale was actually a success.
  • Ad Copy: Amazon customers are constantly bombarded with extra keywords and long descriptions. If you want to get their attention, keep it simple and relevant. Try to preemptively answer customer questions; since they’re shopping online, they’ll appreciate the help.

Protecting Your Brand from Unauthorized Sellers

A problem that’s fairly unique to the Amazon marketplace is that other people might try to undercut you on your own products. Unless they’re directly in trademark violation, Amazon won’t take down these product listings. To protect your brand, you’ll need to make sure that customers know you’re the legitimate seller.

Join the Amazon Brand Registry

The easiest way to protect your brand is to register it with Amazon. Using the Brand Registry allows you to take ownership of product listings and gain preference in relevant search results. Amazon will even take proactive steps to remove unauthorized sellers whenever they’re noticed by the algorithm.

Negotiate Vendor Relationships

If you sell your products to outside vendors, remember to include an exclusivity clause in your contracts. This prevents your vendors from selling on Amazon unless they have your express permission. Exclusivity should be standard for most vendor contracts, but many new sellers forget to include them when they’re first starting out.

File Counterfeit Complaints

For a seller with a high-quality product, there’s nothing worse than finding out that someone is selling a counterfeit version. If you have proof that someone is selling a low-quality item while claiming that it’s the same as your product, you can file a complaint with Amazon.

On that note, remember to allow Amazon barcode labels if you use FBA. This will make sure Amazon keeps your products separate from those shipped by other sellers and prevents counterfeits from getting mixed in with the batch.

Maintain Brand Consistency

Your customers are smart. If your product listing has actual product information, branded digital assets, and a link back to your seller page, they’ll be able to tell you apart from the secondhand seller. Pay careful attention to the quality of your graphics and the professionalism of your voice. Stay on top of your customer service game, and your audience will see that you’re the real deal.

One of the great benefits of Amazon is that they do most of the marketing work for you. Increase the quality of your listings, and pay for sponsored products when you need more sales. As long as your products are high-quality and relevant to the market, you’ll naturally start to see sales.