Author: <span class="vcard">Lauren Williams</span>

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Almost 50% of online holiday shoppers bought from Amazon in 2017, and we’re expecting to see that number increase in 2018. So, to help sellers ensure they have a lucrative Q4 this year, we’re going to walk through how to best prepare for Amazon Q4 traffic, what dates you need to remember, and how to get in front of as many buyers as possible to drive your sales through the roof.

Are you ready?

Let’s dive in.

Crucial Q4 Dates

One of the most common mistakes sellers make during Q4 is missing or forgetting important dates. Amazon events tend to happen on similar dates, so you can safely assume that the timeframe for these events will be nearly the same in 2018 as in 2017. Also, be aware that Amazon just enacted a new shipping policy in late August that will cause shipments with irregularities in quantity or delivery address to be delayed. Keep that in mind as we go over important dates during Q4.

Reduced Fulfillment Fee – Runs October through December

Last year, reduced fulfillment fees started on October 1 and continued through November and December. If FBA sellers reduce their storage space during these months, they could drastically reduce their total amount of FBA fees.

Increased Inventory Storage Fee – Runs October through December

During this timeframe, Amazon increases storage fees by 200-300% for standard and oversized items. This can really affect your profit margin, even with holiday sales, so make sure that you have room in your budget for higher fees.

Cutoff for New FBA Seller Accounts and Shipments – After Mid-October (Possibly)

Last year, new sellers weren’t allowed to sign up for FBA or send FBA shipments in after mid-October. This has been account based rather than ASIN based, so in the past sellers have sold retail arbitrage using FBA to get around the cutoff. But as long as you create a shipping order before the cutoff, you should be okay.

Cutoff for Black Friday / Cyber Monday Inventory – November 5

Last year Amazon also instituted a deadline for sending inventory for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday (November 23) marks the official start of the holiday shopping season, and Cyber Monday (November 26) is a huge day for online retailers, especially Amazon sellers. Make sure you have enough inventory in your Amazon warehouse to cover your Black Friday and Cyber Monday orders by November 5, or mid- to late October, just to be safe.

Cutoff for Inventory to be Delivered by Christmas – December 1 (Probably)

The craziness doesn’t stop after Cyber Monday! All of your inventory that you plan to deliver by December 25 must be in the warehouse by early December.

Don’t forget these dates. FBA sellers have to be on top of their game from now until Christmas in order to capitalize off of massive Q4 revenue opportunities.

Planning A Launch

Your next challenge is to determine the best timeline for getting your inventory into the warehouse and for starting a launch so you can get onto Page 1 at just the right time.

First, look at market data from previous years to determine when sales have historically started to increase (not sure where to find data for your product? Our Market Research Chrome extension can help with that). You can expect that sales will follow the same pattern for 2018. Make sure your inventory is in stock before the sales spike.

historical q4 data
Looking at past data for travel sets, you can clearly see when sales begin to spike during Q4. If you are selling travel sets, you can use this data to estimate when you need to get inventory in, and to determine the best time to start a launch.

Then plan to start a product launch at least a week before the sales spike. A launch typically takes 7-10 days and will help increase sales and drive ranking so you can ride the wave of Q4 sales all the way through the holidays.

Timing is crucial. If you launch too early, you’ll have to maintain your ranking all throughout the holiday season. Launch too late, you’ll have to give away too much inventory and run out before the sales wave ends – or even worse, you’ll miss the wave completely. If you are unsure about when exactly you need to start your launch, our coaches can help you research past trends to determine the best launch strategy for your product market.

Preparing Your Listing

Before you launch your product, you need to make sure that your listing copy and photography are both fully optimized and follow Amazon style guidelines. A well-written listing and high-quality photo set work together with product launches to increase organic sales and drive ranking for a successful final quarter.

Listing

Make sure that you’re using high volume and high opportunity keywords in your product listing. You have to plug in the best Amazon keywords in the best order in a way that reads well and follows Amazon style guidelines. Piece of cake, right?

Ranking is largely determined by your title, followed by your bullet points and backend search term keywords. Our Keyword Research and Listing Builder tools allow you to discover which keywords have the highest search volume in your market, which high opportunity keywords you might be missing out on, and how many potential searches your current listing could rank for.

Your listing also needs to be written well enough that buyers are convinced your product is worth buying, but without using restricted phrases or claims that could get you flagged by Amazon. If you don’t have the time or skillset to create an optimized listing, our team of copywriting professionals can do it for you.

Photography

Product photography is crucial for converting clicks into purchases. Because they can’t see the product for themselves before buying, online shoppers heavily rely on photos for information. To convince shoppers to add your product to their cart, your photos need to look professional, display important details of your product, follow Amazon guidelines (or risk being flagged), and establish an emotional connection with buyers.

If you’re a new seller or have little to no photography experience, hiring a professional photographer might be the best choice for you. Your photo set has to convince buyers that your product is better than your competitor’s product, but it’s only one of the many moving parts of a successful Q4 strategy.

Crafting Your Amazon Q4 Strategy

A successful Amazon Q4 strategy depends on planning, preparedness, and deliberate action. Now is the time to do your research and start prepping your listing and inventory for the busy holiday season. For more tips and tricks, be sure to check out our recent video on Q4 sales strategy.

At Viral Launch, we want to provide you with all the information you need to become successful on Amazon. For more Amazon selling strategies during every quarter, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, check out our Youtube channel, and listen to our Follow the Data podcast.

And best of luck!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the regulation of products, medicines, and foods that affect public health – and that includes products sold on Amazon. Even though a product may check all of the boxes – low competition, affordable manufacturing costs, high demand – the risks of running afoul of a federal agency may cancel out the rewards of selling FDA regulated products on Amazon.

As a general rule, anything that has not been cleared for over-the-counter use by the FDA or is considered dangerous by the FDA is barred from being sold on Amazon. But what about products that might or might not have FDA restrictions? Are derma rollers medical devices? Is hand soap a cosmetic? How can you be sure that your product fulfills both the legal requirements of the FDA and the selling policies of Amazon?

For private label sellers, understanding this information and integrating it into product research is crucial for avoiding disastrous financial consequences. Listen to our recent podcast for more details on selling in restricted and niche markets. 

Am I Selling FDA Regulated Products?

Generally speaking, the FDA is in charge of regulating foods, drugs and biologics, medical devices, electronic products that give off radiation, cosmetics, animal drugs, and tobacco products. Some of these products need FDA approval before being sold, and others do not. All of these FDA regulated products fall into Amazon restricted categories.

Categories that require the most regulation from the FDA – tobacco products, drugs, biologics, animal drugs and foods – are outright prohibited or require special permission to sell on Amazon. We will focus on products that do not need FDA approval and may be easier for private label sellers to market successfully.

Keep in mind that these products are restricted by Amazon and may have additional requirements other than those stated in this blog. Amazon takes restricted categories very seriously. If you list a restricted product without the proper FDA approval or complying to listing guidelines for that category, you could permanently lose your Amazon selling privileges.

Label Requirements

All Amazon products, even those that do not require FDA approval before being sold, must follow certain labelling guidelines:

  • Labels must not state that the products cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease (this includes conditions like dandruff and acne) in humans unless that statement is approved by the FDA
  • Labels must not state that the product is “FDA Approved” if it is not FDA approved
  • Labels must not use the FDA logo

The FDA logo is for federal government use only. Displaying the logo on a product, a product’s label, or a listing detail page may violate federal law and will likely lead to the removal of the listing from Amazon as well as to possible legal consequences.

selling FDA regulated products
The FDA logo cannot be used to suggest the FDA endorses a product or service. We have seen Amazon remove many listings that do not follow guidelines.

Third party sellers must ensure that their manufacturer understands these Amazon labelling guidelines, especially since they often do not get a chance to see the finished product until it has already been manufactured. And though it may be tempting to use “FDA Approved” to advertise the safety and effectiveness of your product, misleading buyers can lead to negative reviews and returned orders, which in turn can cause your seller account to be suspended. It is always better to be open and honest about a product’s functionality and to rely on keyword optimization and advertising strategies, rather than false claims, to gather reviews and boost sales.

Medical Devices

All sellers are permitted to list medical devices that are authorized by the FDA for over-the-counter purchase that are not otherwise restricted and are appropriately described and labeled. All products that have not been cleared for over-the-counter use, are considered dangerous, or have been recalled by the FDA are barred from being sold on Amazon.

Medical devices that do not need approval and can be marketed by all sellers include:

  • Eyeglass frames
  • Tanning devices
  • Otoscopes
  • Ionized or ionic bracelets
  • Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)

For sellers in the Professional Health Care Program, the list of permitted products is more extensive and includes Class I, II, and Class III medical devices that have been cleared by the FDA, like tongue depressors, powered wheelchairs, and some pregnancy tests.

Some products ride a fine line between being considered a medical device or not. Derma rollers, for example, are commonly used to treat acne scars. But the FDA considers any device that treats a disease or condition, like acne, to be a medical device. In addition, features like the length of the needles and method of use could cause a derma roller to be classified as a medical device. To avoid breaking FDA regulations, both the seller and the manufacturer must be careful of how they make and describe the product.

Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements do not require FDA approval before going on the market. The only exceptions are supplements that contain a new dietary ingredient, in which case the manufacturers are required to notify the FDA at least 75 days before selling.

Amazon requires that supplements be correctly described and labelled. Most importantly, supplements cannot make structure-function claims on their labeling or listing, unless the claim has been approved by the FDA. Structure-function phrases make claims that the product can affect the structure or function of the body. This includes phrases like “reduces pain” “anti-bacterial” and “fights Parkinson’s Disease.”

If the label includes structure-function claims, the manufacturer must submit a notification to the FDA and include a disclaimer on the label that states the product has not been reviewed by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. Any content on the listing that includes these claims must also have the disclaimer.

selling FDA regulated product on Amazon

Cosmetics

The FDA does not approve perfumes, makeup, moisturizers, shampoos, hair dyes, hair relaxers, face and body cleansers, shaving preparations, or ingredients within those cosmetics. The only ingredient that has FDA oversight is color additives (an extensive list of additives can be found here). The FDA also monitors reports of adverse reactions to these products.

Some cosmetics may count as drugs, and would therefore require FDA approval. Products that intend to make people more attractive are generally classified as cosmetics, but if a product intends to affect the structure or function of the skin or body, it is classified as a drug or even a medical device. Soap has its own set of definitions and may be monitored by a separate regulatory committee.

For example, Face Cream A claims to make people more attractive by making wrinkles less noticeable: it would be classified as a cosmetic. Face Cream B claims to remove wrinkles or increase collagen: it would be classified as a drug or a medical device. Even if Face Cream B could not actually remove wrinkles or increase collagen, the claim alone is enough to cause the product to be reclassified and fall under FDA scrutiny (this is why avoiding structure-function claims in your product listing is so important!)

Amazon prohibits the sale of cosmetics that have been determined to present “an unreasonable risk of injury or illness” to users. If you are unsure as to whether your product falls under this category, a complete list of prohibited items can be found in Seller Central.

Medical Foods

Medical foods are used to manage a disease or health condition that requires special nutritional needs. This includes gluten-free foods, but does not include meal replacements, diet shakes, or products for the management of diabetes which can be managed by modifying a normal diet. Medical foods are intended to be used under the supervision of a technician. If your food product is gluten-free but is not intended for the management of Celiac disease, it cannot be marketed as such and does not fall under this category.

The FDA does not have to approve medical foods before they are marketed, but medical food manufacturers must comply with other requirements including good manufacturing practices (GMP). Medical foods do not have to include nutrition information on their labels, but the same substance-function claim restrictions apply.

Final Thoughts on Selling FDA Regulated Products

Because private label sellers do not manufacture their products themselves, it is more likely that they will be penalized for not complying with Amazon restricted category listing guidelines rather than for going against FDA violations. But the FDA can take regulatory action if safety issues arise with a product after it has been sold, which could be disastrous for a seller’s reputation. These requirements are as much for the seller’s safety as for buyers.

All of these regulations prove just how important product research is to becoming a successful seller on Amazon. Of course, the easiest way to stay out of trouble would be to choose an unrestricted product that does not need FDA approval in the first place. Luckily there are millions of profitable products just waiting to be discovered.

If you decide to move forward with selling FDA regulated products, do not hesitate to reach out to us for market research tools, listing optimization services, and more. At Viral Launch, we want to provide you with all the information you need to become successful on Amazon. For more on Amazon selling strategies, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, check out our Youtube channel, and listen to our Follow the Data podcast.

Amazon Enhanced Brand Content (EBC) is one of the most customizable tools in a private label seller’s marketing toolbox. With EBC, you can add your own creative touch to your product listing to build brand recognition with high quality photos, graphics and video.

Two of the largest challenges for private label Amazon sellers are differentiation and instilling buyer confidence.  First, your product must somehow stand out from the thousands of others in that market. Second, you must convince online shoppers that your product will fulfill their expectations, even though they won’t have the chance to see the product for themselves until after it arrives at their doorstep. Luckily for private label sellers, Enhanced Brand Content can help with both.

What is Enhanced Brand Content on Amazon?

Enhanced Brand Content is a simple way to visually enhance the product descriptions of specific ASINs in your catalogue. EBC is one of several marketing services available to private label sellers, though it is currently only available for sellers who are enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry. EBC is still in a “promotional period” and is free to use – though that may change in the future.

Enhanced Brand Content is your chance to share special details, additional information and instructions that do not fit in your main listing. EBC is especially useful for complex products, new or innovative products, and products in highly competitive markets.

amazon enhanced brand content amazon enhanced brand content

Your EBC differentiates your brand from other brands in your market – generic and name-brand alike. Using consistent colors and fonts across your registered ASINs will increase brand recognition and provide a more coherent look across your catalogue. If you are competing in a crowded market, well-designed EBC could be the deciding factor between you and your competitors.

Consider the example below. Stackable steamer inserts is a fairly competitive market with not a lot of variation between products. Which stackable steamer insert do you think buyers will choose, if everything else is equal: one with a block of text, or one that visually informs the shopper through the use of infographics, cooking tips, and in-depth instructions for care? Any way that you can set your listing apart from competitors can help you claim more market share.

amazon enhanced brand content example

 

Though the copy is not indexed by Amazon, EBC indirectly helps your ranking by providing extra details that make shoppers feel more confident about purchasing, thereby driving sales, increasing conversions, and potentially decreasing the number of returns. To help your listing’s organic rank, remember to ensure complete optimization of your title and bullet points and add back-end keywords. EBC is indexed by Google, so do not forget to add alt text to images within your EBC modules to help rank higher in Google Search results.

How to Add Enhanced Brand Content to Your Amazon Listing

EBC can only be added to ASINs registered under your brand. In Seller Central, access Enhanced Brand Content under the Advertising menu and enter the SKU of the product you wish to enhance. If you choose a parent SKU, all variations will show the same EBC content.

Choose one of the 5 pre-made EBC templates or create a template of your own. Modules include text, images, images with text overlay, comparison charts, sidebars, highlights, and specifications.

amazon enhanced brand content templates

You can use up to 7 modules per template, but you are not required to use them all. It is far more important to provide high quality relevant photos and informational content. If you decide not to use all 7, Amazon will automatically reformat the content to make up for the extra space.

Not every template will work with the type and amount of content you have. For example, if your product has detailed instructions, choose a text-based module. If you have several infographics you’d like to use, choose a template that favors large images. You can always preview how the content will look and make any necessary changes before submitting to Amazon.

amazon enhanced brand content
Consider using an infographic instead of a text block to share information in a visually engaging way.

Photos or graphics must be equal to or smaller than the maximum size allowed per module. Text can be bold, italicized or underlined, and can include bullet points and numbered lists. Some content will cause Amazon to reject your submission, including but not limited to:

  • Contact information including addresses or numbers
  • Blurry or low quality images
  • Images with unreadable text
  • Warranties, guarantees, boastful comments or promotional claims (like “cheapest pepper grinder on Amazon” or “#1 best selling item”)
  • Use of copyright, trademark or registered symbols
  • Grammatical errors, punctuation errors, misspellings, strings of all-capitalized words
  • Any violations to Amazon’s Terms of Service or Selling Policies

Amazon will approve or deny your submission within 7 business days. If denied, Amazon will include suggestions on how to edit your content to remove violations. If approved, your EBC will go live on the product’s detail page. You can submit up to 20 templates for review at a time.

Adding Video to Enhanced Brand Content

As of summer 2018, brand registered sellers can also add video content to brand registered ASINs. Video content appears with the main images tiles at the top of the listing. Short videos are a great opportunity to assure buyers that your product looks and acts as you say it will, and to share information with buyers who will not take the time to scroll down for the rest of the EBC. You do not need EBC in order to add video, but the more information you can provide buyers, the better.

Add video the same way you would add EBC: choose an SKU under Enhanced Brand Content in Seller Central, and then click Upload Video. Amazon may reject your video submission if it goes against their content policy. Once your video is approved, it will appear in your product listing in a few hours.

Final Thoughts on Amazon Enhanced Brand Content

There is no single marketing strategy that guarantees overnight success, but combining Amazon Enhanced Brand Content with other proven marketing strategies can help you perform better in the long run.

Here at Viral Launch, we want to provide you with all the information you need to become a successful Amazon seller. For more on Amazon selling strategies, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, check out our Youtube channel, and listen to our Follow the Data podcast.

The journey to selling on Amazon can be a long one. The first step is of course choosing a product that matches your budget in a market that you can confidently break into. Next up is turning your idea into a tangible product! You may be wondering how to find manufacturers, especially if you are a first-time Amazon seller, but it is easier than you may think.

Finding a supplier or manufacturer can be an intimidating process for experienced and first-time sellers alike. You want to find a supplier that will not only supply you with stock, but will also become a business partner with you as your company grows.

Domestic vs. Overseas

Your first step is to decide whether to buy from a domestic or overseas supplier. Most sellers will end up sourcing from China because the costs are so much cheaper, even after accounting for shipping and quality inspections. There are benefits and disadvantages to both, and it will ultimately come down to your personal preference and budget.

Advantages of sourcing overseas:

  • Cheaper production costs
  • More manufacturers to choose from
  • Wider variety of products

Disadvantages of sourcing overseas:

  • Turnaround time is longer
  • Harder to ensure the manufacturer’s legitimacy
  • Quality of goods is not guaranteed
  • Little to no legal safeguards or payment protections
  • Shipping is more expensive and must clear customs
  • Communication barriers and cultural differences may be hard to navigate

Advantages of sourcing domestically:

  • Quality is perceived as higher
  • Shorter turnaround and shipping times
  • Easier to verify the legitimacy of the manufacturer
  • More legal safeguards and payment protections

Disadvantages of sourcing domestically:

  • Production costs are dramatically higher
  • Fewer product options

You do not have decide between one or the other right away; just keep those factors in mind as you begin your search.

What to Look for in a Supplier

Your goal should be to find a supplier that you can have a lucrative long-term partnership with. As you begin searching for suppliers that can create your product, look for those who exhibit these traits:

Good communication: Do they respond to your messages in a timely manner? Do they ask for clarifications?

Helpful: Do they answer your questions completely? Are they honest about setbacks and shipping delays? Are they willing to have a quality control inspection done by a third party?

Reputable: What do other vendors in the space say about them? Will they provide copies of their business licenses and agree to a property inspection?

Experienced: Have they been in business for 3 years or longer? How many orders do they process every year?

Flexibility: If there is a problem with production, are they willing to work with you to find a solution?

Affordable: Do your profit margins allow you to work with them? Are they willing to negotiate prices?

In addition, look for suppliers who make a wide range of products and can keep up with your growing Amazon business. If your orders increase dramatically, or if you want to diversify your products, you want a supplier who will be able to meet your needs right now as well as in the future.

Finding a Supplier

Compile a list of at least 10 suppliers to make initial contact with so you can find the right partner as quickly as possible. The process may seem overwhelming at first, but there are multiple sources of information that can speed up your search and make it easier.

Directories

The internet is a great place to start looking for suppliers. Most online directories allow you to browse products and get in touch with suppliers worldwide, all in one place.

Alibaba is the largest online wholesale manufacturing directories and one of the most popular one-stop shops for sellers looking to source their products from overseas.

We actually just hosted a Webinar with Alibaba.com, talking a bit about Q4 but also about sourcing and manufacturing! Check it out in the video below:

Because counterfeit accounts are harder to track on such a massive database, Alibaba offers several supplier verification categories to protect buyers from fraud and increase payment security, including (but not limited to):

  • Trade Assurance: Your payment is protected if the supplier does not ship on time or if the product quality does not match what you specified in your contract.
  • Gold Supplier: Suppliers with a gold rating have gone through a verification process by an approved third party inspector.
  • Customs Data: You can access the public trading records of all the companies that have shipped into the United States.
  • Inspection Service: If you make an order through Trade Assurance, you have the option to get a quality control inspection from an Alibaba approved third-party inspection company.

 

Finding a manufacturer on Alibaba

 

To further narrow down your choices, you can filter search results by vendors that have Trade Assurance and Gold Supplier badges. You can also browse the supplier’s company profile to check their certifications, production capacity, and physical location to determine their legitimacy before making initial contact.

Other popular online directories include:

Trade Shows

Trade shows offer buyers a chance to talk directly with a large number of potential suppliers at one time. The Canton Fair is the largest and longest-running trade fair in China and takes place twice a year. Most booths display finished products, but you should still ask if they can do custom orders. You can also collect free product samples instead of paying expensive airfare to ship them. Being able to communicate face-to-face with suppliers is essential for building trust and developing a better relationship for future orders.

 

how to find manufacturers at the Canton Fair
Source: CantonFair.net

References

Ask businesspeople and other eCommerce sellers in your professional network about how to find manufacturers that would work best for your needs. You are more likely to get an honest assessment of a supplier’s capabilities from someone who has worked with them in the past. If you develop a rapport with a supplier who ends up not being a good fit, do not be afraid to ask them for recommendations.

Always keep your profit margins in mind as you look for a supplier. Pay attention to minimum order quantities, and add up the costs of production, including shipping and FBA fees to determine if you could actually make a profit.

You may be able to put yourself into a better financial position by negotiating prices with your supplier. For more tips on how to find and negotiate with a manufacturer, be sure to check out our Follow the Data podcast episode on the subject.

 

 

Final Thoughts on How to Find Manufacturers

Finding the right manufacturer takes patience, perseverance and a little elbow grease, but by the end you will be one step closer to making your Amazon dreams a reality. Here at Viral Launch, we want to provide you with all the information you need to become a successful Amazon seller. For more on Amazon selling strategies, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, check out our Youtube channel, and listen to our Follow the Data podcast.