WeChat Banned: 6 Alternative Messaging Apps for Amazon Sellers

On Friday morning, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced plans to ban downloads to TikTok and WeChat effective Sunday, September 20th.

Users who have already downloaded the apps will retain access for the time-being, but will be unable to download updated versions of the app in the future under current restrictions.

“The only real change as of Sunday night will be [TikTok users] won’t have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday morning on Fox Business.

For Amazon sellers, the restrictions to the apps may present a roadblock — and not because it complicates their ability to upload their version of the latest TikTok dance craze.

Many Amazon sellers who use manufacturers abroad in countries such as China rely upon WeChat for communication with their suppliers. Any disruptions in communication could be crucial for Amazon sellers, especially as a loaded Q4 awaits.

While those with WeChat already installed will maintain the ability to use the messaging, social media, and social media, US servers carrying data will no longer work. This means messages will be sent through servers overseas, which will likely take much longer and complicate communication.

Affected sellers would be wise to establish another means of communication to exchange messages with manufacturers as soon as possible. There are quite a few WeChat alternatives to choose from: 

WhatsApp: Perhaps the mobile chatting platform most similar to WeChat, WhatsApp allows quick and easy messaging without pesky SMS charges. WhatsApp is a stripped down version of WeChat that focuses more on chat and less on being a social media and search engine.

Slack: As more and more companies opt to go the remote route in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Slack has become an integral part of businesses in 2020. Slack is commonly at the top of the list for collaborative productivity tools as it contains seemingly endless integrations to fit the needs of professionals.

Line: The Japanese-based messaging app is free and gives users the ability to communicate via chat, voice, or video. 

Telegram: With an emphasis on end-to-end encryption to keep your messages between you and the intended recipient, Telegram can be used via app or desktop. Telegram is expected to announce end-to-end encrypted group videos before the end of 2020, and its popularity could see an uptick soon as a result.

Weibo: Usually referred to as the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Weibo has over 500 million active users and gives you the option to post publicly or send private messages.

Facebook Messenger: Chances are, you already have a Facebook and utilized the handy Facebook Messenger app with family, friends, or coworkers. Facebook’s messaging app is free to use with a Facebook account and is American-owned, so there’s less risk from potential U.S. governmental interference.

With an unprecedented Q4 ahead, avoiding potential communication hazards will be increasingly critical to your company’s ultimate success.

As with much of the recent news regarding the availability of TikTok and WeChat, the situation remains fluid and is something Amazon sellers should be keeping tabs on.

Introducing Amazon Accelerate: A Free Virtual Conference for Sellers Sept. 1–3

Attention all Amazon sellers and those interested in starting their own online business! 

Amazon is hosting Amazon Accelerate, a free-to-attend virtual summit taking place from September 1–3. Amazon boasts the conference as the “biggest-ever U.S. event dedicated to seller success.”

Sellers can expect to discover insights, strategies, and techniques from experts to help their small business thrive. 

The biggest name in e-commerce has set two unique agendas; one for current sellers, another for those just starting or interested in selling on Amazon. More than 60 sessions hosted by Amazon pros covering all aspects of the platform are currently scheduled throughout the three-day event.

Packed with helpful resources, conversations with successful sellers, and educational walkthroughs covering nearly all aspects of selling on Amazon, this summit is a MUST-ATTEND for anyone serious about getting started on Amazon or taking their existing online business to the next level.

“Amazon is deeply invested in empowering small businesses, and this is an important time for us to come together and learn from each other as we navigate new economic realities,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO worldwide consumer at Amazon.

Third-party sellers make up 50% of all sales on Amazon, and it appears the company realizes the health of its small businesses is a catalyst for their success.

 “It’s our good fortune at Amazon to partner with a large, vibrant community of sellers,” Wilke said. “Accelerate will help small businesses find new ways to grow and expand while also creating new connections.”

Wilke is one of four featured Amazon Accelerate speakers and will kick off the event with a fireside chat. Fellow speakers include Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of worldwide customer trust and partner support, Devesh Mishra, VP of Worldwide Supply Chain, and Amazon fashion group leader Christine Beauchamp.

Sellers can expect content centered around what’s new and the latest in online selling tools, programs, and services. Timely information about how to adapt and prepare for a successful holiday season is anticipated to be provided, along with a Build Your Business Toolkit.

Don’t miss out on the Amazon Accelerate summit! Sign up and confirm your virtual seat here to be a part of the seller spectacle. You can create your schedule ahead of time with their Agenda Builder once signed up.

If you’re unable to join the action live, don’t fret! All keynotes and breakout sessions will be available on-demand for registered attendees the day after they air through September 30th. At that point, the materials will be migrated to Seller University.

For additional resources on how to get your Amazon business off the ground or take your existing one to the stratosphere, subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we have content for every step of your Amazon journey!

We’ll be covering the event, so come back next week as we’ll be summarizing and breaking down all the big happenings from the seller summit!

E-Commerce Is Thriving In 2020 — And Only Growing Stronger

For those considering leaping into e-commerce by starting their own Amazon business, recent trends and forecasts for the industry indicate the e-commerce gold rush is far from over.

Online retail has continued to roar in 2020, with Business Insider reporting that e-commerce sales for consumer packaged goods grew 83% during the April to early July period compared to 2019. 

Industry projections suggest the shift in consumer spending is more of a flash point than a temporary flash-in-the-pan.

With so many encouraging signs and a promising trajectory, it’s no wonder starting your own online business continually ranks among the top ways for aspiring entrepreneurs to start their empire and design their own path to financial freedom.

Don’t get left sitting on the sidelines! Get on the field and create your Viral Launch account today to start conducting unrivaled market research to find WINNING products.

The outlook for e-commerce is already bullish, but don’t be surprised if 2020 outpaces projections as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing pandemic has wreaked havoc on many industries, and traditional retail has been one of the sectors hit the hardest.

Retailers and department stores reliant on brick-and-mortar retail such as Neiman Marcus and JCPenney have filed for bankruptcy, while many others in the sector also find themselves on the ropes. For in-person retail, it’s just the latest blow for an industry running out of margin for error.

Does this mean people have stopped spending? Not at all. The pandemic hasn’t shifted if people will spend their money, but how they will spend it. Instead of heading out to stores and malls, consumers are staying inside and buying online.

How do we know this to be true? Look no further than Amazon, the leader in e-commerce who recently released their Q2 2020 earnings report

Amazon is responsible for 50 percent of all e-commerce trade, so their earnings are an incredibly powerful indicator on the overall health and direction of e-commerce.

On July 30th, Amazon reported $88.9 billion in revenue, up from $63.4 billion in Q2 2019. The e-commerce behemoth is only growing more powerful as e-commerce continues to pick up momentum making FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) selling an extremely profitable business opportunity with the right resources and strategy.

As retailers who have relied upon traditional retail flock to Amazon, e-commerce will only strengthen their advantages and continue to take a larger piece of the retail pie. But will the arrival of major first-party sellers take a chunk away from third-party sellers?

So far, the answer has been an overwhelming no, as sales from 3P sellers continue to grow year-after-year.

Graph via MarketplacePulse.com

“Third-party sales again grew faster this quarter than Amazon’s first-party sales,” confirmed Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Amazon’s first-party sales were up 49%.

“Our 3P sellers, who are largely comprised of small and medium-sized businesses, also stepped up to help make more selection available for customers. And as a result, these small and medium-sized businesses have seen significant growth in their sales. Our third-party seller services revenue grew faster than online stores revenue in Q2, with strong growth in both fulfillment by Amazon and merchant fulfilled or MFN seller sales. Third-party units continue to represent more than half of overall unit volume, helped by improved quarter-over-quarter growth in active sellers.”  — Brian Olsavsky, CFO of Amazon

The demand from customers on Amazon has never been higher, with over 150 million Amazon Prime subscribers built into the customer base. For years, the biggest barrier for an e-commerce breakthrough was product availability and customer convenience. 

Amazon has grown to an international powerhouse thanks to its platform designed to make the process of buying and selling online easy for those on both sides. On the seller side, Amazon has opened the doors for aspiring entrepreneurs by leveling the playing field with massive warehouses for storage and their state-of-the-art two-day Prime shipping logistical program.

These assets are enormous advantages that have simplified or entirely erased areas of concern for those with entrepreneurial ambitions, allowing them to spend their time and energy on finding the right product and maximizing their opportunities for success in the marketplace.

While the light to jump into the e-commerce game is as green as ever, it won’t stay green forever.

Every day, hour, and minute of experience you have on Amazon is valuable for growing your brand and maximizing your profits, and others will surely be entering the marketplace as the industry continues to grow.

Fortune favors the bold and the informed

At Viral Launch, we understand starting your online business can be an exciting, but intimidating leap. That’s why we at Viral Launch have made it our goal to provide everything you need to have the data and strategy to succeed. If you haven’t already, sign up for a Viral Launch account today and gain access to your free trial to see all the powerful insights you can glean from our vast amount of Amazon data. With Viral Launch’s Product Discovery and Market Intelligence tools, you can scout the market to find winning products that align with your resources and goals.

Follow our step-by-step guide to Amazon product research to help you find the perfect product for you! Be sure to join our Facebook community of sellers from all walks of experience and don’t be shy to join in the conversation.

There’s likely to be no better time than right now to get your online business off the ground and be your own boss! Amazon’s seller-friendly platform, Viral Launch’s powerful data and invaluable insights, and an emerging market are the perfect storm for your entrepreneurial success!

Why Search Volume Data Is Crucial For Finding Winning Products

No matter where you’re at in your FBA journey, conducting intensive product and market research is absolutely critical to your success. 

With each stage of the Amazon selling process, the key performance indicators (KPIs) you rely upon will change, as each phase presents unique challenges and opportunities. Knowing which data points to observe and consider during any decision-making process plays a significant role in your ultimate success or failure, especially for FBA beginners.

For most sellers, search volume data doesn’t enter the equation for product research until you’re building an SEO-friendly listing or exploring pay-per-click (PPC) advertising opportunities.

But waiting until after you’ve found a product to start paying attention to search volume data may be a major mistake!

How does search volume play such an important role in the decision-making process? Easy. It’s a significant indicator of one of the most fundamental aspects of any business.

Search volume represents demand.

Outside of Amazon, businesses invest an abundance of time and money into research for demand validation.

What are people looking for? Where are they going for these items? How much inventory should we have in stock? What are interested customers willing to pay? Can I expect steady sales all year-long?

With the right research tools, sellers can not only answer all of those questions but can actually reverse engineer product ideas based on years of exhaustive market data. Every metric tells a unique story, and search volume estimates tell the story of demand.

We can safely say this due to the nature of Amazon being a search engine solely for commercial purposes. Others may recommend utilizing Google search volume data for research, but there’s a huge part of the equation you’d be missing out on by not using search volume from Amazon.

Searches on Amazon are made with the intent to buy.

Check out your recent search history on Google. How many of those searches were made with the intent of buying something? Chances are, not many. On the other end, it wouldn’t make much sense to search for something on Amazon without some level of interest in buying something.

So why make a business decision based on searches made with no intent to buy?

If you sell outside of Amazon, Google Keyword Planner and AdWords are incredible tools for seeing what’s generating buzz and increasing your visibility through PPC advertising outside of Amazon. But Amazon and Google serve two entirely different purposes as search engines. 

Google was created to organize information and make it universally accessible. Amazon is much more focused on commerce and making transactions as frictionless as possible for sellers and buyers.

By utilizing search volume data for Amazon instead of Google while conducting product research, you’re able to eliminate the guesswork of buyer intent and focus on the level of interest in your product market directly from your audience.

Viral Launch’s search volume estimates (available with any plan with access to Keyword Research) display search volume history ranging back years to keep an eye on product seasonality.

Every product is bound to have peaks and valleys in sales, but not paying attention to seasonality is an all-too-common rookie mistake.

For example, let’s take a look at the above chart for the search volume history of “kettlebell.” If you were only to look at the most recent search volume estimates (194,592 searches over the last 30 days) and eschew historical trends, you might source the product thinking you’ve hit a grand slam.

But from this graph that displays years of search volume data, we can safely assume that traffic for kettlebells skyrocketed as gyms closed due to COVID-19 and gym rats being resigned to get their lifts in at home as a result.

As more people receive their home workout gear and gyms re-open, searches have seen a downtick in the previous two months and will likely continue regressing to the norm. While “kettlebell” receives a significant chunk of (15k — 25k monthly searches), it’s a far cry from the 194k searches last month, or it’s all-time high of 292.5k searches in April.

Think of using current search volume as a snapshot of the moment, and historical search volume data being a full picture or video. Using historical search volume data allows us to increase the sample size we’re drawing from for more accurate data to inform your decision better.

Use search volume estimates to find and validate your niche.

As more and more household brands flock to Amazon and top-selling third-party sellers continue to mature, achieving prominent rank for highly searched, high sales products is increasingly difficult due to saturation.

By no means does this mean that highly profitable products aren’t out there, it just means the strategy for finding them has been updated to fit the current landscape of Amazon as it continues to mature as an e-commerce giant. And for aspiring sellers, it only intensifies the need for astute strategies and well-informed research.

Because of that, we recommend avoiding the oversaturated, uber-competitive markets that are difficult to compete within. While it’s not impossible to find success entering a saturated market, there is elevated risk that comes with more barriers to entry and can be a cash drain.

You can find our comprehensive deep dive into our recommended strategies for finding niches and performing product research in today’s FBA climate here.

In a nutshell, finding niches is beneficial to sellers because they have an increased likelihood of success and an opportunity to own a segment of the market as both Amazon and your brand grow.

With this strategy, you’ll want to avoid overly crowded markets while also making sure you have an audience. If you have a subscription that includes Keyword Research, you can quickly ensure this by utilizing the Estimated Search Volume filter and setting your search parameters.

Utilizing the Estimated Search Volume filter in Product Discovery’s Keyword Search is an excellent way to hunt for niches and customize product ideas to your resources and goals.

Once you’ve narrowed down your filters to match your goals, just click Show Keywords, and you’ll be provided with a sortable list that includes estimated search volume as well as data including the average price, sales, reviews, and revenue in that keyword market. Those on annual plans will also see a Product Idea Score, which incorporates multiple metrics into one score on a 1–5 scale for quick and easy validation.

Using your search parameters, you’ll see a full list of keywords on Amazon that meet your criteria, allowing you to evaluate some of the most important elements of product research at once. 

As you sift through the results, be sure to use market research tools such as Market Intelligence to further validate or invalidate product ideas with quality data, estimates, and insights.

Search volume data is one of the most useful, yet overlooked metrics for FBA rookies when hunting for the right product to source and sell. Without tracking current and historical search volume for a product’s seed keyword, you’re making yourself vulnerable to critical oversights in your research.

At Viral Launch, we believe the most-informed decision is the best decision. Having reliable and accurate search volume estimates in your arsenal is an essential element of making the most informed decision possible.

Don’t miss out on the valuable insights that can be gleaned from Amazon search volume estimates! Add Keyword Research to your research plan today to access accurate and reliable search volume estimates to get a leg up on the competition.

How to Increase Amazon Conversion Rates

When you’re selling on Amazon, you have nearly every tool you need to drive leads to your product listings. However, PPC ads and Amazon listing optimization alone aren’t enough to turn that attention into revenue by converting your traffic into customers.

That takes putting a little more thought into every aspect of each listing. This guide will introduce you to some of the key concepts of Amazon conversion rate optimization.

What Matters Most About Your Listings

Through our experience working with more than 8,000 brands on Amazon’s marketplace, we’ve learned that there are four high-priority items to address when it comes to Amazon conversion rate optimization. If you’re looking to turn more traffic into customers, focus in on these areas of your product listings first:

1. High-quality photos

People process visual information faster and easier than they do written words, so attractive photos of your product are an absolute must-have. Online shoppers, in general, put a high priority on quality photos. In one report, 60% of shoppers said they need to see at least three to four photos of a product before purchasing it online.

On Amazon, quality photos hold even more weight. Anyone familiar with the market is likely aware of counterfeit and low-quality products. A well-crafted set of images can instantly reaffirm your product’s quality and establish your credibility, making shoppers more confident in their decision to convert and make a purchase.

2. Well-thought-out descriptions

It’s not as attention-grabbing as photos, but the description should be a helpful expansion on your product’s features and highlights. A neat and clean description can make a difference, especially for higher-end products where comparison shoppers decide based on those details. Use page breaks to separate messages and make them easy to read quickly.

It’s important to have all listing content written by a native speaker. This will help you avoid errors that can chip away at confidence in your product’s quality. With space for 2,000 characters, you can expand on any unique features and capabilities that give your product a competitive edge, such as eco-friendliness or unique connectivity.

3. Informative bullet points

Some shoppers will skip over descriptions and head straight to the listing’s bullet points to get the gist of what they’re looking at. These bullet points are just as important for describing your product’s features and letting shoppers know it’s the item they’re looking for.

Keep in mind, however, that bullet points give you less space to write and are meant to be scannable. Put thought into what key elements of your product would appeal most to your consumers and highlight them here. How is the product used? What makes it better than comparable products?

4. Quantity and quality of reviews

While the first three points focus on what you can tell shoppers about your listing, they’ll pay just as much attention (and sometimes more) to what people who’ve used the product have to say. In fact, in one consumer survey, 92% of respondents said they won’t buy anything online without reading at least one review first.

When it comes to reviews, both quantity and quality matter. You should strive to have an average rating similar to your competitors with a similar number of reviews. Amazon incentivizes reviews through programs like Vine and the Early Reviewer Program, but outside of those, there’s not much you can do to drive reviews for your products. If you ensure your products are of high quality and the buyer experience is positive, however, your customers shouldn’t have a reason to leave negative reviews.

With these elements, your listing will help assure customers of your brand’s realness, as well as the product’s quality and authenticity. As you increase your sales volume through strategic Amazon conversion rate optimization, you’ll be able to earn more reviews and sell even more. If you need help getting started, check out our resource for high-quality Amazon listing photos, read more about our Amazon listing optimization tools, or call and speak with one of our experts today!

Looking Back At Our Amazon Predictions For 2019: What We Got Right and What We Got Wrong

With 2020 well underway. I thought it would be fun and insightful to look back at our 2019 Amazon predictions in anticipation of our annual predictions post coming later this week. 2019 proved to be a rollercoaster of a year, offering up some scary changes and unexpected loops. Let’s go through our predictions together and see what we can learn from the year.

1. Major Brands Get Smart About Amazon Organic Ranking & Sales

In what can only be described as a continuation of previous years’ policies, major brands made surprisingly little progress on this front in 2019. A majority of top brands continue to express trepidation with Amazon’s inability/refusal to properly regulate or restrict unauthorized sellers. In addition to lax regulation, major brands (particularly apparel brands) continue to struggle with counterfeit or knockoff products that persistently flood the Amazon marketplace. 

Despite Amazon taking additional steps to regulate these unauthorized activities, the delicate balance between increased revenues vs increased costs, coupled with the burden of brand exposure at the risk of brand dilution, creates a perceived Faustian wager which often prevents the worlds best-known brands from fully embracing Amazon…for the time being.  

A telling example of major brand woes is Nike’s decision to withdraw in November of 2019 after a 2-year pilot program. Nike’s decision comes despite the apparel juggernaut being one of the few brands shoppers explicitly search for…“Nike shoes for men”. Even with this incredible keyword advantage, Nike and Amazon failed to create the synergy needed to justify the shoe giant’s wholehearted commitment to the Amazon space. For example, when searching for the keyword phrase “men’s shoes” on Nike.com results yields 741 options compared to 28 with the same “keyword phrase” on Amazon.com. This disparity in selection is primarily attributable to Nike’s resistance to committing their full product line. Nike feared Amazon undermined the brand by eliminating elements of product exclusivity and unique customer experience. These worries,  coupled with the frustrations of unauthorized 3rd party sellers, forced one of the world’s largest brands to make the difficult decision to withdraw from the space for the time being.

As Amazon continues to make improvements in both UI, branding, customer care, and the catastrophe of counterfeiting, it is likely that brands like Nike will eventually be forced to negotiate a detente in the months and years to come. This being said, the democratization of delivery and logistics, paired with the diversification and globalization of the e-commerce shopping habits displayed in younger generations, will force Amazon to justify the rising costs of advertising while continuing to improve their customer experience if they expect to further seduce the world’s largest and most sought after brands to their platform. 

2. Amazon PPC Becomes Less Profitable But More Important

If Amazon trends for 2019 could be summed up in one sentence it would be: The year that advertising activated.” This sleeping giant of dormant revenue has long been seen as a vast, untapped, oil field of pure profits for Amazon. After many years of prospecting, Bezos and Co. began to drill in 2019, creating both fear and uncertainty for newcomers and veteran sellers alike. 

In reaction to this seismic shift, 2019 saw brands and retailers spend close to 10 billion dollars on Amazon advertising in the US alone (the equivalent of 14% of Amazon’s 2019 3rd quarter retail sales), an increase of more than 33% compared to 2018. As PPC costs began to rise in the early part of the year, many sellers found themselves in the midst of fierce bidding wars for the most competitive keywords within their products’ unique categories. The accompanying decrease in ROI for cost per click ads sent ripples through the community, forcing sellers to rethink advertising budgets and more closely evaluate risk in competitive or oversaturated markets. 

In anticipation of this market disruption, Amazon opened up new analytics and built out a full learning console to educate sellers on the parameters and realities of this new paradigm. With advertising revenue estimated to grow in excess of 17 billion dollars by 2021an estimated 9.7% of the Admarket), Amazon is  poised to join Facebook and Google in what will be a triumvirate of ad giants for years to come. 

As early as 2018 Viral Launch anticipated this change and was proud to launch Kinetic in an attempt to guide our customers through the shifting sands of this new PPC landscape. Kinetic offers our customers detailed PPC analytics, as well as managed PPC services, to help ensure the maximum competitive advantage in this ad-driven reality. As 2020 gets underway, we are excited to iterate, improve, and update this software in the coming months to offer our customers more features and powerful, data-driven results.

In years past Amazon has often been compared to the wild west of online retail. With the reality of these new advertising demands and cut-throat economic constraints, it’s clear that a new sheriff has come to what was once a lawless internet boomtown. This being said, if history has taught us anything it’s that every time a once rough and tumble boomtown grows into a more ordered and lawful city, that growth only brings with it more opportunity for those who can anticipate the changes and adjust accordingly. 

3. The Reign of Building Brands Off Amazon

2019 saw US e-commerce grow an estimated 17.3% in the 3rd quarter alone. This growth constitutes the largest spike since the 4th quarter of 2011. Online retailers generated $145.7 billion in online sales in the third quarter compared to $124.2 billion a year ago, according to the Department of Commerce. To no one’s surprise, Amazon was at the vanguard of this growth  with 29.4 billion dollars in retail revenue. Retail giants such as Walmart and Target also saw significant growth, surpassing analyst’s initial projections for the year. 

This being said, the building of brands outside of the Amazon space was hampered by a combination of both lack of innovation and Amazon’s sheer market domination. E-commerce storefronts such as Shopify have become popular sales channels for emerging brands but have struggled to make significant brand breakthroughs for sellers looking to differentiate themselves from the Amazon pack.

Adding to the stagnant growth of non-amazon brands is the entrenchment of consumer behavior as it applies to a growing (Amazon only) default mode, particularly when it comes to buying behavior in Q4. Smaller sites have continued to struggle with ways to break consumer’s growing dependency on Amazon to fulfill both their personal shopping needs as well as their family and friends wishlists. This dependency is only fueled by the increasingly common practice of giving  Amazon gift cards for Holidays, birthdays, and special events. 

Despite the many uphill challenges facing smaller e-commerce sites, Viral Launch maintains a bullish outlook for emerging brands’ opportunities to develop a customer base apart from Amazon in the coming years. Case studies like that of Nike (mentioned previously) demonstrate that larger brands are keeping Amazon accountable to change, while smaller more boutique brands will continue to benefit from improvements in online marketing platforms, improved mobile apps, and a leveler logistical and shipping ecosystem.

4. Successful Brands Will Continue to Grow Significantly

People often say that “success breeds success.” I’ve also heard it said: “More money, more problems.” The dichotomy of these two truisms neatly encapsulates the difficulty facing many successful Amazon sellers. With greater success comes the desire to capitalize on increased revenues. At the same time, potential market capitalization and expansion comes at the risk of overreach or glut. 

For the most part, “successful” brands did see significant growth or at least marked stability in 2019. The market disruptions caused by additional PPC costs and ranking fluctuations surely caused concerns for many top sellers, However, the data seems to indicate positive growth. Over the past decade third-party sellers have grown from 30% of total sales on Amazon to 60% in 2019. The number of sellers with $100,000 in sales reached 280,000 in 2019, up from 200,00 in 2018. This influx in competition does indicate a struggle to sustain market supremacy for some top-level sellers, however, we maintain the belief that better and deeper performance is outpacing wider participation. 

The latest figures show that only 5% of the top sellers joined in 2019, while only 30% of top sellers have joined within the last 3 years. The reality remains that less than 20% of active sellers do $100,000 in yearly sales and only 2% surpassed 1 million dollars. This by no means indicates that the window of opportunity for Amazon selling has closed. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the competitive advantage of deep experience will only increase in the years to come. 

5. Fewer New Entrepreneurs Begin Selling On Amazon

Amazon reached 3 million active sellers worldwide in 2019, an increase of 17.7% from last year. The global marketplace saw 1.2 million new third-party sellers join one of 16 global marketplaces after both Singapore and the United Arab Emirates were added to the platform. These numbers indicate a steady and robust global growth trend for Amazon, who has become increasingly aggressive in exploring untapped markets. However, a closer look at the domestic numbers does indicate a potential cooling in the number of new entrepreneurs who are entering the US market. 

2019 saw 250,000 sellers join the US space, which adjusted for churn comes closer to 54,000 additions to the overall seller pool. The United States is currently the slowest growing market on Amazon despite its outsized 38% active seller share. Last year’s additions constituted only 5.1% of the global growth for Amazon as a whole. Now these numbers in no way indicate that the fervor amongst potential new sellers has died out However, there are some indications that a large majority of entrepreneurial-minded men and women who may be drawn to Amazon have either already started to sell, or more likely churned out of the system. 

The likelihood that the US market will see a resurgence in new sellers is contingent upon a number of unknown and unpredictable factors, chiefly, sustained low unemployment numbers and the continued stability of the US and global economy. A sustained period of economic growth has doubtlessly encouraged new entrepreneurs to take their chances selling on Amazon. However, if the economy begins to show signs of weakness in the months or years to come, we may see an even greater decrease in the number of new sellers who throw their hat into the ring. 

The good news for current sellers is the possibility of less competition and again: the deepening of performance. If, as some metrics indicate, the pool of sellers becomes even more narrow in the years to come, it will present an opportunity for current sellers to bolster their positions and rankings while growing their brands.  

6. Major Changes in Reviews and Rankings

Shakespeare once asked…”What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell so sweet.” 

This age-old question of what’s in a name could never have been more true then when Amazon elected to change its classic naming convention in 2019 from reviews to ratings. Of course, this simple, semantical twist held a far more important and disruptive change. The ability to leave ratings without a written review (one-click rating), coupled with a variety of changes to the ranking algorithm, threw the system into what at times felt like chaos this year. Reliable methods for bolstering rankings, such as product giveaways and coupons, became less and less effective and the reality of a world of PPC predominance became abundantly and at times painfully clear.  

Wild fluctuations in rankings were experienced by both newcomers and established sellers alike as Amazon seemed to endlessly tinker with their ranking systems and established protocols.  (INSERT BLOG POST AND PODCAST ADDRESSING THIS PHENOMENA) 

Veteran sellers have (for the most part) grown accustomed to Amazon making major changes to rankings over the years, and in due time resourceful sellers and consultants have always learned to adjust. This being said, 2019 will surely be looked back upon as a watershed moment for ranking changes, as the culmination of years of subtle tectonic shifts suddenly crest, taking sellers on a wave that left many dizzy and some drowned. 

7. Facebook Begins Its Path of Becoming The Second Largest Ecommerce Site

I imagine that Mark Zuckerburg and the executives at Facebook won’t look back at 2019 with the fondest of feel-good memories. Thrust into a firestorm of controversy regarding the companies privacy policies beginning in 2018, Facebook continued to court controversy throughout 2019. However, as anyone who tracks markets knows, there is a wide chasm between public perception and publicly traded profits.

Despite widespread fears of anti-trust legislation in the early part of the year, 2019 saw Facebook make huge gains, surging back to a near-record stock price just weeks ago. The ability of Facebook to absorb such huge public scrutiny while continuing to display investor confidence is precisely why Viral Launch remains so bullish on the social media giant. While the media continues to argue (about what I would personally characterize as legitimate concerns), Facebook is quietly making gains in the e-commerce landscape and beyond. 

In 2019 Facebook acquired a number of small media and technology companies to help expand its Marketplace platform. Plans have been put in place to develop live shopping features as well as expansive updates to Checkout, their new Instagram shopping platform. The unsurpassed mixture of loyal and engaged subscribers, coupled with a multi-quadrant demographic, makes Instagram the holy grail of endorphin-fueled impulse shopping. The secret, of course, is leveraging these technologies to create a unique market position that can begin to cut into Amazon’s bottom line. I don’t know about you, but I’m not counting Zuckerburg out from being able to convert some of their huge market capitalization into technologies and tools that set Facebook apart from Amazon in 2020. Besides, I would not be surprised if Facebook wants to gain back some of those precious ad dollars they lost to Amazon last year! 

8. International Markets are the New Gold Rush

Continuing our theme of political and social uncertainty in business, this past year brought a slew of unknowns in many aspects of our global, economic, and political landscapes. Escalating uncertainties concerning Brexit, China, and the Middle East have kept businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs on the edge of their seats. A mutual disdain for Chinese tariffs showed that these obscure financial instruments might be the one thing in this world that can bring Wisconsin farmers and Wall Street financiers together in fear and disgust. 

The devastating effects of tariffs, coupled with risk-averse investors, created a landscape that caused this prediction to not fully manifest. No doubt international markets still present a huge growth opportunity in the coming years. This being said, for the time being, many sellers are waiting for the results of a slew of international trade talks to conclude and uncertainty within political landscapes to calm before wading into these potentially bountiful waters. 

On a further international note, 2019 saw the year that Amazon pulled the plug on its Chinese operations. Amazon entered China in 2004 and after much consternation and disagreement, the ill-fated partnership finally dissolved in July of last year. Below is an excerpt from an email sent to multiple publications. 

“We are notifying sellers we will no longer operate a marketplace on Amazon.cn, and we will no longer be providing seller services on Amazon.cn effective July 18th. Sellers interested in continuing to sell on Amazon outside of China are able to do so through Amazon Global Selling.”

Obviously, this announcement in no way severs relationships with China based sellers who constitute 42% of all active sellers across all 16 marketplaces.

9. Seller Fulfilled Prime Comes Into Vogue

Many top-level sellers entered 2019 with high hopes for Seller Fulfilled Prime. This program which enabled 3rd party warehouses to fulfill prime orders was seen as the natural evolution for high-level sellers who had invested heavily in warehouse facilities and third-party logistics providers for their businesses. The hope for this program was to generate significant savings for sellers by tailoring various logistical and shipping needs thereby reducing overhead and unneeded expenditures. 

Unfortunately, due to an array of quality control issues, coupled with a high barrier to entry, the program was suspended in 2019. At the time of publishing, Casey spoke with an SFP customer who informed him that Amazon plans to parlay this program into what is being called FBA Onsite. Details about this program are not yet known at this time, however, I think it’s safe to assume that it will contain many of the aspects of SFP with perhaps more regulations and stricter qualifications. Regardless of what name the new program settles upon, it’s safe to say that the concept of seller fulfilled shipping is not going anywhere. Far too much money is on the table for Amazon to resist mitigating a portion of the risk in favor of equitable partnerships with high-level sellers as the benefits of same-day or two-day shipping will not be strictly limited to Amazon products in the near future. 

10. More Amazon-Owned Brands

This particular prediction presents an interesting case study in the difference between the profitability and success of AmazonBasics and the growth of Amazon Owned brands. As stated in last year’s post, some countries such as India have banned Amazon from creating further Amazon-owned brands, citing monopolistic practices. This, of course, has not stopped Amazon from continuing to expand both their Basics brand and Amazon-owned brands through their Accelerator program. Amazon added more than 100 brands in 2019 and shows no signs of slowing down. This being said there are some misconceptions about the profitability of these brands and their long-term viability in the future. 

AmazonBasics constitutes 58% of all “Amazon-owned brands” and represents the bulk of Amazon brand revenue. In fact, 81% of all total sales come from just the top 10 Amazon brands, including Basics, Essentials, and Collections. Basics thrive in niche markets such as batteries or paper products, markets where fragmentation and price-point pressure fuel their success. On the contrary, many Amazon private label brands such as Belei hope to exist in the much more competitive worlds of beauty and skincare. After launching in March of 2019, Belei began to receive a swath of negative reviews, forcing Amazon to not only adjust their price points but give the prominence of the product within the search results. None of these actions had a great effect and the brand continues to languish in warehouses unsold and for the most part unknown. 

What is the lesson here? For all their data and all their power, Amazon has never been particularly good at fostering brands. Their basics lines do great business because consumers are not invested in battery brands or toilet paper the way they are invested in their skincare routine or health drinks. 2020 will surely see Amazon continuing to leverage its power to create countless new brands, and they have the cash flow to allow the majority of these loss leaders to fail. What I’ll  be looking for in 2020 are Amazon-owned brands that are invested in marketing brands that use their unbelievable prominence and page positions in a way that breaks through the noise and create devotees. If Amazon can display the ability to do this, well then anti-trust laws might actually be in the conversation. 

11. Less Ads Showing on Page 1 of Search Results

In my role as a brand consultant for Viral Launch, I log onto amazon.com anywhere between 30 and 50 times per day. Every time (and I mean every time) I do, my heart sinks a little at how truly ugly the sight actually is. I know that might sound a little hyperbolic but you have to understand the little graphic design nerd in me, the one that cannot stand mixed typefaces and cluttered images. For me, these visual sins are akin to fingers on a chalkboard. Of course, I say all this tongue in cheek and Casey knew he was being a bit bold when making this prediction last year. However, when forecasting the possibility that Amazon might reduce ads on page one, Casey was tapping into the hope that Amazon might embrace one of its core values…delighting customers! If you’re anything like me, you’re equally bummed about this prediction being so, so wrong. 

Perhaps we did not fully account for the lengths which Amazon would be willing to go to maximize those precious new ad dollars. Or perhaps we thought they would invest in creating new user interfaces to provide aesthetic experiences without the need for more Ads. Alas, we got this one wrong and the world is uglier for it. 

12. Amazon Significantly Outpaces Other Retailers in an Economic Downturn

To conclude our journey through 2019, we end on this final and gratefully wrong prediction for 2019. Despite a slew of economic forecasts in 2018, the economy held strong and outpaced many economists’ (and brand consultants’) predictions. This, of course, does not mean that the current climate will last forever. An economic downturn is inevitable in the coming years. For the purposes of our discussion here, how ready is Amazon for that downturn? 

I will leave you with this parting data point. In the first quarter of 2019, Amazon’s online sales accounted for less than 50% of the company’s total revenue. For the first time since the company’s founding in 1994, AWS, Prime, third party marketplace, and advertising, outpaced the retail sector of the company. Amazon sold 29.4 billion dollars worth of product, which only constituted 49.4% of its revenue. 

I don’t know about you, but to me, this seems like a strong case for Amazon’s future regardless of the economic forecast. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have made valiant efforts and significant gains within the last year. We have seen competitors innovate and iterate in every conceivable contortion all in an attempt to catch the king. But I ask you this: if I took away 50% of any of these competitors’ revenue in 2020, do you think they would live to see 2021? 

I don’t think so. 

2020 predictions are coming soon!

How to Launch a New Product on Amazon

Launching a new product on the Amazon marketplace involves a lot more than you might realize at first. It’s not just a matter of listing the product. You also have to find and incorporate high-quality images and written content, organize early promotions and advertising strategies, generate early reviews, and ultimately make the product visible. It sounds like a lot — but the right guide can help get you launching new products on Amazon in no time.

These early steps are critical to the product’s long-term success and your own growth as an Amazon seller. Those who put enough time and effort into their product launches can gain traction and market share faster. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently revealed, third-party sellers now generate more revenue on the marketplace than Amazon itself.

This also means that the market is getting more crowded and that gaining exposure is increasingly difficult for every new Amazon product launch. From choosing the right product to planning out the right launch strategy, however, there are a few things you should know — and a few things you should avoid — to get a leg up when launching a new product on Amazon.

First of All, There’s No Point in Launching a Product If It’s Not the Right One

Before you ever get started launching a product on Amazon, you must choose the right product. Start by researching several product markets as thoroughly as possible so that you can set realistic expectations. For example, in some markets, first-page products can sell 10,000 units per month, but it’s often unrealistic to expect you’ll reach those numbers quickly.

You can raise sales volume faster in niche markets with thinner competition. However, these markets typically see lower sales volume, so make sure you have a thorough understanding of your expected sales before entering the market. You can forecast revenue and measure barrier to entry using Amazon product research tools.

With that in mind, you’ll also have logistics and manufacturing costs, as well as Amazon fees, marketing, advertising, research, content production, and other costs to consider. You need to thoroughly understand where your point of profitability lies so you have a goal to aim for. Then, you can plan a much more successful Amazon product launch strategy.

Once You Know What You Want to Sell, Find Out How to Successfully Launch an Amazon Product

If implemented correctly, a new Amazon product launch will drive sales early, and early sales are critical in helping you gain early traction in the market, improve your keyword ranking, and net some early reviews to give your product an advantage.

In addition, early sales can teach Amazon’s algorithm that your product is a quality option for shoppers, which helps promote easier ranking and sales growth in the future. Shape your Amazon product launch strategy using these six steps as a guide:

1. Take time to read the terms of service.

Before launching any product, carefully read and understand Amazon’s terms of service. You’ll want to do everything you can to give your product the best chance at success, but you do not want to risk your account by unwittingly violating the rules.

2. Be prepared not to make a profit at first.

Properly driving success on Amazon while sticking to the terms of service takes capital, so be prepared not to make a profit with early sales. Amazon’s market isn’t a get-rich-quick platform; running your online business is just like running any other business. That means stimulate long-term sales requires spending on marketing and advertising, offering discounts, and more.

3. Reorder inventory before you run out of stock.

As you watch your sales and profits, you may be tempted to wait until your initial inventory runs out before ordering more. If you do so, you’ll risk running out of stock before you can replenish it. Being out of stock means shoppers will bypass your product listing, and it can negatively impact the listing’s keyword ranking.

4. Take advantage of early review generation.

Keeping an adequate amount of stock is important, but buyers might still scroll past a product that hasn’t even been reviewed yet. In one e-commerce study, up to 79% of buyers say they check reviews before making any purchase on Amazon. You can sign up for Amazon’s early reviewer program, set up and send out email sequences to customers, and craft a social media announcement strategy that adheres to Amazon’s terms.

5. Take advantage of Amazon’s massive customer base.

Unlike using your own branded website, Amazon’s biggest benefit is that it brings customers to you. The challenge is getting your product in front of them, which means focusing on Amazon SEO. Generate as many sales as possible up front, which will kick-start your listing’s keyword ranking. After all, thousands of people are already searching for your type of product. Now, it’s your job to get in front of them. Amazon sponsored ads are a great way to put your new product in front of eager shoppers. Learn how to run ads with our free Amazon advertising course.

6. Keep researching after the product launches.

The more you know, the smarter decisions you’ll make when it comes to ordering, listing, advertising, and scaling. Use data to gain insights into missed keywords, sales trends in your market, and your advertising opportunities. The insight you gain will help you create an even more effective strategy the next time you have a new Amazon product launch.

The path to a successful Amazon product launch strategy is different for every seller, product, and market. But the most important tips for any successful Amazon product launch are to understand what kind of market you’re getting into, to ensure that your expectations align with what’s possible in that market, and to drive initial sales. To learn more about what it takes to launch your product successfully on Amazon, sign up for your free trial with Viral Launch today.

A Beginner’s Guide to Amazon’s FBA Process

If you plan on selling high-volume products on Amazon, you may want to choose the Fulfillment by Amazon shipping plan. Under the FBA process, you send your inventory to Amazon. Upon each order, Amazon stores, picks, packs, and ships your stock from its warehouse.

It can save you a significant amount of time and reduce the burdens of storing and shipping your product. However, that doesn’t automatically make FBA the right choice for every new Amazon seller, so we’ve outlined a few of the most important things you need to know before starting the FBA process.

Calculating Your Amazon FBA Costs

In many ways, FBA is the most convenient shipping option, though there are a few fees you should be aware of. For example, FBA’s fulfillment fee is a flat, per-unit fee based on the size and weight of each item (e.g., standard or oversized).

You’ll also be responsible for a monthly inventory storage fee, which is based on the average amount of space your inventory takes up in the warehouse. This volume is calculated when inventory is fully packaged and ready to ship, according to Amazon FBA requirements.

Before you choose, you can use Viral Launch’s Amazon FBA Calculator to estimate fulfillment fees for listed items that are similar to your product. You can compare them to the costs of fulfilling orders yourself by using Amazon’s FBA Revenue Calculator.

Weighing FBA Pros and Cons

There’s a certain amount of convenience that comes with having Amazon keep, package, and ship your inventory to your customers on your behalf. For example, when you opt into the FBA process, you instantly gain access to lower overall shipping rates, hands-off purchase fulfillment, and several other benefits. You’ll also get to:

  • Make your products Prime: An analysis of buyer shopping patterns for Amazon revealed that Prime members spend about twice as much as nonmembers (an annual average of $1,400 versus $600, respectively). When you sign up for Amazon FBA, your products automatically become part of the Prime marketplace.
  • Win the Buy Box more often: When buyers search for an item that multiple sellers have available, most purchase the item from the Buy Box. Sellers that sign up for FBA have a higher chance of winning the Buy Box than other sellers, even if their items have a slightly higher price tag.
  • Fulfill orders from other websites: Many Amazon sellers have stores on more than just Amazon’s marketplace. If you do, then multichannel fulfillment may be the greatest benefit to choosing FBA. You can take advantage of Amazon’s lower-than-average shipping rates to fulfill orders from your own website and other e-commerce sites.

These advantages (among others) can make running your e-commerce business a breeze, but FBA also comes with a few cons. For instance, the fees and fulfillment costs associated with the FBA process include having your items shipped to the fulfillment center, and you don’t get to choose the warehouse. Consider that you’ll also have to:

  • Take a step back from inventory: Having Amazon fulfill your orders also means giving up much of your physical access to your products. This may make it more challenging to track specific items and orders, and you’ll have to rely on Amazon to resolve any issues involving inventory or order fulfillment.
  • Keep up with tax obligations: Until you enable and set up Amazon’s sales tax collection, Amazon won’t automatically collect sales taxes for your products. You’ll have to collect sales tax from buyers in and out of the state in which Amazon stores your products. Therefore, it’s important that you fully understand your tax obligations.
  • Prepare and label your items: Part of handling your inventory includes assigning appropriate barcodes to each item so Amazon knows what to pick. You may have to opt for Amazon’s FBA Label Service to ensure accuracy. Or you can speak to your manufacturer about providing labels at a lower cost.

Enrolling Your Products in Amazon FBA

Perhaps you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided Amazon FBA is the right process for your products. Now, it’s time to put that process into action. After you’ve added a product to Seller Central and created its listing, you can enroll it in FBA by first going to “Inventory,” then clicking “Manage Inventory,” and finally selecting “Send Inventory.”

From here, you can enter your ship-from address — likely your manufacturer’s address. You can also enter the number of units you’re sending to Amazon and who will be responsible for preparing and labeling them (you or Amazon). Then, print labels to send your manufacturer, and you’ll be assigned a warehouse to ship your products to.

Keep in mind that some products require specific preparation so that they arrive at the Amazon fulfillment center in good condition. You can provide specific prep guidance and instructions in the “prepare products” step when creating your shipment, with the option of having Amazon do the prep work for a per-item fee.
For more detailed instructions or for help finding a winning product to sell through the Amazon FBA process, start a free trial today.