The title of a product on Amazon carries a lot of weight when it comes to organic rank and click-through rates, and if your listing isn’t in step with the official style requirements, the upcoming Amazon policy enforcement should motivate you to make some changes.
Amazon recently announced that on July 22 it will be “suppressing ASINs from Amazon Search that violate Amazon’s title guidelines.” According to the announcement, the reason behind this new enforcement is that titles that don’t comply with Amazon’s guidelines “result in a poor customer experience.”
As shown in the news release above, the announcement mentions some specific requirements:
No promotional language can be used, such as “free shipping” or “100% quality guaranteed.”
Other examples would be “Best Seller” or “Hot Item.”
No non-readable characters can be used, such as HTML code.
The length of a title can’t exceed 200 characters. Titles must include “product identifying information,” which describes what the product is, such as a garlic press or first aid kit.
Although not mentioned in the announcement, the Amazon Style Guide also contains a number of further requirements, such as prohibiting the use of all caps or special characters (such as ! or $.)
No one wants their business disrupted, so it’s important to understand the effect of what this new level of Amazon policy enforcement may have on your brand, and then take some practical steps to ensure you can maintain your visibility and sales.
What This Means for Amazon Sellers
The most important element of a product listing is its title, and having it optimized for organic search is a vital part of gaining visibility under any conditions.
The “suppression from search” for those who violate the title guidelines is open to interpretation, but the announcement indicates that this suppression would actually be a removal from search entirely.
Amazon mentions that if a product title is penalized, “[o]nce the issue is fixed, we will remove the search suppression and the ASIN will appear back on Amazon search.”
From this statement, the penalization wouldn’t be a matter of your product taking a drop in organic ranking and be languishing many pages deep in a search. It would be an outright elimination from organic search, and the effect on your product’s visibility and sales would bring your business to a halt.
Considering the amount of products that exist in Amazon’s marketplace, how quickly they will be able to roll out this tighter enforcement is uncertain. It likely won’t happen immediately, yet ensuring your title is compliant with the style guide so that your product remains searchable should be your current top priority.
Getting Your Listing Ready for Compliance
To avoid losing visibility, ranking, and sales, we’ve provided a list of crucial steps for becoming compliant with the title guidelines.
In case you aren’t clear on the guidelines or need access to them, we’ve created a downloadable spreadsheet, Amazon Style Guides by Category. It breaks down what the title counts have previously been for each category and provides links to the style guides for each category. The announcement states title character counts cannot exceed 200 characters, so it remains to be seen if certain categories will continue to be limited to 50 characters.
Another requirement in some categories is that businesses must include their brand name in their product titles. Although this helps promote your brand, it essentially restricts the character limit even more, forcing business to balance visibility, precision, and helpful information.
How To Stay Compliant
Before the deadline arrives, follow these five tasks help you stay compliant and avoid any issues:
1. Access your style guide from our spreadsheet and track down the category-specific limitations for your title. Find the exact character count and if you’re exempt from having to include your brand name. Keep in mind that Amazon updates style guides regularly, so be sure to stay up-to-date.
2. Write a new title, staying within the new limit for your category and including your brand name, if required. Our tool Listing Builder can help you quickly devise a new one and move any previous info from your title into your bullet points.
3. Set up organic rank notifications for a particular keyword in Keyword Manager. Go to the Notification Settings, and under Rank Change Notifications, choose to receive messages based on whether the rank increases or drops, or only if it drops. You can then specify how high or low you want the rank positions to be and in this instance you should set wide parameters for the notifications. The tool will then message you if your organic rank changes after the new policy goes into effect. (You can also receive notifications on your Sponsored Rank, as shown in the GIF below.)
4. Set up buy box and Best Seller Rank notifications in Competitor Intelligence for your ASINs. If any changes occur, we send an alert to keep you informed. Using CI, you can track keywords a competitor is targeting and indexed for, and see the keywords’ organic rank. You can then choose to receive change alerts for the keywords’ ranking. This can occur on an hourly basis, as shown below.
5. If notified that your ASIN is affected, implement your new title and bullets to your product listing. After you make this update, Amazon will re-index your listing. As a result, you’ll temporarily see a drop in your organic ranking. But based on your sales history, reviews, and traffic, you’ll see your rank resume its position.
Stay Compliant, Stay Successful
The recent announcement regarding titles has received a variety of different reactions. And many sellers may be asking why it took Amazon so long to enforce its own policy. No matter how you feel, ensuring your title meets Amazon’s policy requirements safeguards your listing. Since visibility remains crucial, avoiding penalization and a loss in visibility helps maintain your sales opportunities.
For any help getting in step with Amazon’s product title guidelines, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team ensures your product listing complies with Amazon’s style guide and remains optimized to increase your visibility, conversions, and business growth.
On January 1st Amazon released three new features in sponsored products, Dynamic Bidding, Bid Adjustments, and Placements. Among a variety of benefits, these new features led the Viral Launch R&D team to a major discovery. This discovery has resulted in the development of a new PPC bidding/optimization strategy that is driving incredible results for sellers implementing the strategy properly. It’s important to note that this is one of many strategies we use and you can employ, and it really depends on the product and the market as to which one works best.
This post will walk you through the details of this new PPC tactic we’re calling Placement Optimization strategy and how you can begin using Placement Optimization in your PPC campaigns and begin seeing results immediately!
What Are Bid Adjustments & Placements
Performance by Placement
Once in Seller Central, you can click into a campaign and view a new tab titled “Placements.” This new Placements tab provides insights into your campaign’s performance based on where the ad was displayed at the time. Amazon breaks it down into three placement groups: top of search (first page), rest of search, and product pages (defined below).
Top of Search – The top of search (first page) refers to the sponsored products ads at the top row on the first page of search results.
Rest of Search – Rest of search refers to sponsored products ads shown in the middle or at the bottom of search results, and all sponsored products ads in the second page of search results and beyond.
Product Detail Pages – Product pages refers to sponsored products placements on the product details page, and certain other placements off search results like the add-to-cart page. These ads show in the Sponsored Products Related To section on a listing’s detail page. Ads can show here through keyword targeting campaigns or by setting up product targeting campaigns.
Bid Adjustments by Placement
Bid Adjustments put the control in your hands to allow Amazon to spend above and beyond your set CPC for a specific placement. Amazon allows a number between 0 and 900% as a modifier to your set bid. Amazon does not allow you to set a specific bid amount for each placement, only this bid adjustment.
“For example, if you have set your CPC to $2.00 and Dynamic Bidding – Down Only selected, but set the Bid Adjustment to 50% for “Top of Search”, Amazon will bid up to $3.00 allowing for more positioning in the top sponsored ad results.
We’ll discuss below how to really take advantage of this feature to maximize your ad’s top of search placements.
Our Mind Blowing Discovery
After looking through the placements report for a number of campaigns we are managing, we noticed some interesting tendencies around how frequently our keyword targeting campaigns (auto campaign, broad/phrase match campaigns, etc.) were showing on product pages. So we aggregated over $1MM in ad spend worth of campaigns to look at what was happening at a wide scale.
Here are the mind blowing stats:
On average ~84% of our newer keyword targeting campaigns are delivering on product pages!
We knew that ASIN targeting campaigns typically have a low click-through rate (CTR%), but this explained why some search terms had incredibly poor CTR%; they were delivering mostly on product pages! Meanwhile, while the clicks were more expensive, conversion rate (Conv.%) was ~60% higher for top of search traffic. It makes sense that a prospective customer is more likely to click into a product at the top of the search results for a given keyword than on a sponsored product showing on a competing product.
What was so mind blowing is that, this whole time advertisers have been turning on / turning off keywords based on their performance (CTR, Conversion, ACOS, etc.) assuming that keywords are / are not relevant based on the aggregated performance. In reality, those keywords we thought our products were not very relevant for, may have performed well for top search, but just happened to be a worse offer on the product pages Amazon decided to show us on.
For example, let’s say you are selling fish oil pills at a higher than average price point with only a handful of reviews. You run campaigns for the keywords “fish oil pills” and “omega 3 pills”. Prior to the insights Amazon’s new Placements feature provided, if the campaign targeting “omega 3 pills” resulted in low CTR, low conversion rate, and a high ACOS, you would assume that customers do not find your product very relevant for “omega 3” related keywords. In reality, there is a chance that Amazon was simply showing your new product with low reviews and a high price, on competitor pages where the competing products had more reviews and a lower price point. It’s very possible that your product was performing well for the “omega 3” keyword, but it was not performing well on the specific competitor listings Amazon chose to show you on.
Put differently, this should challenge everything you know about how relevant your product is for various keywords! There may be plenty of keywords you had passed off as poor performing and less relevant you may find actually perform well in search alone.
Fortunately, you have the opportunity to look at Placement reports for historical campaigns to begin answering some of the questions.
How To Use This Placement Optimization To Boost Efficiency
Within just over a week of releasing this new Placement Optimization strategy, we’ve received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and case studies on improvements to campaign efficiency and/or overall sales improvements. We want to make sure you have the knowledge to be able to apply it yourself!
The case study below highlights how removing inefficient traffic from product pages allows the traffic to flow through our most profitable placement. By allocating 100% of the budget to top of search, we saw a significant increase in sales and a significant decrease in ACoS!
1/1/19 – 1/7/19
1/21/19 – 1/27/19
In this section we will walk through:
How to Isolate Traffic with Bid Adjustments
How to apply the strategy for maximizing efficiency/sales
How to Isolate Traffic with Bid Adjustments
The R&D team at VL has come up with a quick and simple solution to segment ad traffic across ad campaigns to optimize efficiency across delivery placements.
To set up a campaign that will only deliver for Top of Search ad placements, set a low base bid for the keywords targeted i.e. $0.30. A high percentage bid modifier can then be applied to Top of Search bid adjustment (ex. 800%). This will keep the bid amount low enough to not deliver in auctions for other placements, while also modifying the bid amount to deliver in the top ad placements only. Example: $0.30 bid with 800% modifier will deliver only at Top of Search placements at $2.40 bid.
WARNING: You should not force all campaigns to target only top of search. You need to follow the data for your own product and make sure it fits within your broader PPC strategy, which we discuss below. Test and analyze the results of each placement before making any decisions!
How to apply the strategy for maximizing efficiency/sales
Step One: Analyze existing campaigns. Consider historic performance, campaign type, match type and campaign objectives. Further, with the release of campaign bidding strategies, Amazon has made it extremely easy to spend more than you intended. It is our recommendation that you do this test initially with Dynamic Bidding – Down Only as your selected bidding strategy. Having an Up & Down bidding strategy selected could result in Amazon spending an additional 100% of your bid on top of your placement multiplier! This could lead to major overspending if left unchecked.
Other situations and scenarios to consider:
Since Placements are set for the entire campaign, if you have a lot of keywords in a single campaign, it’s difficult to know which keywords are actually delivering at top of search.
Auto campaigns are difficult to control, so a top of search tactic might change the words it’s delivering for and make the historic data you’re basing the decision off of useless for Placement decisions.
Lastly, if your campaign is performing well in all ad placements, there is a risk that changing it will disrupt that performance so you might want to instead just increase spend on that campaign.
If you are starting a new campaign, it is recommended that you gather data around each placement before setting any bid multipliers. Discover whether or not your product converts well for all placements and then adjust accordingly. To get some initial profitable sales, listen to our Product Targeting podcast where we discuss what can be one of Amazon’s most efficient traffic sources!
Step Two: If a campaign is spending above your target ACOS in one placement (ex. top of search or product pages) while spending below your target ACOS in another placement, then this is an indicator that you should begin isolating traffic away from the inefficient placement. In some instances, top of search is the unprofitable placement, while in other instances, product pages are the unprofitable placement.
If all placements are performing below ACOS, that’s great. You may have an opportunity to scale up your budget and increase your sales!
Step Three: If you have crunched the numbers and decided to focus traffic toward top of search, look at the bid you’ve been delivering at top of search for. Set a bid and bid adjustment to focus on that traffic. For example, the top of search (first page) clicks below have been delivering at an average CPC of $0.95. If you want to isolate traffic, you can do the math. You could set your bid to $1.00 for top of search by setting a bid of $0.13 ($1/800%). By not having a premium on product page placements, your campaign should divert traffic from inefficient product pages and push more impressions and clicks through top of search where you’re more likely to get sales!
If you’ve spent a lot of time and/or money doing Amazon’s PPC, you know there are a few levels between what you try to do and what Amazon delivers; and Placements is no exception. After you change the placements, you need to monitor results very closely to make sure it’s performing at the efficiency and effectiveness you want.
Practices to Avoid While Testing
We recommend everyone go test these new bidding strategies and placement adjustments based on the goals and objectives of their campaigns. When testing these new strategies, there are a few things that you should be sure to avoid…
Applying a large bid multiplier to top of search on campaigns that perform well for product page placements. If your campaign is running within desired ACoS and driving a significant amount of sales, it is not advised to interrupt the efficient flow of ad traffic.
Testing new bidding strategies such as Dynamic Bidding – Up & Down on a new campaign. Without a significant amount of ad history and data, Amazon will struggle in determining whether or not your ad is likely to convert. Test the impact of this new feature on an existing campaign to fully understand the impact it may have on your Amazon advertising methods.
Creating two campaigns with the same keyword set, bids, etc… and testing them against one another using different bidding strategies. Since both campaigns have the same keyword set, they would be competing against one another for the same auctions. Testing in this manner will likely lead to results that do not accurately represent how the campaign is likely to perform in an unbiased testing environment.
Recreating an existing campaign with a new bidding Up & Down bidding strategy. By copying the original campaign and creating a new one, you are essentially setting up a brand new ad that Amazon has never seen before. This campaign would have no ad history making it difficult for Amazon to predict the likelihood of a conversion in any given auction.
Adjusting bids by Placement can be a really powerful strategy to change how your campaign delivers. Now that you know what to look for, and how to make the change, you’re ready to go out and dig into your own campaigns. You need to follow the data for your campaigns and make sure that you are making the right decision for your product and campaign. Check your campaign metrics regularly and Follow The Data!
For brands and entrepreneurs selling on Amazon, 2018 was a whirlwind of change with increases in competition, old success tactics becoming obsolete, new Amazon programs, and so much more. If history is any indicator, then we can expect even more of these changes in the new year. But what sorts of changes should we expect? How will these changes impact your Amazon business? And what steps should you be taking to prepare for these changes to best get ahead of the competition?
Here at Viral Launch, through helping drive more than $7 billion dollars in Amazon sales, we’re equipped with a vast amount of insight and data. This experience working with thousands of brands (from small private label sellers, to $100m+ 3rd party sellers and world renowned Fortune 100 brands) has enabled us to predict some of the biggest things to come in 2019. And we want to share them with you so that you can prepare for what’s ahead this year.
Not only that, but we teamed up with more than twenty 7, 8, and 9 figure sellers and Amazon thought leaders to get their unique perspectives on what to expect and how to prepare for success in the coming year. So, here are 11 predictions for Amazon in 2019 to inform your business decision making, formulated by Viral Launch and informed by top industry experts.
1. Major Brands Get Smart About Amazon Organic Ranking & Sales
We are predicting there will be more major brands that get smart about Amazon success tactics, putting even more pressure on Amazon sellers!
The reason third-party sellers (the small private label sellers) have had the opportunity to become ecommerce giants (we have a couple private label customers and personal friends that surpassed $100m on Amazon in 2018) is because when Amazon changed the ecommerce game, they changed the necessary tactics that drive success.
In a lot of ways, the primary tactics used in traditional retail – such as paying for shelf space, good in-person packaging, and branding – gave way to lower prices, organic keyword ranking, and pay per click/direct response advertising.
Amazon third-party sellers have been able to drive massive success because their only chance of driving sales among such established players was to become students of the new paradigms of retail success tactics. These sellers have worked diligently to understand the key drivers of Amazon organic keyword ranking and conversions, which has led to significantly greater visibility than their household name competitors.
Major brands continue to use deprecated success techniques, leaving the door wide open for third party sellers to reap the benefits of their Amazon expertise. Major brands typically only pay attention to Amazon PPC as their most impactful lever of driving sales. However, in general, only 15-40% of a product’s sales potential comes from Amazon advertising, while the remaining 60-85% can be found in the organic search results. It’s within this uncontested 60-85% space that third-party sellers have thrived and grown.
We are seeing more of these larger brands realize that there is far more potential beyond just Amazon advertising sales. They are beginning to hire successful Amazon sellers and/or software providers as consultants in order to help them become experts, much like successful third-party sellers. This is causing them to shift their focus from the 15-40% of sales potential to 100% of sales potential.
2. Amazon PPC Becomes Less Profitable But More Important
We are predicting that advertising on Amazon will see an increase in efficiency, significant increases in cost, and a significant increase in importance to success for brands on Amazon.
As Amazon increases their dominance in ecommerce and retail, brands are forced to move more of their budget to Amazon advertising. Significantly increased demand, combined with inefficient spend of untrained brands, will absolutely result in increased CPCs (cost-per-clicks). We’ve been observing this trend for quite some time in many markets, but we expect it to increase in velocity and ubiquity. It’s hard to go more than a week without seeing a new post in the media about Amazon’s advertising platform. With that said, we do think that while costs will increase, efficiency will improve.
Viral Launch still sees significant inefficiencies in general Amazon advertising campaign management, largely due to the limitations of Amazon’s in-house advertising tools and programs as well as a lack of sophisticated ad management and automation alternatives. However, we expect new tools/improved sophistication and functionality in Amazon advertising tools and programs will allow for an improvement in advertising spend efficiency. We also expect Amazon to continue improving their ad targeting technology with new programs and tools which will help brands improve overall spend efficiency.
Additionally, we believe that advertising on Amazon is and will continue to be increasingly more important to being competitive on Amazon. With more ad placements per page, we expect advertising to continue increasing the share of an individual product’s sales potential versus organic sales potential. Advertising can also be an important tool in affecting organic sales. Brands that have been using purely organic traffic to build their business will be forced to become experts at Amazon advertising in order to remain ahead of the competition.
3. The Reign of Building Brands Off Amazon
We are predicting that more Amazon sellers will focus on building brands off of Amazon as the effort/reward ratio continues to improve relative to the ratio of focusing solely on Amazon.
Up until 2018, Viral Launch has been a major advocate for focusing on Amazon and delaying true brand building until you crossed the $10m mark on Amazon. While we had obviously seen a few brands build success using a multi-channel strategy (selling outside of just Amazon), it was extremely rare. Much more frequently, sellers hit 7 and 8 figures ($10,000,000+) while focused almost exclusivelyon selling on Amazon. Opportunity cost is a powerful metric for optimal decision making, and for the vast majority of sellers, the opportunity cost was too high when focusing off of Amazon. The reason was because selling on Amazon still presented a lot of low hanging fruit and provided revenue growth rates you could hardly ever reach anywhere else.
As selling on Amazon has become increasingly competitive, we feel that the scales of opportunity cost are shifting to point to true brand building as the greater opportunity. Now don’t get me wrong, there are more people spending more money than ever on Amazon. The opportunity is greater than ever, but the cost and effort of seizing the opportunity is also greater than ever (in most markets).
4. Successful Brands Will Continue to Grow Significantly
We are predicting successful sellers/brands will see unparalleled sales volume on Amazon!
While it’s true that selling on Amazon has become more difficult than ever, there are more people spending more money on Amazon than ever before. This trend will continue into 2019, meaning those brands that are able to achieve/maintain top organic ranking positions, as well as perform well in advertising, will see sales volumes at unparalleled levels. The stakes are higher than ever! It truly is an exciting time to be selling successfully on Amazon.
5. Fewer New Entrepreneurs Begin Selling On Amazon
We are predicting fewer new Amazon seller accounts will be created in 2019.
According to Marketplace Pulse there were 1,200,000 Amazon seller accounts created in 2018 (a good portion never saw a sale). We are expecting new account creation to slow down quite a bit.
There are three primary reasons we expect this to happen.
Reason 1) Increased Barrier to Entry: the cost and complexity of driving success on Amazon has increased. While we still believe there is a massive amount of opportunity on Amazon still (see Amazon Product Research in 2019), the opportunity generally requires larger budgets and more complex strategy.
Reason 2) Market Fatigue: There are only so many aspiring entrepreneurs and mom and pop shops that are interested in selling on Amazon. We are predicting that the interest peaked in these two demographics in 2018.
Reason 3) While we are not economists or fortune tellers, the possibility of a global/US based financial downturn is looming. In the event of a financial downturn, we expect people to have less “free cash” available to start an Amazon FBA business.
6. Major Changes in Reviews and Rankings
In 2019, we think Amazon will continue to improve the security/integrity around many systems/processes including their coveted reviews.
While we have been expecting Amazon to make a major systemic change to their review system, we are guessing (and hoping) that 2019 is the year we see this change come to fruition. In 2018 we have seen some review changes, specifically around review locks, in which receiving too many reviews will trigger Amazon to put a lock on new review activity.
We expect many unforeseen changes to take place, however our greatest hope/prediction is for Amazon to change the review system to a LinkedIn-style review cap presented on search results. By this, we mean that on search results pages, we expect Amazon to begin showing review quantities over 1,000 reviews as 1,000+ (or some similar number). You can check out our Amazon review podcast covering why we think this is necessary to protecting the quality of products purchased and the integrity of Amazon’s review platform for more on that topic.
In short, sellers are incentivized to achieve the highest review quantity relative to their competitors. A higher review quantity indicates greater popularity to potential buyers. If a product has been selling for 10 years on Amazon, it has a distinct advantage over new, and potentially better, products that have not had as long to generate reviews. Let’s say Product A has been on Amazon for 5 years, has a 4.4 star rating, and 6,000 reviews. While Product B has been on Amazon for 6 months, has a 4.8 star rating with 1,000 reviews and a price point $1.00 cheaper than Product A. While most may think Product B is a better product at a better value, there is very little hope of Product B gaining the sales necessary to acquire the reviews to outperform Product A. Product A could allow the quality of their product to decrease because they have such a large review quantity built up that it will be very difficult for others to catch up. It creates a stale market favoring age over quality and value. Limiting to 1,000 reviews shown in the decision process would allow customers to know that a statistically significant number of other customers have purchased/reviewed the product so that review rating must be legitimate.
While we do not have many specific predictions we feel comfortable sharing, we do expect there to be rather significant shake ups in the key drivers of Amazon’s organic keyword ranking algorithm. As in the past, having access to significant amounts of data around key ranking factors/metrics while constantly testing will be the key to staying ahead of any algorithmic changes. Fortunately, Viral Launch has been able to stay abreast of any changes thanks to our wealth of data and brilliant R&D team.
7. Facebook Begins It’s Path of Becoming The Second Largest Ecommerce Site
We are predicting Facebook begins making big moves in ecommerce by subsidizing sales through their platform for merchants to sell direct through their platform.
For the last couple of years, we’ve consistently considered Facebook to be the entity with the greatest potential to challenge Amazon in the world of retail. We’ve lost quite a bit of hope in Walmart and Google over the years. If you think through the core building blocks to a successful ecommerce platform, attention, data, trust, and web/mobile capabilities/technology are top of the list. With more than a purported 2 billion monthly active users, unparalleled data around it’s users, and significant web and mobile technology, Facebook is more than well equipped to help brands sell their goods directly through their platform at a massive scale.
I’m not talking about Facebook’s peer-to-peer marketplace. I’m expecting a full fledged Amazon competitor, and we’re beginning to see the early stages. In some instances, Facebook is reimbursing merchants $5 for each product sold to cover the cost of shipping with no additional marketplace fees, making Facebook a cheaper place to move product already. We’re expecting Facebook to start making some big moves in the e-commerce world in 2019.
8. International Markets are the New Gold Rush
We are predicting a substantial movement of third-party Amazon.com sellers in offering their products and brands on Amazon’s international marketplaces in 2019.
Selling on Amazon.com (the US marketplace) still poses massive opportunity if played right, but there is no denying that it is certainly more difficult to grasp that opportunity than ever. We expect the real mad rush for low hanging-fruit sales (Amazon “gold”) will come in Amazon’s international marketplaces. Viral Launch has been a strong advocate of sellers expanding internationally for the last two years, which is why we invested in hiring domestic listing optimization specialists in each country containing a major Amazon marketplace, as well as expanding our tools to work internationally. We have seen success after success with minimal effort and marketing budget in Amazon’s international markets over the last couple of years (check out this incredible story of two 21 year olds achieving 8 figures on Amazon in 2 years, while selling internationally).
As creating and expanding a profitable and high-growth Amazon business becomes more difficult to achieve on Amazon.com, we think 2019 will finally be the year that third-party sellers look to international markets in droves! Selling internationally certainly has some drawbacks, but in general, Amazon advertising is significantly cheaper, driving organic keyword ranking is significantly easier, and growing top line revenue are all much less competitive relative to Amazon.com. Experienced Amazon.com sellers are able to use their learned success tactics and easily apply them to their brands in International markets.
9. Seller Fulfilled Prime Comes Into Vogue
We are not denying the importance of 1-hour and same day delivery, but we predict we will see a significant amount of sellers over the $1m mark moving to a hybrid fulfillment model.
Over the last 6-9 months, we’ve started to observe a trend in larger/more experienced Amazon third-party sellers moving to the Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) model using a combination of their own warehouses and 3rd Party Logistics providers (3PLs). The most compelling reason to move from fulfilling through Amazon’s FBA program to a self-regulated SFP model is cost savings.
We are not seeing only sellers with large items such as furniture moving to SFP, but sellers with products of all weights and dimensions. A customer of ours, selling more than $40m/year on Amazon, claims moving to the Seller Fulfilled Prime model has been his single best investment yet!
The second most common reason sellers are taking up SFP is to support fulfillment for other ecommerce channels that may not allow using Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment program. Having a dedicated 3PL network allows sellers cheaper fulfillment and greater channel flexibility.
10. More Amazon-Owned Brands
We are predicting there will be a significant increase in the number of Amazon owned (not “sold by Amazon”) in 2019.
We have seen a significant push from Amazon in their own private label brands, and we expect to see this trend continue into 2019. Amazon now has over 80 of their own private label brands, and those brands are receiving better placement than ever (Amazon’s “Our Brands” section now shows above organic results for many search terms).
Amazon kicked off a new program near the end of 2018 called their Accelerator Program, which essentially stands as a partnership between third-parties and Amazon to establish new Amazon-owned brands using existing product performance data. This presents the potential for the number of Amazon owned brands to sky rocket! It will be very interesting to see how this progresses in the new year.
The largest threat to Amazon’s private label brands is likely the government presiding over the country in which each marketplace operates. For example, India has banned Amazon from selling any of its own products on Amazon.in.
11. Less Ads Showing on Page 1 of Search Results
We are predicting Amazon reduces the Amount of clutter in Amazon search results which distracts shoppers from the organic search results.
This is not a common opinion, and we’ll admit that there is a decent amount of logic/data pointing to an extremely high probability that this prediction does not come true, however, when we really try to get in the mind of Amazon and Jeff Bezos, this feels right! I (Casey Gauss) want to walk you through my logic on this one.
As I think through what has made Jeff and Amazon so successful, it’s been their relentless focus on the customer experience (think lower prices, faster shipping, return policy, etc.).
In my opinion, in 2018, the actual shopping experience for customers suffered at the expense of Amazon’s advertising revenue and the promotion of their owned products. There are two contributing factors to what I believe is a lower quality shopping experience.
(One key point to understanding my thoughts below is the difference between “organic results” and “sponsored results”. “Organic results” are the items presented to a customer after typing in a given search term that are showing in the results out of merit. Organic results have been selected by Amazon’s A9 ranking algorithm based on performance factors such as conversion rate, number of units sold, etc. “Sponsored results” are items showing with a “sponsored” denotation, and are showing in the results because merchants have paid for the placement. Theoretically, organic results are the best selling products for a given keyword which is why they are showing in the results. The products most likely to best satisfy the customer’s request. While Sponsored results are artificially placed based on how much the merchant is willing to spend.)
1) Overwhelming Information in Results: In general, our data shows that anywhere between 60-85% of a product’s sales potential come from placement in the organic search results. This means the majority of customers’ shopping experience consists of inputting search terms in the search bar (e.g. “fish oil supplement”), sifting through the results, and purchasing a product. In 2018, we saw an increase in the amount of information being shown on the results page which can be confusing, overwhelming, and a barrier to purchasing the products showing organically (the most likely to satisfy the customer’s request based on real buyer behavior).
The shopping experience is overwhelmed with information and creates a barrier to the shopper arriving at the best performing products based on real data from hundreds to millions of real customers. I feel this direct and indirect inhibition to the best customer experience does not align with Amazon’s mission and what has allowed them to be so successful to date.
2) More Sales Through Amazon Ads: There are more advertising placements on Amazon than ever before. Paid media sales are increasing their market share versus organic sales. When customers are purchasing artificially placed products (products presented through ads versus showing based on performance), the probability of the sponsored product being as high quality as an organically ranked product is low. By more sales being driven through advertising, Amazon is selling less of the proven and theoretically higher quality “organic results” to customers for the sake of driving more advertising revenue. More ad sales = more pay to play, versus quality & value to play.
Now, I don’t think that Amazon has nefarious intentions with advertising. They haven’t set out to create a lower quality shopping experience so they can make a few billion dollars more per year. My assumption (with almost no inside Amazon insight) is that this is a classic case of competition priorities between departments (i.e. the Amazon advertising business units are focused on maximizing their top line, without much focus on the overall customer experience).
Either way, I’m predicting that someone in Amazon, perhaps Mr. Bezos himself, will realize that there has been a slight deviation from the company’s overall focus, and will begin to peel back some of the excessive ad placement.
12. Amazon Significantly Outpaces Other Retailers in an Economic Downturn
We are predicting Amazon significantly outpaces competitors if/when there is a downturn in the US economy.
While we are not economists or fortune tellers, there seems a high probability that there will be an economic downturn of some degree at some point in the near future. If the next economic downturn occurs within 2019, we are predicting Amazon will outperform other retailers significantly. With unbeatable low prices, convenience for working families, and an incredibly large catalog of low priced necessities, we expect Amazon to be the go to store when budgets and time are tight.
Amazon changes the way they are indexing and ranking products, which means sellers have to be smart about their sourcing decisions.
As you’ve probably noticed, there was plenty of overlap between Viral Launch’s predictions and those of the included industry experts and thought leaders. I’m not sure if it is fair to say that this indicates the prediction is more likely to come true, but it does indicate that there is likely more data pointing to that assumption.
An underlying commonality throughout these predictions was increased competition, focusing on building traffic off of Amazon, and adapting your Amazon success strategies. There is certainly the opportunity to look at this with a negative outlook on the future, but please do not forget that Amazon is continuing to grow it’s ecommerce footprint significantly.
As the opportunity for incredible degrees of success continue to grow, so does the difficulty of achieving that opportunity. Instead of playing the victim to increased competition and “unfair” changes, the truly successful adapt with the times, play the long game, and focus on solutions.
I want to encourage you to focus on the solutions. How will you diversify your Amazon business? What strategies will you use to guarantee you and your team are staying ahead of the lastest success tactics? How can you drive sales, reviews, and keyword ranking in this new landscape?
While there are many components that comprise a winning strategy for the future, Viral Launch is focused on giving you the data, automation, and thought leadership around topics like driving sales, keyword ranking, and product selection. Now, it’s up to you to use these to stay ahead of the curve and continue growing exponentially on the world’s largest marketplace!
What items are at the top of your Amazon to-do list? When it comes to maintaining your sales, you should be dedicating a significant amount of time to tracking and improving your Amazon Sponsored Ad campaign performance. Identifying potential issues and fixing them before your campaigns start to perform poorly can save lots of time and headache in the long-run.
Let’s dive into the most important metrics to monitor in your Sponsored Ads, and how you can add smart automation to increase your success rate on Amazon.
A Common Amazon Sponsored Ads Mistake
Constantly optimizing your ad campaigns is so important because Amazon’s algorithms are designed to reward products that perform well, and even a single day with low sales volume will negatively impact your sales velocity. As a result, both your organic rank and paid rank will suffer.
As you’re managing Sponsored Ads campaigns, it is very important that you pay attention to every single ranking movement, ensuring that you know when your ad is performing well. Getting this right will not only result in a well-performing campaign, but it will also help your promoted listing gain organic positions. (If your goal is to push organic rankings via sponsored ads, make sure that your listing is optimized for your targeted keywords before starting the campaign.)
Many advertisers fail with Sponsored Ads because they don’t know how the platform works. They’ll throw marketing dollars into this advertising channel without any sort of plan in place. One of the causes of this behaviour is that Sponsored Ads is one of the hottest topics in the Amazon space and every Amazon “guru” out there is trying to monetize this trend by selling information that is often not backed by data. The result is hundreds of new sellers starting to advertise on Amazon only because they’ve been told to do so, and they’re afraid of missing out if they don’t join the trend. Classic FOMO.
Guess what? This behaviour will get you in big trouble.
The Ad Strategy that Can Change Everything
Amazon’s Sponsored Ads engine is run by a sophisticated algorithm. Understanding its mechanism is not easy, even if you have some previous experience running campaigns on Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords). There are so many moving parts that it takes just one of them performing poorly to jeopardize your whole campaign.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that building campaigns in Amazon’s Sponsored Ads is just the same as in Google Ads. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While Google Ads is designed to drive traffic from different channels and optimize based on the trackable goals that you specify (eg. lead, purchase, view of a key page, etc.), Amazon’s Sponsored Ads optimization algorithm is designed to favour ads that make Amazon more money.
This, of course, changes everything.
One of the things that I’ve learned over years of managing campaigns on Google Ads is that your campaign performance will only be as good as you are at managing it. For instance, the mistake that most people make with Sponsored Ads is to focus solely on ACoS which is not the best KPI (Key Performance Indicator).
For a campaign to be profitable, you need to first know your breakeven point. This is determined by your listing’s conversion rate, cost-per-click and, of course, the maximum cost that you are willing to pay to acquire a customer (Max CPA). Once you have these metrics, you need to calculate your maximum cost-per-click that you can afford to pay to be profitable.
You can use the following formula to calculate your maximum cost-per-click:
The table below will help you to calculate what your Max CPC should be based on the metrics mentioned above:
Sale Price = The price at which your product sells or is sold at after its price has been reduced.
CoGS = Cost of Good sold including Amazon fees and various manufacturing costs.
Max CPA = (Sale Price – CoGS = CPA) The maximum cost you can afford to pay to acquire a customer and break even.
Max CPC = The maximum cost you can afford to pay for a click and still make money.
This formula will change everything, as you will learn that, often, the keywords you’re currently targeting are not the best-performing. Consequently, you will be more profitable if you focus on those that you can afford to buy clicks for (based on your max CPC).
Once you have this step figured out, the next big metric to monitor is your ad position.
If you are familiar with Google Ads, you probably know that one of the most popular bidding strategies is the “bid to position.” In fact,Search Engine Land even wrote a script to automate this. Of course, having your ad show in position one is the goal for most advertisers, as this will not only increase the ad visibility but get you the highest CTR (ad copy plays a big role here) which means more traffic. This rule is significantly more important with Amazon Sponsored Ads given that nearly 70% of Amazon.com shoppers place orders using a mobile device.
Keep in mind that higher position means, often, higher CPC so you have to focus on conversion rate optimization first (if you listing’s conversion rate is low) and ensure that you can afford to pay a higher CPC that allows you to compete for position #1.
Now that you know how important your ad position is, it is imperative that you build and structure your campaigns in a way that allows you to achieve this result while minimizing your ad spend.
Keep Track of Your Ad Position
After testing this theory with outstanding results for the past nine months, we decided to build a tool that allows Amazon advertisers to monitor their ad position and receive notifications alerting you when your ad is losing positions. Keyword Manager shows exactly where your product is ranking so that you can precisely measure the results of your efforts. You can even view historical data to see where your ads are at now compared to where they’ve been in the past.
Alongside your Sponsored Ad rank, Keyword Manager shows helpful metrics such as Amazon’s Choice Badge notifications, Amazon’s relevancy score, search volumes, suggested CPC bids, organic rank position, whether or not you’re indexed, and more. No other tool shows you these many keyword insights.
Try Keyword Manager out for yourself. Whether you’re implementing a new Sponsored Ads strategy with profitability in mind, or you’re monitoring your indexation and keyword rank, Keyword Manager equips you with the metrics you need to position your listing for success.
Luckily, we are here to give you a quick refresher on the important policies and regulations to help keep your account safe. We have compiled an overview of Amazon Terms of Service, including code of conduct, selling policies and prohibited actions to jog your memory and help you avoid any questionable tactics.
Let’s get started!
Seller Code of Conduct
Amazon strives to provide a safe and trustworthy online marketplace for millions of customers across the globe. They require sellers to adhere by a strict code of conduct to ensure shoppers trust their purchases and continue to return to the site. This code of conduct also protects you as a seller in that it keeps your competitors from using unfair tactics to outsell you and other rule-following sellers.
If Amazon discovers that you have violated their Code of Conduct, they typically take quick action. This can include suspending your seller privileges and/or removing you from the entire Amazon Marketplace.
Amazon Selling Policies
In order to protect consumers, Amazon has rules and requirements on what types of products can be sold on their site. Be sure you are not planning to sell any questionable items on the marketplace. Amazon does not allow you to list products that:
Amazon prohibits certain actions by sellers in order to protect both sellers themselves and shoppers. The site does its best to keep the playing field level for all sellers, so any action that gives you an unfair advantage over your competitors is not permitted. Chances are if you are worried whether a tactic you are considering using may be against the rules, it probably is. Here is a quick recap of some prohibited actions:
1. Diverting traffic from Amazon
Sellers are not permitted to use any sort of language or web links that push traffic away from the Amazon website. This includes any advertisements, special offers or calls to action that encourage shoppers to leave the site.
2. Unauthorized business names
All business names must accurately identify the seller, must not mislead shoppers and must be a name that the seller is permitted to use (i.e. it cannot be a brand or trademarked name that you do not have appropriate permission to use). Business names cannot contain an email suffix (i.e. .com, .biz, .net, etc.).
3. Inappropriate email communications
Sellers are not allowed to send any unsolicited emails to customers other than those needed for order fulfillment or customer service. Marketing emails to customers are not permitted.
4. Improper use of customer phone numbers
Customer phone numbers are provided to sellers who fulfill their own orders so they are able to comply with carrier label requirements. These phone numbers must be handled in accordance with Amazon’s customer personal information policy, which can be found in the Seller Agreement.
5. Multiple seller accounts
Sellers are not permitted to operate and maintain multiple seller accounts. If you have a legitimate business need for multiple accounts, you can apply for an exception by visiting the Contact Us section of your seller account. Click on Selling on Amazon, then select Your Account, then Other Account Issues. You must provide an explanation of your need for multiple accounts in your submission.
6. Misuse of the Amazon seller service
Sellers that upload excessive amounts of data repeatedly or use the service in an excessive or unreasonable way may face restricted or blocked access to product feeds or any other function they are misusing. Amazon decides what constitutes this misuse at their own discretion.
7. Misuse of ratings, feedbacks or reviews
Sellers are strictly prohibited from engaging in any action that may manipulate ratings, feedback, or reviews. This includes offering incentives to customers for their reviews or ratings, posting feedback to your own account, etc. You are allowed to ask for reviews in a neutral manner, but you are not allowed to ask for positive reviews. Sellers must also comply with Amazon’s Community Guidelines when dealing with customer reviews.
8. Misuse of sales rank
Sellers are prohibited from engaging in actions that manipulate sales rank. This includes soliciting or knowingly accepting fake orders, placing orders for your own products or providing compensation to shoppers for buying your products. Sellers are also not allowed to make claims about their sales rank in their product information.
9. Misuse of search and browse
Any attempt to manipulate the Search and Browse experience of shoppers is prohibited. This includes artificially stimulating customer traffic through internet bots, etc., providing misleading catalog information about your product, or adding product identifiers to hidden keyword attributes. Follow Amazon’s guide to properly optimize listings in order to write your listing in compliance with Amazon’s rules.
10. Misuse of product customization
Those products that are listed as being customizable must be able to deliver on this claim. Any attempt to manipulate custom functionality in a manner which bypasses existing Amazon policies or misrepresents customized products is prohibited.
Know the Rules, Follow the Rules
Amazon does not take violations of their terms of service lightly. At best, you may get flagged and temporarily suspended. At worst, you could be banned completely by the online retailer, stopping your cash flow and dashing all hopes of future sales.
Though it may be tempting at times to try questionable tactics to boost sales, it is not worth the risk. You may see some of your competitors breaking the rules to get ahead, and while they may not get caught immediately, Amazon almost always catches up to sellers who are abusing their terms of service.
We’ve all been there. You look around and notice you have somehow collected enough books to open a mini library. There’s old textbooks you’ll never use, books that were given to you as gifts, and the stack of books you keep saying “one day” to. No? Just us? That’s fine. The point is, sometimes you find yourself with a stash of books, and you don’t know what to do with them. You could donate them, but sometimes those books cost a small fortune. And you don’t want to lose out on all that cash you spent on that geology textbook you didn’t even use (Sorry, college professors). So, what do you do with them?
Solution: Sell Used Books on Amazon
If you’re looking to get into the Amazon selling game, selling your new or used books is a great place to start. There’s no risk of spending a small fortune sourcing a product that may or may not sell and no need to worry about manufacturing or importing costs.
And if you’re already in the Amazon selling game, adding books to your inventory is a no-brainer if you’re looking to make a few extra bucks here and there.
How to Sell Used Books on Amazon – Getting Started
First things first, you’ll need a stash of books to sell, and you’ll need an Amazon seller account to access your dashboard, Seller Central. Amazon offers two types for you to choose from: Individual Seller or Professional Seller
Individual Seller: $0.99 per sale closing fee, NO monthly subscription
Professional Seller: $39.99 monthly subscription fee, NO per sale closing fee
If you’re unsure which option is right for you, consider how many books you are wanting to sell per month. Amazon allows a maximum of 40 items per month on an Individual seller account. If you are planning on selling more than 40 books, or you are planning on selling books in addition to other products totaling more than 40, you will want to opt for a Professional seller account.
Listing Information – What You Need to Know
Once your Seller Account is all set up and ready to go, gather the appropriate information about your books. This allows you to have all your information readily available when it comes time to actually list them on Amazon. Whether you just make sure you know where the information is located in each book or you write it down so it’s all in one place, here is the information to gather:
What’s an ISBN and where can I find it?
ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. They always consist of 13 digits and are assigned to each edition and variation of a book. It can be found on the book’s barcode.
How do I know what the book condition is?
When selling pre-owned books on Amazon, you are required to list the book’s condition. This is applicable to hardcover and paperback books. Your books can be one of six types of conditions:
Used – Like New
Used – Very Good
Used – Good
Used – Acceptable
Used – Unacceptable
Books categorized as Unacceptable are not sold on Amazon. This includes books that are sale of advance reading copies, including uncorrected proofs, of in-print or not-yet-published books.
Listing Books to Sell on Amazon
Once you have all the information, you’re ready to list your books for sale. When it comes to actually listing books, Amazon is by far the easiest platform to use. Creating a listing for your book can take as little as one minute.
When starting a listing, there are three different options for you to choose from:
“Sell Your Stuff” and enter the Title or ISBN number
Search for the book as if you were wanting to buy it and click “Start Selling”
List a New Title if no results come up for the ISBN you’re wanting to sell
Sell My Stuff
Go into your Seller Central and find the “Sell Your Stuff” tab. Type in the title or the ISBN number and search. Make sure your category is set to “Books.”
Click “Start Selling” and begin your listing.
Go to the Amazon homepage and use the search bar to find the book you are looking to sell. Once you find it, go to the listing detail page.
Click “Sell on Amazon” on the right side of the screen to begin your listing.
On the rare occasion the above two options don’t work, Amazon will provide you with the option to create a brand new listing.
This will happen when you search for an ISBN and no results come up, meaning there is no existing listing for that book. Amazon will then direct you to begin a new listing.
For a new listing, you will need to provide the following:
Setting the Price – What’s the best price to sell my books for on Amazon?
When listing your book, Amazon shows you how many other offers for the same book are being sold and what price range the books are selling within.
This is super convenient and helpful, as it will allow you to determine your price point. If you’re a new seller listing a single copy of a book, you should list it as the lowest price in the price range. This will boost the chances of a quick sale.
For some books, it might make more sense to list in the higher price range. This could be for current edition textbooks, first edition novels, or special edition books.
Shipping and Costs
Once you input all the required information and click “Save,” your listing will go live on Amazon and will be ready for potential buyers to search for.
You will need to decide on your shipping method: FBM vs FBA.
FBM – Fulfilled by Merchant
If you’re only selling a handful of books, this might be the option for you. Because you already have the books, you just keep them in your house until someone buys them. No additional storage fees! Once a book is sold, you are responsible for boxing it up, labeling, and shipping it out. Shipping costs can be calculated into your initial price point.
FBA – Fulfilled by Amazon If you’re selling more than 40 books, multiple copies of a book, or you don’t want to have to worry about shipping, FBA is a great option. For extra fees, you ship your inventory to an Amazon Fulfillment Center and they take care of the rest when an order is placed.
Make sure you fully research the pros and cons of FBA and FBM before deciding. Deciding on a fulfillment method is important as additional steps and fees may apply.
The Pay Out
Getting paid is arguably the best part about selling on Amazon. If you already set up your seller account and have everything approved, you probably remember Amazon requesting your bank information.
Amazon will directly deposit payments into your account every two weeks. Each deposit can take up to 5 business days and Amazon will send you a notification when the payment is sent.
Other Ways to Sell Books
If you’re looking to sell books that aren’t pre-owned or used, there are definitely options. Amazon offers 5 book selling portals for you to sell from if you wish. These portals are for selling e-books, audio books, and even self-published books. But that’s a blog for another day!
While Amazon is now the second largest ecommerce platform in terms of sales, it actually got its humble beginning as an online bookstore in 1994. It all began inside of Jeff Bezos’ rented garage in Bellevue, Washington!
Jeff Bezos chose books due to the high demand of literature worldwide and their low price point. This still stands true today so selling used books on Amazon is a smart move to make some extra pocket change and relieve your overcrowded bookshelves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shipping, Importing and Freight Forwarding is perhaps one of THE most confusing, yet essential, aspects to selling on Amazon. There are a LOT of changes happening in the Amazon space right now. Policy changes, Tariffs, Q4, Q1… and we’re breaking it ALL down in this two-part series.
I’m bringing Michael from Flexport onto the show – you’ll learn what Flexport’s all about in the intro of the topic discussion, just know that Flexport is on TOP of the Freight Forwarding and Shipping Logistics game, AND is focused on innovating in the Amazon space. They’re incredible at what they do, and have incredible perspective for what’s going on right now.
This week, which is part 2, we’ll be touching on general best practices and some solid Q4 / Q1 strategy. Pay attention here everyone, there’s a LOT to digest, but this information is ESSENTIAL.
As an Amazon seller, your main goal is to get your product in front of as many buyers as possible. But with competition high, where do you even start? Thankfully, there are several Amazon advertising tools designed to help sellers promote their products.
From sponsored ads and video ads to storefronts and more, sellers have plenty of options for how to advertise their Amazon products and brands. In this guide, we’ll cover what each of these advertising options are and how you can use them for your business. But first, let’s discuss a big change Amazon recently made to its advertising platform.
What’s in a Name? Amazon Advertising Rebrand
Come with me on a journey through time and space to August 2018. It was a different, more confusing time in the Amazon ecosystem. Back then, Amazon sellers looking to advertise their products had to wade through three different marketing channels and decide which one was best for their business. Amazon offered AMG (Amazon Media Group), AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) and AAP (Amazon Advertising Platform) as their three marketing pillars.
However, the disjointed nature of having multiple advertising platforms was seen as unnecessarily confusing to a lot of sellers. Many people found it hard to decipher where you needed to go to run the types of ads you wanted with so many different acronyms and platforms.
In September 2018, Amazon began phasing out the three-headed monster of AMG, AMS and AAP, opting rather to combine them all into one advertising platform. Now anything that has to do with advertising on Amazon falls under the umbrella of Amazon Advertising.
Head over to Amazon Advertising if you’re looking for any of these services or features:
To make sure you understand all the options at your fingertips, let’s dive into each one.
Sponsored Product Ads
In short, Sponsored Ads are pay-per-click advertisements that allow brands to promote their products with keyword-targeted ads. As you’ve shopped on Amazon before, you’ve likely seen these ads. These appear with a small “Sponsored” tag after you’ve typed in a related keyword. Sponsored Product ads can show up at the top or within search results and on product detail pages. They will also appear on mobile and tablet browsers, as well as apps. As an example, when searching “garlic press,” I was given these Sponsored Ads:
How Much do Sponsored Product Ads Cost?
As previously mentioned, these types of ads use a cost-per-click, auction-based pricing model. This means you are bidding against other sellers to get that spot within search results. You set the maximum amount you are willing to pay when a shopper clicks on your ad. The more competitive your bid is, the better chance it has to be displayed.
As you can see in the image below, this is what the Sponsored Ads user interface looks like. In the first column, you can enter your bid for the ad. To help sellers choose the right bid, Amazon will provide you with a suggested price range. As you’re getting started, bid within or just slightly over the suggested amount. You can always adjust from there if you are not getting desired results from your campaign.
Once you’ve got campaigns ready to go, you can also set your budget: the maximum daily amount you’re willing to spend over a calendar month.
Ready to Start Building Your First Campaign?
Check out this webinar from Amazon:
Now that you have a basic understanding of what Sponsored Products are, let’s move onto the next advertising option.
Formerly known as Headline Search Ads, Sponsored Brands are keyword-targeted ads that allow brands to have a custom headline and logo within their ad. Brands use these advertisements to drive shoppers to a custom landing page or their Amazon Store. These ads show up on the left side of search results and at the top and bottom of the page. They can also appear on both desktop and mobile browsers, as well as the Amazon app.
Who is Eligible for Sponsored Brands?
Only third party products that are enrolled in Brand Registry are eligible to utilize Sponsored Brands. The products must also be new and fall into one of the categories below.
Note: Adult products, used products, and refurbished products are not eligible for the Sponsored Brands program.
How Much Do Sponsored Brands Cost?
Similar to Sponsored Product Ads, Sponsored Brands use a cost-per-click, auction-based pricing model. You set the maximum amount you’re willing to pay when a shopper clicks your ad. The more competitive your bid is, the more likely it is that your ad will be displayed.
While there are a lot of similarities with Sponsored Product Ads, the daily budget works a little bit different for Sponsored Brands. You set the maximum daily amount you’re willing to spend on ads, but it does not roll over to the next day. This is unlike Sponsored Product Ads, which uses an average for the month.
Like sponsored ads, Display Ads also use a pay-per-click model. However, there are some differences. While sponsored ads are keyword targeted, Display Ads allow you to target your ad based on shopper interest or a specific product. Display Ads can appear in a number of places for both desktop and mobile users, including:
Below search results
Customer review pages
Top of the offer listing page
This image shows a Display Ad appearing directly under the checkout options on the right side of the page.
In addition to the areas listed above, these ads may also appear in Amazon merchandising emails.
Want some more information about Display Ads?
Check out this video from Amazon:
Video Ads are a great way for advertisers to really tell their brand story and engage customers in a unique way. These ads show up in brand-safe environments via trusted channels like Amazon, IMDb or on exclusive Amazon devices like Fire TV or Fire tablet, as well as across many third-party sites and apps. As you can see below, videos are showing up on the bottom of a webpage as well as on a smartphone.
One major point to remember about video ads is they require a budget of $35,000 or more in the United States. These are typically going to be utilized by sellers or brands that have bigger advertising budgets.
Stores allow sellers to create their own website within Amazon with its own branded URL. This is a great way to showcase your brand story and product portfolio in a curated customer destination while providing a place to drive advertisements to. They don’t require any coding skills to set up and, as you can see below, provide a multi-page shopping experience.
Known formerly as Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP), Amazon DSP is a demand-side platform. This allows sellers to programmatically reach audiences on Amazon sites as well as through publishing partners and third-party exchanges. Unlike other advertising options where the main goal is to have a direct impact on sales, the main goal of DSP campaigns are to build brand and product awareness. This is more for companies that understand the nature of brand advertising and are already running display ads on other platforms.
The Measurement tools of Amazon Advertising allow sellers to see how their campaigns are performing. Here are some of the most important terms to understand:
Impression: An impression is generated every time your ad is displayed.
Click: A click is generated when a user clicks or taps your ad.
Click-through rate: Click-through rate is the number of clicks your ad generates divided by the number of times your ad is displayed (impressions).
Detail page view: A detail page view, or DPV, occurs when a customer visits one of your brand’s product detail pages after clicking your ad.
Total sales: Sum of sales attributed to your campaign. A sale is attributed to your campaign each time a customer clicks your ad and purchases your products within 14 days. It takes 3 days after your first click for this data to begin showing in your report.
ACOS: The average advertising cost of sales (ACOS) is the amount you’ve spent on a campaign divided by the total sales attributed to your ad.
In this section of Amazon Advertising, sellers are able to run many different reports to check how their campaigns are performing.
Advertising on Amazon: Find What Works for You
While standing out on Amazon can be difficult, these days sellers have plenty of tools to advertise their products. However, running Sponsored or Display Ads or utilizing any of the other marketing strategies won’t automatically ensure success.
A lot of the Amazon game (advertising included), comes down to good old fashioned research along with trial and error.
If you’re going to jump into running Sponsored Ad campaigns for your product, you need to be fully aware of what you’re willing to spend on your advertising campaign as a whole so you can properly set bids and your budget. It also might behoove you to start with a wider net of keywords, let the campaign run, and then pick out a few of the keywords that perform the best.
The point here is, you need to figure out what strategy and advertising options work for you and your goals. If something isn’t working, take note and adjust accordingly before moving forward.
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.
If you’re looking to become an Amazon seller, you’ll quickly learn that research plays a huge part in your success. From product viability to profit margins and keyword research, you’ve got a lot to do. One aspect a lot of first time sellers don’t think (or know) to research is Amazon gated categories.
Millions of products spread out over hundreds of categories are available to buy and sell right now on Amazon. From electronics to baby products and supplements to snacks, the possibilities are endless.
But not all categories and products are created equal. Some fall under gated or restricted categories. And before you source your Amazon FBA product, you need to be aware of what these categories are because they require special approval to sell.
If you don’t do your due diligence and source a product in a gated category you could be stuck with a ton of inventory and no way to move it.
To make sure you avoid this mistake, let’s dive into gated categories.
What Are the Amazon Restricted Categories?
The Amazon ecosystem is constantly in flux, but right now there are around 20 Amazon restricted categories and subcategories. The list of categories/subcategories that have some sort of restriction or approval/ungating process includes:
Automotive and Powersports
Clothing, Accessories, Shoes and Luggage
Collectibles (Books and Coins)
Grocery and Gourmet Foods
Toys and Games (during the holidays)
Video Media (DVDs, Blu-ray)
Have you committed those to memory? There will be quiz later. Just kidding, but it would be a good idea to keep this list in mind when you’re perusing potential product ideas.
The next question we should probably answer is:
Why Does Amazon Put Restrictions on Certain Categories?
It’s pretty simple really. Amazon’s main goals, as is the case with any business (or it should be at least), is customer satisfaction and brand perception. Now with almost half of all sales on Amazon coming from third party sellers, the company has to have a way to protect its reputation. That’s why Amazon adds restrictions to categories which are susceptible to issues with safety, quality or counterfeiting.
While these restrictions are great for Amazon and in turn the shopper, it can make life difficult for sellers. That’s why you have to make sure you’ve done your research to figure out if that goldmine product you’re about to source would fall in a restricted category.
If it does and you’re fine with a few extra steps, these next parts may be for you.
How Do you Start the Approval Process?
Ok, so let’s say you’ve decided to sell in a category that requires an approval process. How do you get started down the path to getting approved to sell? Fortunately, this part is pretty straightforward. Typically, to get the ball rolling on the approval process you will follow these steps:
Head to Seller Central, then click the inventory link and select “Add a Product.”
Perform a search and look for any product you know that is listed in the specific category.
Once you’re in the search results, click the link that says “Listing Limitations Apply.”
Choose “Request Approval” and begin the application.
While some sellers get approved automatically or within a few hours, don’t worry if it take a little extra time for you. For some, getting approval can take up to a week. To check the status of your application all you have to do is go back to the Add a Product section of Seller Central and look for the “Selling Application Status” on the page.
What Does the Approval Process Entail?
Like a lot of things on Amazon, the answer is – it depends. While the approval and “ungating” process can vary from category to category, there are still a few blanket things you want to do to make sure you stay in Amazon’s good graces and increase the chances of getting approved. Some actions that can influence the approval process include:
Pro Selling Account: For nearly all restricted categories you must have a Professional Selling plan or agree to upgrade to a Professional Selling plan within a certain amount of time, typically 30 days after your application is approved.
Good Standing: In addition to having a Professional Selling account, Amazon also wants to see that your account is in good health. So keep your late shipment rates, defect rates and pre fulfillment cancel rates and returns as low as possible to increase your chances of getting approved. Unless there are quality issues with your other product(s), this aspect mainly applies to FBM, because if you’re selling FBA you should be hitting these metrics easily.
Invoices: In some categories, like Grocery and Gourmet food, Amazon requires that you provide them with acceptable documentation like product invoices and any other information they request about your products.
Images: For the Automotive and Powersports category, Amazon requires sellers to have compliant product images that can either be reviewed on an independent website or image hosting site.
Questionnaire: Some categories, like Sexual Wellness and Jewelry also require you to fill out a questionnaire in addition to providing images.
FDA Review: Some products are subject to FDA approval and may have additional requirements, like listing guidelines that you must adhere to.
Want Some More Information about FDA Regulated Products?
Check out our recent podcast on the topic:
As you move through the approval process Amazon will indicate what of the above aspects it needs from you as the seller. Because this is done online with areas to upload or enter information, having all pertinent documents and info ready to go will help speed up this process.
Keep in mind, all categories will be different when it comes to what it takes to get approval to sell. For instance, sellers wanting to break into the Grocery and Gourmet Foods category have to follow specific guidelines.
Here are some of the guidelines straight from Amazon for the Grocery and Gourmet Foods category. As you can see from the image below, there are requirements for a number of aspects including packaging, labelling, shipment dates and much more.
Then, as you might imagine for food products, Amazon also requires sellers to maintain proper temperature control, as you can see below.
Final Thoughts: Should I Avoid Selling in Restricted Categories?
Hopefully after reading this blog post, you have a little better idea of why restricted categories exist and what the process for getting “ungated” entails. Now, if you think the process for getting approval to sell in one of the gated categories is too complex and time-consuming, (especially if you’re a new seller) that’s perfectly fine. However, if you’re willing to go the extra mile, this could be a good strategy for you.
Think about it this way: There is a ton of competition across all categories on Amazon, right? But wouldn’t it make some sense to think that categories that require these extra steps and work, might be a little less crowded for the reasons I mentioned above?
What I’m saying isn’t necessarily profound, nor is it sure to make you instantly rich. That said, you don’t have to avoid restricted categories like the plague just because you can’t open an account and immediately start selling.
These are the types of decisions that you’ll have to make throughout your selling journey. To set yourself up for success, you’ll need to make sure you’ve done plenty of research and have gathered the right data.
Here at Viral Launch, we want to provide you with all the information you’ll 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.