No matter what holiday you celebrate, we hope you do, in fact, celebrate. Meanwhile, for Amazon sellers, the holidays represent a time of booming traffic and opportunity. While an influx of sales is always welcome, it adds a challenge of work-life balance.
The holiday season signals the end of the year is near, and we think it’s safe to say we’re all collectively ready to put 2020 in the rearview.
It’s certainly been a year like no other, and just as such, it’s impossible to ignore this is a holiday season is different from years past. Perhaps you’re not traveling like normal, or won’t be around
But don’t let that get in the way of having holiday spirit!
Bake some cookies for Santa Claus, flick on your favorite holiday movie (Die Hard?), and pour a glass of eggnog to sip around the fireplace. To help you get in the holiday spirit, check out the playlist below with some of the best Christmas music.
Because if Mariah Carey and Co. can’t get you feeling festive, you might be a Grinch.
While we hope you’re able to celebrate this holiday season, we’re fully aware you have a business to run! Whether you’re an Amazon veteran or spending your first holiday rush as a seller, we’ve got you covered with tips and tricks to conquer Christmas and kickoff 2021 like a boss.
We wish you the absolute best this holiday season and hope it is filled with health, positivity, and success for you and your loved ones.
Last but certainly not least, be sure to drop your email below to receive the latest updates in your stocking inbox. We’ve got plenty in store for 2021 that you do NOT want to miss out on!
Held annually in the United States on November 11 to commemorate the armistice that ended World War I, Veterans Day is observed in appreciation of those who have honorably served.
Today, we at Viral Launch would like to take a second out of our day to celebrate Veterans Day 2020.
We are deeply grateful to those who have served in the United States Armed Forces for their sacrifice to help protect us and our freedoms.
According to the most recent census, there are 17.4 million veterans living in the United States. With so many veterans, it’s likely you know somebody who has served. If you have a family member, friend, or anyone in your life who has served our country, we strongly encourage you to celebrate by reaching out to them.
As it is with most heavy topics, talking to them about their experience can seem daunting. But a simple “thank you” or “thank you for your service” can go a long way. It’s the absolute least we can do, as they’ve risked their lives and spent precious time serving their country.
Without their bravery and dedication to country, we understand that the lives we live wouldn’t be possible.
Thank you to those who have served in our Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard for all that you’ve done.
Being an Amazon seller has always come with its hurdles, but as the world grapples with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, sellers face a new kind of challenge. This guide will walk through what changes have arisen, how all of this affects you as a seller, and what you can do about it.
The Coronavirus has caused lawmakers at state and local levels to encourage and enforce that citizens stay inside their homes for anything other than essential activities. As the world works from home out of necessity, the eRetailer is the go-to source for delivered goods (the eCommerce giant already owned 52% of all online sales in 2019). Household staples and medical supplies are running low, and Amazon is racing to keep their digital shelves stocked to meet surging demand. “Getting a priority item to your doorstep is vital as communities practice social-distancing, particularly for the elderly and others with underlying health issues,” said an Amazon representative in an Operations blog post.
Amazon has recently made a few drastic changes that impact millions of third-party private label brands. While it’s something to definitely understand, don’t lose hope. There are still options, and you can get through this. You are an entrepreneur, after all. And we are relentless.
Changes that Amazon has made amid COVID-19
With its origins in China, Coronavirus has been on Amazon’s radar since mid-January 2020. The company announced changes to its fulfillment network and workforce in mid-March to address growing concern and meet surging demand.
1. Sellers cannot initiate a new FBA shipment for non-essential products
Amazon sent the following notification to all active sellers:
Temporarily prioritizing products coming into our fulfillment centers We are closely monitoring the developments of COVID-19 and its impact on our customers, selling partners, and employees. We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers. For products other than these, we have temporarily disabled shipment creation. We are taking a similar approach with retail vendors. This will be in effect today through April 5, 2020, and we will let you know once we resume regular operations. Shipments created before today will be received at fulfillment centers. You can learn more about this on this Help page. Please note that Selling Partner Support does not have further guidance. We understand this is a change to your business, and we did not take this decision lightly. We are working around the clock to increase capacity and yesterday announced that we are opening 100,000 new full- and part-time positions in our fulfillment centers across the US. We appreciate your understanding as we prioritize the above products for our customers. Thank you for your patience, and for participating in FBA.
For third party sellers, this means that you cannot create shipments to be received at an Amazon fulfillment center in Seller Central until at least April 6th. Only essential items will be accepted as inbound shipments. Essential items are listed within the following categories (but not all items are considered essential):
Beauty & Personal Care
Health & Household
Industrial & Scientific
If your inbound shipment was created before March 17, Amazon will check it in. For existing non-essential inventory in Amazon’s warehouses, you can still expect Amazon to pick, pack, and ship your products, but the process will likely be delayed as essential items are prioritized and shipping carriers race to keep up with increased demand.
If you do sell essential items, beware that Amazon has a zero tolerance policy for price gouging. The marketplace has removed thousands of listings and even threatened legal action against sellers seeking to profit from a global pandemic.
2. Amazon is strengthening its workforce to meet demand
With the surge in online shopping, Amazon is experiencing unprecedented labor needs. Because of this, the company is opening 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions in their fulfillment centers and delivery network across the U.S. Amazon extended an employment invitation to those who have been economically impacted in industries like hospitality, restaurants, and travel.
Amazon will also pay their employees an additional $2 per hour worked from their current rate of $15/hour or more, depending on the region, at least through the end of April. The company seeks to keep health and safety a top priority. “We continue to consult with medical and health experts, and take all recommended precautions in our buildings and stores to keep people healthy. We’ve taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and taken on enhanced and frequent cleaning, to name just a few,” said an Amazon representative.
How Coronavirus is Affecting Amazon Sellers
Amazon sellers have mixed feelings about the recent changes. Some are angry with the eCommerce giant, convinced that the moves will put them out of business. Others respect the decision and see all of this as an opportunity to pivot and grow. And most are somewhere in between, hoping for the best and making operational changes with each announcement.
Here are a few of the varied Amazon seller comments posted in response to Amazon’s inbound shipment freeze:
Amazon just put tons of businesses out of business. Destroyed thousands of jobs amidst a crisis. Horrible joke. Absolute joke. No warning. Expect major lawsuits coming from sellers who now will go bankrupt.
This virus is not a joke, and I am sure Amazon didn’t take the decision to suspend FBA shipments, just because they felt like it. Have you considered the fact that the Amazon employees are affected also? Some of them might even be sick, quarantined, have kids at home because of closed schools? It is not about you, it is not time to be selfish. This is a matter of life and death for many people around the globe.
It is not doable. Most of us do not have the infrastructure in place. We do not have the boxes or packing material to do this. Amazon should have had the basic integrity to give us a few days notice so that items that were low or out of stock could be sent.
Overall, it seems that Amazon sellers are unsure of how the future will play out. With online sales rising but no opportunity for non-essential products to reach their normal fulfillment avenues, there will definitely need to be pivots made in the short-term for sales to continue.
Many sellers are calling on Amazon to pause inventory loan payments and selling plan fees for those who are ineligible to fulfill through FBA. But because Amazon’s focus is always on the customer, it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that this will be prioritized.
Because there seems to be new developments every few days, it’s important that Amazon sellers keep an eye on the news and Amazon announcements in the coming weeks. Just as we are all making decisions based on the information we have, Amazon’s executive team is pivoting as needed.
For now, here are a few action steps you can take to sustain your business and prepare for the future.
1. See if your products are still eligible for FBA shipments
Many products in the following categories are still eligible to be sent into Amazon’s fulfillment centers: Baby, Beauty & Personal Care, Grocery, Health & Household, Industrial & Scientific, Pet Supplies. If you sell within these categories, head to your Shipping Queue within Seller Central and attempt to create an inbound shipment. This way you’ll know what products you need to enact (or create) a Plan B for. Please note that many sellers are experiencing hang times when creating shipping plans because of the increased number of people trying to do this in a short period of time.
2. Outline your path(s) forward
Whether it’s pivoting your sales strategy for your existing business, planning for your future product, or even exploring options like dropshipping, you need to understand your options so that you can make an informed decision on how to move forward. It’s okay to wait and see how things unfold in the next week or so, but outline your possible paths forward so that when it comes time to make a decision, you’re ready to act. Big changes like this affect everybody, and someone is going to come out on top. But it’s going to take a dedication to the process and pushing through obstacles for you to be that one.
3. Pivot your fulfillment method
For those of you with non-essential FBA products, you’ve got three options when it comes to fulfillment: find a Prime-eligible third-party fulfillment partner, switch to Fulfilled by Merchant, or pause operations until Amazon opens their fulfillment centers to your products. Again, do your research now so that you can make the best decision for your business. You may find that a third party fulfillment partner is just as cost effective as FBA was, or you may discover that it’s best for you and your family to wait out the storm.
4. Prepare your next product
Although Amazon is only allowing certain products right now and there have been disruptions in the supply chain, this won’t last forever. Now, especially if you have some extra time on your hands, is the perfect time to use historical data to research which product you might bring to market. If you’re an existing seller, keep an eye on how your competition is handling the situation using Competitor Intelligence. And if you’re a new seller, begin the process of sourcing your very first product. The first step of the Amazon seller journey is finding a product that sets you up for success. Product Discovery makes that process incredibly easy, and it can be completed during this time. That way, your product is ready to stock when the shelves are ready.
We’re in This One Together
The fact that this blog post exists means you are not in this alone. There are a lot of uncertainties right now, but there are also new opportunities to take advantage of. Maybe the excuse used to be, “I don’t have time to work on my business.” Many of us now have time, but the circumstances have shifted. If there were ever a time to buckle down and figure it out, it’s right now.
Find out how your products have been affected. See how sales are trending in your market. Map out your options. Dig in and figure it out because that spirit is exactly what got you into this business in the first place. We’ll be here for you along the way updating you of the news. If you want to see how other Amazon sellers are handling the situation, get advice, and stay up to date on the most recent changes, join our community on Facebook: Amazon FBA Data Hunters. We’ll see you in there.
As a new seller on Amazon, you’re probably eager to break into the marketplace and start moving products. But there’s one major challenge that stands in your way: competition. The Amazon marketplace is giant, and it’s only getting bigger. As of the first quarter of 2020, third-party sellers make up 52% of paid units sold on Amazon, and that number will keep going up.
Just because the market is crowded, however, doesn’t mean new sellers can’t find an in. They just have to learn to use the competition to their advantage — with Amazon competitor research tools. A competitor analysis of Amazon is the best way for new sellers to maximize the effectiveness of their listings and get ahead of the competition.
Don’t get stuck in a spot where you create a product listing and don’t know what to do next. Learn to be savvy about the competition with a high-quality Amazon seller competitor analysis, and carve out a spot for yourself in the marketplace.
Enter the Solution: Competitor Intelligence
Our Amazon competitor research tool, Competitor Intelligence, gives you the best shot at cutting through that market chaos and finding success among fierce competition. Essentially, Competitor Intelligence allows you to compare your listings to competitors’ listings by giving you an actionable Amazon seller competitor analysis to inform your strategy.
Get the Fullest Picture With Product Analysis
You can review how your product listing compares to competitor listings in the Product Analysis tab in Competitor Intelligence. You can contrast various information such as price, review quantity, review rating, listing copy, and images. This tool allows you to quickly see which keywords your competitors are ranking highly for — even if you’re not tracking those keywords. This makes it simple for you to see where you have potential to create selling points against them.
For instance, can you offer a lower price, even if it’s only temporary? Can you upload objectively better product photos? Is the quality of your product better? Product Analysis helps you isolate tangible advantages that you can highlight to drive sales.
Keep Track of Competitors’ Keyword Rankings
Then, you can do deeper competitor research to dissect competitors’ strategies using the Competitor Keywords tab. Competitor Intelligence allows you to find competitors’ most important keywords in under a minute. It shows you every keyword a competing product currently ranks for. Unlike other keyword research tools, it shows you what a competitor has ranked for historically. This gives you a more comprehensive view of a competitor’s overall advertising strategy.
Now, as a new seller, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to jump in right away and dominate those primary keyword areas, but you can use comprehensive competitor keyword data from Competitor Intelligence to find out which keywords competitors aren’t targeting.
These lower-volume keywords may not necessarily have the same sales potential as the ones your competitors are targeting, but they can still drive some conversions for you at a lower advertising cost and with fewer competitors. As you gain visibility and drive sales through these keywords, you’ll begin to generate reviews and raise your organic search rankings.
Over time, you’ll build up your sales history and accumulate enough reviews to begin tackling some larger keyword areas and competing with the big guys.
Tracking Competitors in Real Time
Competitor Intelligence is also the only Amazon competitor research tool that updates you daily, or even hourly, on changes in important competitor data.
Product notifications alert you when a top competitor raises its prices, for instance, so you can take advantage of that as soon as possible. Keyword notifications also alert you when a competitor’s keyword rankings change, allowing you to stay up to date at all times without having to manually check the competitor’s rankings throughout the day. Competitor Intelligence is the only tool out there that will give you this real-time view of the landscape, and with it, you’ll be able to react quickly and effectively to optimize your products.
Valuable competitor analysis on Amazon will give you insights into both how your products compare to other listings and how your competitors interact with the market. Competitor Intelligence offers this through unmatched product analysis and competitor keyword research.
It may be unrealistic to expect to jump right in and sell alongside your top competitors, but the right data can reveal the best opportunities. Once you’re in, Competitor Intelligence will inform your strategy as you build your products up to the top of the increasingly crowded Amazon marketplace. And the earlier you start, the better.
Jeff Bezos is obsessed with providing the best customer experience possible. In fact, he was recently quoted saying, “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”
As a shopper on Amazon, this means an overall better experience. We can all appreciate a seamless shopping experience and super-speedy shipping. But as an Amazon seller, every update to the algorithm, every policy change, and every feature roll-out can directly impact your bottom line. In order to adapt, maintain sales, and grow your business, you should always understand how recent changes are affecting you.
Here at Viral Launch, we live and breathe Amazon. And right when they make a change, we set out to help you understand what it means for you. In today’s news roundup, we’ll go through 4 updates you should know about. And if you want to keep an even closer eye on changes,follow along on social media where we share the latest news and success tactics in real-time.
1. Product Inserts Policy Mixup
The news: Many sellers were shocked and frustrated after receiving an email on 10/31 reminding sellers that product inserts may not ask for a review of any kind. This email contradicted the official policy on their site that only prohibits product inserts that ask for a positive review. Amazon quickly corrected the error with a follow-up message reading: We want to remind you that Amazon policies prohibit box inserts and product packaging that direct consumers to write a positive review, even if no incentive is offered for a review.
What it means for you: Because Amazon corrected the error, there is no change in policy here. However, it’s a good opportunity to ensure you’re in line with Amazon’s terms when it comes to product inserts and reviews. Your product inserts cannot ask customers to take an action based on a positive or negative experience, which means you can’t ask them to contact you instead of leaving a negative review. And remember, you cannot review your own product, incentivize reviews in any way, or use third party services that offer free or discounted products tied to a review. If you have any products already in fulfillment centers and are in violation of the policies, you’ll want to create a removal order to proactively remove your inventory and avoid any trouble.
2. Communication Guidelines Simplified
The news: Effective on December 3rd, Amazon has updated its Customer Communication Guidelines. The company says they’re not changing the policies but are refreshing the language to make it clearer after hearing complaints from many sellers. In summary, the guidelines state that you may contact a buyer who has purchased from you on Amazon only to complete an order or to respond to a customer service inquiry. You may not contact buyers in any way for marketing or promotional purposes, including via email, physical mail, telephone, or otherwise. Read the full policy.
What this means for you: This is another scenario where Amazon is making it crystal clear that it is not allowed to contact buyers for anything other than support. While no drastic action is needed, you’ll want to review the policy to make sure you’re not in violation. Historically, Amazon has made small changes that lead to suspension sweeps, so if you’re currently promoting your brand to past Amazon customers, take this as an opportunity to make changes that align with TOS.
3. Request a Review Button
The news: In Seller Central, you may have noticed a new button on the “Order Details” page labeled “Request a Review.” When you click it, you’ll see the following message:
And after clicking Yes, you’ll see a popup that says, “A review will be requested for this order. (Note: We will suppress this request if a review has already been requested for this order).” For now, it seems Amazon is testing this button on the Amazon US marketplace, and it’s only available once per sale.
What this means for you: Amazon has also recently removed sections of a customer’s contact information, such as last name and shipping address. The “Request a Review” button falls in this same effort to keep buyer-seller messaging in-house. It’s definitely worth requesting reviews from your buyers to see if you’re able to generate reviews quickly. With the ask coming from Amazon, customers may be more inclined to act. However, as more and more sellers become aware and abuse this button, it could mean that Amazon pivots again or simply that the button will lose effectiveness. Either way, we’ll keep a close eye on how the market is responding and will update via our social media channels.
4. “Posts” in Beta
The news: Under the Amazon Advertising umbrella, Posts let Amazon sellers use curated photos to inspire shoppers to engage with their brands and products on Amazon. Focused on a brand-shopping experience, Posts help shoppers discover new products and see what’s new from brands by browsing feeds of brand-curated content. They’re currently US only, free to participate in, and include engagement metrics, including views, clicks, and clickthrough rates. Learn more.
What this means for you: Amazon understands the power of social selling and branding. They’re putting resources behind it, so as a seller on their platform you should too. You’re probably no stranger to the value of growing a following early on a social media platform. Of course, Posts may not explode the way Instagram did or TikTok is (in fact, they just shut down Spark, a discovery shopping feature launched in 2017). But, if you’re running social media for your brand anyways, it may be worth testing whether or not Posts will pay off for your brand. They show up on your own detail pages, detail pages for related brands, feeds for related posts, and category-based feeds… all of which are prime real estate.
Make Small Changes for Big Results
By being the first to know about Amazon updates, you can stay ahead of other Amazon sellers and ensure your products are positioned for success. But you’ll also want to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered when it comes to the basics. For example, are your Amazon advertising campaigns adding to your bottom line, or are you confused about how to make them work? We understand how important it is to get the basics right, so we recently launched two free Amazon courses. Yep, they’re free!
Imagine signing into a single platform that fully equips you to build a successful e-commerce brand through innovative solutions and data-driven automation. This is our mission here at Viral Launch, and we work tirelessly towards making this a reality for you.
Some people may call our team “obsessive.” But hey, we’ll take it as a compliment. We’re obsessive about data. Obsessive about innovating. Obsessive about driving real results for your brand. And because we are so invested in truly driving success for our customers, we want our tools to be as effective and user-friendly as possible. To achieve this, we release product improvements and bug fixes every single day.
Most recently, we made a few game-changing updates to our newest tool, Competitor Intelligence, along with pushing a few other notable improvements to our other seller software.
8 Notable Updates to the Viral Launch Software Suite in February
1.BSR Added to Rank Trend Graphs
Competitor Intelligence, Keyword Manager
Have you ever wondered which keywords are driving sales for you or your competitors? With this update, you can view the correlation between BSR and keyword rank, which gives you insight into how heavily the product’s sales depend on that specific keyword’s ranking. If the historical BSR trend closely resembles that keyword’s rank trend, you can conclude that an important portion of sales are being driven through that keyword.
For example, let’s say you sell fish oil. Looking at your product’s historical data in Keyword Manager, you see that your organic keyword rank dropped significantly for the keyword “burpless fish oil,” but your BSR remained relatively consistent. Here, you can infer that not many sales were being driven through that keyword. But if your keyword rank dropped for “fish oil,” and your BSR dropped along with it, you know that “fish oil” is an important sales-driving keyword for you. The more similar the trends, the more your sales depend on that specific keyword. This same method can be applied to competitor ASINs in Competitor Intelligence.
To find which keywords are driving sales for your products or competing products:
2. ‘Your Keyword Rank’ Comparisons to Your Competitor’s Rank
Tracking your competitor’s keyword rank is a great way to understand their strategy and revenue-driving keywords. This update allows you to take it one step further by viewing your organic keyword rank side-by-side in a brand new column called “Your Rank.” This way, you can visualize which keywords your competitor is out-ranking you on to take action.
3. CPC Suggested Bid Enhancements for Greater Accuracy
Keyword Manager and Competitor Intelligence
Did you know that Amazon may suggest a different advertising bid for your product vs. a very similar product? Your suggested CPC bid is dependent upon a number of factors (basically, Amazon is going to prioritize products that convert over those that do not). For this reason, we typically show a generic suggested CPC bid, or one that is not specific to any individual product. However, with a recent update to Keyword Manager, you will now see your product’s suggested CPC bid, tailored to your specific ASIN directly from Amazon. Plus, if you have linked your product in Competitor Intelligence, you will also see this enhanced, tailored suggested CPC bid. Three cheers for increased accuracy!
4. Real Sales Data instead of Estimates for Your Linked Products
In Competitor Intelligence, you can view your ASIN and a competitor’s ASIN side-by-side through linking your product. This allows you to compare and contrast your organic keyword rank, price, units sold, review rate, and more. With this update, instead of seeing sales estimates for your product, you will now see your real sales data pulled from MWS access for your units sold, revenue, and net profit, which allows you to more confidently measure your success and strategize for the future.
5. Faster Keyword Load Times
When plugging in a competitor’s ASIN to get a list of their relevant keywords, you previously had to wait for all results to load before getting started with your competitor keyword research. We’ve now optimized performance so that you can start researching right away while results come in as loaded.
6. Adding Keywords to Your Bank in Bulk
You can track other brand’s ASINs in Competitor Intelligence, but to track your own ASINs, you’ll want to use Listing Analyzer. As you’re completing your competitive research in CI, you’ll come across keywords that you may be interested in tracking for your own products. In the past, you could add competitor keywords one-by-one to your Keyword Manager bank in order to track them for yourself. But with this update, you can now select multiple competitor keywords and add them to your product’s bank all at once!
7. ASIN Tracking from Your Competing and Complementary Products
Amazon recently released new targeting options for Sponsored Product campaigns. The Product Targeting feature allows you to choose specific products to target placements for your sponsored ads, which changes the way you manage your campaigns and helps shoppers find your products on detail pages. In January, we added a Competing and Complementary Products tab to Listing Analyzer. By understanding your listing, we’ll give you a list of suggested products for you to target where you may convert well. And recently, we added the ability for you to easily track these suggested products in Competitor Intelligence. To utilize this update, simply click the three “more options” dots next to the product, and click Track in Competitor Intelligence.
8. Tutorial Videos Added to Better Understand the Tools
Because there are so many features and capabilities in our 7 seller tools, it can be overwhelming at times. Each feature is thoughtfully integrated, and by fully understanding each tool, you can harness the power of the entire suite to have massive impacts on your bottom line. Of course, our goal is to equip you with the data and insights you need. But beyond that, we want to enable you to utilize the full functionality of each and every tool. So, we’ve added additional tutorial videos to Competitor Intelligence, and we will continue adding how-to’s and walkthroughs on the Viral Launch YouTube channel.
Two bonus enhancements to improve your Viral Launch experience:
We now auto-refresh keyword analysis when you track an ASIN with data more than seven days old in Competitor Intelligence
We pushed an update to your tracked keyword quota in Competitor Intelligence and Listing Analyzer; we now deduct per unique keyword across all of your products to ensure you’re getting everything you pay for.
Pro Tips: Unlocking the Full Value of Your Subscription
Most people understand the basics of what is available inside of each Viral Launch tool. But for those that truly understand the deep-rooted capabilities, the impact to their business is absolutely game-changing. For example, you may know that Competitor Intelligence allows you to track a competitor’s keyword rank, but did you know it can also be used as a powerful hijacker monitoring tool for your own product?
Your subscription is a treasure chest that you’ve already uncovered; we want to help you unlock the value inside. To get the most out of your Viral Launch subscription, here are three Pro Tips.
Hijacker Monitoring: Plug in your own product ASIN to Competitor Intelligence, head to Manage Notifications, and turn on Buy Box Owner Change alerts. And wa-lah, you’ve just set up hijacker monitoring! You’ll get an email immediately if/when another seller takes the buy box from you.
Monitor Your Competitor’s Product Strategy: To stay in the loop on strategic changes your top competition is making to their product offering, head to Competitor Intelligence and turn on product notifications. You can specify when you want to receive an email notification about changes to their Best Seller Rank, sales quantity, review quantity and rating, price, and buy box ownership. If you notice a strategic and successful pattern, you can implement a similar strategy for your own product.
Product Targeting Suggestions: We mentioned this briefly, but the Competing and Complementary Products tab in Listing Analyzer makes it quick and easy to get started with product targeting, saving you time by cutting down on manual research so you can make smart decisions quickly. Using this feature, you can discover complementary products frequently bought together, identify competitor products in your keyword markets, and sort/filter by products with high sales to maximize your ad’s exposure.
“No excuses. No explanation. You don’t win on emotion. You win on execution.” -Tony Dungy
What is the biggest difference between you and the brands sitting atop page one for your main keywords? Time in the market? Budget? Expertise?
There will always be a reason not to push harder for your brand’s success. The competition is too big. They’re too good. They’re too far ahead. But you can compete, even with your toughest competitors. You just need a competitive advantage that they won’t see coming.
Here at Viral Launch, our team of around 70 go-getters work hard every day – innovating, analyzing, building – to equip you with the data, insights, and automation you need to rise to the top of your market and then replicate the process over and over again. These updates are more than just tool improvements; they’re our way of contributing to your brand’s success – because at the end of the day, your success is our success.
Check out all of the new capabilities in your Viral Launchpad, and let us know what you think! We thrive on your feedback, and the best feature updates are ones that are sourced from sellers like you.
To make the midterm elections even more exciting, Viral Launch hosted an Election Day Giveaway on our Facebook page on Tuesday, November 6! Four lucky people each received a $500 Amazon Gift Card.
Entering was easy.
After you rushed to the polls and voted, all you had to do was go to our Facebook page and leave a comment on the contest post before 11:59 PM ET on November 6.
A vote in the US election was not required to enter the contest, which was open to all US residents 18 years of age or older. (You can read through the official contest rules and terms right here if you’re interested.) We then chose 4 contest winners at random on November 7.
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS:
We hope you all enjoy your $500 Amazon gift card!
Now, we would also like to recognize the creativity of our Viral Launch community members. We read through every singlecomment and picked out some favorites!
And our honorable (and hilarious) mentions are:
Viral Launch would like to thank everyone who participated in our Election Day Giveaway. Many of your comments brought joy to our company and maybe even a tear or two. We would also like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who was able to get out and vote.
Again, thank you for participating! See you next time!
-The Viral Launch Team
P.S. Looking to get in on what’s happening next with Viral Launch? Don’t forget to sign up for our webinar for November 13, 2018. Some exciting stuff is about to go down! Also, everyone who signs up is automatically entered into a raffle each day leading up to our tool reveal!
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.
As a new Amazon seller, it’s crucial to understand the best practices for Amazon inventory management. The trouble is, this skill primarily comes with experience and requires mastering a lot of moving parts. And when compared to crafting a listing and showing off your product with stunning Amazon photography, inventory management isn’t the most exciting task on your to-do list. But if you don’t get it right, it’s going to impact your business from top to bottom.
We’re not going to sugarcoat it — sales forecasting and inventory management is tough, even for experienced sellers. The big thing to take away here is understanding why inventory management is so important and how you can avoid a detrimental stock out… never letting customers see this:
Let’s get to it!
Why Being Out of Stock is So Bad for Your Amazon Business
The implications of being out of stock run much deeper than you may think. Amazon inventory management is a crucial component of your business because, unlike brick and mortar stores, there are no backorders or clients who will wait patiently and just pop back in whenever a product isn’t available. Amazon shoppers will go straight to a competitor who has the item in stock, causing you to lose sales and all-important cash flow.
As if that weren’t enough, here are more ramifications for going out of stock:
Dropped Rankings: If you’re out of stock for a long period of time or on a regular basis, you’ll likely experience a significant drop in keyword ranking, which can be difficult to overcome even when your product comes back in stock. Giveaways and sponsored ads can help you regain ground, but you’re now operating with poor sales history and you’ll be operating with less money due to lost revenue.
No Organic Search Visibility: Amazon typically removes product listings without stock from its search result pages. While your listing may still live somewhere on Amazon, it’ll have a lot less visibility.
A huge part of Amazon’s appeal and what makes it arguably the world’s best business is its fast, easy access to millions of products. If you don’t manage your inventory properly, you’re going to be missing out on so many sales opportunities.
Having Too Much Inventory Isn’t Good Either
While you want to avoid having too few (or worse, zero) of inventory, you also want to avoid having too much. Inventory that’s sitting stale and stagnant isn’t making you any money — it’s actually costing you some.
On the 15th of each month, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) performs an inventory cleanup and any inventory that’s been in its warehouses for 181 to 365 days will incur a long-term storage fee (LTSF) of $3.45 per cubic foot. Items that have been in fulfillment centers for more than 365 days on the inventory cleanup date will incur a long-term storage fee of $6.90 per cubic foot.
Starting August 15, 2018, items that have been in Amazon fulfillment centers for more than 365 days will be subject to a minimum fee of $0.50 per unit per month. Either the long-term storage fee or the minimum fee will apply, whichever is greater.
If you’re not moving inventory, these storage fees can really add up!
Amazon Inventory Management: Knowing When and How Much to Order
So you don’t want too little and you don’t want too much. What does that mean? Take stock of your inventory and find a happy medium, or a healthy number that allows you to re-order stock while still continuing to fulfill orders.
When to Place a New Order
All new sellers struggle with how many units to buy because there are so many factors to consider. However, understanding your lead times and anticipated sales velocity can help you forecast sales and plan inventory orders.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, lead time is the number of days that occur from when you place an order with your supplier to when the item is ready for purchase. Many Chinese suppliers typically operate on 30-day turnaround times, but if it takes another 20 days for the units to ship, clear customs and be delivered to a fulfillment center (or wherever else), that’s 50 total days you’ll need to take into account.
Like everything else in your Amazon selling journey, getting a good handle on your lead time comes with experience. As you continue to work with your manufacturer and forwarder, you’ll be able to compile data and better determine this. To help you do so, we recommend you keep detailed records of:
The date you order from the manufacturer
The date manufacturing is completed
The date it ships from the manufacturing facility
The date your shipment arrives at your home or an Amazon FBA center
The date your product is checked into Amazon and ready for purchase
This information will also help you evaluate the performance of your manufacturer.
Using Historical Sales Data for Inventory Forecasting
When it comes to predicting your inventory needs, examining past sales is a great place to start. If you don’t have enough data to go by, check out your competitors’ sales trends to make these predictions.
Viral Launch’s Market Intelligence is currently the only tool available that offers Amazon specific market sales trends. We use a system of complex calculations based on hour-by-hour changes in BSR to create the most accurate sales estimates. We also show past sales estimates that we’ve calculated for each product to give you an understanding of how the product has performed in the past compared to how it’s performing now. This will help you better predict how the market will behave in the future.
With the proper sales forecasting techniques and Amazon inventory management, products will stay in stock, ideally resulting in more sales and more cash flow. A win-win!
Prepare for Peak Times
As you examine historical sales data, you’ll see how demand ebbs and flows. While this may be the nature of the market, there are other factors at play that will affect your sales history and therefore, your stock needs.
To meet fluctuations in demand, plan ahead and prepare for these peak times:
Seasonal Demand: Consider seasonal weather and activities and how that might impact your sales. For example, anyone selling pool toys like squirt guns or floaties will naturally see an increase in sales during the warmer months. Other products may see a sales increase during the winter months or the wedding season.
Holidays: We all know Christmastime is huge for retailers. On Amazon, it’s all about Cyber Monday. And aside from your own country’s holidays, it’s also important to know what holidays are coming up for your suppliers. The Chinese New Year is the most notable holiday in China, resulting in widespread work stoppages across the country.
Trends/News Stories: Solar eclipse glasses and fidget spinners are great examples of products that capitalized on big news events and popular fads. Pay attention to what people are talking about on social media and news sites and see if you can take advantage, too.
Q4: Since Q4 is right around the holiday season, most brands can typically expect to see increased demand from shoppers as well as more competition from other sellers.
Preparing for peak times means anticipating longer lead times on all inventory orders, shipment delays and longer check-in times at Amazon. For reorder quantities during the Q4 boom, it’s best to find your peak sales projections for the holidays and order to accommodate it.
The goal is to always keep your inventory moving and be able to meet any spike in demand without missing a beat. By anticipating (and meeting) demand properly, you’ll be maximizing profit potential and building a better overall brand.
Managing Your Inventory in Seller Central
There are several free tools available within Seller Central, some specifically for FBA sellers, that can help with your Amazon inventory management.
On the Manage Inventory page, you’re able to perform many routine inventory management tasks, including:
Viewing and sorting inventory
Creating, copying and editing listings
Adding and removing images
Closing and deleting listings
On the Inventory Reports page, you can find a wide range of information about your FBS inventory:
The Restock Inventory tool provides recommendations to FBA sellers on products to restock, suggested order quantities and reorder dates. Input your specific lead time and product volume to further customize these suggestions for your unique business.
Amazon also recommends that sellers keep a close eye on the shipping queue to monitor information about their shipments, including those that are in progress, in transit and at a fulfillment center.
For sellers with Professional selling plans, Amazon Selling Coach can provide you with personalized recommendations to help facilitate your success on Amazon. Discover new productopportunities, use the Match Low Price feature for pricing strategies or check out different Listing Enhancement tools to improve the quality of your content.
Selling Coach also offers in-depth inventory opportunities, including low stock alerts and Amazon’s suggested restock time using your recent sales data.
Third-Party Inventory Management Tools
While Amazon has many helpful tools, you may find it’s just not feasible to manage inventory for hundreds or even thousands of SKUs all on your own. Multi-channel sellers in particular face this problem.
There are scores of automated inventory management software tools available from third-party companies to help you manage your inventory on Amazon and across other eCommerce platforms. However, many can cost you upwards of $40 a month, so take the time to weigh the pros and cons of these services before investing.
A streamlined and organized Amazon inventory management strategy will help you stay in stock and plan ahead for peak times. While there are plenty of moving parts to inventory management, many problems that pop up are preventable. Continually monitor your current inventory levels, sales volume and lead times to make informed decisions about any new inventory shipments. Maximize your sales and profits by meeting inventory demands head on!
Your first FBA journey is going to be scary. You’re in uncharted territory dealing with unfamiliar manufacturers who are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. Take a deep breath and keep your eyes on the prize — becoming a successful FBA seller!
As an Amazon seller, your main priority is sourcing and selling a quality product. Because without a quality product, you’re facing an uphill battle right from the start. You’ll likely see low sales, bad reviews and a lot of returns, which could put you in bad standing with Amazon and even lead to the suspension of your account. And oh yeah, you won’t be making any money!
But how do you monitor quality control from another country? Sure you can hop on a plane to China and go do it yourself, but is that really feasible? This is where a third-party China quality inspection comes in.
Let’s dig in deeper.
China Quality Inspection: A Crucial Step for Sellers
While you can contract an inspector domestically, it makes the most sense financially and logistically to hire a company in the same country where the product is being manufactured. This way, any minor damage or major defects can be corrected before the products are shipped to Amazon.
Regardless of whether a product is being manufactured manually or by a machine, innocent mistakes can happen — and they will. It’s common to have a small defect rate on every order. You just don’t want those products going out to customers! Hiring an inspector helps ensure only quality units are being sent to Amazon and only quality units are ending up in customers’ hands.
Save Yourself Time and Money
To save on cost, manufacturers will often use cheaper, lower-quality materials instead of the more expensive ones. Avoid this issue by being very specific with your manufacturer regarding all materials, measurements, and packaging that your product requires. Give the same information to your inspector so he or she knows what to test and check for.
Refunds and warranties are rare in China and don’t mean same things as in the US. If you don’t discover a mistake or manufacturing error until you receive your product in the states, chances are it’s not going to be fixed anytime soon. So how do you protect your products and save yourself time and money? As a general rule, it’s recommended to do the following:
Tell your supplier straight away you’re going to hire an inspector
Never work with a supplier who won’t accept quality inspections
Have a firm purchase order and contract agreement in place
Withhold partial payment until an inspection takes place
Suppliers will be quicker to respond and make corrections if they haven’t received the full payment yet. This gives you more leverage before you pay in full and are fresh out of luck.
Identifying problems before they’re fully packed and shipped out is much cheaper and easier to correct. There are typically two types of quality control inspections offered by third-party inspection companies:
Full Inspection: A review of each and every product
Spot/Random Inspection: A review of 〜10% of inventory
Obviously, a full inspection is going to cost more money, but in return you’ll get greater peace of mind. For example, say you do a partial inspection of 100 pieces and they find 20 with defects. What now?
You could either move forward and accept the risk that 200 units out of your 1,000-piece inventory are potentially defective, or you could pay for a full inspection (on top of what you’ve already paid) to be completely sure. Your best bet is to order a full inspection and get the peace of mind they provide.
What are QC Inspectors Looking for?
During an inspection, your inspector will be looking at:
Conformity check (style, color, label, packing, and shipping conformity)
Workmanship check (appearance and basic function)
Function check (more in-depth functionality)
Contract product quality
You want products to match all of your specifications as well as any quality standards set by the industry. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of repairing or removing units with minor issues, but more severe issues should immediately result in your supplier repairing or remaking the product.
Another quality control check for FBA sellers to consider focuses on shipping and packaging. Amazon’s FBA program has its own inventory requirements, including those for product barcodes, packaging and prep, shipment packaging, and shipment labels. Failure to follow these requirements could lead to extra fees or Amazon returning your product.
If you’re not handling the packaging and labeling of your FBA products yourself, you must work with your manufacturer to make sure all of these requirements are being met.
Hiring a Pre-Shipment Inspector: Alibaba and Other Options
Aside from connecting you with an extensive directory of manufacturers, Alibaba can also connect you with professional third-party inspectors close to your supplier whose background and profile have been verified by Alibaba.com.
These inspectors visit the manufacturing facility in China and prepare a written report with pictures to verify that the products being produced and shipped meet industry standards as well as those specified by sellers. These detailed reports are typically ready to view within 2 business days and you can even track the inspection progression in real-time so you can follow along.
Inspections generally cost around $300 for each shipment and must be booked up to 3 business days in advance. Alibaba does offer deals for their inspection service, like this 50% off all inspections promotion for their annual #SuperSeptember event, which is shown below.
Pro Tip: Look for Manufacturers, not Trading Companies
When you’re in search of a manufacturer on Alibaba, verify that whoever you choose is actually a manufacturer and not a trading company. Trading companies resell items from manufacturers, whereas manufacturers are actually producing the items themselves. Look for this information on the company’s Alibaba listing or check their business registration license.
Who Can Order Alibaba’s Inspection Service?
Alibaba’s inspection service is available to all Alibaba.com members outside of mainland China who have placed a Trade Assurance order. For those of you who haven’t placed an order yet and are unfamiliar with Trade Assurance, this is Alibaba’s free order protection service that covers buyers in the event of payment, shipping and product quality disputes.
To order on Alibaba.com, simply start a Trade Assurance order and select Product InspectionService under Value-Add Service. After you make a payment, you’ll be able to track your order and see the inspection status on the Trade Assurance page.
Ordering a China Quality Inspection: Is it Worth the Money?
While ordering a China quality inspection is optional, it’s something that should be seriously considered when you’re breaking down costs and examining profit margins. Think of it this way: if defective products end up in an Amazon FBA warehouse, you’ll most likely have to pull all of your inventory to pick out the defects.
Then, not only will you be have to ship the products back to Amazon (again), you’ll have to somehow dispose of the units if you can’t donate or store them somewhere. This will undoubtedly lead to delays in current orders or even force you to make your listing inactive for a while, which is never good for meeting your margins and always bad for customer service.
Another issue you’ll be facing is Amazon’s order defect rate policy. Your ODR is determined by:
After these are all taken into account, Amazon divides it by the total number of orders during a given period to get an ODR. The Amazon recommended ODR is 1%, and they will suspend accounts with rates slightly above 1%. A rate much higher than 1% can be a cause for termination. You can find your ODR on your Account Health dashboard in Seller Central under the Performance tab.
For sellers who only have a handful of orders each month, this could be a major issue as a single defective unit could skyrocket your ODR.
Inspections Keep Suppliers in Check
You don’t slack off when you know your performance is being monitored, right? The same principle applies here: if suppliers know a third-party inspection is imminent, they’re probably going to do a better job. Hold them accountable and don’t let them cut corners! After all, they’re not the ones going to suffer the consequences — you are.
You may be tempted to forego inspections as you build a long-term relationship with your manufacturer, but this typically isn’t recommended. No matter how reputable and experienced they may be, problems can still pop up — the manufacturing process isn’t an exact science. People (and machines) make mistakes!
A Quick Recap
A China quality inspection can protect your brand’s reputation, Amazon status and pocketbook. Are you willing to risk all of the above on something that could have been avoided?
Today’s shoppers are also more vocal than ever and will absolutely let you know if your products aren’t up to par. And as more and more sellers enter the space, having quality products can immediately set you apart from a sea of competitors.
As always, Viral Launch is here to help you in your Amazon journey. For tips on Amazon advertising, selling strategies and more, we encourage you to subscribe to ourblog, check out our Youtube channel, and listen to our Follow the Data podcast.