Follow The Data Podcast: Finding Success in E-Commerce with Ashley Armstrong

How does one pave their way into the world of e-commerce? We spoke with Ashley Armstrong to find out.

Since the beginning of 2020, the popularity of e-commerce has skyrocketed.

After years of steady growth, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online businesses to new heights. With increasing interest from media to shine a spotlight on the industry, even more people have recognized the limitless potential that comes with selling on Amazon.

But not everyone is jumping right in, even after conducting the research. Why?

Undoubtedly, fear of failure is a leading reason and one that’s entirely fair. But how do we overcome that fear, and what steps should be taken to mitigate risks?

We dialed up Ashley Armstrong, an e-commerce rockstar with 10+ years of experience in online businesses, to discuss these issues.

Loyal listeners of the Follow The Data podcast may recognize Ashley, as this isn’t her first time on the show. Last time, we honed on the topic of how to grow businesses through virtual assistants. This time, we focus the conversation on more big-picture ideas.

Tune in for an in-depth discussion on overcoming fear, the importance of building a support system, and how she’s taking on a leadership role to bring together women in e-commerce.

HIGHLIGHTS

Get to know Ashley Armstrong and what she’s been up to since we last spoke. (0:00)

With more than a decade in e-commerce in a variety of roles, Ashley’s one of the best resources in the Amazon selling space. We check in on what she’s been up to over the pandemic, with so many changes in e-commerce in such a short span.

As more people recognize the tremendous opportunity that comes with selling online, what’s the number one reason people don’t make the leap into e-commerce? (6:39)

With so many green lights for the industry, why aren’t more people taking the leap into e-commerce? Fear. Fear of failure or the doubts that come with learning something new can create the devil on your shoulder, telling you all the reasons not to do something big.

Amazon sellers come from all types of backgrounds, with each one providing valuable lessons to guide them to success. How did Ashley’s background in athletics work to her advantage? (8:49)

One of the beauties of e-commerce is that it’s open to people that from diverse backgrounds. And people are able to use their life experiences as resources that fuel them to success. With a background in sports, Ashley explains the crossover of the athlete’s mindset and how it applies to e-commerce.

We’ve talked about how fear can be your worst enemy when it comes to starting an online business. From the perspective of a potential entrepreneur, how do we overcome that fear? (20:09)

Unfortunately, you can’t separate the determination for success from the fear of failure regarding e-commerce. Cam and Ashley break down how to cope with fear and certain opportunities to consider before taking that step forward.

How can you turn your losses into lessons that fuel long-term e-commerce success? (32:57)

While we can work with fear and take strategic steps to mitigate risk, failure is not something that can be eliminated entirely. In fact, some of the more prominent names in e-commerce have experienced failure at some point. Ashley tells us about a time she took a loss and used it to her advantage.

Why has Ashley pivoted to running a seller community for women? (39:04)

Throughout our discussion, we’ve mentioned how important it can be to have a support system. Whether it’s about product research, strategy, or personal support to take care of our mental and emotional health, it’s crucial to be around people who have your back.

Online, it can be very much a lone wolf mentality. Additionally, finding female representation in the Amazon selling space can cause someone to feel like even more of an outcast. As the Amazon seller community grows larger, Ashley’s looking to fill the gap for representation from women in e-commerce.

With her extensive background and great knowledge, we look forward to seeing that community grow.

While we typically talk more nuts and bolts of Amazon, such as product research or PPC, understanding the barriers that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from achieving their dreams and how to overcome fear and doubt is an essential conversation worth having.

As always, a huge thanks to Ashley for taking the time to share her vast knowledge with us. You can stay in touch with her on her website or by joining her network for women in e-commerce.

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Amazon PPC Tool Quick Start Guide

Learn what to expect, how to navigate, and where to start when mastering an Amazon PPC tool.

As Mark Twain once said, the secret of getting ahead is getting started. But in many instances, getting started can be the most challenging part.

That much is certainly true regarding Amazon PPC and software designed to simplify and add sophistication to Amazon’s advertising platform. Since Amazon Advertising is still very much in its early stages, there should be no expectation to know where to begin.

So we’re here to help guide you in the right direction and provide a basic knowledge of the Viral Launch advertising platform. Once you know where things are, what to look for, and what’s included, everything else begins to make much more sense.

Just like we must learn to walk before we run, you’ll need to understand the basics of Viral Launch’s PPC automation and management tool. Then, you’re free to start implementing advertising strategies that take your business to the next level!

Of course, first, you’ll need to set up a Viral Launch account that includes access to Viral Launch’s advertising platform, Kinetic PPC.

Sign up for our FREE Amazon PPC Playbook. With training from experts guiding you through all steps, you can perform PPC like a pro and dominating on Amazon!

First, you will need to provide Viral Launch with both MWS and seller central authorization in order to integrate Kinetic with your Amazon Advertising Console. You can find step-by-step instructions on how to do that here.

Once successfully added, you’ll see your storefronts and ASINs within your account. Additionally, we strongly recommend setting up your landed unit cost and target ACoS within Kinetic. While admittedly tedious, doing so pays off in the end to fully experience the benefits. We’ll explain more on that shortly.

Campaign View vs. Product View

Once you’ve added proper authorizations, you’ll notice there’s not one but two ways you can view your ad.

  • Campaign View shows information for every campaign across all your products. It looks a lot like Seller Central. 
  • Product View shows information per ASIN, so you can see how each individual product is performing.

For those familiar with Amazon PPC, campaign view offers a more familiar appearance. With souped-up features, embedded data reporting, and cutting-edge integrations from the Viral Launch software suite, it’s like the Amazon Advertising Console on steroids.

But Product View truly allows for innovative insights into their ads like never before. With Product View, you are able to view how your ads are performing at the ASIN level so you can maximize efficiency. Once you’ve added your landed unit cost and target ACoS, you gain the ability to pinpoint your campaigns to minimize risk and maximize your ROI.

Make Your Own Rules

Create a rule for your campaigns or utilize our templates to optimize your ads.

One of the biggest roadblocks to Amazon advertising success continues to be monitoring adjustments. With all the duties placed on a business owner’s shoulders, monitoring campaign statistics and making changes at the right time can feel impossible.

Kinetic solves that problem with its ability to create rules to optimize your ads. Don’t know where to get started? No worries! Our handy pre-made templates can help get you started with understanding what rules you can create by providing the strategy behind them.

Set parameters to shut down underperforming campaigns or increase the budget for ads that are skyrocketing your sales to enact performance-based automations. That’s right. Kinetic’s by-the-minute monitoring and your personalized rules combine to stop losing campaigns in their tracks or reward winners with more ad spend.

You can set the rules to three different states of action.

Automatic

  • Rules set as automatic continuously go into effect once the rule has been triggered. In this state, the rules you’ve created for a campaign will fire off whenever the conditions have been met. For example, if you create a rule that increases your bid amount for keywords with a low ACoS and place it on automatic, the rule will take action every time it’s applicable without any action needed from the seller.

Manual

  • Rules in a manual state work similarly to those in automatic. However, instead of the rule going into effect as soon as the conditions have been met, you’re notified within the tool without Kinetic making any changes. Once notified, you can review the rule that’s been triggered in the Activity History tab to decide whether or not to approve the action. As the name implies, this state is more hands-on.

Paused

  • In a paused state, rules exist without any action taking place as a result of them. Perhaps you’d like to experiment with rule creation but don’t want to trigger changes for your campaigns. Placing them in a paused state ensures that your work is saved, but there will be no automations or notifications regarding the specific rule. At any point, you can take paused rules off the bench and into the game by selecting manual or automatic with the push of a button.

With Kinetic, your campaigns can literally make desired real-time adjustments while you sleep! If you prefer a more hands-on approach for your ad campaigns, you can do that too. Featuring the option to do either,

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Get Familiar with Your Keywords and Search Terms

On top of the ability to create campaigns at the ASIN-level with customizable rules to more effectively carry out your goals, this Amazon PPC tool collects extensive reporting for a clear view into your ad performance at the keyword level.

The Keywords and Search Terms tabs within Kinetic display critical metrics that better informs your advertising strategy and tactics.

In Seller Central, you have to run a report for a particular date range, export it to Excel, add a series of filters and try to understand where it’s actually delivering and look for opportunities to improve the targeting. Kinetic simplifies this process, giving sellers the power to dig deeper into their data and make changes to optimize their campaigns.

The Keywords and Search Terms tabs offer unbridled insights into your ad performance.

While many make the mistake of using these words interchangeably, a very important detail differentiates these two Amazon buzzwords. In short, the Keywords tab is where you’re targeting, while the Search Terms tab presents only where your ads are delivering.

Keywords Tab

This view helps to consolidate all of the keywords you are targeting and allows you to see how the keyword is performing, and what campaigns are contributing to that.

Search Terms Tab

The Search Terms tab can save you loads of time in understanding where your ads are delivering. Once you’re using an Auto campaign, or broad and phrase match targets, your ads can deliver for a wide array of customer search terms.

In short, the Keywords tab shows keywords are targeting, while the Search Terms tab presents only where your ads are delivering. Your Search Terms report will show you a list of keywords that have garnered at least one impression, along with a bevy of metrics that gauges performance.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this quick start guide helps you gain a better understanding of this cutting-edge Amazon PPC tool. As PPC continues to become a larger priority for Amazon, it can serve as an engine for your business to scale like never before.

Now that you have a better lay of the land, taking your business to a new level is within reach! Register for a Viral Launch account today and start your 14-day free trial to turbocharge your FBA efforts.

Sign up for a 14-day FREE trial to Viral Launch’s most comprehensive plan, featuring Kinetic PPC

What’s Going On with Amazon Search Results?

Recently, Amazon search results have gotten a little wonky. What’s the deal?

Over the weekend, attentive Amazon sellers started noticing strange, extreme changes in organic rank for their products. Suddenly, products that were mainstays atop organic search results vanished. Instead of appearing in the most desirable digital real estate on Amazon, they could be found deeper in the seldom seen pages of search.

As a result, sales plummeted for many top sellers as visibility severely declined. Meanwhile, product listings that typically don’t receive much traction benefitted from taking up top spots usually held by competitors.

Destaney Wishon of BetterAMS discovered the issue early on, and made a quick and helpful explainer outlining an example of the issue with Amazon search results.

At first, the sudden change flummoxed Amazon sellers. Was Amazon continuing to crackdown on sellers generating fake reviews? Did the ranking algorithm change?

According to Amazon, it’s simply an error that’s in the process of being corrected.

We are aware some customers are having issues with search results. We are working to resolve this as quickly as possible.

Amazon Technical Support

While many Amazon sellers state things have returned to normal for them, some sellers report the glitch has not been resolved as of Tuesday. Additionally, Amazon has not released a statement indicating that the issue has been completely resolved.

As any Amazon seller will tell you, organic rank remains the holy grail for Amazon sellers. Any rise or drop will significantly impact a product’s bottom line. With this in mind, monitoring your organic or advertising rank can be vital for tracking your product’s performance.

ALWAYS know when your keywords are rising or falling within Amazon search results with Keyword Manager

Of course, we’ll continue to monitor the situation as more information becomes available.

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The Amazon Product Documents Program Explained

Amazon’s latest seller program aims to cut down on returns, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the buyer and seller experience.

Recently, Amazon unveiled its Product Documents Program, a helpful resource for sellers to upload electronic documents for potential customers to view.

Safety information, user guides and manuals, fact sheets, and instructions for use are just a few of the vital documents that eligible sellers can upload to improve their customer experience.

Previously, sellers needed to include these documents as inserts with their purchase, making them only available to customers who had already made a purchase. Now, this information can visible to customers as they shop.

Amazon describes the program below.

These are customer-facing documents that will be shown on your product detail pages. They are intended to provide pre-purchase information and post-purchase support content to customers. Adding product documents to your product detail pages can result in higher conversion rates, lower customer support costs, increased sales, and fewer returns when used effectively.

Amazon’s About Product Documents

Of course, with any new program, there are questions. Below, we’ll answer a few of the initial questions to help you get familiar with the new program.

Why does this program exist? Who does it benefit?

Customers and all eligible sellers who utilize the program benefit by increasing the quality of seller-to-buyer communication.

Before purchasing, customers can see important information about the product they’re purchasing. For instance, a customer may purchase a product that is more difficult to assemble than they anticipated, contains materials they don’t approve of, or be sized differently than anticipated. Typically, these transactions end with some combination of an unsatisfied customer, a return, or a poor review.

Amazon Product Documents allow sellers to be more transparent with customers regarding crucial product information. As a result, a more informed customer is more likely to be a satisfied customer. Additionally, a seller that is more transparent about product information is more likely to make a sale, avoid a negative review, and generate brand loyalty.

All in all, the program is mutually beneficial for the seller and the buyer.

Who Can Participate?

Registered brand owners in the Amazon Brand Registry program.

The Product Documents Program is the latest perk of being brand registered. While purely speculation, we’d imagine this is unlikely to become available for non-brand registered sellers any time soon.

[RELEVANT: A Guide to Amazon Brand Registry]

How much does it cost to join?

That’s right! There is no fee to join the Amazon Product Documents Program.

What types of documents can be uploaded?

At the moment, this is a complete list of the types of documents and formats allowed as a part of the Amazon Product Documents Program:

  • Safety Information (PDF)
  • Certificate of Analysis (PDF)
  • Certificate of Compliance (PDF)
  • User Guide (PDF)
  • User Manual (PDF)
  • Specification Sheet (PDF)
  • Comparison Chart (PDF)
  • Product Documentation (PDF)
  • 2D CAD (PDF, DWG, DXF)
  • 3D CAD (PDF, EDRW, EPRT, IGS, SLDPRT, STP)
  • Application Guide (PDF)
  • Brochure (PDF)
  • Compatibility Guide (PDF)
  • Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) (PDF)
  • EUA Amendment(s) (PDF)
  • FAQ (PDF)
  • Instructions for Use (IFU) (PDF)
  • Fact Sheet (Patient) (PDF)
  • Fact Sheet (Provider) (PDF)
  • Safety Information (PDF)
  • Size Guide (PDF)
  • Troubleshooting Guide (PDF)

How do I get started?

Amazon provides the following instructions for uploading documents from start-to-finish!

To upload documents for your product in Seller Central:

  1. Go to Inventory > Manage Product Documents.
  2. Click Upload New Documents.
  3. Choose a name for the document you are uploading. This is only for your reference. Customers will not see this name.
  4. Select a document type from the list of allowed document types.
  5. Choose the language or languages that are present in the document you are uploading.
  6. Choose a file to upload. Files must be:
    • Less than 10MB
    • PDF format except for CAD drawings
    • CAD drawings may be in PDF, dwg, dxf, igs, eprt, edrw, sidprt, or stp format
  7. Search by ASIN or product name and follow the on-screen prompts to associate one or more ASINs with the document you are uploading. At least one ASIN must be applied to the document for it to be uploaded.

Once submitted, your content may take seven business days to be reviewed for adherence to below mentioned Amazon guidelines for product documents. It may take longer during peak times. Documents that do not adhere to these guidelines will be rejected.

Once approved, it can take up to seven business days to publish on the detail page of the ASINs to which it applies. If the document status is “Not approved,” view the rejection reasons by clicking Edit for a specific document and make the changes.”

Conclusion

Above all, the Amazon Product Documents Program appears to be a great option to improve customer experience. For eligible sellers with applicable documents, we highly recommend joining this program as soon as possible!

As always, any opportunity to stand out from the competition on Amazon is an edge worth exploring. Uploading product documents with important information may boost consumer confidence and increase the likelihood of turning a click into a conversion.

Even more likely, these document uploads are likely to be an incredibly helpful resource for customers that will decrease the probability of a return and/or negative review. Recently, Amazon has taken much of the onus of customer satisfaction out of the seller’s hands. While this creates less work for sellers, it also takes away control for sellers.

Furthermore, by uploading your own documents and making them easily accessible to potential sellers, you have the chance to gain control back. As a result, you can turn would-be 1-star reviews into 5-star reviews by giving the customer everything they need for a happy transaction.

Is Amazon Ending The Early Reviewer Program?

The Amazon Early Reviewer Program, a popular way for sellers to earn their first five reviews, is entering its final days.

Effective immediately, enrollments in the Amazon Early Reviewer Program are no longer being accepted. Amazon confirms the discontinuation of the program within the Early Reviewer Program FAQs.

The Amazon Early Review Program proved to be a reliable, trustworthy way to generate authentic reviews by incentivizing customers to leave a review.

In 2016, Amazon updated its policy on reviews in response to a significant uptick in fake reviews. As a result, review generation became difficult, especially for new products entering the marketplace. In response, Amazon created the Early Reviewer Program to provide an option for new sellers to generate their first five reviews, with customers receiving small gift cards once they’ve left a review for a purchased product.

Amazon continuously innovates to improve the shopping and selling experience. Over the past several years, we have made numerous improvements to encourage purchasers to review products on Amazon. These initiatives, such as One Tap Reviews and Global Review Sharing have proven more effective in generating reviews than the Early Reviewer Program. Accordingly, as of March 10, 2021, we will no longer allow new enrollments in the Early Reviewer Program, and will stop offering the service to sellers currently enrolled in the program on April 25, 2021.

Amazon’s statement on the discontinuation of the Early Reviewer Program

Sellers looking to use the service are being notified via email that new enrollments are no longer being accepted. Enrolled sellers actively in the program have been notified of what this means for their business. The official message from Amazon can be seen below.

Message via Reddit u/silverspacegray

At the moment, it remains to be seen what the company has in store for future review generation. Just as the program was born in response to internal changes and seller response, there may be further changes to follow.

[YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program: What It Was & How It Worked]
An example of Amazon’s review generation efforts.

In an attempt to garner more trustworthy reviews, Amazon has increased efforts to amass reviews. As the company referenced in its statement, you’ve likely encountered more opportunities to leave reviews for your past purchases. Whether through pop-ups, emails or, native widgets, Amazon has taken on a more hands-on approach to reviews than in the past. As a result, less control over review generation has been in sellers’ hands.

New sellers looking to drive their first reviews may be tempted to circumvent Amazon’s terms of service. However, sellers who do so open themselves to account restrictions, suspensions, or even bans for violation of terms of service.

While review generation becomes increasingly difficult for new sellers with the removal of the Early Reviewer Program, options to assist your efforts do exist.

With the Request A Review Automation tool within the Market Intelligence Chrome extension, sellers can maximize their review generation efforts. And yes, it’s entirely compliant with Amazon’s terms of service.

The importance of review quantity and quality can’t be understated when it comes to selling on Amazon. By generating social proof of the quality of your products from past purchases, you’re much more inclined to experience more sales in the future.

Did you use the Amazon Early Reviewer Program? How do you feel about the service’s discontinuation? Drop a comment below to let us know!

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Unveiling Viral Launch’s Revamped Pricing Plans: What’s New

With Viral Launch’s updated pricing plans, we aim to help sellers at each stage of selling on Amazon dominate in 2021 and beyond.

At Viral Launch, we’re committed to providing you with the tools and data you need to dominate on Amazon! So it only makes sense that as Amazon continuously evolves, so do we.

From researching product ideas to sourcing materials to scaling your online business, each stage of selling on Amazon requires unique tools and data points to make intelligent, data-backed decisions.

As we aim to support Amazon sellers throughout their entrepreneurial journey, our subscription plans have been thoughtfully redesigned to meet Amazon sellers’ needs at each stage.

Get Started With Essentials

You talked, we listened.

Formerly our Beginner’s Research Kit, our new Essentials product research bundle receives a few significant upgrades. Due to popular demand, we’ve overhauled our product research bundle with two features previously unavailable: reliably accurate search volume estimates and our proprietary Product Idea Score.

Search Volume Estimates

Reverse engineer product ideas by filtering through categories, sales, price, search volume, and more!

Search volume estimates are a vital element of product research, as they’re an incredibly powerful indicator of demand. At its core, Amazon operates as a search engine where searchers have a firm intention to buy.

In December of 2018, Amazon made changes to their data collection that prevented third-party providers from collecting exact search volume. With search volume estimates generated from an in-house data science team, we are extremely confident in the accuracy of our estimates.

Furthermore, if you’re a seller with access to Brand Analytics, you can judge our accuracy by comparing our estimates to the Search Frequency Rank.

Subscribers to our Essentials plan now have access to this high-impact metric. In Product Discovery, feel free to set minimum and maximum filters for estimated search volume to find products with your ideal amount of demand.

Product Idea Score

Our Product Idea Score is a rating system of 1-5 stars that analyzes key metrics such as monthly sales, review trends, sales patterns, market competition, and much more into one composite score.

Once you’ve filled out your search criteria, you can now sort by Product Idea Score to quickly assess the strength of an idea.

While not meant to replace thorough, intensive product research, the score is designed to simplify the product research process. We strongly recommend using the score as an indicator of if a product is worth further investigating.

Previously available exclusively to annual subscribers, this advanced metric is now available to monthly subscribers to our Essentials, Pro, and Pro Plus Ads software plans.

Product Discovery: Quickly uncover brilliant product ideas to start selling on Amazon! With 4 unique search types and plenty of filters, sellers can reverse engineer product ideas that align with their goals and resources.

Market Intelligence: Master your market to ensure your product’s success! Gain access to the most accurate sales estimates along with price and review trend data to understand the market and validate product ideas.

The Viral Launch Pro Package

Our Pro plan retains all of the features that make it our most popular package, with a few upgrades.

Pro subscribers receive access to everything included in Essentials, plus full access to Keyword Research, Listing Builder, Competitor Intelligence, Listing Analyzer, and Keyword Manager. Additionally, Pro subscribers now can utilize the Product Idea Score.

We’ve also expanded the limits for Competitor Intelligence, Listing Analyzer, and Keyword Manager to allow sellers more data than ever! In addition to Product Discovery and Market Intelligence, Pro subscribers get the following tools and features:

Keyword Research: Eliminate the guesswork with the most accurate search volume estimate data available. Search for a product and instantly see a list of all related keywords with current and historical search data.

Competitor Intelligence: Know the competition better than they know themselves with our cutting-edge reverse ASIN lookup tool. Find out what they’re doing right or wrong and use that info to optimize your listing, ads, and more.

Listing Builder: Craft an SEO-optimized product listing designed to convert with our time-saving tool. With a comprehensive keyword list and real-time feedback with our Optimization Score, create your listing’s copy like a pro!

Listing Analyzer: Never miss out on a sale due to a lousy listing ever again! The innovative tool provides data-based feedback and performs a SWOT analysis to ensure every aspect of your listing is top-notch.

Keyword Manager: Uncover cutting-edge keyword analytics such as index checks, organic and ad rank tracking, search volume trends, badge notifications, and keyword scores.

The New Pro Plus Ads: Now With Kinetic PPC

Our renovated Pro Plus Ads package has been thoughtfully designed for Amazon sellers looking to effectively and efficiently scale their brand.

Formerly, our two highest-level tiers were Brand Builder and Kinetic PPC. We’ve merged them into one comprehensive package. As a result, Pro Plus Ads contains the full fleet of Viral Launch software to provide everything you need to take your Amazon business to the next level!

Pro Plus Ads subscribers gain access to Kinetic PPC, our time-saving tool created to optimize and simplify pay-per-click advertising. Generally, sellers are often scorned by PPC, with it being too complicated to understand, too expensive, or too time-consuming to be worth the opportunity cost.

Kinetic PPC eliminates or mitigates these roadblocks so you can run high-performing PPC campaigns to reach more customers, improve organic rank, and take your Amazon business to new heights!

Moreover, sellers on our new-and-improved Pro Plus Ads package secure access to every tool in our software suite, including all tools within the Pro plan and Kinetic.

KINETIC: Automate your PPC campaigns like never before! Set manual or automatic rules into place to end underperforming ads or scale-up successful campaigns and subsequently see easy-to-view PPC metrics to optimize campaign performance.

We certainly know that starting PPC can be daunting and filled with questions. No worries! We have plenty of resources to help you start advertising on Amazon. For instance, our Kinetic PPC education series provides fundamental knowledge and strategy to Amazon advertising.

Find Your Viral Launch Pricing Plan Today

Lastly, be sure to check out our updated pricing page with our new subscription tiers for more information. Start your free trial today to access innovative tools to assist with building your Amazon business.

Have any questions? Feel free to drop a comment or reach out to our customer service team at service@viral-launch.com!

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Amazon FBA Updates: Say Goodbye To This Customer Feedback Feature

Amazon is removing the feature allowing anyone to comment on a product review, per a Business Insider report. Amazon officially retired the feature on December 16th, 2020.

What relevance does this have for sellers?

Many sellers utilized this feature to respond to customer reviews as a form of customer service.

Furthermore, this likely signals more changes to come, as Amazon noted the development of other opportunities to connect with customers.

Following the update, a few sellers have received emails notifying them of change:

Dear seller,

You’re receiving this email because you recently left a comment on a review.
While reviews and feedback are important to our customers and sellers, the comments feature on customer reviews was rarely used. As a result, we are retiring this feature on December 16, 2020.

We’re committed to your continued success and will innovate and develop other opportunities for you to connect with customers.

Thank you.
Amazon Services

Initially, the removal of this feature has been poorly received by sellers.

“Just like removing customer contact information from the order information page, this makes it harder for good sellers to provide top-notch customer service,” stated one concerned Redditor.

However, the update changes the buyer-seller communication experience, but doesn’t end it. Recently, Amazon FBA updates appear to be centered around the buyer-seller communication process.

Sellers and buyers can directly communicate in the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service. Even so, this service permits direct messages to customers and not visible to prospective customers.

As a result, sellers should continue to monitor Seller Central updates as more information becomes available. As mentioned by Amazon, we’d expect more policy or feature changes concerning buyer-seller communication.

What can you do?

Potentially, your listing copy may be a way to address this obstacle effectively. How so?

Let’s put ourselves in the customer position for a situation. You’re looking to purchase a product, but have reservations due to a recent negative review or stream of bleak reviews with a common theme. In the past, the seller could provide help to quell concerns from prospective customers.

Your listing copy can address these issues without replying directly to the review. If customers are misusing your product in a way that could lead to negative reviews, you might be interested in addressing the issue in the product description.

Of course, making changes to your listing copy results in a temporary decline in ranking. So it may not be worth revising your copy after each negative review. But if a review is affecting your conversions, it might be worth the short-term hit.

Did you ever use this feature? How does this change your selling experience? Drop a comment below and let us know how this affects your selling experience.

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Should You Start an Amazon FBA Business or Purchase an Existing One?

One of the most challenging aspects of starting a business is getting your product in front of the right audience. As Amazon owns about 49 percent of the U.S. e-commerce share, it makes sense to start an Amazon FBA business to sell your e-commerce products as your target market already prefers shopping there. 

Additionally, Amazon makes it easy for sellers to list, sell, and ship their products through their Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) program. Here’s everything you need to know about an Amazon FBA business and whether you should start an Amazon FBA business or purchase an existing one.

What is FBA?

Some 73 percent of Amazon sellers in the U.S. use the FBA program, making it one of the most popular e-commerce sales options. Amazon FBA sellers receive immediate access to Amazon Prime customers, which can significantly impact the bottom line of the business. On average, Amazon Prime customers spend $1,400 per year on Amazon, whereas standard Amazon customers only spend $600 per year. 

The other reason why FBA businesses are popular is that it’s convenient. 

With an Amazon FBA business, you don’t have to ship, package, or store any goods yourself. Instead, you pay a small fee, and Amazon employees handle all of this for you.

Shipping fees are up to $5.26 for large items (items up to 21 pounds), and they also have oversized pricing options for much larger items. 

Storage fees are also reasonable at $0.69 per cubic foot for standard items January through September (October through December fees may be higher to accommodate increased demand during holidays).

You’ll also have to decide whether you want to be a professional seller or an individual seller. You aren’t required to have a professional seller account to have an Amazon FBA business, though it may be cheaper depending on how many items you plan to sell. A professional seller account pays a flat rate of $39.99 per month, whereas an individual account pays $0.99 per item.

Therefore, if you plan to sell more than 40 items per month, it’s likely more economical to purchase a professional seller account. 

So if you’re looking to own an Amazon FBA business, is it better to purchase an existing business or start one from scratch?

While there is no right or wrong answer, here are a few questions you should ask yourself to determine which is the best solution for your situation and goals:

Do You Have The Capital?

The first question you should ask yourself is if you have the means to purchase an existing business.

An Amazon FBA business usually sells for about two to three times its yearly net profit. In other words:

Annual Net Profit x Multiple (usually 2 or 3) = Valuation

Therefore, if you want to purchase a business that makes about $10,000 in annual net profit, you can expect to pay $20,000 – 30,000.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have any capital upfront, your only choice is to build one from scratch, which can still be quite profitable!

Is This a Long Term or Short Term Investment?

Another question you should ask yourself before getting started with an Amazon FBA business is how long you’re willing to invest in the project. 

If you’re willing to invest in this business for a few years, starting from scratch may offer you a more significant ROI. Getting started can be challenging as you’ll have to find your own suppliers and build reviews and a brand. Therefore, during those first several months, you may not make a dime, so you can’t expect to flip the store in a few months. 

On the other hand, if you are looking to purchase a store, sell for a few months, and then flip it quickly, an established store is a better option.

Building momentum in a brand new company takes time. Not all sellers are profitable in the first year of a new Amazon FBA business, making it difficult to flip for a reasonable price as your net profit may be zero or negative. 

However, once you pass a certain threshold of reviews and brand equity, exponential growth becomes possible.

What Skill Sets Do You Have? 

Some people entering the Amazon FBA world have a background in business or marketing. If this is the case, one of the best ways to decide whether you’ll purchase or start an FBA business is to play to your strengths.

For example, if you previously worked for an e-commerce store and understand how to grow it, you may perform better if you purchase an existing store and grow it.

However, suppose you worked at a startup company and understand how to be resourceful, play the long game, and hang in there during the first challenging year of zero profit. In that case, you might be more successful starting a business from scratch.

Building a business from scratch and taking a business from five figures to six or seven figures requires two very different skill sets, so play to your strengths.

What Kind of Risk Would You Rather Take?

Starting any business involves some risk. However, the type of risk you take differs based on whether you purchase an existing business or build one from scratch.

Building one from scratch requires zero capital risk upfront though your chances of becoming profitable are much lower.

If you purchase a business that is currently profitable, your chances of remaining profitable are much greater. However, if you suddenly run into problems with suppliers, knock-off items or pricing wars and your business falls apart, you’ll lose a larger investment.

Therefore, while the risks differ, both have risks. So would you rather gamble time or money? Here are your choices:

Buy a Business = Higher Probability of Profitability + Increase Capital Risk

Start a Business = Lower Probability of Profitability + Lower Capital Risk

What Is Your End Goal?

Ultimately, the right decision depends largely on your goals. Do you plan to grow businesses from scratch and then sell them? If that’s your end goal, starting a business from scratch is the best way to learn.

Above all, running an Amazon FBA business is similar to running any business. Regardless of whether you purchase one or start one from scratch, it requires a lot of time, dedication, and commitment, and you can’t give up on it after a few months. You’ll have to put out fires and appease angry customers, though the rewards of growing a thriving business are more than financial. Get started now, and commit yourself to keep going!

Ready to get in the game? Start your free trial with Viral Launch and gain access to the seller tools powering some of Amazon’s biggest sellers.

Amazon Updates: Brand New Seller Communication Guidelines

Amazon announced imminent updates to its Buyer-Seller communication guidelines. Does this affect your store?

Sellers talked, Amazon listened.

After receiving feedback from sellers and developers about aspects of the Amazon Communication Guidelines being confusing, Amazon has attempted to simplify and clarify their updated policy.

The updated guidelines go into effect on November 3, 2020. Wise sellers will familiarize themselves with these changes to avoid being left behind during this hectic Q4.

Violating Communication Guidelines risks limitations on Permitted Messages or even a suspension of selling privileges. It’s important to remember these guidelines exist to maintain the mutually beneficial relationship between sellers and buyers on Amazon.

What’s Allowed?

Perhaps the most significant, actionable update, sellers maintain the option to directly ask customers for a review or feedback.

“You may send proactive Permitted Messages for the following reasons: resolving an issue with order fulfillment, requesting additional information required to complete the order, asking a return-related question, sending an invoice, requesting product review and/or seller feedback, scheduling the delivery of a heavy or bulky item, scheduling a Home Services appointment, verifying a custom design, or any other reason where the contact is required for the buyer to receive their purchase.”

In terms of timeframe, sellers can only send messages to a customer within 30 days of the order being placed. Sellers can send 1 message per order placed. After 30 days, contacting them is a no-go unless they are to place another order with you.

You retain the option to include instructions or warranty information, but not messages that simply say “thank you” without approval.

Sellers can breathe a sigh of relief, as they can still utilize third-party applications to help simplify the review generation, provided those third-party applications utilize Amazon’s “Request A Review” button. Viral Launch’s Review Automation tool, included inside of Market Intelligence, automates this process to make it simple and effective for sellers to maximize their review boosting efforts.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Amazon still handles much of the communication with sellers to set a standard across the marketplace and streamline the buyer and seller experience. Amazon requests that sellers promptly confirm shipment of all orders, primarily completed in the Manage Orders feature. Once you’ve confirmed shipment, Amazon fires off a confirmation email to the buyer.

What’s NOT Allowed?

While most of the updated policy remains the same in practicality, it’s worth reviewing as a refresher. Amazon continually tweaks its policies, and staying aware of these changes can be a great advantage.

One of the eye-catching notes also included in the policy is that “spelling errors or grammar issues” may not be included in messaging.

As always, it might be worth running your messages by a second person or through an app such as Grammarly to make sure you’re figuratively crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s when it comes to spelling and grammar.

If you sell internationally, Google Translate is a free app that may come in handy. This is especially notable for those who sell outside of their residence and may not be fluent in the customer’s language. Sellers must respond to buyers in the customer’s Language of Preference.

The updated guidelines dictate no tracking pixels or images, links to opt-out of messaging, or external links for formatting purposes. Additionally, approved message and graphic sizes are specified in the guidelines, so ensure your layout is within Amazon’s recommendations.

For questions regarding your communication methods, it’s best to contact Seller Central Support.

Verify your messaging templates are in line with the updated Communication Guidelines by November 3 to optimize your selling experience! Lastly, be sure to drop your email below to stay informed about the latest Amazon updates and news.

How E-Commerce Brands Can Bounce Back in the Wake of the Coronavirus

While coronavirus has impacted nearly every aspect of the global economy over the past few weeks, e-commerce brands have been hit especially hard. Retailers with major ties to China have struggled to deal with significant interruptions to the supply chain as well as travel limitations between countries. 

The good news for e-commerce brands is that the spread of coronavirus in China has been slowing down, allowing factories to reopen. The bad news is that coronavirus is still a major concern worldwide and it is difficult to predict how its spread throughout the world will affect business. 

Because of the continued concern for the world population’s health, it’s imperative that e-commerce brands take careful steps to navigate this global issue, minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities. Here’s how you can revitalize your brand, despite any recent effects of this recent disease.

Increased Customer Communication

With the frequent shipping delays, inventory shortages, and unknown an unknown timeline for the end of the coronavirus, some businesses have been worried about dealing with upset customers. But even the best brands can’t control for unexpected events like global disease. Customers will understand this as long as you keep them in the loop. 

It’s true that upset customers can wreak havoc on your brand. Fifty-two percent of customers tell others to avoid a brand after a bad experience, and 47 percent of customers have switched to a different brand due to bad customer service. It’s essential to take care of your customer, so when circumstances are out of your control, the best thing to is update customers as the situation evolves.

You’ll earn the trust and loyalty of many people simply by being honest and showing you care. Share your estimated timeline for progress with customers and be clear that you will continue to update that timeline as you receive more information. When your operations are back to normal, you’ll have an even more solid customer base than before.

The Online Advantage

Rising anxiety about coronavirus is causing many customers to stay at home. This means e-commerce brands have a major advantage over brick-and-mortar. This is an excellent moment for online retailers to reach out to customers who need products, but don’t want to expose themselves to germs in public spaces.

In fact, e-commerce has helped the economy during disease outbreaks in the past. During the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003, Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce company, took off. Cell phone and Internet companies also thrived at the time. Due to the lack of reliable information about the disease provided by broadcast news, many people turned to their phones and computers to learn how to protect themselves. 

The SARS epidemic was tragic, causing numerous deaths throughout Asia. While millions of people were confined to their homes, however, the e-commerce sector worked to allow life to go on by offering services online. 

E-commerce has the chance to help the world economy during the current coronavirus outbreak in the same way that it helped during the SARS epidemic. It’s important to capitalize on this moment in order to keep your business alive as well as help those people who need your products.

Allowing Remote Business

The spread of a global disease is one of the many reasons to be grateful we have 21st century technology to work with. While there are plenty of aspects of business that must be conducted in person, administrative work, client meetings, and company-wide communication is possible to be conducted remotely. 

Especially if you are located in a region with a growing number of coronavirus cases, the more people who stay home, the easier it will be to contain the disease. The worst thing for your company would be for an outbreak to spread through the ranks of your entire company, completely immobilizing business. 

For those positions that require in-person work, be sure to emphasize the importance of employees watching for symptoms of sickness and staying home if they suspect they may not be fully healthy.  

Diversify Fulfillment Centers

Many e-commerce retailers have seen benefits of having fulfillment centers in a variety of geographic regions. It leads to faster shipping times and the ability to hold greater inventory, avoiding products being on back-order.

Diversifying your location for this centers is best practice in business at all times, not just during a global disease. But the rise of coronavirus has shown that if you are following this diversified location model already, the disease’s impact on your company will not be quite as harsh.  

Although multiple regions in China were hit by the coronavirus, some experienced more severe outbreaks than others. If you have fulfillment centers and warehouses in multiple locations, you increase your chances of being able to keep some of your company’s operations running during an outbreak. 

You’ll also benefit from using multiple fulfillment centers during a disease epidemic because you’ll be able to hold greater amounts of inventory in order to make up for a potential slowing of production in factories. Many businesses are currently seeing products run out without the ability to replace them due to the interruptions to the supply chain caused by the coronavirus. If you can inventory shortages, you’ll be able to win over the customers from other businesses that were not able to meet customer demands. Strong inventory management during a time like this is one of the biggest things that will set you apart as a brand.