The Early Phases of Sales Generation


You’ve spent countless hours researching markets. You’ve found a product and a supplier to make it. You’ve ordered samples, finalized the design and packaging, researched the keywords, built an awesome listing, and now your product is finally live on Amazon.

…Now what?

In the endless sea of products being sold on Amazon, it’s unlikely that your product will magically float to the top, but you also need to take steps to ensure that it doesn’t sink to the bottom.

Further keeping with the metaphor, Amazon’s sea can be cruel and unfair, but it demands respect. Established products frequently have reviews that were purchased or incentivised, providing a continued advantage over the competition. Today, several sellers still obviously violate Amazon’s thorough and complicated policies in an effort to get a leg up on their competition. There are regularly new tactics and services to buy reviews, influence metrics, and sabotage listings, and while some sellers seemingly exploit these options with impunity, Amazon does serve as an aggressive judge, jury, and executioner when black-hat tactics are discovered. In the blink of an eye, Amazon can shutter your store and revoke access to their marketplace, and it’s not uncommon that honest sellers find themselves caught in Amazon’s net and hit with account suspensions. Despite all of this, Amazon’s dominance over e-commerce continues to grow, providing unparalleled opportunity for sellers.

Assuming (and highly recommending) that you are playing by Amazon’s rules, when launching a new product, you’re faced with the task of cutting through all of the more established competition to get your product in front of customers. While it’s hard to definitively prove, and while you shouldn’t expect a major influx of sales, it’s commonly believed that Amazon does provide a ‘honeymoon period’ to new products, in which they are given a bit of a boost in visibility and performance to help them gain traction. That said, it’s important to implement every tactic possible to drive sales in the first few weeks of activity. If you are unable to drive any account activity, in time, your poor sales history can begin to weigh on your product’s ability to gain favorability with Amazon’s search engine.

The following article will walk you through the first actions that should be taken when launching a new product. Whether you’re a new seller with your first product, or simply adding an additional listing to a large catalog, these universal strategies can help you to build the necessary foundation of sales and ranking traction to succeed long term.

Competitive Analysis

The first step in developing an effective strategy for launching a new product on the Amazon marketplace is to develop a deep understanding of your competition. When releasing a brand new product, your listing will have no reviews or sales history and your competition may be well established in the market. Therefore, it’s likely that in a head-to-head comparison, your competition is going to have the upper hand.

That said, there are a number of tactics that can be implemented to either circumvent your competition or exploit their weaknesses. In order to do this, you must first understand your competitors and how they are interacting with the market. Using Competitor Intelligence, you can easily analyze the tactics of your competition to build a thorough strategy.

The primary benefit of Competitor Intelligence is that it provides you with in depth keyword data for a competing listing. This data enables you to view relevant keywords for the market in relation to their performance. You can see the listing’s organic ranking and advertising rank (PPC positioning) for each keyword, alongside search volume metrics, opportunity score, and relevancy score.

By comparing search volume to organic ranking and ad strategy, you can start to develop an understanding of what keywords are driving the bulk of sales for your competitor and see an overview of where they’re focusing their advertising budget.

Along with this, you can also observe the keywords that your competitor is not indexing or ranking for. This data can also be important as you may be able to note keywords which are being overlooked, implying that these search terms can be efficient opportunities for driving additional sales!

You’re also able to select and track individual keywords in order to receive updates on rank change, indexing changes, etc., allowing you to quickly adapt to any fluctuations in the market or strategy of your competitor.

On the Product Analysis page, you can directly compare metrics with your competition while reviewing historical trends. With a new product, this data can be a quick and easy method of understanding any competitive advantage that you may be able to emphasize in order to persuade buyers.

Pricing

When first launching a new product, you will have no reviews and no sales history. While your product may be the best product in the market, you will have no explicit advantage over established product listings.

Although you can (and absolutely should) implement quality images and use your copy to highlight features that demonstrate superior value or quality in comparison to your competitors, ultimately the search results on Amazon provide shoppers with:

  • One image
  • Title
  • Prime eligibility
  • Selling price
  • Review rating/quantity

This means that your ability to provide a complete value proposition to potential shoppers is relatively limited. Through this lens, one of the easiest ways to begin to build traction for a new product is to start off by pricing competitively.

Setting a product’s price point below your competition is one of the best methods to draw sales away from more established listings. While it’s very unlikely that your product is review competitive, and similarly unlikely that you will have better ranking than much of the competition, appealing to value can help to draw in more budget minded shoppers.

The social proof provided by reviews helps to provide quality assurance to shoppers, meaning that even if your product is objectively better, a competitor’s review status makes their product less of a risk. Because of this, beating your competition on price provides an alternative comparable tangible value, which has the potential to objectively influence sales.

While it can be a difficult decision for any brand owner to cut into their profit margin, one of the most fundamental mistakes that a seller can make is thinking in the short term. It takes time, effort, and money to build a business. You may not obtain the expected return from your first run of inventory, but taking measures to steadily gather sales in the early stages of your product can be a strategic investment to build a foundation for long term success.

Although traditional business rhetoric would suggest that lowering your price immediately tarnishes the perception of premium branding, this is not the case on Amazon. In a crowded marketplace with limited control over your brand’s messaging, a low price is a powerful asset for driving traffic to the listing.

Keep in mind through this stage that your price is not permanent. As your product begins to gain momentum, you can start to raise price until you hit the amount that you’re ideally shooting for. That said, it’s important to understand that the market dictates price. While you (more or less) have the ability to sell your product at any price you wish, the overall field of competition really establishes the fair market value. At every stage of your product’s lifecycle, it’s crucial to consider this when deciding on your selling price. In order to sell effectively, you will always need to remain competitive with the market.

Additionally, testing a few price points can be worthwhile. In certain instances/markets, an aggressively low price may work against you as it can create the perception that a product is of lower quality. For instance, an extremely low price and no reviews may be a cause for caution with an ingestible product such as a supplement. It’s important to make sure that you’re monitoring data to ensure that you’re getting improved click through and conversion rate (unit session percentage) to develop evidence to support the effectiveness of your price point.

Also, lowering price alone will not help to put your product in front of consumers. It will only help persuade shoppers to select your listing over a competitor. You need to combine a low price offer with marketing and advertising strategies to drive sales. For these reasons, it’s extremely important to make sure that you’re monitoring performance. If you’re failing to keep a close eye on performance and the overall effects of any variable changes on Amazon, you could be missing out on critical data to help you sell more efficiently.

Review Generation

Providing a value appeal to shoppers can be an effective strategy in response to the review quantities of competing products, but that still begs the question: How do you generate reviews?

Prior to an October, 2016 change to Amazon’s terms of service, building a base of reviews was a simple process. Sellers could simply give away a quantity of products to receive ‘honest, unbiased reviews’, effectively buying a review base. However, in time, consumers and (probably more importantly) news outlets, began to notice that a vast quantity of products being sold on Amazon had massive quantities of reviews that appeared to be purchased or positively influenced, thus implying that consumers cannot trust the statements that are intended to provide them with quality assurance. Because Amazon very transparently prioritizes customer experience over all else, they quickly enacted policies to forbid any incentivized reviews as a response to the criticism.

Unfortunately, sellers quickly learned that typical shoppers don’t leave reviews, meaning that this policy change quickly created a divide between established products with large review quantities, and new products which were subject to organic review growth rates.

Review generation, however, was (and is) an extremely important aspect of selling successfully. Practices for driving fraudulent reviews continues to be driven further and further underground; with Amazon playing cat and mouse, enacting stricter policies and liberally doling out account suspensions.

Reviews are a social currency on Amazon and a review quantity and rating alone can largely make or break a product listing. Like any blackmarket good or service, where there is demand, there are entities who look to profit through offering a supply. To this day, some sellers do venture into black-hat tactics to drive reviews, or use reviews to sabotage competition. And while some sellers are able to slip through the cracks, Amazon typically catches up and dispenses swift justice.

As a (hopefully) honest seller, who is looking to avoid the Amazon’s punitive wrath, opportunities to compliantly stimulate review growth are limited, but extremely valuable.

Entering Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program is the best way to quickly get a start on your review generation. This program was seemingly developed by Amazon as a means of compensating for their strict policy changes by allowing new listings some opportunity to gain momentum. The Early Reviewer Program is eligible to SKUs that sell for more than $15 with less than 5 reviews. Amazon charges $60 per SKU and will run their program for a period of one year, or until five reviews are generated. Through this period, shoppers who purchase the product will receive an email from Amazon offering a $1-3 Amazon gift card in exchange for a review on the product.

While it’s not a magical solution to make you review competitive, the Early Reviewer Program is an affordable opportunity to help get a new product listing started. This small advantage enables you to establish some social proof to help sway customers.

Beyond this, and while it’s somewhat of a grey area with regards to Amazon’s policies, sellers also utilize product inserts and email follow-up campaigns to generate reviews.

With either of these tactics, it’s critical that you utilize completely unbiased language and stay away from statements implying or steering the customer towards positive feedback (ex.: “If you love our product, please leave us a review on Amazon.”). You cannot attempt to route negative reviews to your own customer service and you similarly cannot use language that only encourages reviews based on positive reception. You also cannot offer any sort of gift, coupon, or incentive in exchange for a review (ex.: “Please leave us a review to receive a coupon for a 50% discount on your next purchase.”). Even if you’re looking to provide a free gift or coupon to all buyers, regardless of reviews, it’s advisable to not offer any type of promotion, incentive, or gift while requesting a review.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon is deliberately vague about the overall compliance of follow-up email campaigns. It is directly stated that you cannot incentivize or influence reviews in any way and there are restrictions as to how you can utilize email campaigns (i.e. you cannot use emails correspondence to pull traffic from Amazon or market other products to buyers). We have not encountered any issues with use of unbiased email and insert language but Amazon has been known to test buy products to monitor these tactics.

Building a review base for a new product is quite possibly the biggest challenge that you will face when selling on Amazon. While shoppers place an extraordinarily high value on rating and review quantity when making purchasing decisions, less than one percent of shoppers will leave a review for a product they purchase. That said, in most markets, you don’t need thousands of reviews to effectively sell. You just need enough of a review base to provide confidence to your customers.

The value of reviews definitely can’t be understated and it’s important to use the tools at your disposal to stimulate growth. That said, it’s definitely worth it to abide by Amazon’s policies and approach your product with a long-term perspective. Reviews help to drive sales, but in order to drive reviews, you need people to buy your product. Use the Early Reviewer Program to your advantage but also prioritize strategies to generate sales first, and let the reviews develop over time. While it’s not necessarily fast, this strategic perspective will help to ensure that you’re able to facilitate some sales activity which will continue to build momentum as you progressively accumulate more reviews and better ranking.

Product Targeting

While it’s definitely valuable to understand your market and competition, along with review generation and the use of price as a variable to persuade buyers, it’s equally important to understand how to place your product listing in front of potential shoppers. After all, if the best, lowest priced product has a listing on Amazon, but shoppers can’t find it, can it make a sale?

It’s not good enough to have the best price or the best offering if your listing is buried in the results. You also can’t generate reviews without sales. So, considering the reality that Amazon is an extremely crowded marketplace, and that it’s unlikely that your brand new listing will automatically end up on the first page of relevant search results, you’ll likely need to pay for visibility through Amazon’s advertising platform.

However, before you jump into setting up campaigns, there are a few methods that you can utilize to collect important data and work towards efficient campaign performance.

Using your understanding of the competition and your competitive price point, you can delve into product targeted advertising. A product targeted campaign is a campaign that specifically focuses on another listing. Typically appearing on a listings detail page, a product targeted ad can seek to lure buyers to it’s listing by appealing to a shopper interested in a related product. There are two main tactics to explore when using product targeting.

First of all, you can run campaigns directed at competition. It’s important to note that in order to be effective with this strategy, you need to find products that have good visibility and traction (thus allowing you to piggyback on their traffic) and you also need to have some competitive advantage (lower price, better reviews, features, color etc.) in order to reach and lure shoppers.

For instance, if you’re selling a hammer, and a shopper is viewing a listing for a hammer, in order to pull their interest, your hammer has to be cheaper, better liked, or have visibly better features in order to draw the shoppers focus away from the product that they’re currently viewing.

The second main tactic involves using product targeting to align your product with complementary listings. The same concept applies to selecting complementary products to target in that it’s advantageous to look for products that have a large quantity of sales and page one ranking for valuable keywords. The difference is that instead of trying to pull sales from your competition, with complementary targeting, you’re ideally seeking to have your product purchased in addition to the targeted complement.

An example of this would be running ads for your same hammer, targeting items such as tool belts, tool boxes, or boxes of nails. The idea is that while someone is shopping for a box of nails, they may realize that they also need a hammer, and your ad placement may result in a convenient purchase.

To easily identify competing and complementary products to effectively target through this campaign type, you can use Listing Analyzer by Viral Launch. After running an analysis on your listing, you can use the Competing and Complementary Products tab to view and sort related listings. By filtering these results to meet your objective (higher sale price, high sales volume, etc.) you can quickly identify ASINs to hone in on with product targeted campaigns.

While both of these tactics may result in lower engagement, and typically won’t assist organic visibility growth as much as keyword targeted campaigns, they can help you drive some additional sales. Additionally, product targeting can be helpful when first launching a product because you’re able to specifically align your ads with individual products, allowing you to hone in on products that your listing has a competitive advantage over.

Automatic Campaigns

Another method to effectively cut your teeth in with PPC and gain some additional visibility is through an automatic campaign. Auto campaigns are more or less the ‘easy’ format for running PPC. While manual campaigns provide you with the ability to target specific keywords and products with varying degrees of specificity, an automatic campaign will defer to Amazon’s algorithms to establish targets for your advertising.

While you may instinctively think that it’s a better strategy to fully control your campaign spend and targeting, an automatic campaign can be a helpful way to hit on a broader range of keywords and drive some wider visibility. Additionally, there may be specific keywords that you convert surprisingly well for. Also, because there is less of a targeted approach, your advertising spend will tend to be algorithmically dispersed, which can result in a lower cost per click, meaning that it’s possible to continue running very efficient automatic campaigns over a long-term period as a means of increasing and rounding out traffic.

In addition to this, it’s important to regularly review your advertising reports. When running ads, it’s easy to get caught up in the concept of spend vs. return. Obviously, inefficient advertising can feel like wasted money. That said, it can be advantageous to instead look at advertising spend as a means of purchasing data. Though it’s far from perfect, Amazon provides access to a number of reports which can give insights into your campaign performance. These reports can be valuable resources for understanding how your product is reacting in the market and how to effectively compete. For instance, using the Advertising search term report, you can review which keywords are getting impressions, driving clicks, and converting into sales.

As you continue to run automatic campaigns, regularly reviewing data can provide you with insights into which keywords are driving revenue, inevitably allowing you to create more focused manual campaigns focused on well performing keywords.

Using automatic campaigns is a great way to familiarize yourself with Amazon’s advertising platform if you are a new seller, and it’s also a great way to begin to generate some sales and visibility if you’re a launching a new product.

Discovery Campaigns

Assuming you’ve done thorough keyword research, running some more specific advertising campaigns, which we refer to as discovery campaigns, is another way to drive focused traffic. A discovery campaign is essentially a manual campaign which is established to test the PPC performance of your high value keywords.

Ideally, you have a list of keywords used to write your product’s listing. Within this list, there should be a range from high competition/high value terms down to low competition/high opportunity terms. Pulling from this list, you can begin to test small groups of keywords (around 5 per campaign) with manual testing to monitor their performance.

By closely reviewing reports, you can begin to determine which keywords are generating interest (by receiving clicks), and which keywords are generating sales. It’s also important to monitor how your budget is being allocated. You may find that a few of your keywords are receiving a very limited amount of impressions (implying that other keywords are consuming your campaign’s budget). If this is the case, you’ll want to restructure your campaign or increase budget to ensure that you’re adequately testing each term.

If a keyword is spending without generating sales, it may be worth removing it from the campaign. That said, the fact that it is spending implies that it’s receiving clicks. For this reason, it may be worth reviewing the competition for this keyword to determine any tangible values that are hurting your listing’s ability to drive a sales.

On the flip side, if a keyword is effectively driving sales, it may be worth breaking the keyword out into its own campaign with a dedicated budget. In this way, you can ensure that you’re dedicating a thorough budget to the terms that are most efficient. If you’re able to maintain ACoS, you may more or less be able to reliably generate profit by fueling these campaigns with spend.

If keywords are not performing, you typically will want to rotate them out of your discovery campaigns, however, you may not want to completely throw the keywords out. As your product begins to build momentum and generate reviews, it’s likely that your listing will convert differently. Therefore, as your listing becomes more competitive in the market, some targets that were previously inefficient may become more relevant.

Conclusion

When launching a new product on Amazon, there are three major variables that you should immediately begin focusing on:

  • Competitive advantage: Understanding how to position your product with a tangible value proposition (most commonly achieved by pricing below your competition)
  • Review Generation: Given the Amazon’s restrictive policies around reviews in parallel with their importance to consumer decision making process, using every policy compliant tactic to your advantage in order to grow a review base is critically valuable and continues to improve your listing’s ability to sell effectively.
  • Visibility: You cannot expect shoppers to find your product simply because you’re listing it on Amazon. Using PPC to drive visibility is one of the only ways to truly get your product in front of consumers when launching a new product. Knowing how to set up some basic early campaigns to begin to target keywords and advantageously align your product with other listings in the market is the best way to begin to drive revenue.

Keeping these three points in mind when launching a new product can help you to contextualize an overall strategy for effective product growth. Amazon is crowded and your competition won’t always play by the rules. But by approaching the market strategically, and with thought towards the long term, there is still limitless opportunity to be successful.

As more of a moral point, reviews are consistently the most challenging aspect of beginning an Amazon based business. That said, while our increasingly Amazon-based society relies on reviews to inform our purchasing decisions, most of us are guilty of not contributing by adding our own opinions after purchasing products. If it were a cultural norm for shoppers to leave a review, consumers would benefit from more well rounded recommendations, and small businesses would more easily be able to establish themselves.

While lofty and idealistic, maybe reviews should almost culturally be viewed as a tax; a few minutes taken to write your opinion in exchange for the overwhelming convenience of e-commerce. While that may be too ambitious to actualize, taking a few minutes to think about how much a review can mean to the plethora of small business owners who are grinding to achieve success is worthwhile. Though it’s easy to forget, lending a hand by leaving a review makes it that much easier for someone to overcome one of the many hurdles that come with deciding to start your own business.

If you are in the process of launching a new product or are interested in selling on Amazon, Viral Launch is always willing to assist. Feel free to contact us at service@viral-launch.com with any Amazon related questions. Our expert team of coaches are excited to help you dominate!

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Brandon Hollander

E-Commerce Expert at Viral Launch

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