The myths that keep you from winning on Amazon
If you're still hanging onto best practices from years gone by, contributor Andrew Waber says it's time to let go if you want to improve your performance.
Success on Amazon can best be described as a game of tactics, with brands needing to constantly adjust to the practices of new competitors, consumer behavior or changes within Amazon itself.
For companies looking to push their way to the top, or stay there, it can be tempting to minimize the chaos of Amazon by holding on to seeming “best practices” from years past.
Between my work and what I see across the e-commerce landscape, it’s clear that brands need to let go of some of these prior practices to address the current market realities of e-commerce. Additionally, by fostering better interdepartmental collaboration, tactics can better roll up to larger strategic goals and long-term sales growth.
Following are the three myths you need to stop believing in.
1. You only want 5-star reviews
Of course, you want as many five-star reviews as you can get, but across verticals and price points, consumers care much more about the sheer number of reviews on a page rather than the overall rating.
The examples below are from a recent analysis our company made of more than 335,000 tools and home improvement pages on Amazon, along with a consumer survey we conducted in early 2018.
In the first graph, top performers are products in the top 10 percent of Amazon sales rank at that price point, while poor performers are those products in the bottom 10 percent by the same metric. The second chart shows how many reviews people needed to reassure them before they make a purchase.
Brands should see this as a call to arms for more effectively soliciting reviews from customers in order to grow market share. While there are paid tactics like Amazon’s Vine reviews program or solutions providers that aim to ease post-purchase communication cadence and format, less expensive options can include:
- Packaging inserts that proactively ask the user to review the product on Amazon.
- Sending personalized emails to customers a reasonable amount of time after they’ve received the product.
- Responding to customer questions posted on the product page directly as they come up.
Of course, remember to never exchange products for reviews or risk some severe punishment from Amazon.
2. Delete old or discontinued products
In the brick-and-mortar world, continually rotating in new products to replace old ones on the shelves was a time-tested strategy for invigorating sales. But in digital retail, and the endless aisles that come with it, your new products aren’t competing with your old ones for limited shelf space. Plus, search engines like Google and Amazon’s A9 use longevity-linked aspects like linkbacks and historical click rates to inform search rankings.
Given all this, don’t throw away the relevancy and existing SEO of long-standing ASINs by removing the product page, even if it is discontinued. We’ve even seen brands put “Discontinued by Manufacturer” in the product title, helping push people to examine similar products by the same brand.
Remember that if a customer comes to a discontinued product page via Google, for example, Amazon does its best to keep them on the site and convert, via the “Customers who viewed … also viewed” banner and other calls to action, as seen above.
3. The only Amazon ads worth bidding on are category or similar brand searches
Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) headline search and sponsored product ads are a great way to catapult your products to the top of an Amazon search page, and this makes it incredibly tempting to focus significant portions of ad dollars on those relevant terms with extremely high search volumes on the site. These include category searches (e.g., vacuum cleaner) or competitor brand searches to steal market share.
But with AMS maturing as a whole, those terms are more and more often attached to very high CPCs, potentially crippling overall ROAS. While every brand should absolutely practice due diligence across these relevant, potentially high-volume terms (and protect their own brand searches), successful brands are looking to bid on related terms outside of their specific verticals to drive additional sales at lower CPCs.
At a recent conference, Spencer Millberg of One Click Retail highlighted this example by Moov, a fitness tracker brand, which bid on searches for Speedo to deliver AMS ads for its own swim-focused trackers.
As another example, a headline search ad from The Classic Kitchen showcasing its higher-end kitchen accessories appears on a search for Le Creuset — a brand of high-end pots, pans, Dutch ovens and other cookware.
These more creative uses of AMS — bidding on brand terminology where consumers have essentially self-segmented — is one tactic worth investigating in the continuing goal of driving more sales without blowing your ad budget.
Bringing it all together
It’s worth mentioning that in the aforementioned “game of tactics” on Amazon, the strategic element tying everything together is an organizational structure and process that enables the best possible outcomes. This may include technology or software elements that ease collaboration between internal teams, but there also needs to be a concerted effort for Amazon-focused teams to regularly (e.g., weekly or biweekly) meet and plan with their counterparts in sales, marketing or product development.
Successful brands are overwhelmingly taking this philosophy to heart to help them more effectively address cross-departmental challenges unique to the digital landscape, such as cross-channel inventory management during promotional periods or getting new, robust digital product content ready for launches. These regular check-ins and the organizational alignment they promote can go a long way to ensuring enduring success on the digital shelf.