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Holiday Tips for Amazon Sellers: An Interview with Robyn Johnson

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Holiday Tips for Amazon Sellers: An Interview with Robyn Johnson

Melissa Fach
Holiday Tips for Amazon Sellers: An Interview with Robyn Johnson

Selling on Amazon — a lot of people want to do it, but they quickly find out that it is not as easy as it seems. To do well, you must know the ins and outs of the platform. When it comes to learning about selling on Amazon, there is one expert I go to for information, Robyn Johnson. Her company, Best From the Nest, offers courses, coaching, and consulting for resellers and e-commerce professionals.

With the holiday season in full swing, we thought it would be a good idea to get some tips that could help our community, and Robyn gave us a ton of information Amazon sellers can use. 

1. The holiday season is here. So what should Amazon sellers be doing to prepare and hopefully be found organically?

Great question. When it comes to getting ranked on Amazon, there is a combination of factors that you will want to track to make sure you are found organically. 

Amazon’s search algorithm is very sales focused. It isn’t just about the quality of the listing. It is also how that listing is converting for indexed keywords. Here are some things that you can do to get found without paid traffic on Amazon:

1. Stay in Stock

This tip might seem like common sense; however, we see it happen all the time. Stock-outs have a dramatic impact on your organic ranking as it stops all conversions on your product detail page. What makes this difficult is the raised storage fees that Amazon has during Q4 which causes many sellers to watch their stock levels more carefully. To stay in stock, use the Inventory Health Report and look at the Weeks of Coverage columns, to estimate your current sell-through rate and multiply that by your expected increased sales velocity for the holiday season.

Remember that the warehouse can get backed up during the holidays so lengthen your lead times to allow for slower check-in times. If you are selling on Seller Central, you can get a few extra days to send in inventory by sending via partnered shipping (FedEx or UPS) instead of freight. Not only is freight shipping itself slower but it also seems to get checked in slower at Amazon’s warehouses.

On Seller Central, you should also have back up stock available at your location ready to Merchant Fulfill if your Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or Small and Light (SNL) stock does run out. This reduces the damage that the stock out will do to your organic ranking.

2. Be Prime Eligible

Amazon customers love Prime offers. In fact, if you don’t have a Prime offer available, for many Amazon customers your product just doesn’t exist. 

It used to be that selling directly to Amazon (Vendor Central) or using Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) on Seller Central were your only options to make your items available with a Prime offer. That isn’t the case anymore. On Seller Central, you have several different options to make your products available via Amazon Prime.

  • Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) - This has been a staple of selling on Amazon for years. You can send as little as one unit in at a time.
  • Small and Light (SNL) - If your items are small, light, and inexpensive then Small and Light might be an excellent option for you. Small and Light has significantly reduced fulfillment fees and still gives your items the Prime badge. Delivery for your items will be in 4-5 business days instead of the standard 2-day Prime offer. You will also have to use a slightly different process to send your items into the Amazon warehouses.
  • Seller Fulfilled Prime - You can now apply to be able to ship items directly from your location and still offer the Prime badge on your items. You must apply for this program. The requirements are strict, and for many products, it is cost prohibitive, but for some product mixes this option provides a lot of flexibility and control for merchants.

3. Maximize Your Title

Your title is where your most important keywords go; this is not the place to keyword stuff. While you want to optimize for the Amazon algorithm as much as possible, you also want to make the title readable to the customer. Remember, Amazon as an organization is 'customer obsessed'. If you can be customer obsessed in how you optimize your listings, you will find you get a lot farther on the platform overall.

The category style guidelines show you how Amazon would like your title formatted. I highly recommend that you follow those guidelines for the structure of your title. Anecdotally, it seems that many times the listings seem to rank better when the suggested title structure is followed. There are always exceptions to this, so be sure to test different titles and see how it affects conversion, traffic, and keyword indexing.

4. Benefit Focused Product Detail Bullets

While it is essential to make sure that the features of the product are in the product detail bullets, this is an area on your listing that is indexed for organic ranking. To maximize this space, do your keyword research and use the bullets to highlight the same things you would highlight if you were selling the product in person or even those benefits that were so important you put them on the outside of your packaging.

Your bullets and images should be your copy that sells the product and tells your customer what internal and external problems your product will solve.

5. Quality Images

People shop visually. Quality images answer those questions that can be holding customers back from making a purchase. So, have multiple quality images that are all zoomable (at least 1000 Pixels on the longest side and 500 the shortest side). When we are looking at client's images, here are some of our common recommendations outside of the primary product image:

  • Transformation Photos - Showing your product folded, unfolded, in the packaging, etc
  • Lifestyle Photos - Showing your product in use, so customers will see how the product will fit into their home.
  • Infographics - Using callout to highlight details, useful features, and how the product works is a great way to increase conversion.
  • Close-Ups - Show detail, fabric texture, or inside your products.
  • Ingredients - This is required for grocery items.

Remember that the primary picture can only include the product. No text or other items for scale. Use your secondary images to provide that information for your products.

If you are Brand Registered you also have the option of loading videos onto your product detail page.

There are a lot of other things like working with your Amazon Business offers, using parent/child variation listings, utilizing special programs like Subscribe and Save, Early Reviewer Program, etc. that can all increase your organic rankings on Amazon.

This is already a pretty long answer to your question. However, these basics will take you a long way to having your item convert better and in turn improve your organic rank on Amazon.

2. What are mistakes you know Amazon sellers will make this year, and how can they avoid them?

I see a lot of mistakes on Amazon. However, the most common ones that I see are stock-outs, not having a Prime offer, or not understanding Amazon’s policies.

I covered staying in stock a bit in the first question. Just to clarify, if one seller of many sells out that will not affect the organic rank of a product. However, if there is no inventory available on a listing that will hurt your organic rank.

If you are running out of stock and sending in more for Christmas isn’t an option, you can increase your price on items to slow the sales velocity until you can get more items in; this increases your margin and can soften the impact on your organic ranking. Remember Amazon is a supply and demand driven market. The higher the demand, the more you can charge on Amazon. Sometimes prices increase 2-5 times for a product in high demand and low supply.

Prime and Sales

In our agency, we actually don’t take on clients that can’t commit to having their items available via Prime. We understand the reasons why some companies don’t utilize Prime. However, if you want to really maximize the benefit of having your product on Amazon, a Prime offer is vital. Recently we took on a company that produces specialty prints. They had not been using Prime because they were worried about the costs. We raised their price slightly and made the items available via Prime, and they went from 1-2 sales a week to over 20 sales in the first week of having a Prime offer.

For manufacturers, one big mistake that happens off Amazon that will affect your sales on Amazon is having a lot of overstock in your brick and mortar stores at the end of the year; this causes a cascading effect that will impact your sales across multiple channels. When you have an excess of inventory in stores your product is easily picked up by resellers. They are often buying below wholesale cost. When they go to sell their stock on Amazon, they often can start a price war causing your product to be sold considerably under your MSRP. This, in turn, discourages your brick and mortar stores from restocking. The key to controlling your price on Amazon is controlling your distribution.

This point one is important. Selling on Amazon means knowing their policies and complying with them; using black or grey hat techniques, late shipments, or products that cause a negative customer experience can get your listing or your entire account banned on Amazon. You need to constantly watch your feedback, your product reviews, customer messages, and return reports on a regular basis.

If Amazon feels that your product or the experience you are providing as a seller is causing a negative customer experience, they will remove you and/or your product from the platform.

Amazon is very focused on rank and review manipulation right now, and they are actively penalizing prohibitive activities.  

3. Will sellers need to use paid advertising options to ensure they are seen during the holiday season? 

If and how much to spend and your strategy on Amazon should depend on the type of product you are marketing. The more niche your product, the less you will need to rely on paid advertising on Amazon. The more commoditized your product, the more you will need to use paid advertising.

For example, if you are the only seller of left-handed lacrosse gear for girls that means that you would get most of those sales without needed advertising since that would be the only result for that specific search term. However, if you were selling blue iPhone cases, then there are hundreds of options for customers to choose from. In this case, you would have to have a very aggressive advertising campaign to outbid your competition to get your product seen.

For most products to capture as much market share as possible using Amazon’s advertising options will be an important part of holiday sales. Depending on what you are selling and what platform you are using (Vendor Central or Seller Central) you will likely use a combination of Sponsored Product and Sponsored Brands Ads. Product Display ads and Amazon DSP are not as widely used at this time.

New Match Types

If you are using advertising for the holiday season, Amazon just rolled out some intriguing new match types. The changes weren’t announced but showed up in the interface earlier this week. To get a leg up on your competition we recommend that you test with these new match types to see if they can lower your ACOS (average cost of sale) for the holiday season.

If your product has a stand-alone site and you are using advertising on Amazon be sure to review your campaign performance to identify new keywords to integrate into your website content marketing strategy.

4. Is there a situation where you don’t recommend running ads for your products on Amazon?

Amazon is filled with nuances so there are some situations that we don’t recommend that you run ads for your products. One of those is if you are selling on a parent/child variation listing, and you don’t have the buy box across a majority of the variations. The reason for this is that you can very often end up doing your competition a great favor in driving sales for them at your expense. It also causes your advertising data to provide less useful information.

5. Outside of listing optimization and advertising do you have any other tips to increase sales on Amazon?

During the holiday season, people are looking for a great deal, so there are a few things that you can do to increase your conversions without a large outlay in cost to you.

When it comes to offering special deals, a lot of manufacturers will rely too heavily on Lightning Deals.

For some of our clients, we love lightning deals, and they are a big part of our strategy. These items usually have high margins and are more of want versus a need. Since your lightning deal must have a minimum of 20% discount, it is enough of a discount to give your customer a great excuse to purchase something they have been pining over.

On the other hand, Lightning Deals are very expensive compared to the other promotional options on Amazon. You are never guaranteed what time of day your Lightning Deal will run. Additionally, if you have a product that is more utilitarian, we have found that you might not get the sales lift you anticipated with your Lightning Deal promotion.

Promotions

The other option is Promotions. Promotions are great to increase the number of units you are selling per order. With Promotions, you have more options on precisely what offer you want to present to the customer. However, too many promotions on your product lines can be overwhelming to customers.

Our Favorite Option

Our favorite option is clippable coupons. We talk about them a lot because they really have a high effectiveness rate for many of our clients. You are only charged for clippable coupons when they are redeemed by the customer, you have a lot of flexibility in the discount you can offer, and Amazon shows that you have a clippable coupon in search for most categories. This option allows you to increase the traffic to your listings and encourage conversions for those that visit your product detail page.

Key Takeaways for Amazon Sellers

  • Stock-outs have a dramatic impact on your organic ranking.
  • You have several different options to make your products available via Amazon Prime.
  • Use the category style guidelines!
  • Use zoomable, transformation and lifestyle photos. 
  • Mistakes offline can hurt your online sales.
  • A negative customer experience can get you and/or your product removed from the platform.
  •  Amazon just rolled out some intriguing new match types for ads.
  • Don't rely too heavily on Lightning Deals.
  • Promotions and clippable coupons are great options. 

I want to thank Robyn for her time; I know she doesn't have a lot of it this time of the year. It is thrilling to get such fantastic advice and information from an Amazon pro. If you have any questions for Robyn, you can comment below or you can hit her up on Twitter

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Melissa, great interview. Robyn is someone even experienced sellers go to!. And great timing for this topic.

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