Omnichannel Strategies – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Tue, 19 Jun 2018 22:21:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png Omnichannel Strategies – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 How to Use Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs) to Drive Highly Relevant, Highly Targeted PPC Traffic https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/single-keyword-ad-groups/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/single-keyword-ad-groups/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 14:46:05 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=28649 Whether single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) are old news or a new find to you, they’re quickly becoming a well-known…]]>

Whether single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) are old news or a new find to you, they’re quickly becoming a well-known best practice for PPC account setup.

First, what are the main benefits for ecommerce managers and brands?

Why SKAGs Are Important for Ecommerce Brands

There are quite a few different ways to organize your campaigns when it comes to AdWords, so you’ll want to make sure you’re using what’s been proven to work.

Certain types of campaigns call for certain types of audiences and ad groups.

But in the world of PPC, where bids and clicks slowly chip away at your ad budget with every drop of traffic, it’s important you keep campaigns focused.

Focused on what?

Focused on generating traffic that’s going to generate the highest ROI.

You can’t afford to be wasting ad spend on keyword bids that are generating low intent traffic by targeting too large an audience.

The “larger audiences” I’m referring to here are the ones brought in by the many search queries tied to broader keyword match types that are plaguing your ad groups — or what we at KlientBoost call the “Iceberg Effect.”

An example of the Iceberg Effect — look at how some of the queries really differ from the keyword. – image source

The image above shows how most of the search terms that are triggering the ad are completely irrelevant to what the ad is offering. Broad match keywords are typically part of the problem.

The ad is specific to the keyword “file for bankruptcy” but not all these queries come from people with the same intent or interest level.

This isn’t going to do anything good for your click-through-rates (CTR), which – in turn – will hurt your Quality Score as well.

These wasteful campaigns drain your ad spend without generating actual conversions and revenue.

Basically, they’re just throwing your ad budget on the pyre and hoping for solid traffic.

But don’t worry…

There’s a better way. And the way is: Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs).

SKAGs organize your campaigns into highly targeted and highly relevant ad groups to boost ad relevance, Quality Score, and CTR.

So, from the original masterminds behind SKAGs, here’s why you need to start using them in your own AdWords campaigns (and how to set them up).

What Are Single Keyword Ad Groups?

As I previously mentioned, SKAGs are a way of segmenting your ad groups by keywords to maximize their relevance.

This in turn improves other metrics that help lower your cost-per-click (CPC) and improve your CTR.

Let’s take a look at an average ad group first, so we have a baseline for comparison:

adwords account structure

Here’s a basic ad group setup, using multiple keywords, – image source

You can see in the previous report about filing for bankruptcy the search terms and keywords don’t ever match up, which is a big no-no.

If you don’t know the difference:

  • A keyword is how AdWords manages what you bid on and what keywords trigger your ads.
  • A search term is what the user actually types into the search bar (after all, you’re advertising to humans here, not Google).

search queries versus keywords

Search term versus keywords – image source

If you have too many keywords within an ad group, not all of them are going to be a perfect match for the search term or ad you’re serving.

You want to cut down your keyword:search term ratio to be as low as possible. Ideally, a 1:1 ratio.

Building your ad groups around keywords that match search terms rather than several keywords you’re taking a guess at via SKAGs will help improve the relevance of your ads by minimizing the keywords that trigger your ads.

Your ads may show to a smaller audience, but it will be isolated to users entering only search terms that are relevant to your ads.

Which is exactly what we’re looking for: highly relevant traffic with the highest likelihood of converting.

That’s how you maximize the ROI of your PPC campaigns.

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How To Set Up Single Keyword Ad Groups

Now that we’ve addressed what SKAGs are in an abstract sense, let’s take a tangible look at how to set them up.

For continuity’s sake, let’s use the same example as the ordinary ad group that I referenced earlier.

The original ad group included the following keywords:

  • Skinny Jeans
  • Women’s Skinny Jeans

The screenshot above shows these keywords were triggered by a myriad of different search terms — some relevant, some not.

The search terms triggered:

  • Seven brand skinny jeans
  • Skinny jeans juniors
  • Skinny jeans sale
  • Size 6 skinny jeans gap
  • White cropped skinny jeans
  • Women’s skinny jeans
  • Skinny jeans for women
  • Women’s size 2 skinny jeans

If we have one keyword and one match type, that’s extremely limiting.

By using different match types, you can still have a 1:1 ratio without limiting relevant traffic too much.

We use three for every keyword in every ad group that I will note below.

Keyword Match Types

For starters, each SKAG is built around a root keyword. This is the primary keyword that you’re trying to target.

So, for the example we’ve been using, the root keyword would be “Skinny Jeans.

However, if you only build an ad group around this keyword and rely on the default Broad Match, you’ll notice quite a large keyword:search term ratio (or Iceberg Effect).

That’s because, of all the keyword match types, broad match has the largest Iceberg Effect.

iceberg effect graphic

The Iceberg Effect in an abstract sense (don’t be the Titanic). – image source

Which means that your ads will be triggered for the largest audience, but not necessarily the most relevant.

keyword match types

The hierarchy of Match Types by Iceberg Effect – image source

To build an effective SKAG, you need to use all the different match types (except broad match) to mitigate the Iceberg Effect as much as possible.

Therefore, a SKAG targeting the same keyword as the original ad group would look something like this:

  • +keyword+1 (broad match modifier)
  • “keyword 1” (phrase match)
  • [keyword 1] (exact match)

Using these keyword match types will help adjust your ad group to monopolize a singular search term (your root keyword).

adwords editor

Entering a SKAG into AdWords – GIF source

How Match Types Work

Your broad match modifier will trigger your ads for any relevant long tail versions of your keyword, no matter the order.

On the other hand, your phrase match has to include the keyword(s) in the order you’ve put them in, but can include additional keywords (as long as they don’t impact order of main keyword).

And exact match keywords are just as it sounds, no additional keywords can be added — it is what it is.

We keep our single keyword ad group flexible by having various match types for that one keyword.

NEED TO KNOW

Considering that the basic logic behind SKAGs is that granular segmentation improves performance, you might find yourself thinking about segmenting your ad groups even further.

The drawback here is that SKAGs already dilute your audience quite a bit, which makes testing difficult.

Further diluting your audience by splitting your SKAG into three distinct ad groups based on match type will making testing nearly impossible.

Segmenting by just one keyword is enough on its own.

The Benefits Of Single Keyword Ad Groups

We’ve addressed the value of SKAGs – what they are and how to set them up – but what are the real benefits of this AdWords strategy?

Granular Campaign View

Well, for starters, it gives you a clean, granular overview of your campaigns that makes further adjustments and optimization easy.

You may have to deal with a large number of ad groups in any given campaign, but it’s easier to see each ad group’s performance — because you’re not having to figure out which keywords are performing the best within that ad group (just what match types).

The easier your tracking is, the easier optimization is.

But a clearer picture of your campaigns isn’t the only benefit of slicing up your accounts into SKAGs.

The real benefits come from SKAGs’ ability to improve your ads actual performance.

And that comes from the improved relevance of your ads.

single keyword ad group tweet

Our favorite quote from our original SKAGs article via Unbounce – image source

Relevance, Quality Score, & Expected CTR

The leading benefit of SKAGs is that, once you have tapered down your keyword:search term ratio, you’re able to create ridiculously specific ads for your target audience.

When you start matching a keyword to search terms in a more 1:1 way with highly specific ad text, your CTR can skyrocket.

This is because you don’t have multiple keywords all battling one another to be relevant to a single ad you’ve created.

Effectively, SKAGs cut down the ratio between search term to keyword, and from keyword to ad.

And the more specific you get in both areas, the mores success you’re going to see.

ad text relevance

Hyper relevant ad example from the original SKAG post – image source

Creating hyper-relevant ads like the one above will in turn increase the Quality Score of your ads.

Quality Score is somewhat of a Google black box, but you can rest assured that relevance has something to do with it.

The increased relevance of your ads will actually have a two-fold effect:

  1. Increased Quality Score
  2. Higher Expected CTR

Now, because Google gets paid each time your ads are clicked, the higher your expected CTR, the more Google will like your ads.

And what’s your reward? A lower CPC for your campaigns.

This is great news — it literally means you are paying less for more traffic which also has a higher conversion intent.

That’s what we call a win-win-win.

Optimizing & Expanding Single Keyword Ad Groups

The last – and one of the best – benefits of single keyword ad groups is that optimization is so easy, and helps merchants identify what products or services are doing well.

SKAGs are essentially built self-optimized because of their use of the three different keyword match types.

Instead of continually updating your ad groups with new long-tail variations, you can rely on your broad match modifier to trigger your ads when you want.

All you need to do to optimize your SKAGs is to check-in to your Search Term Report to eliminate any irrelevant search terms and/or identify potential new SKAGs.

search terms report

Here’s a GIF of what it looks like. – GIF source

For example, if you’re checking your SKAGs Search Term Report weekly, you may find new search terms that are related to your root keyword, but carry a different level of intent.

For these, you can add them to an ad group to create a new SKAG that monopolizes that search term.

The Importance of a Negative Keyword List

However, first, you must add them to your original SKAG’s negative keyword list. This way, your original SKAG’s audience will grow even smaller and thus even more relevant.

You don’t want to compete against your own ads.

Remember, while you may have an urge to maximize the reach of your ads to engage with the largest audience possible, the golden rule of effective PPC is that a smaller audience is actually better.

single keyword ad group adwords layers

More targeting layers make a smaller audience, which is a good thing. – image source

Merchants can use this technique to see which of their products or services are doing well in their AdWords account.

Ad groups that outperform their counterparts in the campaign can be broken out into their own campaigns with a dedicated budget, and the previous campaign’s budget can also be adjusted accordingly.

SKAGs allows you to better track your products’ or services’ ROI and improve your AdWords strategy around your various products and services.

Executive Summary: More Granularity is a Good Thing

So what’s the magic behind single keyword ad groups?

What makes them so vital to your AdWords campaigns?

The answer is simple: If you pay for every click of traffic you generate, you only want to generate clicks for highly relevant, high intent traffic.

And that’s exactly what SKAGs segmentation achieves.

The smaller your audience, the more you’re able to create highly relevant ad content/copy that yields more clicks at lower costs.

Those are some figures that I think any ppc marketer can get behind when building successful adwords campaign.

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The 19 Ecommerce Growth Challenges of 2018, Outlined by Amazon’s Annual Report https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-annual-report/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-annual-report/#comments Thu, 26 Apr 2018 14:47:31 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=28236 On April 18th, Amazon released its Annual Report for the past fiscal year (2017). The Amazon Annual Report, which is…]]>

On April 18th, Amazon released its Annual Report for the past fiscal year (2017).

The Amazon Annual Report, which is made available to the public through the SEC, recapped the company’s remarkable year of growth.

However, it also put a spotlight on some of the challenges and obstacles Amazon will face in the year ahead.

From general Amazon growing pains to government regulation, part of the report took a hard look at some of the major issues and potential risks ahead that all ecommerce retailers need to consider (as Amazon third-party retailers or otherwise).

Let’s take a look at some of the important highlights as well as some of the specific challenges covered within this report.

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Amazon Growth Highlights

What can we take away at a high level from this report?

In a word: Growth.

Amazon Customer Base, Revenue & Shipping Data

Some of the biggest highlights of Amazon’s Annual Report were company insights shared for the very first time – like information around membership and revenue around Amazon Prime, the company’s subscription service.

  • Amazon Prime has over 100 million users.
  • Amazon Prime generated $9.7 billion in subscription revenue.
  • More than 5 billion items shipped worldwide with Amazon Prime.
  • Amazon now has 560,000 employees.

It was also revealed that Amazon Prime has more members (and a higher retention rate, at nearly 90% retention) than retail giant Costco.

Amazon Growth

Image source

But along with the good news about growth and spikes in revenue, Amazon also spent a good portion of this report talking about risks and obstacles they’ll face in the year ahead.

These issues are insightful not just for those who sell on Amazon, but for all ecommerce retailers working at scaling up their operations – as many of the difficulties discussed are relatable (albeit on different scales.)

Let’s take a look at those next.

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Amazon Risk Factors and Obstacles in 2018

The risks associated with the year ahead are fairly relatable for all retailers working in the ecommerce environment. From changes in technology to pending legislative issues, these are the top items to keep an eye on in 2018 and beyond.

1. Channel expansion and high-growth pains.

As Amazon continues to quickly scale up operations and diversify with new products, services, and verticals (like its acquisition of Whole Foods, for example), its rapid growth presents a unique set of challenges –– and places the company in a position that may be more vulnerable to risk.

The Amazon Annual Report states:

“We are rapidly and significantly expanding our global operations, including increasing our product and service offerings and scaling our infrastructure to support our retail and services businesses.

This expansion increases the complexity of our business and places significant strain on our management, personnel, operations, systems, technical performance, financial resources, and internal financial control and reporting functions.

We may not be able to manage growth effectively, which could damage our reputation, limit our growth, and negatively affect our operating results.”

This is an important insight (and a good reminder) to all ecommerce companies going through a period of rapid growth.

2. The risks of international operations.

One of Amazon’s biggest challenges in the year ahead will relate to expansion into international markets around the globe.

Data shows that as of 2017, Amazon’s global retail revenue continued to climb, as seen below (note the reporting change in Q1 of 2017).

Amazon Global Retail Revenue Growth

Image source

This is important for all ecommerce retailers with a global operation and international customers, as they will also need to consider some of the following risks:

  • Local economic/political conditions: Each international relationship is subject to the nuances of constantly changing economic and political conditions. This includes geopolitical events such as terrorism and war.
  • International regulations on ecommerce: From protective measures from governing bodies to taxes and export laws, it’s important to monitor the risks associated with international sales.
  • Business licensing across borders: Certification, licenses, or permits may be necessary for certain imports and exports. Failure to maintain these documents can result in negative business impacts.
  • Currency exchange restrictions: There many be limitations on investment of funds and/or foreign currency exchange restrictions to consider, as well as exchange rate values.
  • Language/cultural differences: When staffing is necessary around the globe, understanding language and cultural differences can be difficult to navigate and carry a certain amount of risk related to communication (or even harassment).
  • Net neutrality and access to the internet: Net neutrality and access to the internet in general could pose a major threat to the viability of ecommerce businesses that depend on internet connectivity. China and India, for example, in Amazon’s case, both regulate sales made through Amazon and its affiliates.

3. Optimization of data & fulfillment centers.

Along with Amazon’s rapid growth have come a particular set of challenges relating to the optimization of its data and fulfillment centers. This is a very relatable concern for any ecommerce retailer that’s growing quickly.

The report states:

“If we do not adequately predict customer demand or otherwise optimize and operate our fulfillment network and data centers successfully, it could result in excess or insufficient fulfillment or data center capacity, or result in increased costs, impairment charges, or both, or harm our business in other ways.”

There are a couple of things to consider here:

  • Inventory has to be optimized. If accomplished, optimized inventory will help lower shipping costs from fulfillment centers and increase margins.
  • Good terms are crucial with shipping companies. Since Amazon depends on third-party shipping companies to deliver packages bearing its name, it relies on a cost-effective agreement, reliable delivery, and good service from those providers through a contractual agreement with well-defined terms.

4. Seasonality and holiday strain.

Like most retailers, Amazon faces a massive influx of traffic and orders during the fourth quarter each year thanks to the year-end holiday shopping surge.

This rapid uptick in customer volume means preparing for things like:

  • Demand forecasting: Ensure there is enough inventory available without selling out.
  • Planning for increased shipping costs: Formulate a strategy for last-minute shoppers and express delivery.
  • Risk of site crash due to increased traffic: Add extra bandwidth for increased site traffic volume without having the site go down (which can hurt sales).
  • Extra staffing: Plan ahead for extra staffing during the holidays, including holiday pay and overtime considerations to meet customer demand.

5. Rapidly evolving business model.

The pains Amazon feels during the holidays doesn’t lessen too much throughout the rest of the year thanks in part to the company’s rapid growth.

Data shows that sales jumped from $135 billion to $178 billion between 2016 and 2017 alone.

Amazon Sales Growth

Image source

Let’s look at a few of the risks that accompany this growth trajectory.

  • Technology: The speed at which technology advances (and thus, users adapt their habits) poses a certain amount of risk for a business that can’t be flexible or agile enough to adapt to those changes quickly.
  • Stock value: As a publicly traded company, Amazon has to answer to investors while trying to maintain a rapid pace of growth. The stock value of the company is also extremely volatile and can be influenced by things like media coverage.
  • Industry trends: The way people discover, research, and buy products is always changing, so accounting for shifts and trends can be difficult and costly.

6. Government regulation.

There’s a lot up in the air right now around government regulation for companies like Amazon, but also for ecommerce retailers in general, too.

Watch for the following legislative issues to make an impact:

  • Data protection: With topics like GDPR in the news, ecommerce businesses have to think about how changes around data protection will impact their companies. This may require increased investment around data security and monitoring for risk mitigation.
  • Energy consumption: Any major changes to laws and regulations could have serious implications for everything from manufacturing to shipping and beyond.
  • Taxation: The Supreme Court is discussing ecommerce taxes right now, which could mean additional taxes for online retailers.
  • Online payment services: Changes around online payments could have major implications for ecommerce retailers –– not to mention the disruption posed by digital currencies like bitcoin and systems like blockchain.

Executive Summary

The numbers were good for Amazon this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed smooth sailing in the future.

Being aware of the risks and challenges associated with ecommerce in general and with Amazon’s unique business model allows the company to prepare as best it can. You can take a page from this playbook, too.

Amazon’s 2018 Risk Checklist for High-Growth:
  • Local economic/political conditions.
  • International regulations on ecommerce.
  • Business licensing across borders.
  • Currency exchange restrictions.
  • Language/cultural differences.
  • Net neutrality and access to the internet.
  • Optimizing inventory.
  • Good terms with shipping companies.
  • Demand forecasting.
  • Planning for increased shipping costs.
  • Risk of site crash due to increased traffic.
  • Extra staffing.
  • Technology.
  • Stock value.
  • Industry trends.
  • Data protection.
  • Energy consumption.
  • Taxation.
  • Online payment services.

Want more information about Amazon? Check out: How to Successfully Market Products on Amazon & Think Like a Buyer.

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Google’s Doubling Down on Ads. Here’s How to Optimize Your Google Shopping Ads Now. https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/google-shopping-campaign-tips/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/google-shopping-campaign-tips/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2018 14:00:41 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17230 Have you been watching? Google and Amazon are in a showdown. Just check out how their ad listings currently look:…]]>

Have you been watching?

Google and Amazon are in a showdown.

Just check out how their ad listings currently look:

google shopping versus amazon shopping results

Google Shopping search versus Amazon Shopping search (via Search Engine Land)

But Google isn’t stopping with a similar design. They are placing themselves firmly in the corner of businesses.

In March 2018, Google announced their Shopping Actions launch –– a tool aimed at helping retailers compete against Amazon.

In early beta programs, Google retail partners saw the average size of a customer’s shopping basket increase by 30% after joining the program.

The program at current is quite limited.

This is important for retailers and advertisers to follow so they can understand how they should divide up their marketing dollars.

The goal of Google’s Shopping Actions Program is to provide shoppers a few key benefits:

  • Universal cart checkout experience regardless of where a product is from
  • Single-click reordering
  • Integration with Google Express, Google Search, and smart speakers (i.e. voice commerce!)
  • Pay-per-sale instead of Pay-per-click

Now, getting into the program is a bit strict for most retailers. Currently the program is based only in the U.S. and while you can apply to participate, it is invite-only at the writing of this article.

That said, Google is clearly investing more and more in their ads product.

No better time, then, to do a deep dive on Google PLAs, also known as Google Shopping Ads.

Because the absolute best position your brand can be in is with highly optimized Google PLAs as they invest in the platform and help your items on your own branded site show up higher than those from Amazon.

Let the showdown begin. After all, it’s only win-win for you.

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What are Google Shopping Ads?

google shopping ads on serps

Google Shopping Ads are optimized for conversion based on factors known to engage online shoppers with a product.

These include showcasing:

  • Product image.
  • Product title.
  • Price.
  • Reviews.
  • Discounts (if they apply).
  • Locality.

PLAs display at the top of search results, above search ads.

google shopping ads above search results

Google PLAs displaying at the top of search results.

They also appear in the upper right corner of search results.

Since Google has long removed right side ads from desktop search results, PLAs are the only ads that show in this position.

google search side page results

Google PLAs displaying in the upper right corner of search results. Since February 2016, these are the only type of ads that show in this position on desktop.

Now that you understand what Product Listing Ads are, let’s talk about why they are important for your business and how to use them.

Why PLAs are Important

PLAs allow you to take up additional visual  real estate on Google’s search engine results page (SERP).

Combining a Google Shopping strategy with your current paid search and SEO tactics will help you earn the full visual real estate of Google – increasing your chance for click-thru traffic!

Google Shopping dominate serps

Example of Allied Hand Dryer using organic search, paid search, and Google Shopping to dominate the SERP.

The Difference Between Google AdWords & Merchant Center

Google Shopping campaigns are often lumped in with traditional paid search campaigns because you can manage them within the AdWords interface.

However, you actually need to use a completely different Google tool and setup to start creating your Product Listing Ads (or Google Shopping Ads): Google Merchant Center.

The shopping campaigns also function a bit differently, as well.

Google Text Ads (AdWords) use keywords for bids.

Google Shopping Ads (Merchant Center) are bid on by product or product category.

This means that Google ultimately decides which keyword or keyword group your big on a product falls into.

How Google decides what is relevant is based on information submitted through the product data feed.

This data feed includes loads of information, such as:

  • Product name.
  • Category.
  • Image address.
  • Pricing.
  • Color.
  • Size.
  • Inventory.
  • Brand.
  • Description.

The data feed for Google Shopping campaigns can be submitted through the Google Merchant Center.

How-to Setup Google Shopping:

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How to Optimize Your Google Shopping Ad Campaigns

Getting setup on Google Merchant Center is just the first hurdle.

Google Shopping / PLAs are expensive. And it behooves you to figure out how to increase your ROAS (return on ad spend) over time.

Here are 10 tactics to make sure your ads improve in performance over time, rather than become a debt center.

1. Optimize your feed with common SEO tactics.

Google Shopping pulls relevant keyword data from the data feed you submit to your merchant account –– or that you submit through the Sales & Orders app..

The keywords you include in your feed will determine how Google decides to show your ads in relevant search queries.

Therefore, you want to structure your SEO with an information hierarchy in mind.

Your product title, one the most important elements in your feed, provides insight into how this looks.

bigcommerce control panel product details

The product title should be optimized based on the type of product you are selling, but an simple way to think of title optimization is detailed below.

Google Shopping example ad product title

Example of a Google PLA where the product title has been optimized to contain brand, style, color, size and product details.

How to Optimize a Google Shopping Product title:
  1. Brand.
  2. Style.
  3. Model.
  4. Color.
  5. Size.
  6. Other important features or options.

You’ll also want to apply this same strategy when optimizing your product description.

Include relevant information such as:

  • Patterns
  • Textures
  • Shape
  • Materials
  • Technical specifications.

Google Shopping bigcommerce control panel settings

You can input all of this information for each individual product on your product information detail page.

Make sure your titles and descriptions are clear, descriptive, and useful for the customer.

Be careful not to keyword-stuff your product feed.

Brett Curry, CEO, OMG Commerce

Get your feed right! Work to properly optimize your titles, descriptions, product types and other required data points. While data feeds aren’t sexy, they are the foundation of your Google Shopping campaign. A weak or under-optimized feed leads to anemic Google Shopping campaigns.

At best your campaigns will be an uphill battle if your feed is under optimized. I could argue that bidding is where the “magic happens” for Google Shopping, but without the proper feed everything else suffers.

2. Include negative keywords.

You can optimize your product feed for keywords but you cannot actually bid on keywords in your campaigns.

However, you can add negative keywords to indicate when your ads should not show up.

Start by adding known irrelevant terms then continue to review your search terms report to identify low performing terms.

Negative keywords can be used at the campaign level, or added to specific ad groups.

Let’s say you sell shoes for women, but not men’s or kid’s shoes.

You would want to add [-mens], [-male], [-kids] and [-childrens] to your negative keyword list so your product listings don’t show for queries with these terms.

Use the proper match type to exclude keywords by one of the below based on your strategy:

  • Broad match
  • Broad match modified
  • Phrase match
  • Exact match based

Google Shopping adwords negative keyword

Add negative keywords at the campaign level, as shown here, or the ad group level.

Jan Lastuvka, CEO & Co-Founder, MonkeyData

Set negative keywords to your campaigns so that you do not pay for clicks that are not related to your budget.

For example, if you sell baseball cleats, set [-football] and [-rugby] as negative keywords so that people looking for these products do not see your ads and therefore do not potentially click on them, driving up your costs when they’re not actually interested in your products.

3. Include a product’s GTIN.

Google requires all retailers to provide a Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN), more commonly known as UPCs in the United States, on all new in-stock products advertised through Shopping campaigns.

Google states that GTINs help them determine the exact product and brand being sold, and thus increase exposure because they have more details on the product.

If you source products from local or boutique manufacturers that do not have GTINs (or other product identifiers), however, you can set the “identifier_exists” field to false. Or, simply click the “no unique product identifier” button for the specific products.

bigcommerce control panel no gtin

4. Break out your campaigns based on profit margin/performance.

Google Shopping allows you to bid on specific products instead of keywords, and the best way to do this is bucket your products into product groups.

Product groups allow you to seperate your products into relevant categories, similar to how you may categorize your products on your website.

This is useful because you can set different bids for each product groups based on their performance or their profit margins.

Google Shopping adwords ad group

Ad Groups with various biddings (via PPC Hero)

Keep the ROI of your products in mind because this will help you determine how to set you bids per product group.

This data can be used to help you adjust your campaign structure and create different ad groups.

Consult your BigCommerce analytics or Google Analytics data to see which products are selling well.

bigcommerce control panel insights

Add these best sellers to a specific ad group and raise the bids to increase exposure of these popular and profitable products.

If a product isn’t performing well in Google Shopping, remove it from its current category and place in a new ad group with a lower bid.

Google Shopping adwords product performance

Start by looking in the “Products” section of AdWords to find top or lowest performing products, which may be placed in separate ad groups for modified bids.

You can also use Google Shopping’s campaign priority to make sure the right campaigns are prioritized in Google’s auction.

Google Shopping adwords campaign priority

Where to set your campaign priority in AdWords (via Search Engine Land)

William Harris, Ecommerce Consultant, Elumynt

Get granular with your bids. Every product has a different profit margin and different profit amount in terms of dollars. You should be bidding on each product according to the amount you can afford for each product.

If you have 35,000 products, that might seem daunting to you. Hiring the right agency to manage this can usually more than make up for the cost by making each product more profitable.

5. Send your feed to Google every day.

Providing your product data feed to Google on a daily basis will ensure that all information is current and accurate.

This can help to increase the likelihood of placement, as Google favors merchants that provide consistent and clean data

It also creates a better experience for searchers, making sure that the information they see in the ad is the same information they see when they click through to your site.

Google Shopping merchant center feed

Set up scheduled fetches so that Google automatically pulls and updates your product information throughout the day. Or, use your Sales & Orders app to automate this.

6. Strategically select your product images.

Ensure that each product has a relevant, targeted image.

Use photos that differentiate your product from others listed in Google Shopping ads to help your ad stand out among the competition.

When selecting images, consider the following to have a properly optimized image:

  • Use high-resolution images.
  • Use images that match your various options.
  • Don’t use images with texts or watermarks.
  • Test product images vs lifestyle images.

Google Shopping image results

Notice how the highlighted ad contains background details, making it stand out among the other bike that are on a simple white background.

Aaron Agius, Managing Director, Louder Online

Obviously, when you’re optimizing your PLAs, you want to do things like keep your feed updated and take SEO best practices into account.

But one really simple thing I’ve seen make a big difference in people’s campaigns is changing up the images they use so that they stand out from competitors.

So many people either use manufacturers’ stock photos or try to replicate them, that a really easy way to drive clicks and sales is just to use a different angle, background or photo style.

7. Make your products eligible for ratings & review count.

Google can show a star rating and review count under your product’s title in the PLAs.

The ratings and reviews are aggregated from multiple sources, such as your site, third-party aggregators, editorial sites and users.

Google Shopping review extensions

Example of PLAs with ratings and review count included.

These ratings can help make your ad stand out and showcase the quality of your product.

For a rating to show on your ad, you must have at least three reviews on any single product and at least 50 reviews across all products.

How to Get Reviews:
  • Ask your customer for reviews on product they’ve purchased through BigCommerce’s build-in comment system or using a third-party service.
  • This will help you grow your overall review count and make your products eligible for this feature.
  • Once you’ve amassed enough reviews to be eligible, you must send a request to Google to have reviews added.

Michael Ugino, Co-founder, Sellbrite

Be sure your store will benefit from Google Seller Ratings. Apply to be a Google Trusted Store, and use a review tool like TrustPilot or Yotpo to drive reviews for your products.

Also, optimize your data feed! If you’re sending Google incorrect information about your products, like the wrong pictures, wrong categories, it can really stall your ROAS.

8. Optimize feed for automated extensions.

Google Shopping utilizes automated extensions that show promotional messaging in PLAs.

Automated extensions use information you submit to Merchant Center and through your data feed to show free shipping or price drops.

Ensuring these messages can be found in your feed will increase likelihood of extensions being added to your ads.

It’s possible to add other types of promotional messages, such as percent off or BOGO. To do this, however, you must follow some strict guidelines and request access from Google.

9. Implement a remarketing strategy.

Adding a remarketing campaign to target visitors who viewed your product from a shopping ad is a great way to improve your ecommerce conversion rates.

You can create custom image ads or dynamic product ads to serve visitors who did not initially convert on your site.

Product image ads are a great choice because they show the latest product a visitor viewed helping you keep your brand and products top of mind.

Google Shopping product remarketing

Example of a product ad remarketing ad.

Recommended Posts

We’re seeing ridiculously high returns on ad spend (the range of 16x-32x!) using Remarketing and Customer Match Audiences for Google Shopping.

If you’re limited by budget (which is generally the case), this really is your lowest hanging fruit by an order of magnitude.

10. Include store integrations.

Finally, use integrations with your store to help manage and keep your Google product feed up-to-date.

Apps like Google Shopping by Sales & Orders makes it easy to keep your Google Shopping campaigns functioning and accurate.

Catalin Zorzini, Founder, Ecommerce-Platforms.com

My best advice for selling here is integration. Once you establish a presence on Google Shopping and build your own brand, it’s actually not that different from managing your online store.

Accepting payments and completing orders should come easy, but it’s your ecommerce platform that dictates how easy it is to integrate with your online store and make sure that all the right details are displayed on the Google Shopping pages.

For example, BigCommerce has most of the functionality built in for your own use. This ensures that customers won’t be disappointed when you’re out of stock or if your product details conflict with what actually comes with an item. Not to mention, you can spend more time discovering other marketing tactics through Google Shopping.

Executive Summary

As Google continues to heavily invest in their sponsored ads (both text and Google Shopping Ads), especially in the face of Amazon’s dominance on search and revenue through their own sponsored product listings, it’s imperative brands optimize for Google PLAs right now.

Why?

Because ever new investment and update by Google to their ads products helps to increase your visibility, driving more sales to your owned website where you can capture emails, drive retention and build your brand equity.

Here’s a quick checklist on how to optimize your Google PLAs.

If you’re already optimized, then go ahead, sit back and watch the Google v. Amazon showdown.

Google Shopping Optimization Checklist:
  1. Optimize your feed with common SEO tactics.
  2. Include negative keywords.
  3. Include a product’s GTIN.
  4. Break out your campaigns based on profit margin/performance.
  5. Send your feed to Google every day.
  6. Strategically select your product images.
  7. Make your products eligible for ratings & review count.
  8. Optimize feed for automated extensions.
  9. Implement a remarketing strategy.
  10. Include store integrations.

Have you seen particular success with a Product Listing Ad campaign? Let us know in the comments below.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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Shopping on Instagram Results Are In: Brands Report +1,416% Traffic, +20% Revenue https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/instagram-shopping/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/instagram-shopping/#comments Tue, 20 Mar 2018 05:01:00 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=20206 In March, BigCommerce merchants were among the first to gain access to Instagram’s new product tagging capabilities — built specifically…]]>

In March, BigCommerce merchants were among the first to gain access to Instagram’s new product tagging capabilities — built specifically for ecommerce brands — which significantly enhance product discovery on the platform.

Today, Shopping on Instagram is now available for online stores based in the following countries:

  1. Australia.
  2. Brazil.
  3. Canada.
  4. France.
  5. Germany.
  6. Italy.
  7. Spain.
  8. United Kingdom.
  9. United States.
  10. Sweden.
  11. Netherlands.
  12. Argentina.
  13. Mexico.
  14. New Zealand.
  15. Switzerland.
  16. Puerto Rico.
  17. Ireland.
  18. South Africa.
  19. Belgium.
  20. Austria.
  21. Peru.
  22. Uruguay.
  23. Paraguay.
  24. Malta.
  25. Ecuador.
  26. Panama.
  27. Portugal.
  28. Poland.
  29. Greece.
  30. Cyprus.
  31. Denmark.
  32. Czech Republic.
  33. Romania.
  34. Norway.
  35. Hungary.
  36. Bulgaria.
  37. Croatia.
  38. Finland.
  39. Latvia.
  40. Lithuania.
  41. Slovenia.
  42. Luxembourg.
  43. Dominican Republic.
  44. Belize.

To use the feature, brands need only to push their inventory to Facebook (you can make this visible or not to your Facebook audience).

See Native Union’s Facebook shop.

After doing so, the Shopping on Instagram toggle should appear in less than 2 weeks.

Need to Know

Currently, Facebook is restricting Shopping on Instagram to merchants who sell physical goods in select product categories that fit their Privacy Policy.

The fastest way to get ready to sell on Instagram is to get your store approved by Facebook Shop.

Once approved, you will see a message within your Instagram app guiding you to connect your Facebook Product Catalog to tag products on your Instagram posts.

Early adopters of the technology are reporting increased traffic and sales from Instagram as a result of the tagging capability.

But what about Instagram is so unique – and how should you adopt this channel as part of a larger strategy?

Let’s dive in to get:

  1. The background
  2. The stats
  3. 80+ examples

80 Shopping on Instagram Examples

You don’t have to go digging around the internet for Shopping on Instagram examples. So, we did it for you.

You’ll get to:

  • Explore more than 80 real examples of Instagram Shopping in the wild, no more stalking to see who is doing what
  • Draw inspiration to educate your own posts and your own strategy. Some folks are seeing as much as a 1,416% increase in sales and traffic!

Request your examples.

Why Instagram Shopping?

Instagram has been the de-facto platform for visual storytelling for years.

It is lauded by consumers and brands alike for its unique focus on beautiful photography and videography, which collectively serve as vignettes into the lives, and lifestyles, of their creators.

With shoppable posts, customers have even greater opportunity to connect with the brands they love through the ability to quickly see relevant information — like product descriptions and pricing — with a single click without ever having to leave the Instagram app.

Additionally, once they’ve found an item to purchase, shoppable posts automatically provide links to corresponding product pages on your website so that customers can quickly add to cart and check out, or browse the remainder of your catalog.

Build an Engaged Community with Shopping on Instagram:

If you want to increase ROI on Instagram – or any channel for that matter – figure out how to use the platform the way consumers use it.

If you’re salesy, people are going hate you.

But, if you’re engaging, it will go a long way in terms of bringing you real, lasting customers.

– William Harris, CEO, Elumynt

Instagram Statistics Businesses Should Know

More than 800,000 shoppers use Instagram every month, and brands around the world are using the platform to share their stories and products with consumers in a visually engaging way.

When it comes to Instagram, ecommerce businesses by and large recommend the platform.

Whether you are advertising, building an audience or both – Instagram has fueled hundreds of thousands in sales.

Here’s why.

  • 800M — Number of monthly active Instagram users.
  • 500M — Number of daily active users
    • Increased from 400M to 500M since March 2017
  • 5X — Instagram growth rate compared to overall social network usage in the U.S. (Source: Inc.)
  • 25 — Percent more likely it is that Instagram users are in the top income quartile than average Internet users. (Source: GlobalWebIndex)
  • 5M —  Number of active Instagram business profiles (Source: Facebook)
  • 60 — Percent of people who say they discover new products on Instagram (Source:  Instagram)
  • 70 — Percent of users who follow a business on Instagram (Source: Instagram)
  • 75 — Percent of users who take an action after seeing a business post (i.e. visit a website, search, shop or tell a friend) (Source: Instagram)
  • 500,000 — Instagram advertisers (Source: Facebook)
  • 150M— Number of daily active Instagram Stories users just 5 months after launch (Source: Instagram)
  • 33 — Percent of the most-viewed Instagram Stories that come from business accounts (Source: Instagram)
  • 36 — Percent of B2C brands that consider Instagram to be “very important” or “critical” to their social media marketing, compared to 13% of B2B brands (Source: Inc.)
The Risk of Not Using Shopping on Instagram:

If you think about it, there is an obvious risk if you don’t have a shoppable Instagram.

For example, if a customer sees an item they like on the platform, but there’s no way for them to buy the item or link to your site, you risk losing that sale.

– Tara Johnson, Lead Reporter – Retail, CPC Strategy

How to Start Using Shopping on Instagram

The rest of this article will walk you through the best-practice advice and revenue stats seen by brands using Shopping on Instagram.

But, this is an Instagram feature — which likely means you don’t need stats or stories to convince you to to start using it.

So, here’s how to get it for your brand right now.

1. Make sure your Instagram app on your phone is updated.

Go to your phone settings and update the app if it is not. If you do not see any Instagram Shopping tags, this is because your app on your phone is not updated.

2. Make sure your product catalog is synced with Facebook Shop.

Instagram pulls your Facebook product feed through – and you can connect your store with Facebook using BigCommerce’s Channel Manager.

3. Click the options tab on your Instagram business profile, scroll down to products and click.

You’ll then be taken through a series of screens introducing you to the product.

4. Authenticate your Instagram business account via your Facebook account.

The product will take you to this next step immediately.

This is how Instagram knows what products you have. If you have not connected your store to Facebook Shop, do that now (step #2).

Choose the product catalog you want to sync with Instagram for Instagram Shopping.

5. Upload your product photo.

Now that you’re set up, go to upload a photo as you normally would.

Then, on the caption page, you now have the options to tag people *and* products.

6. Tag your products.

Select “tag products” and tap on the photo to tag products, the way you would if you were tagging a person.

In the search bar, type the name of the product in the photo. Select the product you are tagging and then move the tag on the photo to the correct spot.

Instagram will pull in all product catalog information from Facebook, including a link back to your site from the photo.

Again, go back to step #2 if this isn’t working for you. You can add up to 5 product tags per photo.

7. Hit share and your post with your shoppable tagged products is live!

It is now time to reap the benefits of shoppable Instagram posts!

Instagram Shopping Tutorial:

Here is a gif walk-thrus of how Shopping on Instagram works.

Join the Ecommerce Growth Summit

This half-day pre-IRCE event on June 5 is limited to only 250 attendees and includes speaking tracks from:

  • Jennifer Fleiss, Co-founder of Rent the Runway
  • Ken Natori, President of The Natori Company
  • Jenny Buchar, Senior Manager, Digital Operations at SkullCandy
  • and others!

Food and drinks are complimentary – as are Q&A sessions with the speakers on how they grew to $100M, launched wholesale and direct to consumer channels, migrated from Demandware and Magento and so much more.

Reserve your spot now

Instagram Shoppable Posts Increased Traffic 1,416%

More than 50 brands have been using Shopping on Instagram since before it’s Fall 2017 release.

We’ve followed up with these beta brands to understand how the solution continues to work for them.

We wanted to know a few things:

  1. If it was easy to use for the brands themselves.
  2. If their fans and customers like it.
  3. And, most importantly, if it increased engagement and revenue.

Below, you’ll find the successes of 6 brands using the feature prior to public availability.

Examples Of Businesses Who Have Had Success With Instagram Shopping:
  1. Natori: Increased Instagram traffic by 1,416%.

  2. Magnolia Boutique: 20% increase in Instagram revenue.

  3. SpearmintLOVE: Instagram traffic grew by 13%.

  4. Native Union: Instagram traffic was a 2,666% increase.

  5. Watches.com: Announcing feature via email.

  6. Marucci: Easy implementation.

1. Natori: 1,416% increase in Instagram traffic.

  • # of posts with tagged products at time of writing: 61
  • Increase in traffic from Instagram: 1,416% WoW
  • Increase in revenue from Instagram: 100% WoW

“Instagram has played a major role in helping us build a brand, and we love how the new shopping features allow us to easily showcase our products in a way that feels authentic to the community we’ve built,” said Ken Natori, President for The Natori Company. 

“In just a few short weeks of using the new shopping features on Instagram, we’ve seen a 100 percent increase in revenue from the channel and a massive 1,416% increase in Instagram referral traffic to our website.”

Instagram Shopping Promotion + Best Practices from Natori:

“We announced the availability of Instagram Shopping on Twitter and Facebook. Overall, it has increased our traffic, the integration was quick and tagging is easy,” says Colin Talbot, Digital Marketing Manager, Natori.

“We can’t wait for the teams to offer increased analytics and the ability to tag both products and people in the same post.”

2. Magnolia Boutique: 20% increase in Instagram revenue.

  • # of posts with tagged products at time of writing: 117
  • Increase in traffic from Instagram: 4% WoW
  • Increase in revenue from Instagram: 20% WoW

“We’ve seen a traffic increase of 4% increase WoW since starting the shopping campaign and a 20% increase in revenue WoW,” says Susan DelPriore, Magnolia Boutique.

Instagram Shopping Promotion + Best Practices from Magnolia Boutique:

“To promote it, we included specific instruction on how to shop our feed in our email blasts. Did an Instagram Live video telling people about the debut of Instagram Shopping. We also included instructions in the posts in our feed, had several Instagram stories reminding people to shop our feed and cross-promoted on other social media channels.”

“In all, I’d recommend Instagram Shopping to other online brands. It makes shopping easier for our Instagram fans. We get many questions from people asking how to shop our items, and this makes that process easier.”

“My best piece of advice is that, since this is very new, it is important to provide instructions and to cross-promote. Making sure your product feed is updated is very important,” says Susan DelPriore, Magnolia Boutique.

3. SpearmintLOVE: 13% increase in Instagram traffic.

  • # of posts with tagged products at time of writing: 208
  • Increase in traffic from Instagram: 12.61% MoM
  • Increase in revenue from Instagram: 8% MoM

“We’ve seen a 12.61% increase in Instagram traffic (month over month) and an 8% lift in purchases attributable to Instagram Shopping (month over month),” says John Lott, CFO at SpearmintLOVE.

“The integration with the BigCommerce Catalog has been seamless. It is easy to tag products and drive customers directly to the product page right from Instagram.”

Instagram Shopping Promotion + Best Practices from SpearmintLOVE:

“To build awareness for Instagram Shopping, we created Instagram stories and organic posts that announced the new feature and showed our audience how to click to shop. We continued these posts for the first two weeks of the launch,” says John Lott, CFO at Spearmint LOVE.

“Overall, Instagram shopping is a natural fit for ecommerce stores and is an organic way to engage with your audience.”

4. Native Union: 2,662% increase in Instagram traffic.

  • # of posts with tagged products at time of writing: 9
  • Increase in traffic from Instagram: 2,662% MoM
  • Increase in revenue from Instagram: 100% MoM

“We are seeing the analytics in BigCommerce and it’s great to finally see Instagram traffic to the site,” says Tanya Keller, Community Manager, Native Union.

5. Watches.com: Still fine-tuning their approach.

  • # of posts with tagged products at time of writing: 1
  • Increase in traffic from Instagram: None yet
  • Increase in revenue from Instagram: None yet

“We will be announcing it in an email blast and ICYMI sections of future email blasts,” Danny Hunsaker, Watches.com.

“Overall, we feel that Instagram Shopping during the holidays will provide the opportunity for busy shoppers to quickly see a watch they like on our IG post and quickly make a purchase.”

“The ease of use for Instagram Shopping is great. Plus, it’s still early in the beta testing, so we’re still analyzing and fine-tuning our approach.”

6. Marucci: Easy to implement.

  • # of posts with tagged products at time of writing: 3
  • Increase in traffic from Instagram: None yet
  • Increase in revenue from Instagram: None yet

“We love the ability to use Instagram, our most engaging social platform, to direct customers to our products,” says Chad Vinges, Marketing, Marucci.

“While we’ve been able to implement the product-tagging feature, we’re in the middle of a low-selling, low-engagement season, so we’re not able to see any real change thus far (only one week of use).

I’m extremely confident, however, that Instagram shopping will be very beneficial to our holiday selling efforts and in our peak selling season in Q1 & Q2 of 2018!”

Shopping on Instagram Tips:
  1. Alert your customers to the new feature via email or Instagram stories.

  2. Start tagging all of your products to build an expected behavior.

  3. Track results in your analytics via the l.instagram option.  

How to Measure Instagram Shopping Success

Do you want to see similar results to the stats and stories above?

Great – then you need to know how to find how your Instagram Shopping tags are performing.

To do that, you have 2 options:

  1. On Instagram: Under your post analytics, there are Instagram Analytics on your click-thru on Instagram Shopping as well as to your site.
  2. Your BigCommerce Analytics: If you are using the new analytics, then under Marketing >> click on Social >> click on Instagram >> measure l.instagram revenue and traffic week over week (or month over month) to see how much Shopping has worked. You can even make sure BC and Instagram Analytics are showing similar #s based on visits.

Faster Checkout Equals More Sales with Shopping on Instagram:

I’m actually quite excited to try Shopping on Instagram out for myself. I love how seamlessly integrated it is and how you can showcase the product and price upfront. Many consumers want to know as much about the product before they head to buy.

In a world where many people have a short attention span, this HELPS!

– Nancy Badillo, Digital Marketing Specialist, NancyBadillo.com.

Instagram Shopping in Stories

According to Instagram, consumers are rapidly adopting Instagram Stories as a new way to visually communicate and connect, with more than 300M accounts now using stories on a daily basis.

In a recent survey, people said they often watch stories to stay in the know with brands they’re interested in, get an insider view of products they like, and find out about new products that are relevant to them.

People are highly engaged with stories produced by businesses, and product stickers makes shopping easier by providing quick access to information on multiple products without going off-site.

One in 3 of the most viewed Stories are from businesses, and more than 1 in 3 people surveyed across BR, ID, the UK and the US say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Instagram Stories.

To account for this uptick in Story activity and make it easier for brands and consumers to build long-term relationships, Instagram is launching Shopping in Stories.

What is Instagram Shopping in Stories?

Starting June 12, 2018, Instagram will be bringing shopping on Instagram into stories, and will start by testing product stickers with a shopping icon.

Select businesses participating in the test will be able to create up to 3 product stickers per Instagram story, and can use stickers with swipe-up, highlights, and videos.

When people see stickers with a shopping icon, they can tap to see more information in the product details page, and go to the businesses’ website.

This feature is currently in testing, and will become broadly available to shopping businesses in the coming months.

We will keep you updated here for more information. In the meantime, here are a few Instagram Shopping in Stories FAQs.

How should businesses think about shopping in stories vs feed?

Both feed and stories are great places for businesses to reach customers, and Instagram knows that people often become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it on Instagram.

In general, you should use both features and functionalities. People turn to Instagram Stories when they want to see behind the scenes content or get an insiders view of products they might like.

Will Instagram bring shopping to feed videos?

There are no plans for this feature from Instagram at this time.

Is this available to all businesses?

At this time, it’s available to a limited set of businesses that use shopping on Instagram.

Who can see the shopping stickers in stories?

All consumers globally can view and interact with the shopping stickers.

How did Instagram select the test participants?

Instagram selected a range of brands from around the world that have been using Instagram in creative ways to reach their community.

What does Instagram hope to learn from the test?

This is the first iteration of shopping in stories, and both Instagram and BigCommerce are really excited to see how people engage.

Instagram will be monitoring to ensure that the sticker is easy to engage with and easy for businesses to use.

Will shopping come to other parts of Instagram (Direct, Explore)?

Instagram is always thinking about how they can evolve shopping on Instagram but have nothing to share at this time.

When will shopping in stories be available to more businesses?

There is no timeline to share at this time. Check back frequently for additional updates.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

How to Grow an Engaged Instagram Audience

Shopping on Instagram is not an advertising opportunity.

As a result, you will see better engagement if your customers are already engaged with you on Instagram.

Here’s how to build an engaged Instagram audience to increase the effectiveness of the Shopping on Instagram feature.

Quick Tips To Improve Engagement On Instagram:
  • Post genuine pictures: Anything that looks too photoshopped or too perfect won’t fly.

  • Showcase your customers: Encourage user generated content via packaging and then use those images on your feed.

  • Take photos everywhere: Don’t get distracted by the need for camera “gear.” Your phone is your gear. Get to snapping!

  • Partner with others: You don’t have to do Instagram alone, and you shouldn’t. Partner with complementary brands to build your audience and share the love.

  • Don’t make it all about selling: Instagram users need a personal reason to follow a business.

1. Wooing 164,000 instagram followers.

With more than 164,000 Instagram followers and $0.11 average cost per conversion across Instagram and Facebook audiences, Spearmint LOVE is one of the most successful Instagram advertisers on the platform.

Shari and John Lott credit the success to Shari’s expert eye for merchandising and design. Here’s their advice on how to grow an audience and advertise to them effectively.

Spearmint LOVE Sees 991% Yearly Revenue Growth

Get the details on how this brand broke the SMB glass ceiling.

What is your #1 priority in creating an engaging Instagram business profile?

If I had to pick the most important thing, I would say the pictures need to feel genuine. Posts that feel over “photo-shopped” often lack an authenticity that is really critical to connecting with your audience. Find a style that works for you and post often, i.e. 3 to 5 times a day.

What advice would you offer other online businesses looking to grow on Instagram?

The most important advice is be very particular about what you post. If your feed lacks a cohesive feel, your audience will have a hard time relating to your content.

Once you have a clear aesthetic that is resonating with your audience, network with other Instagrammers with a similar size audience. In our early days on Instagram, we did a lot of “friendly follows” with other Instagram accounts that we respected and that were a good fit for our audience.

Higher AOV from Shopping on Instagram:

Shopping on Instagram is going to be huge for ecommerce businesses. Pinterest has already proven this to be a successful model. The average order value of sales coming from Pinterest is $50.

Thinking about that in terms of Instagram, Yotpo found Instagram engagement rates were 45% longer than visitors from Facebook, 62% longer than visitors from Pinterest, and 40% longer than visitors from Twitter.

– Jason Quey, Cofounder, GrowthRamp.io

2. Using Instagram to drive 25,000 visitors per day.

With more than 261,000 Instagram followers, The Pink Lily Boutique has successfully turned their Instagram feed into a highly profitable channel, helping to turn $1M in monthly revenue for the brand.

Here is how the Pink Lily team engages with their audience to grow a massive fan base and tons of sales.

How Pink Lily Handles 600+ Orders Per Day

With 600+ orders and 25,000 site visitors per day and $1M in monthly revenue, see exactly how Pink Lily Boutique scaled operations to meet their massive demand.

What are the top priorities in creating an engaging Instagram business profile?

There are many things we do to dominate on Instagram. Here are a few:

1) We post 8-10 times per day, 7 days a week, so there is always fresh content to be seen by our fans.

Some are product images, some are lifestyle shots, some are funny videos. We like to mix it up!

2) We offer Instagram photo contests and giveaways for customers to win free merchandise or a gift card!

A customer has to tag their friends and share one of our contest posts and we will pick a random winner every week! Everybody loves free stuff, so this is always a popular promotion for us.

3)  We ship all items to our customers in a custom poly mailer bag to drive user-generated content.

The bag has our logo and our own exclusive hashtag for customers to tag us on Instagram when they take a selfie in their new outfit.  If customers post a selfie on Instagram wearing our clothes and tag #pinklilystyle, they will be featured on the front page of our website. This has been a great promotion. Customers love the idea of being featured on a website that has 25,000 visitors per day.

pink-lily-instagram

pink-lily-instagram-1

4)  We let our customers choose which items we buy.

When shopping for new items or attending a market, we let the customers ‘Be the buyer.’ We take pictures of the items we are considering and then we post them to our social media pages, asking our fans to ‘be the buyer’ and let us know what they think about particular items.

For example, we will post a picture holding a dress in each hand and ask the customer, ‘Which dress do you like best? Left or right?’

This not only gives us a look at the specific buying habits of our customer, but our fans feel great knowing that we value their input and we try and stock our website based on the items that they truly want.

pink-lily-instagram-2

What advice would you offer other online businesses looking to grow on Instagram?

Keep your customers engaged! Ask their opinions, give away items, make them laugh, etc.

An engaged fan is more likely to turn into a customer. Make sure they know that you value their input and want them to be extremely satisfied with their purchase.

3. Using stories to sell 48,200 fans.

With more than 48,200 Instagram followers, Grace & Lace skyrocketed to a household name when they appeared on Shark Tank. Today, the team uses Instagram to connect with their audience and fans across the country.

Here is their best advice on how to grow a loyal base.

How Grace & Lace Manages Inventory Across Channels

Selling so much through Instagram and other channels including Facebook and Pinterest can be challenging. Here’s how the Grace & Lace team figured it all out.

What are the top priorities in creating an engaging Instagram business profile?

For us, we work to strike a balance between promoting our products, giving our fans a behind the scenes look at Grace & Lace, sharing my life as a mom, wife, and entrepreneur, and adding a little levity or inspiration to their week.

We try to build a valuable relationship with our fans so that when they’re ready to buy something they can’t try on first or see in person, they have had positive interactions with our brand online and they trust me and Grace & Lace enough to take that leap of faith.

What advice would you offer other online businesses looking to grow on Instagram?

Tell your story. Facts tell, stories sell.

Successful brands drive engagement with a story or an experience around their products. Stories enable us to create a connection not only with our fans but with a new audience.

Instagram is a powerhouse for you to visually tell that story and showcase that experience. It’s not about marketing your product; it’s about marketing the experience that comes with owning your product.

Most products we sell are shot on a mannequin first. We’ve tested and 100% of the time, a model photo, flat lay, or even a selfie photo gets more engagement than a mannequin photo.

It’s the same product, but a shot of the model walking down the street on a pretty day shows an experience. The flat lay complete with accessories shows an experience. The selfie shows an experience. And don’t get sidelined by ‘the gear’ involved in taking great photos. It’s not about the gear. It’s about connecting people to your story, to the experience, of your company.

4. How to find a balance with 45,200 followers.

With more than 45,200 Instagram followers, Nickel & Suede admits they began on Instagram early –– and have long been awaiting shoppable posts to make Instagram advertising as successful as Facebook’s.

Here is their best advice on how to grow a large following and advertise effectively.

What are some tactics you’ve used to create an engaging Instagram business profile?

Our followers appreciate using IG as a platform where they can get to know us without scouring our website.

When we started Nickel & Suede, Instagram was still growing in popularity and we knew that it was somewhere we needed to have a strong presence. We started off by networking and collaborating with other brands that we related to and that was a big initial boost at a time when users were first creating IG accounts and choosing who to follow.

We quickly found that the biggest struggle was having enough continually engaging, high-quality content. We’ve worked hard to create great imagery to share with our followers that is informative and personal. We try to keep our followers updated in real-time with information about new releases, behind the scenes and sneak peeks.

We also try to think of our audience as “new” every couple of months so we shift to introducing ourselves every so often or sharing little “did you know” bits about us. We think our followers appreciate using IG as a platform where they can get to know us without scouring our website.

What advice would you offer other online businesses looking to grow on Instagram?

It’s been interesting to find a balance for our business on a platform like Instagram because most of its users are there and have been there for personal reasons. They want to connect with friends and family there and so finding a way to fit your business into someone’s personal feed is a hard thing to do.

So, my advice is first, you have to have great images. Whether you take them with your phone or your camera, make sure they are interesting and high quality. What you say in your caption also matters, but the picture is what sells you.

Second, I would suggest finding ways to keep the platform personal to your customer. Find ways to make them feel like an insider. Offer behind-the-scenes shots or share something personal about employees. Don’t make it all about selling. Instagram users need a personal reason to follow a business.

That being said, Instagram has been shifting and changing over the last year. It is becoming more like Facebook in that it is slightly less personal and will soon have more ways to boost for businesses.

Follower growth is slower than ever right now, but we don’t think it will stay that way. We are sure Instagram will slowly become an even better and better place for businecrsses to be. And when they start offering more ways to advertise and easier ways to sell through the platform, it will be pay to play. It will be worth it just like it’s worth it to pay to play on Facebook.

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Executive Summary

No longer do you have to point people back to the link in your bio.

Shopping on Instagram is here. It is working.

Brands like Natori, Native Union and Olive Clothing are seeing increased Instagram traffic and sales.

This channel works best if you already have an engaged Instagram audience. The more engaged, the more sales you will get.

Shopping on Instagram Saves Time and Money:

I really love Shopping on Instagram. You now have the possibility to show images of your products without having to link to them in your bio. This is a feature I’ve really been looking forward to.

I used to work as an ecommerce manager at a furniture and interior design ecommerce store, where we would show beautiful images of our products in different environments to illustrate how you could use them.

The problem was that people couldn’t just click the image and buy the product.

We had to list every single item on the image correctly according to the product name on the website.

This quickly becomes a problem if you have many products in one image.

Moreover, users had to click the link in our bio, and search for the product on the website and then buy it. That process is way too complicated, and most users will drop off before completing the purchase.

The new feature allows you to tag your products in the images and then users can click on the product on the image and be sent directly to the product page where they can buy it.

– Emil Kristensen, CMO & Co-Founder, Sleeknote.

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Amazon FBA Sales Tax Guide for 2018 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-fba-sales-tax/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-fba-sales-tax/#respond Thu, 11 Jan 2018 15:00:26 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=19438 Sales tax is a fact of life for most retailers, whether you sell online, at a brick and mortar store…]]>

Sales tax is a fact of life for most retailers, whether you sell online, at a brick and mortar store or all of the above.

Sales tax for Amazon FBA sellers is a bit more complex than it is for most other retailers.

Are you selling on Amazon? This guide is for Amazon FBA sellers who want the scoop on collecting and filing sales tax.

We’ll explain:

  • What sales tax is & why Amazon FBA sellers charge it
  • When FBA sellers are required to collect sales tax from customers
  • How to get sales tax compliant
  • How to collect sales tax on Amazon FBA
  • What to do with all the sales tax you’ve collected

If you need a refresher on what sales tax is, start with chapter one or see all the tax-related topics we cover.

Let’s get started.

When does an Amazon FBA seller need to collect sales tax?

For the purposes of sales tax, ecommerce sellers are treated just like all other online retailers.

As an FBA seller, you are required to collect sales tax in states where your selling meets two criteria:

  • Sales tax nexus
  • Product taxability

Understanding both will help you determine when and if you are required to collect taxes from your Amazon FBA customers.

Sales Tax Nexus, Explained

Sales tax nexus is just a fancy legalese way to say “significant connection” to a state.

If you have nexus in a state, then that state considers you on the hook for charging sales tax to buyers in the state.

You’ll always have sales tax nexus in your home state, but you may find that certain business activities create nexus in other states, too.

Ways to Have Sales Tax Nexus in Different States
  • A location: an office, warehouse, store, or other physical presence of business.
  • Personnel: an employee, contractor, salesperson, installer or other person doing work for your business.
  • Affiliates: Someone who advertises your products in exchange for a cut of the profits creates nexus in many states.
  • A drop shipping relationship: If you have a 3rd party ship to your buyers, you may create nexus.
  • Selling products at a trade show or other event: Some states consider you to have nexus even if you only sell there temporarily.
  • Inventory: Most states consider storing inventory for sale in the state to cause nexus even if you have no other place of business or personnel.

Inventory Nexus and Amazon FBA Sellers

That last point, storing inventory for sale in a state, is especially relevant to Amazon FBA sellers.

Most states’ sales tax laws say that this creates sales tax nexus. You can find links to each state’s sales tax nexus laws here.

It helps to think of it from the state’s perspective.

From their point of view, any online seller who uses resources in their state (roads for delivery, public safety should an emergency occur, etc.) has nexus.

For this reason, FBA sellers may have sales tax nexus in a state simply from storing their FBA inventory in an Amazon fulfillment center.

Here’s a list of all states with an Amazon fulfillment center as of this writing.

States with an Amazon Fulfillment Center
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Keep in mind that Amazon probably will not store your inventory in every state with an Amazon fulfillment center.

You can pull your Inventory Event Detail Report from Amazon Seller Central to determine where our inventory is stored.

Some Exceptions to the Rule

Two states, Virginia and New York, have ruled that if your only nexus with their state is as a 3rd party seller (where another company, in this case, Amazon, handles all the fulfillment and logistics), then you do not have to collect sales tax in the state.

Arizona also recently issued two letter rulings that, though they do not mention Amazon FBA by name, seem to apply.

Arizona has a transaction privilege tax (TPT) rather than a sales tax, which means that the tax is on “doing business” in the state rather than on the sale of goods and services in the state.

While sales tax experts currently disagree, the letter rulings appear to state that if retailers are only doing business in Arizona as 3rd party sellers then they do not need to collect sales tax.

Product Taxability, Explained

Once you’ve determined that you have nexus in a state, your next step is to determine if what you are selling is taxable.

Generally, tangible personal property is taxable while services are not taxable. Of course, as with everything having to do with sales tax, individual states may make exceptions to these two general rules.

Some common product categories are not taxable or taxed differently in some states. These categories include groceries, clothing and textbooks.

For example, clothing and grocery items are both non-taxable in Minnesota. In Tennessee, grocery items are taxable, but taxed at a reduced rate of 5%.

If you have questions about whether or not the products you are selling are taxable, you can check with your state’s taxing authority online or by giving them a call.

Keep in mind that most tangible good are taxable in most states.

How to Get Sales Tax Compliant

Once you’ve determined that you have nexus in a state and are selling taxable items in a state, your next step is to register with that state to collect sales tax.

You can find guides on how to register for a sales tax permit with each state here.

It’s important to register before you begin collecting sales tax. States consider it illegal to collect sale tax without a permit, no matter if your intentions are pure.

Once you receive your permit, you will also be assigned a sales tax filing frequency and sales tax due dates.

Your filing frequency is generally monthly, quarterly or annually and depends on your sales volume.

The more you sell in a state, the more often that state wants you to file a sales tax return.

If your sales dramatically increase or decrease as time goes by, your state may assign you a new filing frequency.

Always be on the lookout for letters or other communications from your state once you’re registered for a sales tax permit.

How to Collect Sales Tax on Amazon

Now that you are registered to collect, your next step is to ensure you are collecting sales tax from your Amazon FBA customers.

Fortunately, Amazon has a very robust sales tax collection engine.

Once you tell it what you want to collect, it will collect the right rate, even keeping up with complicated concepts like whether a state is “origin-based” or “destination-based,” or if a sales tax rate has changed.

It will also allow you to add “product tax codes” so you charge the right amount of sales tax on items like groceries and clothing, and allow you to choose whether or not you charge sale tax on shipping and gift wrapping.

Keep in mind that Amazon charges 2.9% of each transaction in order to collect sales tax.

The alternative, however, is not to collect sales tax from your Amazon customers and to instead pay out of your profits.

Setting Up Sales Tax Collection on Amazon FBA

Let’s go over setting up sales tax collection in Seller Central:

  1. Login to Seller Central
  2. Click “Settings” then “Tax Settings” from the dropdown menu
  3. Choose the option: “View/Edit your Tax Collection and Shipping & Handling and Giftwrap Tax Obligations Settings”

Here you can choose in which states you want to collect sales tax, as well as if you want to collect sales tax at the county and other local level. You can even enter a custom sales tax rate. We don’t recommend this because sales tax rates are subject to change frequently.

Note that you’ll need your state sale tax registration number before Amazon allows you to set up sales tax collection.

This is a safeguard to prevent sellers from unknowingly (and unlawfully!) collecting sales tax without be registered with a state.

Setting Up Product Tax Codes on Amazon FBA

Once you’ve entered your sales tax settings, return to your Seller Central Tax Settings Page (Seller Central > Settings > Tax) and choose the option “View Master Product Tax Codes and Rules.”

From here, you can choose the product tax codes that most closely fit your products. Here are some examples:

  • A_CLTH_GEN: General clothing. Keep in mind that clothing is non-taxable in some states. But in many cases, accessories, formal wear, athletic wear and other clothing types are still taxable. That’s where there are also separate product tax codes like A_CLTH_HBAGS for handbags and A_CLTH_CSTUMS for costumes.
  • A_FOOD_GEN: Use this to label food items. Just like with clothing, not all food is taxed equally, so there are also product tax codes for things like A_FOOD_CNDY (candy) and A_FOOD_SFTDK (carbonated soft drinks.)

If you can’t find a product tax code for one of your products, that’s probably because it is generally always taxed. You should just label that item with “A_GEN_TAX.” And if, for some reason, you never want to charge sales tax on a particular item, you can also label it with “A_GEN_NOTAX.”

PRO TIP

If you sell on other platforms aside from FBA, make sure you are collecting sales tax from buyers in your nexus states on all of your shopping carts and marketplaces.

Once you have nexus in a state, you are required to collect sales tax from all buyers in that state, no matter how you make the sale.

How to Report and File Amazon FBA Sales Tax

Now you’re all set collecting sales tax from your Amazon FBA sales are chugging along.

Soon enough, a sales tax filing due date will roll around.

From here, you need to report how much sales tax you’ve collected from customers in each state, and file your sales tax returns.

Reporting Amazon FBA Sales Tax Collected

The vast majority of states want to know not only how much sales tax you’ve collected in the state, but also how much you collected from buyers in each county, city and other special taxing district within the state.

You can find this information in two ways:

  1. Download a report form Amazon: Login to Seller Central and click Seller Central > Reports > Payments > Generate Date Range Report.  Choose the filing period. From here you can try to slice and dice your info to figure out how much sales tax you collected in each state, city, county, and other jurisdiction. Beware – it’s time consuming to try and figure out which taxing districts each of your customers lives in.
  2. Use sales tax automation: Use a sales tax automation solution to generate a report for you. A sales tax automation will connect with all of your shopping carts and marketplaces, not just Amazon to give you a comprehensive report of all the sales tax you collected from buyers within a state. It will also break down how much sales tax you’ve collected in each county, city and other taxing jurisdiction so you don’t have to spend time with maps and tax tables.

Once you’ve reported how much sales tax you collected in a state, it’s time to file your sales tax returns and remit the sales tax you collected.

Filing Amazon FBA Sales Tax Returns

You can file your sales tax returns in a couple of ways.

  1. Online: Login to your state’s taxing authority website and submit a sales tax return. Then make your payment through the state’s payment gateway.
  2. Automatically via sales tax software: Use a sales tax automation solution to automatically file your sales tax returns and pay what you owe to the state.

And finally, keep a couple of important things in mind when filing your sales tax return.

  1. Always file “zero returns:” File a sales tax return even if you did not collect any sales tax over the taxable period. States still require you to file by the deadline, and some of them will even levy a fine if you don’t file. If you fail to file for multiple periods in a row, they may even automatically cancel your sales tax permit.
  2. Take advantage of discounts: A little over half the U.S. states with a sales tax allow online sellers to keep a small percentage of the sales tax you’ve collected as bit of a monetary “thank you” for your effort collecting and remitting the tax.  While this is generally only 1-3% of the sales tax you’ve collected, it’s still free money!

You should now be prepared to tackle Amazon FBA sales tax. If you have questions or something to say, start the conversation in the comments section.

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How One Pillow Manufacturer Is Putting Amazon Fraudsters to Bed, One Scammer at a Time https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-fraud/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-fraud/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 19:09:30 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=26063 In 1990, my dad set up shop with my mom, selling this pillow with a hole in the middle. He’s…]]>

In 1990, my dad set up shop with my mom, selling this pillow with a hole in the middle.

He’s a dermatologist, and made the pillow to provide relief to patients of his suffering from tender ears caused by a condition called Chondrodermatitis Nodularis Helicis (CNH for short).

They’ve been in business ever since then, and up until this year when my husband and I bought the business from them, they did everything exactly the same as they did back in 1990.

That means no advertising, marketing or sales channel changes in almost 30 years.

So, my husband I took over in January and have since changed everything (it is 2017, after all!)

That’s when our sales doubled!

My parents were shocked. “That’s the power of Amazon!” I told them.

We were going to be the next big Amazon success story –– I just knew it. And then, our listing was deactivated.

Someone else had the lowest price.

“OK,’ I said to my husband, “that’s impossible. Nobody else can have the lowest price for this pillow, because nobody else has this pillow. My dad invented it. We have the lowest price, because we have the only price.”

I was freaking out.

It was the first time either of us had ever experienced fraud — and I had no idea what was going on.  

But that was then.

I’ve since learned that the kind of fraud we were subject to is a huge problem on Amazon.

I’ve also gone through all the necessary steps each and every time to make it stop. And for my business, I have it down to a science.

Let’s start with what not to do.

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What Happens When You Call Amazon About a Fraudulent Seller?

After that first incident, in my panic mode, I called Amazon customer service.

At that point, I had tried to do everything I could within seller central.

Nothing was working. So, I picked up the phone.

They wouldn’t tell me anything about the other seller.

I supposed that it made sense, after all, it’s private and it could be “somebody else’s business,” in theory.

But we’re the only ones who make this pillow, remember?

So I told Amazon:

“This person says they’re selling my product and they can’t be! Nobody else has my product. It’s my own product. Nobody has it.”

To be fair, they were very calm about the whole thing and let me freak out over the phone. They asked me to explain the issue entirely –– and that they’d look into it. So, I did.

Here’s what I told them:

  • Another seller listed my item
  • They used my picture with my hand on the pillow
  • They used the description that I wrote myself
  • They had *our* customer service number on there
  • And worst of all, they lowered the price to $5.47 –– when the cost is $59.95.

Let’s get transparent on the pricing part.

Our pillow costs us $20-something to make it. There’s no way somebody could have made a similar or knockoff product for even close to $5.

Of course, they weren’t saying it was a knockoff.

  • They were saying it was the real deal.
  • Our product.
  • Our custom-made, copyrighted product.

It was frightening, but Amazon was able to take that seller down decently quickly.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

As soon as that seller was taken down, a few hours later another one popped right up again. It’s part of the scam.

Beware the Amazon Seller Scam

Several years ago, Amazon had a big push to become a global marketplace, and so they opened themselves up and made it super easy for international groups or people to sell and open up a store on the platform.

Essentially, almost anybody, almost anywhere, can sell on Amazon within minutes.

It goes like this…  

One scammer somewhere in the world says to a want-to-be Amazon merchant:

“Pay us a certain amount of money, and we’ll set you up with a store on Amazon. You pay us and we’ll set you up with a store with 20,000 items for sale. People buy the items from you, and all you have to do is drop ship. You never actually hold any items in stock at all.”

Now, I can only assume that somebody has a program which allows a “seller” to select many items at once and set a price that’s some very low percentage of the price that is originally on there.

It’s why our $59.95 pillow was listed at a little over $5.

I say that this is the case because when you go to the storefronts of these fraudulent sellers, they have hundreds, if not thousands of products listed, all at insanely low prices.

I’m at the storefront for HairWOW. You can see at the top left this newly launched store has 114,976 products! Including mine. Hopefully lots of other vigilant sellers are also reporting them. You’ll need the link to this storefront page to put in the email you send to Amazon.

The products they list alongside might be related, or not.

In our case, there was the CNH pillow, plus a lot of other bedding, and then a lot random stuff.

It’s almost always the case, however, that the scammers will target ‘Just Launched’ items, from genuine sellers with few or no ratings.

Yep, there’s my product, being “sold” by another seller and me. HairWOW is on top because of their lower price, and I’m second. If there was another lower price before mine, I would be bumped completely off the page. If that happens, just repeat all the steps in this article with each fraudulent seller. Usually the seller will be Just Launched, as in this case, and offer free shipping.

This has something to do with the way Amazon lists products.

If I’m a new seller (a genuine one) with no reviews, and I’m ‘competing’ as it were with two scammers, listing my product for a fraction of the price, then even though none of us has any reviews, the scammers will appear above me because their offering is less expensive.

Why Does the Scam Work In the First Place?

The scam works in part purely because of the sheer size of the Amazon marketplace.

Even if Amazon had a team dedicated to tracking down the scammers, it would be incredibly difficult to catch them all at launch.

In practice, the scam works because:

  • Before shoppers buy one of these fake items, they’re told it will ship from inside the U.S.
  • Then, as soon as they place the order, the fake seller changes the shipping information from U.S. Post, to China Post, and attaches a tracking number.

How do they attach a tracking number when there’s no product to send?

Yep, it’s fake, too.

Why put a tracking number in the first place?

Amazon pays sellers every two weeks. Items posted from China take between three and four weeks to arrive.

The plan is that they’ll get paid in two weeks, then, when in four week’s time the customer hasn’t received their item, that customer will complain to Amazon.

The customer will be refunded by Amazon, but by then the fake seller has already been removed, and set up shop as somebody completely different.

Even if they succeed in getting a small fraction of those sales to work, the scammers are making money. The customer wastes time, but they eventually get their money back.

In the end, it’s the seller who’s losing out, because:

  • The customers are angry
  • Trust is broken
  • They might never want to buy from you again.

This has been the case with us a few times, and when I speak to customers who have been scammed, the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, I haven’t received my order.”

“I’m sorry. I have no record of you buying from us.”

“I only paid $7.00.”

And so I explain what’s happened, and usually they say, “Well, that sucks. Can I order now?”

But it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Is There Anything Amazon Can Do to Fix This?

Probably.

  • Making sellers jump through a few more hoops before being able to list items would be a start.
  • Placing some restrictions on new sellers would help to curb the scammers, or at least slow them down.

But honestly, the way we’ve dealt with things on our own has been really effective, and if it can save you the hassle of going through what we went through, then I would be all too happy to share.

How to Stop the Amazon Scammers

There’s a bit of policing you’ll need to do yourself when it comes to taking down the scammers, but it’s totally worth it.

1. Keep checking your inventory.

If you have just a few items for sale on Amazon, then the first thing you ought to do is go to your inventory page on a daily basis — I do this multiple times a day — to make sure you’ve got the lowest price.

I’ve got my pillow, and I’ve got my extra pillow cover.

Those are my only two items. So I know that I should have the only price on Amazon.

There’s a little green check mark by each item saying, “Yes, you’ve got the lowest price.” I know if that’s the case, I’m fine.

This screenshot is of my inventory page. I checked it this morning and put a red box around the area I was looking at. I wanted to see check marks by both products showing I had the lowest price because I should have the only price, since no one else has my exact product. My extra pillow cover showed I did not have the lowest price, and instead showed someone else had it listed for less. Amazon puts a link there for me to click if I wanted to match their price – which tells me there’s a fraudulent seller out there (or maybe more than one) listing my item.

If you no longer have the lowest price, and you’re the only one selling that item, there could be problem.

If somebody has significantly undercut you on a similar item, do some research before going in guns blazing.

2. Get as many reviews as possible.

If your product has lots of positive reviews, it will help to keep you up high in the listings.

It’s also more work for scammers to fake reviews right after launch.

3. Be open and honest in your product description.

The other thing I do — since it’s my product that I own and manufacture — is to address scamming right there in the product description.

Here’s what I say…

“Beware fraudulent sellers! They don’t have a cheap knockoff version, they do not have a version at all. There is not an item, this is a scam.”

Explaining to people what’s going on –– that if they see something that seems too good to be true –– that it probably is, that helps a lot.

4. Send an email to Amazon.

The third thing –– the most important thing –– to do is to send an email to Amazon.

You don’t want to flood them with emails, or you don’t pester them with phone calls (it doesn’t work) but you do need to reach out.

The email is seller-performance@amazon.com — just send them one email per day.

If you’ve got a lot of fraudulent sellers on your account every day, just pick a time of day and then send them an email.

Here’s the format and process that I use.

  1. Compose an email to seller-performance@amazon.com
  2. Subject line: Possible Fraudulent Sellers
  3. In the email body, put the name of fraudulent seller’s store, with a link to their storefront
  4. Do this for however many fraudulent sellers there are
  5. Underneath, say, “We believe the above sellers are engaging in fraudulent selling activity. Please investigate.”

Presto. They will sort it.

This is what it looks like:

To: seller-performance@amazon.com

Subject: Possible Fraudulent Seller

Body:

Seller Name: HairWOW (or whoever it is)

Link to their storefront: (paste here)

We believe the above seller is engaging in fraudulent selling activity. Please investigate. Thanks!

And then you wait. That’s all. If there are multiple fraudulent sellers, you can just list them all in one email.

Bonus tip: Lay the smack down!

Because I believe that everyone should be held accountable for their actions, I also go to that fraudulent seller’s store and click on the button that says, ‘Ask Seller a Question’, and I hit them with my standard shaming paragraph:

“Didn’t your mother teach you not to cheat people out of their money? Don’t you know you’re hurting people’s businesses? This is not a victimless crime. Shame on you.”

I have no idea how many times that’s worked, but it makes me feel much better.

I hope that helps you to navigate this more seedy section of Amazon, and that you won’t get discouraged from selling on what has to be one of the best platforms we’ve ever used — after BigCommerce, of course!

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The Definitive Guide to Selling on Amazon https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/selling-on-amazon/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/selling-on-amazon/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 17:08:18 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17428 As a former journalist, the plethora of clickbait headlines across the web is nauseating. I’ve had to draw the line…]]>

As a former journalist, the plethora of clickbait headlines across the web is nauseating.

I’ve had to draw the line plenty of times in my writing career, refusing to call something “definitive,” comprehensive” or “all-inclusive” if it wasn’t that.

This piece of content required no such moral delineation.

This book’s headline, Definitive Guide, is the only possible way to describe what you will find in the subsequent chapters.

It is by far the most complete and actionable information out there discussing how exactly to sell on Amazon.  

Here are some things you’ll find throughout the book.

Topics You Will Learn About In Our Selling On Amazon Guide:

  • The benefits of selling on Amazon.
  • Amazon success stories for inspiration.
  • How to determine if you should sell on Amazon.
  • Actionable Amazon SEO strategies.
  • Understanding the Amazon a9 algorithm.
  • 7 skills you must have to win on Amazon.
  • Pitfalls that trip up even the best Amazon sellers out there.
  • A step-by-step guide to determining your actual Amazon revenue.
  • How you could lose on Amazon by winning – and other tips and tricks to avoid a double-sided sword.
  • How expanding to Amazon helped a Water Polo company successfully sell swimwear to Alaska.
  • How to win the Buy Box, as told by Feedvisor, the unencumbered champion of Buy Box wins, where 82% of Amazon’s sales happen.
  • Why mobile matters most – 70% of Amazon customers made purchases on Amazon’s mobile site – and how to optimize for it.
  • Pricing and repricing strategies for both resellers and private label sellers alike – plus tips to make you more, faster.
  • How to get a 320% increase in sales in less than 10 minutes (hint: Amazon has SEO, too).
  • What The Mountain has to do with an Amazon customer review legend – and how you can jump start your own with a simple email.
  • Growth hacking tips and tricks that could earn you $5,000 for every hour you spend focused on Amazon.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

This is actually the second publishing for this book – an updated version for 2018.

The original book was eight months in the making –– with the first email sent out to a subject matter expert on January 21, 2016. That first book was launched in August 2016.

That timing is critical.

BigCommerce had just recently published the first ever Amazon Sellers’ Solution Provider Directory –– highlighting more than 200 solution providers across a wide range of Amazon needs and complexities.

It was our most downloaded piece of content at that time.

James Thomson, former head of Selling on Amazon and an an author you’ll see plenty of times throughout this book, was the mastermind behind that project.

His name and proposal landed on my desk in the hibernation days between Christmas and New Years, when most Americans and almost all retailers are in the throes of a rest period following the holiday rush.

“I know it’s the holidays, but please just hop on a call with him,” a colleague pleaded. “You’ll like what he has to say.”

That 30-page book was published two weeks later, forcing itself to the top of priority cycles that typically take much longer –– especially with multiple team members out on vacation.

It was all hands on deck – and I had called them there, asking many to spend a few extra hours to help me make this book come to life.

I was putting my neck on the line – calling in favors before the first day of the new year even began.

It was that good.

Soon, I was sending James emails asking him to review a table of contents for a longer-form, more comprehensive piece on how to sell on Amazon.

It’s safe to say that my call with James that late December day was a light-bulb moment for me.

“This stuff is complex,” I told him, “but the revenue opportunity for our customers is too ridiculous to ignore. Our merchants need the absolute best, most pertinent information to make this work. I won’t waste their time.”

He agreed, and the vetting process began. That first email went out. This 35,000+ word book had its first heartbeat of life.

The 2016 version had 15 chapters, featuring the insights of more than 30 Amazon subject matter experts.

This year’s version for 2018 has 17 chapters, featuring the insights of more than 50 Amazon subject matter experts.

A few include:

  • Andrew Tjernlund, Multi-Million Dollar Merchant and Amazon Consultant
  • Bryan Bowman, Founder, AMZ Profit Pros
  • Eyal Lanxner, CTO, Feedvisor
  • James Thomson, Partner at the Buy Box Experts, Founder of The PROSPER Show, Former Head of Selling on Amazon
  • Kai Klement, Co-founder and Multi-Million Dollar Merchant, KAVAJ
  • Kevin Rizer, Founder, Private Label Podcast
  • Lauren Shepherd, Senior Marketing Manager, Teikametrics

We left no stone unturned, nor did we include any information we believed to be superfluous.

You will find everything you need to start selling and winning on Amazon in this book.

I can also assure you it will be a vital resource you continue to reference as you grow Amazon as a revenue channel.

Even for those sellers already highly profitable on Amazon, there are nuggets of insight to even further increase sales and operationalize your Amazon business.

What are you waiting for?

  • Dive in.
  • Take action.
  • Grow your business.

And let us know if you have any questions.

In the meantime, here’s the quick starting list of everything covered in this book, boiled down to 8 steps.

How Do I Quickly Get Started Selling On Amazon?

  1. Decide on items you will be selling through Amazon.
  2. Choose your Amazon selling plan. The professional plan costs $39.99 per month and individuals pay $0.99 per item sold.
  3. Register to start selling.
  4. List your products.
  5. Drive traffic to your listings (described in detail throughout the guide).
  6. Generate sales.
  7. Ship orders.
  8. Get paid — payments will be deposited in your bank account.

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Selling Swimwear to Alaskans: How 3 Retailers Successfully Expanded on Amazon https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-success-stories/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-success-stories/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:56 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17432 It was a typical work day for Alex Young in 2012. He was at the Kap7 headquarters, his employer’s office.…]]>

It was a typical work day for Alex Young in 2012.

He was at the Kap7 headquarters, his employer’s office. It was lunch time, a Wednesday maybe.

He had a friend’s event that weekend and needed something … shoes, a pair of pants.

It doesn’t really matter, because, as usual, he was shopping on Amazon.

A tried, tested and trusted 2-day delivery was in his grasp.

It didn’t matter what he bought, or how late he bought it; he knew he would be able to get the item in his hands for when he needed it.

In fact, Alex and the rest of his co-workers, including the former Olympian founders of the company, Wolf Wigo and Brad Schumacher, all regularly shopped on Amazon. And they did this while running their own, independent online store.

On one of those quick Amazon shopping days, Alex did a query for the product his company sold:

“Water Polo Ball”

It’s hard to say what Alex saw years ago, but today, you do a similar search and two brands clearly dominate on Amazon:

  1. Misaka
  2. Alex’s own Kap7.

And Kap7 is the only one that is NCAA and NFHS official.

amazon-success-stories-1

Kap7 also sells water polo swimwear, so I did a quick search for that, too.

This small, 7-person company headquartered in L.A. comes up third on Amazon, right behind Nike. That’s one heck of a search engine optimization success story.

amazon-success-stories-2

Note: Turbo is Kap7’s water polo suit brand. 

“We were personally shopping on Amazon all the time, and there wasn’t anyone that was selling our type of products there,” says Alex.

“We needed to take advantage of that. None of our direct competitors have moved onto Amazon yet, so we are ahead of the game in the water polo market. Once you have it dialed-in [to Amazon], it runs itself.”

Alex thinks about Amazon as simply another sales channel for his business. Of course, Amazon does play by different rules than a typical webstore.

For instance, Kap7 can often make 50% margin off of its products. On Amazon, that may go down to 25%.

But a 50% decrease in margins for a highly trafficked and high sales channel doesn’t cause a bit of concern for Alex and his team.

They have full control over their marketplace selling, understand the industry and when it will spike, and know that different customers shop in vastly different ways.

For Kap7, control, sales and buyer personas make the expansion to Amazon a success — and a no-brainer.

“There are people who only shop on Amazon, and there are people who want to shop on direct ecommerce sites. Both sets of people are growing,” says Alex.

“Water polo is growing extremely fast in the U.S., and we can get spikes in orders. If we get low on inventory for a product we have to order in bulk, like balls, we will turn off our marketplaces and keep selling on our website.”

This level of control and ability to turn on and off selling options on Amazon as needed gives the Kap7 team, and Alex in particular, the freedom to use the webstore in unique ways.

For Alex, Amazon revenue is a known. It will come in. People are shopping there.

On a webstore, it’s a different story.

Amazon already has an audience. Independent websites must build an audience –– and that’s tough work.

But with Amazon as a steady source of income, Alex has figured out how to use additional tools –– like Google AdWords and Google Shopping –– to target consumers elsewhere on the web and bring them back to a dedicated website targeting their specific needs.

After all, you can customize a website to serve a buyer’s persona. With Amazon, you’re going for keywords and mass relevance.

“We do a lot of marketing to the end-user, who is the age-group athlete, and then the purchaser who is the parents. We try to loop things around with product reviews and videos, and water polo drills and tips,” says Alex.

“We use BigCommerce to power our ecommerce website, which also gives us more opportunity to focus on really specific groups. For example, we focused on selling Alaska-printed suits to people in Alaska using Google AdWords, and they sold really well for about six months.”

That’s right, the combined power of Amazon and independent webstore earned a water polo company in L.A. a buying audience in Alaska.

That’s how to optimize sales channels.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

Uncovering 100% Growth on Amazon through Search

We’re in L.A. again. This time, in the home of Emily Ironi, the sole founder and employee of The Dairy Fairy –– a quickly growing nursing bra company serving the likes of Zoe Saldana and Chrissy Teigen.

But this is no celebrity-only brand.

A little over four years ago, Emily Ironi was a new, working and single mom. And like any parent, she wanted to give her kid the best shot at life.

To her, breastfeeding was a part of that legacy.

The selection of nursing bras she found, however, were not.

To Emily, they looked like medieval torture devices.

  • They weren’t attractive.
  • They weren’t comfortable.
  • And even though they did the job, allowing a woman to breastfeed with a bra on, they left much to be desired.

For one, postpartum depression is real – and no new mom wants to be made to feel unattractive simply by trying to feed her baby.

For two, the pointy and uncomfortable nature made nursing bras near impossible to actually wear as a bra.

Instead, you’d need to wear another bra, and then change into the nursing bras before nursing to achieve maximum comfort and functionality from what was on the market.

No one has time for any of that.

So, Emily made her own bra – patent pending.

Today, new moms and older ones alike wear that bra, many of them choosing to continue wearing the bra beyond breastfeeding thanks to its comfort, support and … well … let’s just say it’s pretty.

In 2013, she launched her online store –– and immediately, sales began rolling in. She’d found a niche market. Customers were finding her by Google and bloggers.

Then, in October of 2015, she looked to Amazon and launched a test run.

Sales doubled.

“Amazon’s been incredible for my business. I started selling on Amazon in October of 2015, and it’s doubled my sales,” says Emily.

“What that tells me is that there’s a whole slew of people who didn’t know I existed, and they’d just go in and type ‘hands-free pumping bra.’ It’s working way better than a Google search for me.”

Amazon search outperforming Google’s isn’t surprising.

Research has shown that 44% of all product searches start on Amazon.

If you rely solely on Google search to bring in customers, your first competitor to sell on Amazon will mop up all the buyers that search there first –– much like Kap7 did.

Think about it.

Amazon is a search engine for products that likely has your credit card on file, allowing you to check out in a single click. It’s arguably the easiest shopping destination in the world. If you have an audience that is busy (and all of us are), Amazon is the quickest, most convenient shopping solution for them.

That doesn’t mean, though, that your own website isn’t relevant.

“Amazon as a business is becoming more of a competitor to some of the brands, and bringing out their own products,” says Emily.

“I find that it’s still critical to have your own retail presence. I have a lot of peers, especially in the baby products industry, their businesses were 100% on Amazon, and now they’re starting to catch up and trying to migrate more of their business to their own websites.”

“Ultimately, you have a lot more control over everything and also your interaction with customers. It’s about finding that perfect balance.”

Customer’s Choice: Using Data to Sell the Products They Want Where They Want Them

Relative to Austin Bazaar, The Dairy Fairy and Kap7 are newbies to Amazon.

Seetha Singh, the owner of the instrument retailer, launched her webstore almost simultaneously with her Amazon presence back in 2007 –– nearly a decade ago.

Her goal then and now is still them same: be wherever the customer is. Cost-effectiveness is high on her list as well.

“We wanted to be present wherever customers for our products like to shop,” says Seetha.

“Selling direct and via third party channels has helped us broaden our reach. Selling on Amazon affords us the benefit of reaching millions of Amazon customers without spending the advertising dollars up-front.”

And as you might expect from such a seasoned Amazon seller, Seetha has drafted a comprehensive multi-channel strategy for Austin Bazaar.

The company’s Amazon success is no fluke.

It took years of sales data and multiple iterations in the analyzing to determine which products sell best on the channel, and how to optimize each selling point for the highest conversion.

“We do not offer the same products on all channels,” says Seetha.

“We offer our best selections on our webstore, but also have products that are unique to each channel. The selection offered on each channel depends on the strengths of that channel and the kind of consumers that they attract.

By offering specialized inventory on our webstore, we are better able to mitigate the effects of cannibalization that can occur when multi-channel selling.”

For Seetha, marketplaces like Amazon are just the right places to be. Too many consumers are already shopping there for any retailer to ignore it. Getting in front of your customers in the way they want to shop is the most important part of selling success.

Your website can offer the who, what, when, where and why –– but your customers get the final say in how.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Know this: Amazon is not a set-it-and-forget-it channel.

You can go too big. It’s possible you’ll need to pull back.

But then again, is that the worst problem to have?

“Make sure you are focused on the channels you already have in place, so they are running themselves. Then step over to the next channel and build that,” says Alex.

“The biggest mistake we made is we tried to go full-bore on all of them – Etsy, Jet, eBay. We’ve actually pulled it all back because we want to focus on each one, make sure it’s perfect and understand why products are selling well, or not.”

“Once they’re running well it’s just a management and maintenance scenario, which is not that big of a deal.”

First, do the competitor research; then launch in the channel; finally, use product data to optimize.

That’s how these three companies are seeing 100%+ growth in revenue coming from their Amazon channel, plus extra time and money to spend on acquiring new audiences for their independent webstore.

It isn’t a no-sum game. In fact, it’s a winner takes all –– and the winner is the retailer.

The winner is you.

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Amazon Revenue Calculator: Selling Fees, Metrics & More [Infographic] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-seller-fees-costs-analytics/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/amazon-seller-fees-costs-analytics/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:53 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17489 As an Amazon seller, you need to ask yourself one important question: “Is my Amazon business profitable?” The answer isn’t…]]>

As an Amazon seller, you need to ask yourself one important question: “Is my Amazon business profitable?”

The answer isn’t as obvious as you might think.

Many sellers discover they are losing thousands of dollars every year.

What are Amazon’s Current Selling Fees?

  1. Monthly subscription charges: If you are a professional seller (someone planning to sell more than 40 items per month), you’re fees are $39.99 per month. If you plan on selling less, your fees are $0.
  2. The per-item fee: Non-professional sellers (i.e. individual sellers) pay $0.99. per product sold. Professional sellers pay $0.
  3. Referral fees: These are based on product category. Amazon will charge whichever of these two is higher for each item:
    • Referral Fee as a percentage of sale price: It ranges from 6% to 20% (45% for Amazon devices), but it’s usually 15%.
    • Minimum Referral Fee of either $0 or $1: Jewelry and watches are the only two categories with a rate of $2.
  4. Variable Closing Fees: These apply strictly to books, music, videos, DVDs, video games, consoles and software (BMVD products), and they will vary according to category, shipping destination and the type of shipping service used.
  5. Fulfillment Fees: These fees are based on Product Dimensions and weight. This charge is typically between $2.41 and $10.00 for most products, though the price is increasing in 2018. Use this calculator to determine what your fulfillment fees will be.  

Beyond the fees, however, the biggest reason most businesses lose so much on Amazon is because they’re using one-dimensional metrics to determine profitability.

You can’t tell a person’s health by simply checking his heart rate, so why would you do the same for your Amazon business?

To effectively evaluate your profitability, you must analyze every aspect to determine your overall inventory health.

This is what we call the Multidimensional Methodology.

Check out the infographic below for a visual walk-thru, and then read through the methodology and how to do it following the graphic. 

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

What is Multidimensional Methodology?

The Multidimensional Methodology will help you determine your profitability at the SKU level so you can make the most informed business decisions.

This may be regarding your:

  • Pricing
  • Inventory management and restocking
  • Returns management
  • Vendor negotiations

First, we’ll go through the most effective methods to measure profitability on Amazon, and then we’ll get into the specifics of how you can squeeze the most profit out of each dollar you invest.

Know Your Costs

If someone were to ask you if you knew your exact costs at the SKU level, would you be able to answer “yes”?

Even the most organized sellers are missing out on hidden costs that are affecting their bottom line.

Let’s get started with a review of the minimum list of costs that should be considered in your financial model:

  • Direct costs: Your acquisition cost per SKU, including shipping.
  • Indirect (overhead) costs: Warehouse costs, utilities, insurance, bookkeeping, payroll and benefits, business travel, corporate business tax, product samples, web development, etc.
  • Amazon fees: Sales commission, FBA fees, FBA inbound shipping fees, commission on returned product, storage fees, return shipping costs (both from customer to Amazon fulfillment centers, and from fulfillment centers to you), and returns disposal costs.
  • Costs for handling returns once they are received: What write-down or write-off costs do you have by not being able to sell these returned products as new-condition products?

Determining Your Overhead Allocation Cost per Unit

To calculate this, add up your indirect costs over the past twelve months, and divide that sum by the number of units you sold in the last 12 months.

Use this number as a rule of thumb, as it should be consistent on a month-to-month basis.

Here’s the calculation to use:

You may want to refresh this calculation every 6 months.

Let’s say, for example, that you calculated a $2.00 overhead allocation cost per unit sold. This is how much money you have spent on the sale of the item before you have purchased or sold it.

Typically, we see overhead allocation costs between $1 – $3 per unit.

If your overhead allocation cost is higher than that, it may be time to evaluate your individual business expenses and determine how to streamline your costs.

For example, let’s say Kathy’s Cat Toys is spending thousands of dollars on Amazon Sponsored Products every month to drive traffic to her Cozy Cat Castle.

However, her return on her investment is three sales per month.

Based on the high overhead allocation cost for that particular unit compared to her other SKUs, she will have to determine if that SKU is worth continuing to sell.  

Take a Look at Your Amazon Fees

All Amazon fees can be pulled in one-to-two-week time frames out of Seller Central (Seller Central > Reports > Payments > All Statements View).

Keep in mind your FBA fees will be higher for items that are heavy or large. Also, be sure to monitor any slow-moving SKUs, as stale inventory can cause you to rack up additional fees.

Lastly, while some of your expenses may be SKU-specific, some are not. Once expenses are calculated by individual SKU, the remaining costs should be allocated across all units sold.

This is a very simple approach to profitability calculations and will provide you the minimum amount of information you need to monitor your costs day-to-day, or month-by-month.

To summarize, let’s review your costs:

  • Wholesale cost
  • Inbound/outbound shipping
  • Amazon commissions
  • FBA fees
  • Overhead cost allocation
  • Returns-related costs

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a constant pulse on your profitability by SKU, it can be difficult to make the necessary changes to vendor negotiations, inventory management or product sourcing promptly.

By moving toward a model of profitability by SKU (updated every 3-6 months), having a decent understanding of the overhead allocation cost that you should be applying to all current sales, and knowing the impact of product returns on your SKU-level and overall profitability, you can become a smarter seller.

This knowledge will help inform and educate future buying decisions.

If Kathy’s Cat Toys is selling a lightweight feather toy that is incurring minimal FBA fees, has low overhead costs and sells like hot cakes, Kathy knows to reorder that toy.

However, the Cozy Cat Castle that is heavy, large and slow-moving is a SKU that Kathy should consider no longer purchasing or even remove from FBA so as not to incur further fees.

A lot of smaller brands choose to track all of these calculations through spreadsheets, but this can be extremely inefficient and time-consuming.

Most successful mid-market sellers decide to employ a third-party software to automate this process and help them determine their true profitability.

Identify Trends That Are Costing You Money

1. Returns.

While some products may have a high return rate (e.g., 20% of orders are returned), you may easily be able to resell all of those items as ‘new’ condition a second time if a customer doesn’t open or tamper with the product before returning it.

Other products may have low return rates, but are a complete write-off if returned (e.g., software, vitamins, underwear).

If you are forced to resell the SKU as ‘used’ following a return, there is a write-down cost incurred by not being able to generate the revenue you would have received were the item in ‘new condition.’

For example, if you are selling an iPad and the customer chooses to return it, you would have to sell the item for a lower price as ‘like new’ or ‘used.’

As products are returned, you should be tracking not only the proportion of each SKU being returned but also the cost per return regarding write-downs or write-offs.

This can be found in Seller Central reports or automated through third-party software.

It’s crucial to monitor return rates and return-related costs because occasionally those costs will actually be high enough to warrant removing the products from your catalog.

Alternatively, you may have the option to push part of that cost onto your distributor/supplier with whom you share the returns-related cost data.

For example, let’s say Molly’s Marionettes have seen a large number of returns. After Molly does a returns analysis, she finds that she is losing money.

Once she removes the problem product from her catalog, she sees a 10% increase in profit the next month.

2. Stockouts.

Inventory stockouts happen to even the most experienced Amazon sellers and have the potential to be one of the biggest leaks in your profitability bucket.

How much are inventory stockouts costing you?

Let’s go over an example of just how much of an impact stockouts had on Steve’s Sporting Goods.

Steve is an established Amazon seller with over 5,000 products, and his top-seller is a pair of high-end soccer cleats. The cleats have been flying off the shelves and are selling at an average of 60 units per month, with a profit of $50 per unit.

On average, Steve is out of stock on these cleats an average of 2.5 days per month, equaling a loss of $1,500 in profit over the course of the year ((2.5 days x $50/unit) x 12 months in a year = $1,500). While this may not seem like a lot, let’s consider Steve’s business as a whole.

Using the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, we can assume that 20% of Steve’s inventory generates 80% of his profits, so 1,000 of his 5,000 SKUs. If we estimate that on average, his profit per SKU sold is $10 and he sells 10,000 of his top 20% of SKUs.

If Steve were able to cut his average stockout time per month in half, he would make an additional $50,000 of profit each year.

Why Stockouts Happen and How to Prevent Them

Scenario 1: An Increase in Customer Demand.

Some changes in demand will be unpredictable, like when Kate Middleton wears a particular dress (known as “the Kate Middleton Effect”) and sales shoot through the roof. 

How to Prevent this Stockout Scenario:

Not all stockouts can be remedied with the same solution. First, take a look at the type of product you’re selling.  

Since the “Kate Middleton Effect” is hard to predict, the best solution is to build a buffer into your buying strategy to prepare for scenarios like these. Keep in mind that this strategy has drawbacks as well. If your product doesn’t sell, you risk paying those pesky FBA storage fees.

Scenario 2: Annual Seasonal Variations.

Every retailer knows that when spring begins, your winter boot sales become slower than molasses in January and your rain boots and sandals begin to fly off the shelves.

For many sellers, this often results in stockouts.

How to Prevent this Stockout Scenario:

If you are selling seasonal items, you’ll want to monitor changes in your historical sales rank and stay on top of other factors, like weather patterns, to help predict inventory levels. This can be tracked through spreadsheets or third-party software.

Scenario 3: Complications with Your Supplier

Occasionally, you will run into supplier issues that are outside of your control. For example, Nike decides to discontinue your best-selling running shoe or your wholesaler ran out of stock.

How to Prevent This Stockout Scenario:

Be your supplier’s best customer and maintain open lines of communications with them at all times. This way, you can be alerted in advance to any changes in their product line or SKU volume and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Most importantly, you’ll know if any of your best-selling items are about to be discontinued, giving you the ability to buy up a bunch of extra inventory so you can continue to enjoy these sales for as long as possible.

Scenario 4: Changes in Demand Resulting from Competition

There are two potential causes for this scenario:

  • Your Kitchen Aid blender has been struggling to sell for weeks and all the sales have gone to your competitor, Kelly’s Kitchen Supplies. All of a sudden, Kelly runs out of stock and you’re the top seller on the listing. This causes demand of your blender to go through the roof and you are not able to keep up, causing you to go out of stock.
  • The opposite scenario happens when Amazon sees the success you are having with your Kitchen Aid blender and begins to sell the same SKU. Now you are never able to win the Buy Box, no matter how low you go with your price.

How to Fix This Stockout Scenario:

It’s crucial to regularly monitor your sales volume and price changes to catch variations in sales velocity for your SKUs. This will help you catch the first cause as quickly as possible so you can adapt your strategy.

Depending on your competition, you may want to increase your price to get even more of a profit margin out of this temporary spike in sales.  

Competitors jumping on a listing is becoming more and more of a common occurrence.

To properly prepare for this particular situation, always be diversifying and expanding your portfolio so that losing a few SKUs won’t make or break your business.

The more diverse you are at the brand, supplier and SKU levels, the lower your risk.  

Always be scouting for new brands to sell so that if your best supplier begins to sell directly to Amazon or if your supplier cuts you off completely, you have more profitable products to rely on in your portfolio.

Know Your Metrics

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are crucial for the success of any business.

These metrics can help you evaluate your success at reaching key targets, allow you to spot trends or problem areas, and assess your overall performance.

They are used across all industries but are particularly useful for retail businesses.

The most successful Amazon sellers know to segment their analysis by brands, suppliers and buyers, and review metrics for each of these areas at least once a week.

Here are the most important KPIs to evaluate the health of your Amazon business:

1. Inventory to Sales Ratio.

This key management metric covers multiple areas of your business. It indicates the overall health of your inventory, as well as highlighting your sell-through rate.

2. Inventory Turns.

This ratio shows how many times a company’s inventory is sold and replaced over a period of time. A low turnover rate implies poor sales and, therefore, excess inventory.

3. Gross Margin Return on Investment (GMROI).

GMROI is a ratio used to evaluate inventory profitability. A ratio higher than one means you are selling the merchandise for more than the total cost it took to acquire it.

4. Cash to Cash Cycle.

Cash to Cash Cycle measures the amount of time it takes for capital invested to go from cash to the production and sales process and then convert into cash again through sales. This metric looks at the amount of time needed to sell inventory, the amount of time needed to collect cash owed, and the length of time the company is afforded to pay its bills without incurring penalties.

The longer your cash to cash cycle is, the more time your cash flow is tied up. This means you are losing out on potentially more profitable investments.

5. Days of Inventory (DOI).

Quantity on Hand / (Sales During Period/Period)

This KPI will help you see the average number of days an item is held in inventory before it is sold. It’s extremely useful in determining order quantity to ensure you are not overstocking or stocking out of your inventory.

Days of inventory (DOI) is much higher for companies not tracking KPIs.

Profitability Leaks

Tracking your metrics is key because the dollars are in the details. While these details may seem minute, when the mistakes add up they can make or break your business.

Here are some commonly missed profitability leaks unique to Amazon sellers:

  • Returned items that are lost or damaged: Occasionally, items returned by customers are either lost or damaged in transit and the seller of that item never receives it.
  • You don’t receive your refunds: When a customer returns one of your products to Amazon, Amazon immediately refunds the customer the amount they paid for the item. However, occasionally that refunded payment never makes it back to the seller’s account.
  • Amazon does not receive your shipments in full: It’s common for parts of your shipment to get lost or damaged along the way to Amazon’s fulfillment centers. It’s crucial to confirm the SKUs you sent over to FBA match up with the shipment Amazon has received.
  • The SKU quantity sent from your vendor is incorrect: Check, check and re-check again that the quantity you receive from your vendor is the same as the quantity you are expecting.

Now that you know about some of the most common profitability leaks and the key metrics you need to pay attention to in order to evaluate your true profitability, let’s talk about how to squeeze the most out of each dollar you invest.

Use Your Profitability Analysis to Squeeze More Out of Your Dollar

1. Vendor negotiation.

Lay all of the facts out on the table and perform an audit on all of your suppliers. This will help you spot areas where you can negotiate to get better deals.

For example, the seller in the example below should be able to leverage their large sales volume and five-year relationship to negotiate better payment terms.

cost of selling books on amazon

2. Product sourcing.

Now that you know your most profitable SKUs using the metrics we outlined, use your findings to inform your future buying decisions.

Also, remember that the more diverse your portfolio is, the less risk you have of seeing a large drop-off in profit in case one of your product lines is discontinued or your brands go out of business.

3. Historical profitability trends.

If you identify that your pink oven mitt sales have been decreasing over time, it’s time to consider whether or not you want to reorder that product. Remember that all products have a lifecycle –– the key is to pay attention to trends.

4. Consider third party solutions.

Seller Central’s reports are often not thorough enough and spreadsheets can be a pain to update and manage. Save time by automating processes that can be more effectively managed by technology.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can automate the processes outlined above to identify your true profitability at the SKU level, contact the good folks over at Teikametrics.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

 

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How to Make $5,000 an Hour Selling on Amazon https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-make-money-on-amazon/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-make-money-on-amazon/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:52 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=17504 I get it. Don’t worry – I have it covered. How To Make Money on Amazon I’ve sold tens of…]]>

I get it.

You don’t understand the complexity that is selling on Amazon, and you don’t have time to learn it.

Don’t worry – I have it covered.

How To Make Money on Amazon

I’ve sold tens of millions both on Amazon as a third-party seller and tens of millions more directly to Amazon.

Those millions sold have been made selling a variety of products, among various industries, at a mix of price points and using several different methods.

However, the basic principles are universal, so while I can’t guarantee you a sales volume on Amazon, I can stand behind a productivity number:

I have personally achieved $5,000 in sales for every hour I spent with my Amazon activities.

So how can you grow your business to make serious money on Amazon?

Let’s dive into ways that can help you increase Amazon profitability.

Things to Remember When Trying to Make Money on Amazon:
  1. Get enthusiastic, Amazon has huge selling potential.
  2. Identify what items make sense for you to sell on/to Amazon.
  3. Sell directly to Amazon, don’t try to beat Amazon at its own game.
  4. Also sell on Amazon yourself (this isn’t necessarily a contradiction).
  5. Use Amazon cleverly.
  6. Value your time and automate time consuming tasks to focus on growth.
  7. Practice makes perfect. Test, learn and iterate to help drives sales.

Take This Book With You

This full guide (all +17 chapters and +50 experts and their insights) is more than 35,000 words. That’s a lot to read on a screen.

So don’t! Download the guide below to print it out, take it with you, and start selling more on Amazon.

Download Now

Get enthusiastic.

Amazon is the future. It’s time to get on board and excited about it.

Don’t just make Amazon part of a growth strategy. Make it the growth strategy for your business.

I’ve worked with an old-fashioned manufacturer that has been in business for several generations. Within 18 months they were selling more on Amazon than through their traditional channels.

How did they do it?

They didn’t mess around when it came to selling on Amazon.

They tossed their whole product line on Amazon, identified the services they needed to outsource and created new internal processes specifically for Amazon.

How to Make Money on Amazon – Checklist:
  1. Identify what items make sense for you to sell on/to Amazon.
  2. Check if the items are already sold on Amazon. Free tools like Keepa.com can help you gauge if the items have already been sold by Amazon Retail at some point.
  3. Compile the necessary information to submit those items to Amazon. Perhaps use existing Amazon listings for your product. Collect pictures, feature data and descriptions.
  4. Identify the processes an Amazon order will follow.
  5. Search for and implement software services that simplify these steps.
  6. Recruit Virtual Assistants for any tasks that are not already performed and core to your business.
  7. Create and document processes that absolutely cannot be done within 4 and 5.
  8. Submit the product data to Amazon (Seller Central or Vendor Express).
  9. Process orders.
  10. Make improvements to 4, 5 and 6 as necessary.

Amazon is not overly complicated and does not have to be your biggest competitor.

In fact, it can be your initial parlay into household name status, and multi-million dollar sales.

Sell directly to Amazon.

Don’t try to beat Amazon at its own game.

Amazon is growing its direct catalog, so swim with the tide – not against it.

Aside from Amazon becoming your customer instead of your competitor, selling directly to Amazon eliminates the job new sellers are worst at, i.e. forecasting and marketing your product become Amazon’s duty.

Editor's Note

The promotion of your products remains your brand’s responsibility unless you pay Amazon to do it for you. According to James Thomson, former head of Selling on Amazon, “If you sell to Amazon, Amazon doesn’t promote anything unless you step up and pay big marketing dollars. Promoting your brand remains your responsibility.”

Also, many items sold by Amazon sell for more and faster, all things being equal.

There will be a margin difference for FBA sellers that are not competing against Amazon here.

In other words, selling unique goods on Amazon currently not already sold there is how you make the most margin.

Re-read the chapter about why re-selling is the least practical method to Amazon success to understand why this is.

So, let’s see: selling directly to Amazon puts you on the right side of the future, is easier and leads to more sales. Keep in mind; this doesn’t mean it is right for everyone, but it certainly is an option.

One Seller’s Growth with Selling to Amazon:

selling-on-amazon-36

Sell on Amazon yourself.

This isn’t [necessarily] a contradiction to the previous section. Start by selling on Amazon yourself if you find it easier to get up and going, or use this to complement your sales to Amazon.

Selling on Amazon along with selling to Amazon keeps Amazon honest and doesn’t allow the whims of their algorithm to lead to stockouts of your products.

Selling to Amazon also allows you to jump-start sales of new products by giving Amazon’s bots the confidence they need to start bringing it in themselves.

Editor's Note

This practice is not recommended for most sellers, especially sellers that are novice to selling on Amazon. Consult an Amazon consultant before using this method.

A Case Study: How to Sell to — and on — Amazon:

A sheet metal factory in the industrial space wanted to come out with a line of consumer products to sell on Amazon.

Based on some cursory searches on Amazon for sheet metal products and knowing the limits of their machinery, they created a simple folding work bench to be used in congested garages and sheds.

It was made with the machines they already had, hardware they were already buying and sheet metal they already stocked.

Actual Factory

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Actual Prototype of Product on a Wall in a Factory Hallway

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Their initial production run was four units.

Yup, four.

The total cost of labor and materials was less than most people’s weekly grocery bill. They put up an Amazon listing and sold two units in the first week.

Actual Amazon Listing Taken Shortly After Product Went Live

selling-on-amazon-39

After that first week and with lifetime sales of only two units, the sellers, who had created an account to sell directly to Amazon, offered the product directly to Amazon.

The price offered to Amazon was similar to the net amount the company received from Amazon when selling through Seller Central.

Since selling commission and shipping costs were no longer part of the equation, the sellers could sell their product to Amazon for significantly less than $149.95 without actually cutting into their margin.

Within a week of submitting the product, the company received an order from Amazon for five units.

Although Amazon’s Order Had Not Yet Shipped They Still Promoted the Product

selling-on-amazon-40

Despite only two sales, the product moved to the third result in relevant keywords, in a similar position to items with as many as 138 reviews.

selling-on-amazon-41

Of course, a sale of five items to Amazon is small time, but the idea of going from product concept to the top of the rankings on Amazon in a few weeks is possible.

It is highly unusual, but it is doable.

Use Amazon in clever ways to make a profit.

Once you have become familiar with the inner workings of Amazon, you should take a step back.

Look at your business with just Amazon in mind and figure out which services or methods provide you the most benefit.

1. Dropshipping with FBM.

Adding non-stock or custom items to Amazon and then dropshipping to customers can add to your revenue, but it can also help reveal new trends or overlooked items that should be stocked as part of a standard offering.

If you are setting up to dropship already, there is nothing to lose. Here is a list of dropship companies that you may be able to source products.

All costs, including Amazon’s, are variable and since items can be added to Amazon with little set up, even the administrative hassle is minimal.

Think this seller has 2,000 sitting on a shelf? No, but if someone preferred to buy on Amazon, they would get the sale.

selling-on-amazon-42

Amazon allows this seller to be available to millions of shoppers and only produce an item once it has actually been sold.

selling-on-amazon-43

Price Discrimination

Not sure how to price your items, especially newly launched products?

Play around by adjusting the price on Amazon to see what the effect has on volume.

Because pricing is relatively instantaneous, it is possible to offer a product at a variety of different price points so that in a few days or weeks a brand or retailer has a better idea of the optimal price.

This can be helpful because price tags and price sheets have a perceived permanency in the minds of consumers, but online prices do not.

Take advantage of this to test prices for better Amazon margins or velocities, and to optimize those numbers for sales outside of Amazon, like in a retail store or website.

If I didn’t know any better, I would think that the top two organic results for “Pour Over Coffee Stand” were really the same product sold at two different prices to test two different pricing strategies.

Hint: they are.

selling-on-amazon-44

2. FBA for items sold outside of Amazon.

FBA is simply just that. Items are fulfilled by Amazon.

There is the implication that these items are likely also sold on Amazon, but that does not have to be the case.

Many sellers use Amazon’s fulfillment services to pick, pack and ship items that were sold elsewhere like a retail or online store. This is done even when they may have stock in their warehouse.

Amazon’s shipping rates with the major carriers are so low that, even with the additional charges for picking and packing, their total shipment cost can be lower than negotiated carrier rates for many mid-market firms. This can be true even for shipments within a company’s own state.

Editor's Note

Sellers often use this service so they don’t have to split inventory for Amazon and non-Amazon channels. James Thomson, former head of Selling on Amazon warns, “If you use FBA to fulfill orders outside of Amazon (called multi-channel fulfillment), Amazon raises the shipping costs, and you aren’t likely to see much cost saving at all.”

Additionally, Amazon has extremely low 2-Day and Next Day rates, so during the end of the Christmas season, many sellers are able to offer quick shipping for reasonable prices by leveraging Amazon’s buying power.

Cost to Ship from a Warehouse Compared to Amazon Shipping the Same Item

Why not have Amazon ship every unit if you can save 25% in shipping fees, the cost of labor and materials by having them do everything?

Here’s an example from my own product set.

selling-on-amazon-45

Offering Competitive Products

Odds are that you have competition –– and that they are pretty successful, too. Why not cash in on their sales and success by offering their products on Amazon as well?

Not only might you get better insight into their sales numbers and product features, but you’ll be getting paid to do it.

More sincerely, you probably have holes in your product line:

  • You don’t carry a certain color
  • They have metric versions you don’t
  • They have a unit that sells for under $100 and your cheapest offering is $119.

Even if you don’t offer the whole line, you may be able to generate more sales on your own site and on Amazon by extending your product line to include items your competitors offer for which you don’t have a substitute.

Look at these four different clothes dryer lint traps from four different manufacturers.

The only way to make money off of every version sold on Amazon is two win the Buy Box for each one like the seller below, Professional Grade Products.

selling-on-amazon-46

selling-on-amazon-47

selling-on-amazon-48

selling-on-amazon-49

selling-on-amazon-50

3. Amazon Private Label.

Consider offering a line of products on Amazon that is only available on Amazon.

What makes a product unique, technically?

To Amazon, a unique UPC. To most customers, a specific model number.

That’s it. Not a different patent number, manufacturer or even color.

Whether it is a specific bundle or the same item as normally available, but in a different box, many sellers see the best results by having a unique offering on Amazon.

Often, dealers or brands are only concerned about their products and not a brand’s or reseller’s version of a similar product.

In the example below, Vortex is selling the same product, but at a different price point to try to be true to their main “premium” brand, but also get more volume through a generic brand item.

selling-on-amazon-51

The HUGE Opportunities in Private Labeling on Amazon

In the late 2000s, and continuing on today to a degree, most brands that had traditionally dominated big box retail channels shied away from selling on Amazon.

They feared having their items sold on Amazon would diminish their brand and annoy their existing retail partners.

This led to holes in Amazon’s catalog in many high-velocity categories because the brands that dominated that space everywhere else were not represented on Amazon.

Naturally, new “Amazon Only” brands are continually created to fill that space.

Can you create the top brand on the world’s top marketplace? We are in a rare moment in time when you really might be able to.

In a search for “flashlights,” for instance, why isn’t it dominated by Maglight or Rayovac, like many retail stores would be? Have you ever heard of any of these? Some aren’t even branded!

selling-on-amazon-52

Editor’s Note

As a private label seller, you are still responsible for respecting existing trademarks and patents, and doing appropriate testing on your products.

Value your time and focus on things that help growth.

Amazon is all about automating and simplifying tasks (a principle which can be applied to many facets of an ecommerce business).

All of the other tactics from this chapter lead to sales, but to hit the $5,000 per hour productivity mark, you need to reach out for help.

These outsourcing concepts are so essential to understanding how to maximize Amazon as a platform. So, let’s make these following lines our mantras, and walk through how to actualize each.

  1. Many tasks can be completed by a computer more accurately, faster and better than by a human.
  2. If no one has created a program for a computer to use (based on #1), perhaps it is because that task isn’t worth doing in the first place.
  3. If a task can’t be done better by a computer, but still is worth doing, then there are likely people specializing in that task that can do it more effectively than you.

Many tasks can be completed by a computer more accurately, faster and better than by a human.

This is not an exhaustive list and there are many valid programs in this category and others that may fit your business. However, these are the programs I currently use. Do your own research based on your specific needs to find the best fit.

Repricing

Automatically change your price for an item (with parameters you set up front) to optimize sales velocity.

  • Appeagle: Inexpensive way to automate pricing, but very limited. Basically, it lowers your price from a base level if your competition lowers theirs.
  • Feedvisor: Very expensive algorithmic repricer that optimizes your margin by trying to win the Buy Box most of the time and takes into account other factors that affect who wins the Buy Box aside from price. Unlike any other repricer, it will raise your price (again, within limits) if you can still win the Buy Box despite the higher price. It also has a bunch of other great reporting and tools.

Inventory Management

Keep track of your Amazon vs. non-Amazon inventory and know when to reorder from suppliers.

  • Stitch Labs: Great integration of sales and inventory when selling across multiple channels, like a BigCommerce site and Amazon.
  • RestockPro: Simple but accurate and customizable methods for knowing where your Amazon inventory is, how much it is worth and when you need to reorder more.

Feedback Management

Keep your product and seller reviews frequent and positive.

  • Feedback Five: Automatically send emails to buyers requesting feedback.

Logistics Snafu Recovery

Get credited when shippers or Amazon make mistakes.

  • Refund Retriever: Scans your FedEx and UPS bills for charges that should be waived due to them not honoring their guarantees. 100% variable cost (they simply get a portion of what they recover).
  • Refunds Manager: Audits your inbound shipments to Amazon to file claims for discrepancies (and they do happen). 100% variable cost (they simply get a portion of what they recover).

Shipping

All ground services available for orders from all channels on one screen.

  • Shipstation: Easy set up, few bugs and integrates with any existing shipping accounts. Also, allows non-Amazon orders to be fulfilled with inventory at Amazon fulfillment centers with one click. I ship orders from my phone with their app daily.

Sales Tax

Compile sales tax data and file all in one place

  • TaxJar: Simple, effective and low cost. Not what you associate with taxes.

Warehousing

Store or even process your Amazon inventory as needed.

  • Flexe: Rent local storage space for as little as $5 per day. Take on larger orders or stock up for the holiday season without flooding your store or warehouse.
  • FBAPrep: Send your items (even straight from overseas) to be organized, QA’ed, packed and shipped directly to Amazon’s warehouses according to Amazon’s requirements.This allows you not even to touch the products you sell on Amazon.

Competitive Research

See how your product sales stack up.

  • Jungle Scout: Follows your Amazon searches and seamlessly provides data regarding estimated monthly sales volume. Use this to find new products or estimate your market share.

If no one has created a program for a computer to use (based on #1), perhaps it is because that task isn’t worth doing in the first place.

Many new sellers make the mistake of focusing on the small stuff. They are so eager to succeed on Amazon that they put all their effort into fine-tuning a single or handful of listings even though it makes almost no difference to the customer.

There is no software program that reshuffles your product images in different orders, rearranges your bullet points and A/B tests “cozy” versus “comfy” as adjectives in your listing title.

Yes, you want good listings with beautiful pictures. You want to generate some reviews.

But, with competition always on the same page and just a click away, remember that five minutes negotiating a better price with your supplier or using a cheaper shipping service is more valuable than spending 100 hours perfecting an Amazon listing.

Case Study of Priorities in the Wrong Place

The Search: Silicone Pour Over Dripper

selling-on-amazon-53

The top result spent five minutes creating a listing.

They did not pay a service for any product reviews, edit their listing to test different keywords, or frankly, give it a second thought once they sent in their inventory to Amazon.

The picture, title, bullets and description are acceptable. Simple as that.

selling-on-amazon-54

What they did do, however, was commit to 1000 units out of the gate and negotiate exceptionally good pricing so that they could afford to sell it for a few cents cheaper than their competition (See the 4th and 5th items that are from the same manufacturer in China).

Also, unlike those listings appearing below the POVA one, no reviews were paid for, so there was no need to factor in hundreds of giveaways and service fees into the price.

Who knew people shopped based on cost alone?

Alternatively, see page 8 of the same search –– a yellow version of the exact item from a different seller with 17 subsidized product reviews, a bunch of staged photos, a convoluted title (it’s not a filter after all) and for what?

selling-on-amazon-55

The second mantra put in different terms could be, “Are you productive or busy?”

Are you genuinely adding value to or eliminating waste within the process (like using Amazon integrated shipping software or automating sales tax reporting) or are you trying to “hack” Amazon?

Make no mistake, Amazon doesn’t want to be tricked, so even something that works, for now, may not work in the future.

Stick with proven productivity enhancers like the software programs out there for sellers like you.

If a task can’t be done better by a computer, but still is worth doing, then there are likely people specializing in that task that can do it more effectively than you.

Listen, a lot of Amazon experts and courses will emphasize the value of pictures, bullet points and listing titles. I am not saying those are not important. 

They are, as is:

  1. Customer service.
  2. Compliance.
  3. Advertising.
  4. Listing management.

You need to make sure all of these things get done and are done well. But, you certainly don’t have to do them yourself. Use these services to outsource the work.

Fiverr

Fiverr is easy to set up, has great results and is only $5.

  • Need the backgrounds removed for some product shots? 5 bucks.
  • Want someone to research relevant keywords and add them to your listing? Just 5 dollars.
  • Need someone to scrape data from your site to add to your Amazon listing? $5.

selling-on-amazon-56

Editor’s Note

This site also has a bad rap for having been the destination to get fake product reviews. Do not pay for product reviews on Amazon.

Upwork

Thousands of people with Amazon experience are available for custom jobs through Upwork. The general process is:

  1. Search for people with a particular skill set or simply post a job description and wait on applicants –– usually you will have two dozen within 24 hours.
  2. Select candidates, submit any interview questions
  3. Choose a person to hire

There are extensive reviews on most freelancers and Upwork has programs that allow you to monitor progress and keep the workers honest. Many are well-versed in Amazon-specific tasks and can be hired for a single job or on an ongoing basis.

Users can create a stable of freelancers that have delivered well in the past, helping you to build a network that is more and more efficient over time. The productivity gains here are substantial.

selling-on-amazon-57

Freeeup

Don’t have time even to worry about hiring people for specific Amazon activities? Of course not, you have been reciting your mantras.

Freeeup was created by an Amazon expert who created a corral of hundreds of Upwork freelancers. Freeeup assigns and manages your team freelancers based on the complexity of the Amazon services.

If you need to create listings, fulfill orders, advise on reorders and handle customer service, you can try to recruit all those people or just send a message to Freeeup and they will handle it all.

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Consultants

Software and outsourcing services can help you execute your plan, but what if you need help developing your plan?

This book should give you a working knowledge of how to concoct an Amazon strategy, but invariably each business has its complexities and complications.

There are a handful of good Facebook groups and message boards, but for tailor-made solutions, consider reaching out to someone who walks the walk.

The Amazon Solution Provider Directory

Looking for more Amazon help? Browse through our directory of solution providers either on the web or via a PDF

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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