Originally published on January 3, 2020, updated June 1, 2020
A new decade has begun. Are you ready? In this webinar, experts from Tinuiti, eComEngine, JungleScout and top-tier surfboard brand South Bay Boards Co discuss the biggest Amazon trends to come out of 2019 and what's in store for Amazon sellers in 2020.
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
Over the past year, it’s become clear that a holistic advertising strategy will make the biggest impact. According to Meghan Andrade, marketing research strategist at Tinuiti, sellers should be using consistent branding across every single channel they use. Your ad strategy should be cohesive across all platforms so that customers have a clear understanding of the brand, no matter how they find your business.
Andrade also explained that, in 2019, sellers gained the ability to use product attribute targeting ads, which can be used for offensive and defensive targeting. “Defensively we are making sure that no competitors are stealing conversions right before they click ‘add to cart,’” she explained. “Offensively, we can go after competitors that have similar products.”
So much has changed on the Amazon marketplace in the past decade. This might leave you wondering which tools you can use to get legitimate product reviews. As eComEngine’s Liz Fickenscher explained, “It’s harder these days than it was before, but the chances that you’ll get legit reviews has actually increased. What I tell people is, in addition to using a tool like FeedbackFive, you should continue to ask for reviews in a TOS-compliant way.”
Additionally, Fickenscher stressed the importance of creating an overall product review strategy. This involves making sure your listings, product photos and bullet points are setting the right expectations for your buyer, so that you know they’re going to have a good experience. You need to have a robust strategy in place.
You might think it’s okay to wing it, especially if you’re just starting out, but it’s important to use something other than spreadsheets to keep track of your inventory, especially during busy selling months. When you don’t maintain adequate stock, your Inventory Performance Index (IPI) can fall below Amazon’s threshold, putting your FBA warehouse storage allowance at risk. Software like RestockPro can help you manage your stock more effectively.
As Greg Mercer, founder and CEO of JungleScout said, “The biggest benefit of inventory management tools are the reminders for when you should actually reorder. Life gets in the way and then you discover that an item is selling a lot faster than you realized. It’s also difficult to forecast demand on a product you haven’t been selling for more than a year.”
Unfortunately, South Bay Boards Co.’s Alex Cecola found out the hard way. “We’ve learned firsthand how painful it is to run out of stock,” he said. They worked hard to create a beautiful listing with great photos and product descriptions. After the listing started ranking, they ran out of stock. “Not only do you lose sales but your rank and all the momentum with advertising just drops really fast. To get things built back up...it’s just a huge process. It’s a waste of time, but it can all be avoided by keeping inventory stocked up and ready to go.”
One way to approach customer acquisition, suggested Andrade, is to use Amazon Sponsored Brand campaigns. Typically, they appear at the top of the page alongside three different products. This is an opportunity to show customers some of the various items in your catalog. Another option is to implement Amazon Storefronts to tell your brand’s story and showcase your other products.
It’s also essential to understand your ideal buyer, says Fickenscher. By understanding your brand and who you connect with, you’ll have a better understanding of what you need to do to give potential buyers what they want.
You’re attracting customers — now, how do you keep them? Andrade suggests using an ad strategy that targets existing customers who haven’t made a purchase in the last three months. “It’s a great way to re-engage people and make sure they don’t buy from someone else,” she explains. Another method is maintaining a low order defect rate so that customers receive a product that very closely resembles what they ordered. If they know they can trust you, they will come back again.
What about private sellers or merchants who sell specialized items? Cecola’s strategy is to make high-quality surfboards that will last a long time. He keeps customers returning, however, by creating bundled kits or carrying related products that they can use during the off-season or give to others as gifts.
Also, as Fickenscher said, “Listening is the most important way to keep your customers. That includes everything from reading product reviews to paying attention to keyword searches. What are people looking for and how can you deliver it? You want them to know that you’re paying attention and that you’re listening. Humanizing yourself is vital to customer retention.”
What can you expect in 2020? Andrade predicts that 2020 will be the year of social media, and that Amazon’s influencer program will continue to grow. She also believes that we will continue to see more video being used in sponsored brand campaigns as it’s a great way to showcase a brand’s story.
The discussions surrounding predictions for 2020 were robust in this webinar, so take some time to listen as you prepare for the year (and decade) ahead. You might learn some things that could take your business to the next level!
Persephanie: Good morning West Coast and good afternoon to you East Coasters. Thanks for taking the time to join us today. My name is Persephanie, I'm the webinar coordinator here at Tinuiti, and I will be your host for today's event. Today we're going to be covering 2020 Digital Performance Marketing Panels, the future of Amazon, social media, paid search and also email marketing. However, it will span over the course of the next two days. So, here are the times, feel free to check out for other panels, but if you're interested in the Amazon segment then you're in the right place.
Persephanie: Before we dive into today's presentation though, I just want to go ahead and give everyone a huge thank you. I know your time is valuable, and I'm super thankful that you chose to spend it with Tinuiti, our clients, and also our partners from Jungle Scout and eComEngine.
Persephanie: All right, and then just a few logistics before we dive into today's presentation. So, this event is being recorded, and I will be sending out the recording with the slides by Friday morning. So, keep an eye out in your inbox for that. Feel free to also share it with your colleagues. There is a live Q&A at the end, so feel free to chat any questions that you might have in the chat box to the right, and I'll add this to the queue of questions for our speakers at the end.
Persephanie: There's also a few resources available to download, so feel free to check these out, and if you're having any trouble asking these features, please let me know and I'll try to troubleshoot the issue in a second.
Persephanie: All righty, and then a little bit about Tinuiti for anyone joining us for the first time. Tinuiti is a performance data driven marketing leader focused on every aspect of the customer journey across the quadropoly of Google, Facebook, Amazon and beyond. You may have heard of us recently through one of our recent acquisitions including Elite SEM, CPC Strategy, OrionCKB or Email Aptitude. However, in May we rebranded and under one name deliver the best results by bringing experts together to create integrated media strategies powered by people and driven by data and insights.
Persephanie: And then, to kick it off I'll go ahead and introduce our speakers. So, we have the pleasure of having Alex, who's one of our clients here, Product Designer and Development of South Bay Board Company. So, Alex has been focused on helping South Bay Board Co. create and source products that are primarily in the surf and beach market. However, he has also helped strategically launch and sell South Bay Board products in multiple e-commerce platforms, with the primary focus on Amazon.
Persephanie: And then we also have the pleasure of having Greg Mercer who's the founder and CEO of Jungle Scout, also an eight-figure Amazon seller. Greg is a leader in the Amazon selling community. He originally built Jungle Scout as a Chrome extension to automate his process of finding products to sell on Amazon. Today Greg leads a team of 125 global employees who have built Jungle Scout into a robust fleet of SaaS solutions, helping e-commerce entrepreneurs worldwide.
Persephanie: And then last, but not least we la have Meghan Andrade who is a strategist at Tinuiti. She's been with us for just over two years. Meghan works with a multitude of clients from all different verticals. She specifically loves strategizing with product targeting campaigns, and dynamic bidding to grow brand recognition and velocity on Amazon.
Persephanie: However, we also have Tess Reynolds, who will also be our moderator for today's round table, and she is a Team Strategist for Marketplace Search. And Tess has been with Tinuiti for also just about two years, and has worked with brands of all sizes, leading a team of senior account managers who work closely to customize client strategies, helping scale and optimize their advertising efforts both on and off Amazon. Outside of digital marketing, however, Tessie is a yogi, adventurer and loves to cook.
Liz: And I'm Liz.
Persephanie: Oh, sorry. Liz is the Industry Liaison, Leader Liaison for eComEngine. Liz is committed to providing valuable information to Amazon sellers through blog posts and informational webinars. Liz is a great ambassador, engaging with customers and strategic partners to build relationships between eComEngine and the e-commerce industry.
Persephanie: All righty. And here is our agenda for Amazon and marketplaces. So, we're going to be covering impactful Amazon advertising trends, tools to supplement Amazon businesses, and then of course, staying in stock, customer acquisition and securing your brand. Followed by customer retention and then predictions for 2020, and of course, we'd like you to walk away with some key takeaways. And then of course ending with a live Q&A, so feel free to plug those in, and then without further ado, I'll go ahead and pass it over to our speakers.
Tess: Thank you so much Persephanie. So, very excited, we've got exciting panel here today. We're really trying to recap what we saw in 2019, but ideally we'll share our learning, and what we expect to see in 2020. So, as Persephanie mentioned, please send over any questions, and we will hopefully make sure to get to them at the end.
Tess: But to kick it off, so looking at impactful Amazon advertising trends over 2019. So, what have been the most impactful advertising change from this past year to your brand advertising strategy? And we'll go ahead and kick that off with Alex from South Bay Board Co.
Alex: Yeah, how's it going everyone? I definitely have to say the most advantageous strategy we've done is pairing up with Tinuiti and their team over there. They've done an excellent job at really understanding the different products that we offer, understanding that those people might have different keyword searches for those different products, and really breaking it down to some of the more granular aspects of the keyword searches that we're doing for Amazon advertising. So, honestly, Tinuiti's been phenomenal, and they've been really good at breaking down each segment and focusing on the big stuff and each of those individual segments.
Tess: Awesome. Meghan, I know you work with a lot of brands, but what's the largest impactful advertising change that you've seen across the board?
Meghan: Yeah. So, just this year in 2019, we had the ability to utilize product attribute targeting ads, which we adoringly call them PAT ads, as we just need another acronym on Amazon. And so, I actually love to utilize them for every single brand that I manage because we can use them in a few different ways. So, we can do offensive and defensive targeting, and this was really impactful in 2019 because this ad placement didn't exist before then. So, we actually only had access to product display ads, or affectionately known as PDA ads. So, this was another level of targeting that we could add on, where we're essentially targeting those product detail pages.
Meghan: So, defensively we are making sure that no competitors are essentially stealing away our conversions right before they click add to cart. And then offensively going after competitors that have similar products. So, this was a huge update for us this year, and definitely widely utilized, at least for my clients.
Tess: Absolutely, I know that is something we're talking about and should be part of any brands advertising strategy on amazon. Alex, what update drove the biggest impact in 2019, and how do you really plan to use this to help inform your strategy for 2020?
Alex: I think a lot of the updates for us have been some of the pilot programs that we've been lucky to be invited to and take part of. Some have been great, some have been not so great, but really just getting invited to those, taking advantage of those, and also making sure that we're hitting on full fronts with the rest of the advertising tools available on Amazon.
Tess: Anything to add Meghan, there?
Meghan: Yeah, I would say, honestly, instead of an update, it would be the biggest impact on how people are viewing Amazon, especially on the seller side. So, using that holistic approach throughout their entire advertising strategy. I think in previous years Amazon was siloed away from maybe your e-commerce site or Instagram or Facebook. But now we essentially want to see that branding across every single channel you have, so people are looking at your Instagram and they go ahead and check your Amazon account and try to order a product.
Meghan: We want to make sure that, that ad strategy is cohesive across every single channel. That you have a storefront telling your brand story that you're able to showcase all the products and everything about your brand no matter where that customer travels. So, I would say that's the biggest thing I saw as almost a movement in 2019 for sellers taking their entire brand really seriously on Amazon.
Tess: Absolutely. Looking at the tools to supplement your Amazon business, what strategy and/or tools do you suggest for a new seller to get fast, legitimate product reviews in 2020? I know this is a question we get all the time here at Tinuiti, and Liz, I'm interested to hear what your thoughts are there.
Liz: That is the question, isn't it? How to get fast, legitimate product reviews. Unfortunately, it's harder nowadays to get product reviews than it was before, but the chance that you're going to get legitimate product reviews is greater. So, with the increased attention that Amazon's been paying to product reviews the source of product reviews or where they're coming from, the ferocity of them, it's gotten a little more difficult to really pile them on organically.
Liz: So, what I tell people is in addition to using a tool like FeedbackFive, vote for my own thing, but asking for product reviews is still okay, and you should do it in a completely Amazon ToS compliant way. So, terms of service has rules, follow them. If you don't follow them, you're going to get one of those nasty restriction letters or worse, suspended. But in addition, there are other things that you can take advantage of to create your overall product review strategy.
Liz: So, at the front end, you need to be making sure your listing and your product photos, your bullet points, all that stuff is setting the expectation for your buyer, so that you know they're going to have a good experience. That's what Amazon wants you to do. And then your follow-up, your participation in Amazon's own programs for eligible items, the Early Reviewer Program. Tinuiti, you guys just broke the news that Vine's available for third-party sellers, so hopefully we talk about that a little bit today. But you need to have a robust strategy in place and understand what works with the customers who buy your products.
Liz: So, it's not a one-size-fits-all thing. There's no magic bullet unfortunately, but it is possible to develop a robust product review strategy that will help you succeed, and we're all here to help you do that. Me especially, Greg too.
Tess: Absolutely. Greg, any other additional recommendations there around getting legitimate reviews?
Greg: Yeah, there's the Early Reviewer Program. It only costs 60 bucks. It only helps you get five reviews and it's... I think it's worth it even though it's maybe not super effective. I just enrolled one of my products in Vine, just a few days ago. I haven't gotten any reviews from it yet, but it appears to be free. I can't find out any information otherwise, so that seems to be pretty good.
Greg: There is the request a review button inside of... If you go into the orders in your Amazon account, some of you guys may have seen that, some of you haven't. I think it sounds like there's still some people who it hasn't been rolled out into your account, but if you go into Seller Central, assuming you're a 3p seller and you go to... Just click under order, it should be there in the top right-hand side. So, I'd try that.
Greg: And then one last comment real quick. People always ask, "Do the follow-up emails still work? Do they get delivered? It seems like I get a lot of return notifications." From what we can tell about half of them still get delivered. So, in my opinion are they worth it? I think so. I just send one follow-up email after a customer makes a purchase. I ask for a review in a totally neutral way, I don't try to sway them either way. Even with some of the clarifications around Amazon guidelines, last week or two weeks ago, whenever that was, all signs still point to this is still okay to do. But you have to be very careful, just not in a biased way. So, I think those are still worth doing as well.
Tess: Absolutely, and to recap just a little bit more information around the Vine. So, it is now rolled out to sellers. You have to have a FBA offer in place. What else were those? FBA and-
Liz: No more than 30 product reviews on that listing.
Tess: Yeah, no more than 30 product reviews also.
Greg: I think you do have to be brand registered. I'm not sure because I am, but make sure you do.
Tess: Yeah, those were the three ones. FBA, brand registered and under 30 reviews. Well, just as much as we get questions around getting reviews, we also get questions around staying in stock and making sure that you're forecasting your inventory management. So, staying in stock is really vital to ensure that your Amazon strategy is working. What tips do you have or are there any tools for forecasting inventory management? I'll go ahead and start with you Greg.
Greg: Yeah, Jungle Scout does have an inventory management tool. The biggest benefit I think of using an inventory management tool is reminders when you should actually reorder. I think through talking to a whole bunch of sellers, that's what we realized. It wasn't so much that they... The biggest reason was just that they kind of forgot. Life gets in the way, other things get in the way, and then it's like oh crap, I didn't realize I'd started selling a lot faster than I thought it was for the past few weeks.
Greg: So, I think that's one of the biggest benefits. The other thing I'll just add to that real quick is it's hard to forecast sales if you haven't been selling the product for more than a year. And what I would encourage people to do is use three different methods to help you do that. The first one is historical search volume. So, you can find this in a tool like Jungle Scout, there's other ones out there that offer it. If you don't want to pay for a tool you can use Google Trends, which is a fairly decent indicator of search volume. But historical search volume on Amazon would be better and more accurate.
Greg: And the last one that I like to do is look at historical sales or my competitors' sales. So, gauging based off of these items I've just named there, you get a much better idea about the seasonality of your product, which seems to be the other big reason people go out of stock.
Tess: Liz, anything from the eComEngine side?
Liz: I think that was a great suggestion from Greg. Also, we have an inventory management tool RestockPro, and I think that it is important to use something other than a bunch of spreadsheets to keep track of your inventory especially during busy selling months. Additionally, there's a metric, the Inventory Performance Index, which is something that I've talked to everybody about. But it's a single number calculated based on four areas of inventory management. It's excess inventory, sell through rate, your stranded inventory and your in-stock inventory.
Liz: And it all rolls up into a number, the number changes. The target number changes based on the quarter or the month. Amazon changes it because of the amount of space they have in FBA warehouses, but it can impact your next quarter of sales. So, if you fall below the threshold of the IPI that Amazon wants you to have then you lose unlimited storage in FBA warehouses, and that will impact your ability to be successful the next quarter.
Liz: So, I've got a lot of information about that if you guys want it, firstname.lastname@example.org, but that's something that didn't use to have consequences that now has consequences. And you really need to make sure you stay in stock. Make sure you're checking your stranded inventory every day. Make sure that you're moving your excess inventory, and you're not keeping things sitting on the shelves. It's super important, and it can impact you negatively if you don't pay attention to it.
Tess: Yeah, Alex and Meghan, I know that you both have firsthand experience on what can happen when a product goes out of stock. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how it can really affect your overall organic rank as well as advertising?
Alex: Yeah, for us we've learnt very firsthand how painful it is to run out of stock. Like Greg had mentioned, when you just start with the product you don't have a whole lot of forecasting capability. You don't have a first-year analysis on it. So, we had a couple things where you do all this work, all this effort, create a beautiful listing. Good photos, good product description. You work with your outsource team for PPC or you're doing it yourself. You get that thing all the way up, you're ranking it up, ranking it up, and all of a sudden, your ACOS starts to go down, it's firing, everything's going well.
Alex: But then you run out of stock, and that's the big number one no-no with Amazon, at least in our experience. Because then, not only do you run out of stock and sales stop, but your rank and all that work that you just did with the advertising just drops really, really fast. So, the ability to reget that thing all the way back up, it's just a huge process. And it seems almost like a waste of time. So, it can all be avoided with just keeping inventory built up, stocked up, ready to go.
Meghan: Yeah, absolutely. And just like Alex said, it's probably one of the worst-case scenarios at least on the advertising side. Greg and Liz gave great advice for before you go out of stock and planning that, but a lot of what Alex and I deal with is the repercussions for going out of stock after. So, at least on the advertising side it's really difficult, just like Alex mentioned to even get back up to the same level you were before going out of stock, because it does affect the algorithms that show for organic and advertising rank.
Meghan: So, on the 3p side as a seller, you have the A9 algorithm. Definitely a lot of things that come into play to show your listing, but if you're out of stock, it essentially stops any of the movement that you started either organically or through advertising, and all that advertising automatically shuts down until you receive that product back into the warehouse or back ready to sell to customers. So, on the 1p side or the vendor side, that's when we see the PO algorithm affected, because the PO algorithms or product orders, if we see on Amazon's side that a product detail page isn't getting a lot of views, then that'll impact the algorithm, and they'll essentially start ordering less of your product, especially if it was going out of stock.
Meghan: So, it has repercussions that last a long time, so it's definitely in everyone's best interest to stay in stock and make sure that maybe you over order the first time just to ensure that it's not going out of stock anytime soon.
Tess: Absolutely. So, moving on to customer acquisition and securing your brand. With each day that passes and each year, there's more and more competition on Amazon. So, really, what news strategies are you implementing to acquire any net new customers? We'll go ahead and start with you Meghan.
Meghan: Yeah, perfect. So, two ways specifically under the advertising side that we can help with new customer acquisition. The first one I'm going to mention is sponsor brands campaigns. These have been around for a while, but there are different ways that you can implement them to help with that new customer acquisition. Because they're usually shown at the top of the page with three different products, you're able to show customers some of the other products in your catalog. So, if they're looking for a water bottle you can also show them the other colors or other variations. So, it makes it really easy to educate the potential customer on what you're offering and able to link back to that storefront.
Meghan: So, that second thing I'm going to always mention and always recommend are implementing storefronts because you're able to tell your brand story similar to sponsor brands. You're also able to showcase some of your other products. And then what Alex's account manager does is actually separate out branded and non-branded campaigns for sponsor brands. So, we're individually able to track how each set of campaigns is doing. So, by targeting non-branded you're going up the funnel and able to educate those customers that maybe don't know about your brand yet, but could potentially be a lifetime customer.
Tess: Absolutely, and also, I know it released over the last year, through sponsored brands we can actually track net new purchases. So, this is a huge opportunity to see how those sponsored brands are doing and if you're actually acquiring those net new customers that haven't purchased in the last 12 months.
Tess: Alex, anything else additional? What South Bay Boards is doing to really attract and acquire those net new customers, and separate yourself from the competition.
Alex: Yeah, I think going off of what Meghan just said with having those different types of ad sets that are targeting people in the different sections of the funnel. One of the things that we focus a lot on is just making sure our product and the product descriptions are displaying consistently across every channel that we sell on, whether it just be on Amazon or even on advertising. We just want the language and the imagery to be consistent all the way through.
Alex: So, that way if a customer happens to see a product, whether they're on Walmart or on our website, a lot of the times they're always going to go check the Amazon first just to make sure the reviews are there, the quality's there. Just kind of a confidence check, and as along as everything's consistent, we've seen a lot of people come from all different angles on the internet to eventually become customers, whether it be on Amazon or other channels, because they're confident in the consistency.
Tess: Absolutely. Liz and Greg, are there any tools, or just in general recommendations from your end on to implementing and acquiring those net new customers?
Liz: I think you need to understand your ideal buyer. Do the work of the buyer persona and understand your brand and who your brand communicates to, and provide excellent customer service like Alex was talking about. Additionally, you can actually look at your product reviews on Amazon if you're thinking Amazon, like I'm always thinking Amazon. But you can get ideas there for what your customers want because that's actually your customers talking about your products.
Liz: So, ways to make your products better. Ways to bundle your products in ways that will please buyers and attract new buyers. So, yeah, taking a look at that, I think. Just paying attention to what's being said about your brand will help you making your brand better and attract more customers to it.
Tess: Absolutely. Greg?
Greg: As far as the customer acquisition stuff goes, one thing that we've had pretty good success with lately is taking some of these older products and essentially redoing our keyword research. What we've found is I used to put the keywords in the title that essentially go the most search traffic that were still relevant for my particular product. And what I found is a lot of those are hyper competitive, I wasn't even on the first page for them, but they were still using up the keywords in my title.
Greg: Whereas, now we've gone back to some of those, and instead of choosing the keywords that are the highest volume, more so the keywords that are in the middle and a little bit less competitive. And as a result, we've been ranking much better organically for some of these other keywords that are results and more sales. So, if you had some products up for a while on Amazon, or even a brand new product on Amazon, you can think about how you can change the keywords to rank better.
Tess: Awesome, yep. Are there any specific ways that you're strengthening your brand equity on Amazon? Again, anything that's setting yourself apart from the competition, Alex?
Alex: I think with us, and we're going to try to do this even more so moving forward is, when you're brand registered and you have the ability to put product video on there, I think a lot of people, at least in my opinion as a consumer on Amazon, their product videos don't go into as much clear depth of the value in the product or how useful the product can really be. I think a lot of them are just a quick little run around visually of what I is. So, for us continuously trying to communicate with the customer the added value in our product and why it's going to be something that they're really stoked to purchase versus some other product that they may be comparing with on Amazon.
Alex: So, that's one of the things that we really want to do is try to be as much of a conversational piece with our videos and our advertising with our customers more so than just like a, "Hey, look at this. Check this out," sort of thing.
Tess: How do you go about distinguishing yourself? Liz and Greg, any additional insights there?
Greg: Liz you want to go?
Liz: You go first.
Greg: Something that we've been doing a lot lately is with the images, putting comparisons to my competitors right in the images. Because it's so easy to comparison shop on Amazon, I was like, "Why don't we just take a lot of that stuff head on? If our product's really better than some of the competitors for this or that reason, then why don't you just all that out in the image?" So, an example of this is, I sell this hooded baby towel, and our baby towels are really thick. But it's hard to describe in the text or even just one image that your towels are much thicker or fluffier than the competition. So, what we did is we just took a picture of it folded up, and then took one of the competitors and folded there's up and stacked it on top, and you could see the competitor's was half as thick.
Greg: So, it was a good visual way to show why your product's better because it's like the customer's going to be comparison shopping anyway. Why don't you just take that head on and just call out why yours is the best.
Tess: So, true to that point leveraging all the images, bullet points, even enhanced brand content. Just those additional ways of making sure that you can distinguish yourself. Yeah, you want to maximize that space. Liz?
Liz: Well, I think Greg has a great point about Amazon shoppers do comparison shopping. In addition, they read product reviews on different products, so I think it's really important as a seller to pay attention to your competitors product reviews as well as your own because you can see the weaknesses that your competitor has. You can see where they would need to improve in order to win the customer, and therefore you can see where you need to improve or exceed expectation to win the customer and strengthen your own brand. So, paying attention to the competing product's customer reviews is a really great source of information when you're working on winning in the Amazon space.
Tess: Yeah, going right into the next piece, we acquire them, so how do we retain those customers? We know that customers expect more these days, whether it's longer and cheaper deals, free shipping, customer service. So, how are brands really adapting on Amazon to ensure that they have that customer retention and brand loyalty. Meghan.
Meghan: Yeah, so first I'll touch on the advertising side, and then what we want to see for sellers for customer retention. So, DSP is a great way to do that. That's technically the display platform for Amazon. What you can actually do is choose audiences that have previously purchased your product, and maybe haven't purchased in 90 days, and you want to show an ad to that. So, it's very targeted and you can let them know, "Hey, we have a deal running right now. We know you purchased about three months ago, so we want to target that exact audience."
Meghan: So, that's a great way to reengage people, make sure that they're possibly not buying from anyone else eps if it's a consumable product. Maybe like detergent where they're going to be purchasing maybe once or twice a month. So, things like that, it's a great way to implement into the entire advertising strategy, not just staying within AMS and Seller Central.
Meghan: But on the other side of things, what we do want to see from sellers for great customer retention is low order defect rate. So, in that way we want to make sure that customers are getting exactly what they signed up for. They probably did all that research, looking into the detail pages, reading all those reviews. They want to make sure the color that they ordered, everything is exactly what they're seeing online. And so, that low order defect rate definitely shows us that what you're projecting and what you're showcasing is exactly what's going on their doorstep two days later with their Prime shipping.
Meghan: So, that's what we want to see, and then with Alex specifically your company has a very low order defect rate, and in the month of December, you actually have a 5% off discount on a lot of your products. So, what that shows customers is even though it may not be surfboard season or it may not be the summer, you're still letting them know that you care about them as a customer, you care that it's the holiday season, and you want to give them a good deal, especially if they're returning.
Tess: Alex, did you want to... I know that you spoke in general how around that seasonality. Are there ways that you're potentially looking at customer retention based on summer versus the holiday shopping period?
Alex: Yeah, absolutely. We've seen it with our packages too because we have a little bit more of a higher priced product that's not really a consumable. We ideally want our products to last a long time for a customer. So, it's one of those things where they're not always looking to rebuy one of those surfboards right away, so what we try to do is in the winter season when we find that people are usually shopping for someone else, a family member, a friend or something like that, we're able to bundle together these package kits and say, "Hey, here's this awesome offer where you get the surfboard, the board bag, the other accessories for the surfboard, and we're giving them that value offering."
Alex: And we see that trend up much more in the winter season than in the actual summer season. People, I think, are just more so buying for themselves, at least with our products than they are for someone else. One of the other things that we've tried to do with the idea that our boards are meant to last a lot longer than a couple weeks couple of months is we've tried to figure out, "Okay, what are our customers going to be using when they're not in the water or not surfing?" And try to add some products to that demographic and say, "Okay. Hey you might not be in the ocean, but here's a really cool beach chair and cool beach umbrella that we think you guys will like based on the quality and stuff with the brand." And that seemed to be pretty solid strategy for us so far.
Tess: Awesome. Liz, any kind of specific recommendation to ensure customer retention, or anything that you see from your side of the business?
Liz: I think Meghan's point about... I talk a lot about ODR because feedback is one of the things that rolls up into your order defect rate. So, as I spend my days thinking about feedback and Amazon metrics and product reviews, I think that listening to your customers just like I... I sound like a broken record, but I think listening to your customers is the most important way that you keep your customers and you create return customers. So, that's everything from reading the product reviews that they leave, listening to their feedback. It's everything from other suggestions people have had about paying attention to keyword searches, search volume. What are people looking for, and how do you deliver what they're looking for?
Liz: But those customer reviews too, I think it's really important to respond to those, just as a matter of course during your day, positive and negative. Negative especially, to address the customer acquisition part of things where people are reading reviews and you've responded and you've responded politely and they know that that's not going to happen to them. But also, when you thank someone for a positive review, that reinforces the fact that you're paying attention and that you're listening, and I think that with a marketplace like Amazon where it's very competitive and a lot of consumers out there don't really quite understand the whole third-party atmosphere or ecosystem. I think it's getting closer, more people are reading news articles about it, that's for sure.
Liz: But I think humanizing yourself and humanizing your brand by answering product reviews, by being present in any way that you're allowed to, I think that's pretty important for customer retention. And it makes people like you.
Tess: Yeah, it's that customer service. Yeah, Amazon shouldn't be seen as a different platform. It should really if you've got customer service expectations on one side of the business, it should be rolled across for Amazon as well. Greg, any additional insights from your end of customer retention?
Greg: I think we covered that one pretty well Tess, thanks.
Tess: Cool. So, now as we look ahead, we're two weeks away from 2020. What do you think are the biggest changes, or what do you predict to be the biggest changes on Amazon in this coming year? We'll go ahead and start with you Meghan.
Meghan: Yeah, perfect. So, I predict that 2020 will be the year on Amazon for influencers, for social media, for Amazon driving home the idea that it's here to stay, and we should embrace it and continue with our branding and overall omnichannel approach. So, to break that down with Amazon's influencer program, I think they're going to continue growing that. They understand what type of influencers will make the most sense and what that does for each brand individually. And then also, in some of the new betas that we're seeing, Amazon posts is almost like an Instagram-like feed that will be on Amazon, and that you'll actually be able to purchase some products off of.
Meghan: So, we are seeing a lot of that influencer marketing, that social media approach coming on to our Amazon apps, which is how most people go ahead and actually purchase products. And then the last thing that we will see be a huge deal in early 2020 because it's already starting to be rolled out and utilized by a lot of different sellers is video and sponsor brands. So, previously we would always see those three photos for what you would want to showcase in your sponsor brand ads, and now we have the ability to actually show videos.
Meghan: So, this is available within Seller Central and AMS, which is a big deal because it was previously only available through the DSP platform or through your account executive on Amazon. So, this is great to showcase, again, your brand story, tell it in a video instead of just in some still images, and then also stand out from the crowd.
Tess: Yes, I would say that's the biggest change to wrap it all up is like lifestyle for sure. Just getting those additional touchpoints where you can't go into a brick and mortar necessarily to feel or see this product, but enhancing that lifestyle to just make sure that you feel good about making that purchase. Alex, what do you predict as any big changes for Amazon in the coming year?
Alex: Well, one of the things that we've already been dealing with is a lot of the shipping changes going on. So, I think there's going to be a big logistics change especially for some of the bigger sized products. So, I'm not really necessarily looking forward to that, but I think it's going to be something very interesting that a lot of people are going to have to deal with. So, with that, I think Amazon's going to be rolling out, I think, their shipping settings or system, but they're also going to be releasing a couple more pilots. So, look out for those, if you get invited to anything related to a beta or a pilot, try to take advantage of that.
Alex: And echoing off what Meghan was saying with the videos, whether it be through the Amazon ads, with the sponsor ads or going through other channels whether that be YouTube or TikTok or Instagram, making sure that you have a consistent but high quality video content that you're displaying to the customers to really show them that lifestyle, the quality of that product because they can't feel it and see it, but they want to have those feelings and confidence before they buy that product. So, that's what we're looking for is going to be the pilots, the shipping, and adding a lot more high-quality content.
Tess: Greg, how about on your end? What do you think are going to be the largest changes that we see in this coming year?
Greg: In 2019 we saw a lot of historically 1p only functionality be released to 3p sellers, and I think we'll continue to see that. A year ago, whenever it was, Amazon data reorg internally so that 1p and 3p areas of the business both now report to the same person, and I think that was the start of a lot of this, like Vine's a great example of that. I think we're going to continue to see more functionality for brand owners and through brand registry.
Greg: And then Alex, I don't know if this was what you were talking about with the shipping services, but I just tried for the first time the global shipping services program, where you actually send your inventory essentially to a distribution center in China, and then Amazon handles shipping it from China to all the different distribution centers from there. So, I think they're going to continue to make it easier to get freight from China into the US.
Tess: And Liz?
Liz: Amazon will continue to move more brand focused. So, you guys are all right in terms of the different beta programs that are going to be available to brands, enhanced reporting for brands. I think product reviews are going to continue to be really important. Amazon's supposed to make clarifications to the product review terms of service on December the 27th. We'll see, but I think that, that means that the product review landscape is going to change in 2020. Hopefully for the better for third-party sellers. But I think those product reviews are going to continue to be really important.
Tess: Being proactive and actually addressing and possibly updating your client detail pages if you consistently see some of those negative reviews. Kind of in closing and wrapping it up, I'll allow each one of the panelists to discuss more, but I wanted to highlight some of the key takeaways and/or a piece of advice from today's session. So, what would you recommend to your audience to focus on? And the first one I believe came from Alex, just kind of the consistent brand messaging.
Alex: Yeah, I don't need to echo on any really further. It's trying to have high quality videos, high quality photos. Something that looks above just scratching something together with your iPhone. Really trying to purvey the quality of your product to your customer so they feel confident in their purchase and hopefully tell a friend, tell some family, and continue to have just a consistent message. So, when they show their friend, "Hey, check this out," it's the same thing as when that person saw it the first time.
Tess: Got you, and that could be across all ad types, your dot-com. Just that consistent message.
Alex: Yeah, absolutely.
Tess: Meghan, on that second takeaway, can you go ahead and recap that real quick for us?
Meghan: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think everyone touched on the importance of this, but really going to drive this home, please take advantage of any new betas or any new updates that Amazon gives you. They're for a reason, and they're basically to grow your brand and to grow it long term, and to have that be sustainable. So, with these new updates, I always say, if you have a chance to get into a new beta, maybe a week before your top competitor, that could be a huge difference in acquiring net new customers, and getting your brand name out there and really showcasing what you offer. Especially when we're looking at Q4 or in Alex's case, during the summer season when you're going to have those peak periods.
Meghan: If you can get ahead of the competition and maybe use PAT campaigns or a placement that your competitors don't have, that's a huge win for you and that could potentially go long term.
Tess: And Liz, I believe you had your big recap was around Vine, and just general product reviews.
Liz: Product reviews, product reviews, product reviews. That's, yeah. But you've got Early Reviewer Program, you've got Vine now, you've got the request a review button that Greg was talking about in your orders page, and you still have third-party tools that you're allowed to use to ask for product reviews. So, I think that's, like I said before, they're going to continue to be important, and the more ways you have to get them the better. But just keep an eye out because I think things are going to get exciting.
Tess: Greg, to wrap it all up.
Greg: Throughout this webinar I think we've spoken a lot about building your brand and the brand messaging. I guess, what wasn't really spoken about is there are a lot of really successful products on Amazon that are private label products or these digital first products that essentially no one knows the brand, no one cares about the brand, and essentially, they're competing on price, right? And there are people that are very successful about only competing in that factor, and no one knows about the brand, and no one really cares about the brand.
Greg: But if that's the case, you have to have a hyper efficient business model and supply chain so you can sell for very, very thin margins. I think that's actually a fine business model that works for some people. So, I think those people are going to continue to succeed, the ones that have the economies of scale and are hyper efficient. Then the other one are these more... They look more like traditional brands. They build up the brand equity and the customers really love them. I think there's plenty of room for those to be successful, and I think the people that are struggling more are the ones that are stuck in the middle. Like don't really have a brand or a passionate following of people, but can't really compete on price. They're stuck in the middle a little bit.
Greg: So, that's my advice is go in one of those two business models. Don't get stuck in the middle.
Tess: Totally. Well, awesome. Thank you so much everyone. I think we have some questions, right Persephanie?
Persephanie: Sorry about that. Before we actually dive into our live Q&A, we actually do have an offer from eComEngine. Liz, do you want to go ahead and talk about this offer really quick before we dive in?
Liz: So, we've got this free tools and templates page, and there's a link to it here, and we can definitely include that in the follow-up email. But I talked a little bit about Amazon's terms of service and following the rules, and the restriction emails that people have been getting, and maybe we have some questions about stuff like that. But right now, always, but right now especially, it's vitally important to follow Amazon's rules to the best that you can despite any lack of clarity there.
Liz: So, we can talk about that more, but we've got compliance checklists, we've got templates the will help you stay compliant, and that's all free. And you're welcome to use it, ask questions about it. We're here to help, we want to learn about your business and how to help you, so that's what we offer today.
Persephanie: Awesome, thank you. And then I will also just be launching a quick poll that I'll leave up for just a few moments. Before we do that, into our Q&A, so if you did find this information insightful and would like to continue conversation with any of our in-house experts, go ahead and just indicate that on the poll, and let's dive right into it. Continue to also type in your questions, and I'll do my best to queue them up. But let's kick it off.
Persephanie: So, the first one that we have, anyone feel free to chime in on these. This one states, "What ad tech should I plan to continue investing advertising budget in? Are there any more important ones than others that you would recommend?"
Tess: Meghan or-
Meghan: Yeah, sorry. I didn't know if anyone else wanted to answer first. I would definitely utilize all of them, which is the easiest answer. But like I said, video and sponsor brand is technically a new placement just because you have the ability to now upload that video. So, I would say looking at 2020 and looking at what we expect from Amazon, and driving home that brand, that's going to be a huge win for you if you're able to get those video assets uploaded and in, especially if your competitors aren't doing it.
Meghan: So, I would say upcoming, that would be one of the biggest updates, but you should be utilizing all of them especially if you're brand registered.
Tess: I would also just add on DSP as well. I know DSP was very new over the last year. It has been around for about two years now. I think this is going to be a continued area where brand sellers and vendors will continue to invest. If you do have that high price point item, a longer consideration period for your product, definitely worth investing and taking a look if there are going to be some benefits without retargeting pool. But I think this is just going to be a continued place where people will invest both on search and on programmatic DSP side, so that should be part of your 2020 planning.
Persephanie: Okay. Thanks guys. We'll go to the next question, this one states, "Can you give a little bit more information on the new request a review button on Seller Central?"
Liz: Yeah, it is not buyer-seller messaging, right? So, as Greg explained, it's in your order details page, and it sends a feedback request and a review request in the same message to a buyer. I don't think it's rolled out to everybody yet. The majority of sellers I've talked to, they've got it. It's there and available for them to use, and it will tell you whether or not it's okay to go ahead and send the request. It'll say, "Okay, you can't do that yet," or, "You already did that," or whatever.
Liz: One thing that I really like about it is that it sends its messages translated. The language is obviously proofed by Amazon because they wrote it, and it sends it to the recipient's chosen language. So, it automatically translates to the recipient's chosen language, and I think that's really groovy. That's really, really cool.
Liz: So, that's a whole different thing, it's a whole new thing, which I think is cool, and I think the reason Amazon's doing that is because they're trying out new stuff, and they're trying to figure out what yields the best results that's the least likely to be black hatted and corrupted, and I think it's going to be good. And I think we'll see increased functionality with reporting tools because of it.
Persephanie: Thanks Liz. Looks like the next question that we have here is, "What would be a good strategy for sponsor brand advertising? And then can you tell us a little bit more about the video and sponsor brands update?"
Meghan: Yeah, so I can take this one. A good strategy for sponsor brands I exactly what I mentioned for Alex. So, in his account right now he has branded and non-branded sponsor brands campaigns. And so, what you want to do is separate out those keywords that you're targeting so you know exactly what that performance looks like and if it's growing over time. And like Tess mentioned, now on sponsor brands you're able to see if you have new to brand customers, what percentage of your customers are new to brand, meaning they haven't purchased in over a year.
Meghan: And so, you want to see if you're able to increasingly tap into customers that haven't purchased from your brand before. Or maybe they were previously always purchasing from your competitor. So, that's a really good way to check in on those metrics and utilize that type of ad type. And also, I always recommend linking back to your storefront so you're able to show some of your other products in your catalog.
Meghan: And then going back to the video and sponsor brands, it is new. So, I always recommend using it, but a few more details on just things you need in order to run it, you need to be brand registered to even run sponsor brands, so that's the first one. Second one, you can also have a video anywhere from six to 45 seconds. So, I would say it's a good happy medium to be in between. You don't want it to be too long and lose the customer, but you also want it to be engaging enough that you're catching them right at the beginning of seeing the video.
Meghan: So, I would go ahead and try to upload. It's pretty good at telling you if it's not in the right format, so it may take a few tries. But you're able to access that if you have access to sponsor brands and just click through there. It is slowly rolling out to sellers and vendors right now. So, if you don't see it in your account yet, don't worry. It'll probably be out there soon, but always recommend, as soon as you get access to it, try to upload videos immediately.
Tess: Just to add on, it is on the CPC model, which is nice. So, you're able to set your budget, have it run. No steep IOs that you need to sign in advance to run it. So, definitely worth testing at this point.
Persephanie: Thanks ladies. And then it looks like the next question we have here is, "How do you recommend setting your ad budget for Amazon in 2020?"
Meghan: Oh boy. This is definitely brand focused I would say. So, it does depend on what you're willing to do in the next year. So, I always recommend absolute minimum should be what you spent in 2019. CPCs, so cost per clicks are increasing if you have a seller account, vendor account and you're looking at, let's say, year to date, and you click and see what your CPC was in January. Might be quite sad, but it's most likely increased pretty exponentially over time, which means your ad budget should be minimum what you spent in 2019.
Meghan: Especially if you're a new seller, but I would look at also, and Alex you can possibly touch on this, but seasonality for your product if you know your summer is the best time. You want to also start increasing that budget maybe a few months beforehand, so you can start going after those top searches, gain that sales velocity, gain that organic rank, and make sure that you're not waiting until July 4th to start advertising your surfboards. You need to start about two months before then. So, that would be my recommendation, but it's very much so specific to the brand and what your competition looks like.
Persephanie: Great, thanks. And then it looks like the next question we have here, this is around the time when you were talking about DSP, so I think this is what the audience was referring to. But, "How do I find who has bought my product and then target them?"
Meghan: Yeah, so in DSP specifically they have that data available. You won't be able to look at Joe from California bought my product 30 days ago, but you will be able to see what that audience size is, and go ahead and target them. So, what you'll do in DSP and sometimes you'll have an agency that will do this for you or your account executive from Amazon, but you're able to say, "I want to target anyone that has purchased my product maybe 90 to 120 days ago." So, let's say we're looking at bulk detergent because that's the easiest one I can give right now. So, if you want to order bulk detergent every three months, you want to make sure you're reminding those customers every three months to buy your detergent and nobody else's.
Meghan: So, like I mentioned, you can't officially say, "Joe from California bought my product, I want to target him, but you can target people from 90 to 120 days that have purchased and maybe haven't purchased since then." That's just an example you can have a lot of different filters and talk to either your agency, Tinuiti has access to this program through DSP, but also your account executive, what they would recommend for you. And then also just filtering out maybe product purchases recently so you're not targeting people who just purchased your product.
Persephanie: Right. Thanks Meg. This next question states, "Do you have any insight on these restricted from contacting buyers' emails sellers have been receiving recently?"
Liz: I do. So, we've been tracking the cause of the restrictions, because I don't know if you heard about it when it first started. It was a shorter time period, and then it was a longer time period, and now it's 30 days. And we've been privy to follow-up emails that sellers have been getting from Amazon, and their response is very across the board. Most of the time when we see someone get one of those restrictions it's because they've blatantly broke a rule.
Liz: So, they've put important on the subject line, they've done something more subjective like put an advanced statement in their email template, they've put a promo code in their email template. They've linked back to their Amazon storefront, one of the no-no's that's on the big list of no-no's in Seller Central. And most of the time they fix it when they're reinstated, or not reinstated, but when their restriction is lifted then they can continue as business as usual.
Liz: We do have people that get a little anxious and start sending the same old template, and then they get restricted again. I think it's an automated thing. And I'm grateful, I was just talking to an industry friend today, and I said, "At least they're not suspending people." I think that things are changing, and we know that. We know that Amazon has promised to update and clarify product review terms of service, and I think this is the stuff that was leading up to that. It's inconvenient, I know, especially during Q4, but it's not as bad as it could be. That sounds really terrible, but generally I think it's automated.
Liz: So, there's something crawling buyer-seller messaging, certain things are setting it off. As it learns, as the machine learning at Amazon does, it has more flags, it picks up on more things, more sellers get restricted. So, I strongly recommend examining every single one of your campaign rules, templates, I always recommend like Greg does, only send one email per order. I recommend being as neutral and benign in your email as humanly possible, and just hunker down and weather the storm. I think it's going to get a lot better really soon.
Persephanie: Thanks Liz. I think we probably have just time for one more question, so we'll try make this one quick. "How will programmatic advertising impact Amazon?"
Tess: It should definitely be part of your plan period moving forward. We really speak to search and programmatic being a full marketing advertising strategy. It's not that one works better than the other. Rather they work in tandem, so the idea is with the programmatic side you can capture, or we capture folks that know your pipeline, whether it's on and off Amazon. So, we know people on Amazon are more likely to convert at that moment with a search, but just know that there is possibility to reach folks that are in your market or currently searching for a similar product using programmatic.
Tess: So, really, ideas that you should be continuing to invest and making sure that you're showing up in the right places, and you continue to show up in the right places.
Persephanie: Thank you, Tess. And unfortunately, attendees, that is all the time we have. We have run out, but I did want to say a huge thank you to every single attendee, and also to our speakers for taking the time to join us. We know that your time is extremely valuable, but extremely thankful that you decided to spend it here with us. However, don't go anywhere, this is a two-day event, and we do have another panel coming up in the next hour, and we'll be focusing on the future of paid search.
Persephanie: And then tomorrow we'll be focusing on the future of email marketing, and then also paid social. And then we're having our clients from Omega, Etsy and then also The Vitamin Shoppe join us over our next few panels. So, if you're able to join, we'd love to see you there. Otherwise, thank you again, and everyone have a great rest of your day.
Originally published on January 3, 2020, updated June 1, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.