Originally published on November 7, 2018, updated September 2, 2020
Is your Q4 lacking a little bit of luster? Do you want to increase your sales for the rest of Q4? This is the webinar for you! Liz Adamson from egility™ and Liz Fickenscher chat about increasing sales and improving processes to make the most of the rest of Q4. You’ll learn:
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
As an Amazon seller, you probably look forward to Q4 all year long. After all, that busy holiday season is a great opportunity to test new products, attract new customers and, of course, make money!
Is your inventory moving well? Are you in stock? Are you paying attention to your Inventory Performance Index rating? Are you leveraging ads and promotions to increase sales? This webinar focuses on those questions and strategies you can use to make the most of this time of year.
This is the foundation of your success during Q4. “Inventory is probably the most important thing you can think about in the busy holiday months,” said Fickenscher. This time of year can come with additional challenges so it’s important to remain engaged and vigilant about the following:
How exactly do you go about selling more products on Amazon in Q4? One of the most important things you can do is integrate search engine optimization (SEO) on your listings. “If your page does not contain the right keywords for your product, Amazon’s not going to know that’s what your page is about,” Adamson explained. “You need to be aware of which keywords customers are using to search for your product so that it’s on your page.”
Reviewing all of your product pages to ensure they are optimized is recommended, but it’s especially important for those pages with low traffic and/or conversion rates.
The Lightning Deals page is the second-most trafficked on Amazon after the home page. There are a lot of deals on this page and the experience can be hit-and-miss for sellers. “It’s worth a test,” Adamson said. “But it’s not a guaranteed thing.”
Another promotion strategy is to offer coupons. Because they are so visible to potential customers, they can help set your product apart from the competition which is extremely helpful during the frenzied Q4 season.
Other popular promotions include Percentage Off, Buy One, Get One, and Social Media Promo Code. These are not as visible in search which could impact whether customers even see them.
This is an area of Amazon that can be confusing to sellers. Liz Adamson provided insight on some of the recent changes to Amazon advertising including:
Another option is to advertise on other sites in order to drive traffic to your Amazon business. Some ideas for this strategy include:
The key is to understand and know what works for your brand. “Consult with someone who has been around the block a few times in this type of advertising and knows how to tightly target your audience,” Adamson advised.
Liz F: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. This is Liz Fickenscher here with Liz Adamson. It's two Liz's going to talk to you about how to make the best of the rest of Q4. We're in the midst of Q4, things might not be going exactly to plan, so we've got some tips for you today on how to just crush it for the rest of the time.
Liz F: We have a couple of more people that are signing in. Hi, everybody. Let's get started. I'm Liz. I am the Industry Liaison for eComEngine. I'm going to tell you a little bit about eComEngine, and then, I'm going to introduce Liz. Then, I'm going to just let her take off from there. If you've got questions, please submit them in. Go to webinar question portal. We'll address those as we go. We'll have a Q&A at the end. This session is being recorded, so you'll get a recording of this in your email boxes no later than tomorrow morning. That's exciting. Let's go.
Liz F: eComEngine has been in the business of helping Amazon sellers automate segments of their workflow for, well, a really long time now. Our first tool, FeedbackFive was the first seller reputation software in the Amazon seller space. It helps you proactively seek feedback and product reviews from your buyers while keeping an eye on your seller reputation. RestockPro helps you run your supply chain end-to-end. You can see what you need to restock and when, and it's customizable for your unique business, because none of you, guys, are the same.
Liz F: eComSpy helps you make smart sourcing decisions and it's super easy to use. We're passionate about helping sellers succeed on the Amazon marketplace at eComEngine. I like to say, Amazon says to be customer-obsessed. Here, we're seller-obsessed. We publish a lot of content for you, guys, with actionable tips. We host webinars with smart people, like our friend, Liz Adamson. Liz, I'm going to give the controls over to you. Why don't you tell everybody a little bit about yourself?
Liz A: Sounds good. Let's see. I am Liz Adamson. I run a digital marketing agency called egility. We focus on helping Amazon sellers grow their sales. We do that through, of course, optimizing product pages and Amazon advertising campaigns, trying to drive more traffic to your pages and increasing your conversion rates. We typically use a four-step process that many sellers are familiar with, as you research how to sell and launch products on Amazon, with keyword research, optimizing your product copy for search, and, of course, we do all the design for infographics, EBC, Storefront, and so on. Then, our primary main service is Amazon Advertising. We're going to talk a little bit more about that today.
Liz A: Our agenda today, we'll talk a little bit about Q4 statistics from last year, what Amazon did, and what the opportunity is for sellers. Liz will talk about inventory management a bit, since that is the foundation of any selling on Amazon strategy. We'll go over product page content, different promotions you can run, Amazon advertising. We'll touch really quickly on off Amazon advertising.
Liz A: Q4 by the numbers. Last year, during the holiday season, customers ordered more than one billion items from small and mid-sized businesses on Amazon. 140 million of those were ordered between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. We've got that coming up in two weeks, and sellers need to be ready for that influx of traffic. Sellers on Amazon's marketplace, as you have may seen in the news, they've continued to grow as a total percentage of sales of Amazon's sales. Last year, in Q4, they were 51% of units were sold during Q4, up two points from 49% a year earlier. That continues to grow.
Liz A: We expect that third-party sellers will, again, see a very strong Q4 this year. Then, just total Amazon sales worldwide. North American sales in Q4 increased by 42%. International sales were up by 29%. Retailer forecasters are forecasting another great Q4 this year for both Amazon and other e-commerce channels. You may have even seen all the free shipping promotions have been launched by Walmart, Target, and Amazon just kind of hit back this last year, or sorry, this last week with their own free shipping promotion. If you haven't heard about that, non-prime members can now get free shipping during Q4 on any order. It doesn't have to be that $25 minimum. That is a kind of a big promotion for Amazon to kind of keep those customers coming this year.
Liz A: How do we make the most of Q4? As I mentioned, inventory management, which is the foundation of any sales strategy. Liz will go over that. Then, I will talk about the marketing piece of it, which includes optimizing your pages, which is basically search engine optimization for Amazon. We'll talk about promotions and advertising. I'll hand it back over to you, Liz, for inventory.
Liz F: Okie-dokie. Q4 is so busy. You guys have to juggle so much responsibility. You do have to, all year long, obviously, but Q4 is especially hairy. Inventory is, probably, the most important thing you can think about in the busy holiday months. Something that I've been seeing that I wanted to mention is that, while it's important to stay in stock and get your inventory into FBA warehouses in time to meet demand, you also have to keep in mind that storage fees are higher in Q4.
Liz F: That means you need to keep an eye on your sales velocity during this time to make sure you haven't restocked to SKU that isn't going to sell quickly. Liz is going to give you some tips on how to get those items to sell. That's good and that's important. I think that everybody could use some advice on how to increase sales.
Liz F: Also, long-term storage fees are now charged monthly, which, I know, is a big shock and kind of a bummer to a lot of people. In addition to the higher story fees, you're also getting billed monthly for the stock that's been on shelves longer. It's a lot to balance. To top it all off, Amazon recently introduced the Inventory Performance Index that I've been soapboxing about for the last several months, if you guys have been paying attention. Your score needs to be 350 or higher to keep your space in an FBA warehouse and avoid restrictions.
Liz F: About the IPI, we get a lot of questions about that. You have to understand that Amazon implemented this metric for a good reason. There's limited space in warehouses and stock that's taking up space on shelves and not selling, ultimately, hurt everyone. I think we have a question. What is the best way to write a thank you letter to the customer asking for a review within Amazon's Terms of Service, and also this. Mike, we will get to that in just a second. Let's hear from Liz on how to increase sales, so your IPI stays healthy, and so, that your sales rock and you have the best Q4 ever, and we will answer questions about messaging at the end. Does that sound good? That sounds good. All right. Liz, take it away.
Liz A: Yeah, sounds good to me. I'll just pile on an inventory piece. We've had lots of clients really just kind of be caught off guard by the long-term storage fees and IPI these last couple of months. We're seeing large fees coming through monthly. It really is critical that you're staying on top of inventory, and not wasting your money on those long-term storage fees. We're going to talk about how to do that, how to increase your sales. We'll start with search engine optimization, which means optimized page content.
Liz A: If your page does not contain the right keywords for your product, if you're selling Bluetooth headphones and nowhere on your page does it say, "Bluetooth headphones," Amazon is not going to know that's what your page is about. You need to be very aware of what keywords customers are using to search for your product so you can make sure that that is on your page. Another part of page content are your product images.
Liz A: With the rise of mobile shopping, we've seen just a big increase in the importance of imagery. If you can imagine someone sitting on a subway on their Amazon app on their phone looking for something, they're often just swiping kind of through those pictures or those images that Amazon serves them. It's the most visible part of the page on the mobile Amazon app. If you don't have strong images, it may not catch their interest. They may not stop and read your carefully-crafted bullet points or descriptions, which are a little bit more hidden in the Amazon app, mobile app.
Liz A: When we approach images, we look at it from the perspective of, "If I were just to look at these nine images, would I know what my product is about? Would I know what features and benefits it has?" We're using not only product photography, but we're using infographics where you are pointing out key features and key benefits of your products. Review your pages and see if you've got strong product imagery there.
Liz A: The same goes for enhanced brand content. That's also a little bit more visible on mobile than is on desktop. As mobile shoppers increase, enhanced brand content is becoming more and more important. Again, it's telling more of a visual story, so that customers can capture that information more quickly. They're not having to read through paragraphs of descriptions to understand the product. You keep it kind of lighter on copy, heavy on imagery and infographics, using comparison charts and other types of more visual representations of your product to communicate its features and benefits.
Liz A: I already touched on, if your page is optimized for keywords, you need to, again, just be very aware of how customers are searching for your product. You can use some third-party tools to do that kind of research on. You can put in a seed keyword like Bluetooth headphones, and it will come up with a number of related keywords, Bluetooth earbuds, wireless headphones, and help you brainstorm different ways to talk about your product and different ways customers may be searching for it.
Liz A: After you've got those keywords polled and you understand what those are, they do need to be in your title and bullets, but not at the expense of clarity. Customers still need to be able to understand what the product is. If you're keyword stuffing, everyone's seen those really long titles on Amazon. They just kind of ramble on and on, and really don't make any sense. It's obvious that they're keyword stuffing. That's not helpful for conversion rates. You want to get those primary keywords into title and bullets and make sure that their main purpose is to communicate to the customer. Make sure you're being very clear on what your product is and what it does.
Liz A: Since we're kind of in a crunched time, we're in the middle of Q4, Black Friday's coming up very quickly, if you've got a large product catalog, you may be wondering where to start. You can look at poll, go into business reports, and go to sales by ASIN, and look across your different products and find those products that may have low traffic that is, maybe, a little bit surprising to you that it's not getting that much traffic to your page, or look for those with high traffic rates but low conversion rates. If they're below 5, 6, even 10% conversion rate, there's probably something on your page you can do to better convince buyers to buy. Or, maybe, you're not being indexed for the right keywords, so you're not getting the right traffic to your page. Look for those kind of, I guess, problem children in your catalogue that just aren't seeing those good metrics.
Liz A: In addition to those business reports, the advertiser reports are actually even more telling on what's going on, because you can see exactly which keyword drove the customer to that page and whether or not they bought. If they're not buying for a keyword that's especially important to you, then, maybe, you need to go back to your page and figure out what may be turning them off or not convincing them to purchase your product, instead of somebody else's.
Liz A: After your product page is beautiful and gorgeous and ready for traffic, then, you'll want to consider some promotions. One of the big promotions that Amazon really pushes is Lightning Deals. This is an image of a Lightning Deal from their Deals page from a couple of weeks ago. You can see it's a limited time deal. This one was running for about six hours. It looks like that that little counter is showing you how many were claimed. There's a limited amount available. It's showing it's 30% off, and you can just quickly add to cart. Clicking on it will also take you to the product page to view more. That's what it looks like on the Deals page.
Liz A: Lightning Deals, you've missed the window for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That closed a little while ago. We'll talk a little bit more about deadlines for Lightning Deals for the rest of the quarter. As I mentioned, these are on Today's Deals page. This is Amazon's second most trafficked page after the Homepage. A lot of traffic comes here and browses. Now, there are a lot of deals on this page. I did have a client asked me if this is a sure thing, if they should start shipping an extra inventory just to run a Lightning Deal. In my experience, I have seen a little bit hit and miss. We've been surprised, actually, at some of the products that really don't blow through in a Lightning Deal, and we've been surprised with the products that do. It's worth a test. Just know that it's not a guaranteed thing. It's possible. You don't get to choose the time that it runs. If it's running at kind of more of an off-peak time, it may not be quite as successful.
Liz A: The other kind of limitation is you don't get to choose. You can't choose from your full catalog which products run Lightning Deals on. When you go to the advertising Lightning Deals page in Seller Central, Amazon will give you a list of recommendations. It's a little bit of a black box why they recommend the products that they do. We worked with a very small catalog with about six SKUs and there was a primary SKU, it did about 30, 40% of their total sales. That product was not recommended for Lightning Deal, even though it was their flagship product, it was the product that most of their customers were coming to look for. We'd wanted to promote it, but it wasn't offered. You will be limited to whatever product Amazon recommends.
Liz A: It does cost you some money. Typically, it's between $150, $500 per deal. For the upcoming Q4, they're calling it, Holiday Weeks, which is basically the week after, I didn't get exact dates, but it's the first three weeks of December, basically. For those three Holiday Weeks, they're charging $300 for a Lightning Deal.
Liz A: When you run a Lightning Deal, the minimum promotion is 20% off. You do need to have enough inventory to sell through that four to six hours. Again, Amazon kind of determines that will give you a minimum quantity, and so, you've got to give away this much. If you don't have that much in inventory, they won't let you run that Lightning Deal.
Liz A: Now, here's the dates I was talking about. If you do want to run Lightning Deals during December, these are the dates for when you need to get them submitted. They're calling them Holiday Weeks 1, 2, and 3. You can see the deadlines for those three weeks, November 25th, December 2nd, and 9th. If you get deals submitted before then, Amazon will get you slotted up to run a deal during those Holiday Weeks. When you're thinking about this and thinking about promotions, just know, especially, that customers, really, are looking for deals.
Liz A: You've probably already received. I've received, I don't know, how many mailers and emails from different companies, both brick and mortar and eCommerce, advertising this deal and that deal, and different holiday sales and promotions on Black Friday and after Black Friday. Know that other retailers are really big and strong on promotions, and running a promotion can help you, basically, play with the crowd and give customers what they've, unfortunately, become accustomed to, expecting during the holiday is a good deal on one product with the other.
Liz A: Other types of promotions are coupons. This is an example of a coupon here. I pulled this from the Amazon search engine results page. You can see it's very visible. You can see that I can save $3 off with this coupon when I buy this. This is an organic placement. If it were in sponsored products placement, you can kind of see the top of one of those ads right down here. It looks exactly the same in a sponsored product ads placement. This is one big benefit to running coupons, is they are very visible. They'll show up in your advertising, and customers will immediately see that there's a deal going on, so you can attract some clicks that way.
Liz A: You can run it for, either, a percent or a dollar off. Amazon is telling us that dollar off is more powerful than percent off, that they're getting a higher engagement rate with those. If you think about that, that makes sense. Everyone knows how much $1 is. When you start trying to calculate what the heck 15% off of $2,899 is in my head. It's a little bit more ambiguous. Test ball. See what works for you. Just know that dollar off is the data that we're seeing.
Liz A: It does cost, not quite as much as a Lightning Deal, but Amazon will charge you 60 cents per redemption. Amazon, when you set up a coupon, and you do this through in Seller Central, you go to Advertising, and then, from that drop down menu, there's a selection called, "Coupons." When you set that up, it will ask you for a total budget. Just to clarify what that total budget is, that is, in this example, this $3 off coupon, it's $3 for the coupon, then, 60 cents for that redemption. I need to be budgeting $3 and 60 cents per unit that I would like to sell. If I want to sell 100 units, that's multiply that out, and that would be your budget.
Liz A: You can also set date ranges. I kind of skipped through that. That's the nice thing about it, you can set a start and an end date, so you can just run it for a specific period of time. Promotions, which have been around for a very long time and have had several iterations on it. Most popular ones are the percentage off, buy one, get one. It can be popular for accessories and things. Then, the social media promo code is another one we like if you're giving out coupons externally.
Liz A: These are not quite as visible in Amazon search. Keep that in mind. It's not going to show up on the search engine results page like the coupons do. The customers will only see it when they land on their page. Amazon has been changing up even where they see it on the product page. Just be aware of that, that they're just not quite as visible. One big benefit to these types of promotions is you can create coupon codes to use in giveaways, to use in promotions off of Amazon. You can create percent off with tiered discounts. If you buy two, you get 10% off. If you buy three, you get 15% off, and so on. Then, there's the Buy One Get One option. There's a few more options with these types of promotions. Again, they're not quite as visible. We don't see quite as much success in them, but this is something you should add to your playbook.
Liz A: Let's talk about advertising. This is an example here of a search engine results page. If you're not familiar with the recent name change, this top placement here where it says, "Sponsored by X-Doria," these iPhone XS Max cases, this is what used to be called a Headline Search Ad. It's not called Sponsored Brands. That's mostly because Amazon has expanded the placement. Instead of just a headline search ad, you may notice, when you scroll down on these search engine results pages, there's a skyscraper ad on the left-hand sidebar. Then, there's an ad at the bottom of the page as well. Those ads don't get quite as much attention and traffic, so we try to optimize our ad campaigns to make sure we're getting top of the page placement. The result is there's ads all over Amazon here for this, and they change the name to Sponsor Brands.
Liz A: Then, Sponsored Products are these ads below. You can see that they come before organic search. If you're not using advertising, know that your competitors who are using advertising are getting the prime placement. When you've gone to the trouble of making your product page beautiful, setting up promotions and coupons, your next job, really, is to drive that traffic. No one's going to see anything unless you're driving traffic. If you don't already have a strong sales history and aren't ranking really well in organic search, you're not going to get any traffic.
Liz A: Advertising is used to get that traffic to your page, to get eyeballs on your products, to start getting clicks and sales, and as your sales increase, your organic placement will increase. You've got to be using advertising, if you're not already. You should be using automatic and manual campaigns. We're going to talk a little bit about how to get this optimized, especially, for holiday.
Liz A: Sponsored product ads, as you probably know, they have both automatic and manual campaign options. You should be using both. The automatic campaign is kind of what we call our research tool and kind of our cast a wide net tool. It picks up any crumbs that our manual campaign may have missed. It may not, and probably, will not be a huge revenue generator. It is important in just kind of sweeping up the crumbs and getting just extra sales here and there, and finding search terms you may not have input. Then, your manual campaigns are the ones that you will use to target very specific keywords and control the bidding on that level.
Liz A: You should be optimizing every week, not more than twice a week. There's not enough data if you're doing it more than twice a week. You need to let that data come in. You need to let the data tell you what to do. When I say, "the data," you need to be looking at your conversion rate. You'd be looking at click through rates. If you see keywords that aren't performing, that should be, you need to find out why. Is it your product page? Is it just the wrong keyword for that product? Customers just are looking for something else, and maybe, you shouldn't be bidding on that keyword? Look at your search term report every week, and based on the data that comes in, be optimizing for those clicks and conversions.
Liz A: Sponsored Brands, I already kind of gave an overview of that, formerly, Headline Search. One best kind of best practice that we do is we test different target audiences. We test different landing pages, including the storefront. A big thing that we do is we take the data from Sponsored Product ads to find those keywords to target. As you're pulling searching reports from Sponsored Products, you should be looking for kind of clusters of great keywords. Then, putting those into sponsored brands and testing those.
Liz A: When I say different target audiences and different clusters of keywords, where to use this example on the page, you can see this is targeting, obviously, customers with a new iPhone XS. Specifically, it's protective and military grade. It's targeting customers who really want a durable case. They're looking for something a little bit, perhaps, even more high-end, or really more durable than some of the plastic cases that are out there.
Liz A: If I were writing this ad, if this is what my product is and what I'm targeting, I would be using very specific keywords. I'm not going to be targeting hundreds of keywords like I do in Sponsored Products. I'm going to use a very specific subset. I'm going to target keywords like, "Protective iPhone XS case," and, "military grade cases," and all the different variations of that. That's all around the idea of very kind of hardcore protection for your iPhone. Batch that into those very tight segments and make sure, whatever keywords you're targeting, you're reflecting that in your copy, that you're explaining to the customer, you're kind of reiterating to the customer what it is you're trying to sell them.
Liz A: To back up this a little bit, we talked about testing the landing page, too. When a customer clicks on this, if they click on the individual items, they'll go to the product page. If they click on the main message, they'll go to a landing page. That landing page will include the three items you see here, plus, whatever other items you decide to include. Maybe, it comes in a few more colors than what we're seeing here, or you can take it to your Amazon storefront. You need to be careful driving traffic to your Amazon storefront. In our experience, it's a lower conversion rate. However, if you've got a large catalog that you're trying to cross sell many different products, it can be a good solution, as long as you optimize that storefront for conversion.
Liz A: Again, if you think of the customer experience, if they're clicking around on Amazon, they're very used to seeing a search engine results page just like this. They're used to being able to just kind of click through by, they're done. If your storefront makes it difficult for them to find the product, or to add it to their cart, they're probably going to back out and go somewhere else. It needs to be very seamless experience for the customer in landing on your storefront page, finding what they want, and then, adding it to their cart.
Liz A: The last set of ads, I don't have any examples to show you here. They're not used by a ton of sellers. It's mostly for larger brands with very large budgets, is the display advertising. Actually, let me back up a little bit on that. First, we'll talk about the product display ads. Those are the AMS mostly used by vendors. There is in beta right now that's been rolling out to sellers this week. You might want to check, if you go to advertising and campaign manager and create a campaign. See if you've got that option to create some product display ads. There's some new targeting rolling out for that. It's really exciting.
Liz A: These are ads that you may have all seen that advertisement is placed under the Buy Box. That's what those are. Like I said, it's currently an AMS only, but it's rolling out to beta for sellers right now. You may want to try that and target specific ASINs, or even target your own ASINs, if you want to cross-sell something.
Liz A: What I jumped in a little bit prematurely was the programmatic display ads. That's the one formerly known as AMG or Amazon Media Group before they change their name to Amazon Advertising. The platform was known as AAP. It's now known as DSP. That's the programmatic display advertising where you can, basically, place ads, not only on Amazon, on the homepage, skyscraper ads in other places, but you can also have ads show up on places like cnn.com and espn.com. There's about 40,000 different websites that Amazon pushes ads out to. This is for larger brands with larger budget, budgets between 15 and $35,000 a month in ad spend. Very high funnel. They're also good way to retarget customers who were on Amazon and then left. Then, you can show them your ad again. That's an option to get even more traffic from off Amazon back on to Amazon and looking at your products.
Liz F: Hey, Liz. Before we move off of Amazon, we did have a question from somebody who said, "From what I understand, the promotions are visible if you have the Buy Box. Then, anyone can have the code if the seller with the promotion has the buy box. Is that correct?" I don't understand that question, but you might.
Liz A: They're asking, if you have the Buy Box, if anyone with the code can enter that and get the discount. That's my understanding. I work primarily with brands where Buy Box hasn't been an issue, so I can't speak too tightly to where you're sharing the Buy Box with 10 other retailers. Yeah, they won't be able to use the code for any other seller. They can only use the code if they buy from you. You need the Buy Box to do that or they'd have to be able to find, go direct to your page and find you and use the code. I hope that answers that question.
Liz F: Super. Thanks.
Liz A: Got anything else?
Liz F: Not yet. Those of you out there in webinar land, please feel free to put your questions into the question box, and we will tackle them as we go.
Liz A: Awesome. Let's talk about off Amazon advertising. This is something that can be hit and miss depending on your brand and depending on who's running your campaigns. My firm doesn't do off Amazon advertising. We outsource that to other firms and agencies that do specialize in this. As you may know, each of these platforms are very, very different. Facebook is different from AdWords which is different from Amazon Sponsored Products. Finding an expert who knows how to fine tune and really target audiences you want is going to be very key.
Liz A: There's lots of options. There's Facebook ads. There's Google Ads. You can do giveaways, either from a giveaway site that you've paid to run sort of giveaway or promotion. That can bring a lot of traffic to your page, which can get sales jump started, which can help your organic search. Then, there's social media. Some brands will work very well with social media and get a nice social media following that turns into solid customer base.
Liz A: The key is just to know what works for your brand. Not all brands are going to be a good fit for social media. Not all brands are going to be a good fit for giveaways, or Facebook ads. You may want to test. You may just want to do some research on kind of what your industry does. Again, you'll want to consult with someone who has been around the block a few times in this type of advertising and knows how to tightly target your audience.
Liz A: One of the things I sometimes see when someone who's not familiar with these different app platforms tries to just launch an ad and get it going is those have to spend lots and lots of money with very little return. Because these platforms are very powerful, it's very easy to spend money, it's harder to optimize that and make sure it's fine-tuned for a good return.
Liz A: Storefront pages, you can use those for conversion tracking. They do have something called Insights. You can set up a tag that you kind of use as a tracker. It's not quite the same as the Pixel that Facebook ads uses and so on. You create, basically, a unique URL that you drive that external traffic to. Then, you can actually see what's converted into sales and clicks, and things like that. You can also use those promotions from that screen I showed you earlier. There's that social media promotion feature where you can offer 20% off. It gives you a custom URL that you can, then, use to track those things.
Liz A: That's it for the details there. Basically, just to review, watch your inventory, especially, watch your out of stocks and watch that excess inventory. Make sure that you've got a good foundation. If don't have inventory there to sell, that's not going to help. If you've got excess inventory going into Q1 and your IPI score is too low, you're going to get slammed with limited storage and you don't want that going into next year. Make sure your product pages are clean and shiny and optimized and ready for traffic. That's about to start hitting us. If you need more traffic, consider running promotions, Lightning Deals, coupons, and so on. You should definitely, definitely be running advertising.
Liz A: Kind of one more follow up on that advertising that I didn't really hit is you may have already seen emails from Amazon telling you to time to increase budgets and increase your bids, and you should be increasing everything by 200%. In our experience, all those emails from Amazon don't do much, except to spend your money faster. Yes, you may need to be increasing budgets, but only be doing that on campaigns that have a good return. Yes, you may be needing to increase bids to be more competitive as your other sellers are doing the same thing, but only be increasing those bids where you have a good return.
Liz A: Don't be increasing bids if you already have history showing that that keyword just does not convert for you. Be very smart about where you're spending that money. Look at your current data. Decide where to invest your advertising dollars when you're looking at increasing those budgets and bids for advertising. That's it for me. I'll turn it back over to you, Liz.
Liz F: That's awesome information. We do have a couple of questions. This page shows you some special offers that we're going to give you, guys, for attending today. The 30-day free trial to FeedbackFive, 30-day free trial to RestockPro, 150 free credits to eComSpy. I'll pop this Bitly links into the ... I accidentally just done FeedbackFive, incidentally, so that you don't have to memorize a Bitly, because who has time for that?
Liz F: Then, Liz is giving a three 30-minute consultation, which is something that you can't put a price on, because she's a smart lady and her time is very valuable. I'm going to leave this page up while we tackle a couple of questions. We've got one that says, "Sales have gone up, but mostly organic sales. Sponsored ad sales is way done and spend is way high. How do you balance this right now with everyone using sponsored ads?"
Liz A: That is a really good question. It's something that year over year, we see quite a bit of sponsored ads are becoming more and more competitive. More and more sellers are using them. More and more sellers are becoming more aggressive. More and more sellers are, probably, spending way too much money on it, and driving up bids unnecessarily. What do you do?
Liz A: You mentioned your sponsored ad sales are way down and spend is way high. It's a matter of that optimization of really going through that data and finding those keywords that are working for you, because in there somewhere, there's probably some keywords. Then, expanding out on that keyword. If you've got a keyword that says, maybe, "blue wireless Bluetooth headphones," in the color blue, is a high converting keyword for you, well, get more phrases around blue-colored Bluetooth headphones.
Liz A: Expand out on what does work. Make sure you're optimizing. Make sure you're adjusting bids. Make sure you're putting money where you are getting returns, and pulling back your spend on keywords that are not getting returns.
Liz A: Sometimes, I see brands, maybe, they do sell Bluetooth headphones and they're just not converting on that. Well, stop throwing money where it's not converting. Find more long-tail keywords, really look for those long-tail keywords that may convert better. Find different niches to approach. Try Headline Ads and see if having that message in that box helps create more customers. It's all about optimization, all about reviewing the data, all about a consistent or constant keyword research to continue to expand your target, and find those niches that will work for your particular product.
Liz F: Great. A follow-up question to that, he says that he has one manual and one auto-campaign per product. Would you recommend more to better target?
Liz A: One manual, one auto per product, that's about right. That's how we usually like to get very granular, so we can see what's happening on the product level. Some practitioners will tell you, yes, you need a high bid campaign and a low bid campaign, all those things. We don't go quite that granular. You can, if you want, but it keeps it a lot more streamlined and easier to optimize. I believe you still get the same benefits by keeping one auto and one manual per product. Then, you just have to make sure those campaigns are working together.
Liz A: Make sure you're combining the automatic campaign for keywords or for search terms that you can, then, move to the manual campaign. There's some other balancing you can do to make sure the auto campaign isn't taking the bulk of the sales or the bulk of the traffic. Then, you're sending most of the traffic to your manual campaign where you can better optimize it. Yeah, one auto and one manual per product is a good rule of thumb.
Liz F: Awesome. Should I increase the coupons for holidays? Should it be every single item or just the ones that have the highest conversion rate?
Liz A: Good question. It depends on what your goals are. As for increase, the coupons, I think, they're talking about the coupon count, based on that follow-up question, every single item or only the ones with highest conversion rate. This is where inventory management comes in. I would actually start there, look for products, look at your inventory age report, look for products that are, perhaps, in danger of being LTSF. I would definitely run some coupons on those to see if you can get those moving. Get them unstuck. You don't want to be slammed with long-term storage fees.
Liz A: On the flip side, if you've got a best-selling product that you want to see if you can increase performance even more, you can run some coupons for that and see if you can just capture even more sales on your bestsellers by offering a bit of a discount this holiday season. As for the entire catalog, you could do that and see how things play out. If you do do that, I would suggest make sure you're tracking your data. Do some follow-up and find out what products performed and what didn't.
Liz A: Use that learning to plan out the rest of your year. If you find that, "Yeah, my highest grossing products to the best in coupons," then, keep that in mind for next year. If running coupons help to jumpstart your slow movers, make a note of that, so you have that kind of tool in your toolbox to help with your long-term storage fees. Just really take stock of kind of what your goals are, what products you really need to or want to move or want to see sales increases on.
Liz F: Great. Then, a follow-up question from that asker was, what is a good advertising cost of sale? They say there this is about 50%.
Liz A: I would say that's a little bit on the high end, but I would also say to that first question, what is a good ad cost, the real answer is, it depends. It depends on, again, your goals. I get asked this question all the time, especially when new clients are onboarding. It depends on your goals. If your goal is to get top of the page placement to be seen everywhere on Amazon, it's really just brand awareness. Top of the funnel, you want customers to be introduced to your brand, knowing that they might not make a purchase right away.
Liz A: A kind of a common saying in marketing is they have to see your brand between seven to eight times before they'll actually remember the name. That's what top of funnel marketing is. It's a brand awareness. If that's your goal, a 50% a-cost could be great. Everyone's seeing your product. They're not buying, but they're seeing it. If your more immediate goal is profitability, whether it's short-term or long-term profitability, whether it's small profit, large profit, then, you probably want to lower that a-cost. I don't know what your cost of goods are, but I'm guessing, at the very least, you're breakeven and you may be losing a little bit of money at 50% a-cost. You need to find out, you need to calculate what your breakeven a-cost is.
Liz A: That means you add up your cost of goods, you add up your shipping costs, you add in your Amazon fees. Then, that leaves you with your gross margin. Your gross margin percent is equal to your breakeven a-cost. If you've got a gross margin percent of 40% and you have and a-cost of 40%, that means you're breaking even. You're not making any money, but you're not losing any money on ads. If you can get the a-cost down below 40%, then, you'll be making some money.
Liz A: You just need to review what your goals are. Is it brand awareness at whatever cost, or is it profitability? You want to be spending your money a little bit more conservatively and making sure you're getting a return on it. If that's the case, then, you're going to want to look at a lower a-cost. Generally speaking, we see products be very successful between 20 and 30% a-cost. That depends on the category. It depends on your product price. It depends on a number of other factors. Most of our accounts are running between the 20 and 30% a-cost.
Liz F: Awesome. We have another person who's asked, "If I want to promote my full catalog at 30% for Black Friday and Cyber Monday week, what is the best way to expose this advertisement?"
Liz A: The best way to make that as visible as possible to customers will be coupons. It's a little bit of a manual process to set those up. I don't believe last time we checked, anyway, there wasn't any bulk way to do this. I could be wrong. We usually set them up one off anyway. You want to do coupons, though. That's the one with that little orange flag that shows up. It shows up on the product page. It shows up in advertisements. It shows up in organic search results. Everyone will be able to see that.
Liz A: Lightning Deals is something else you could look at. Again, those are a little bit pricey. There's a potential that they get buried with the other hundreds and thousands of Lightning Deals that are on that page. Lightning Deals do, I should say, however, let me back up on that, Lightning Deals, there will be a message in organic search, whatever. If you're running a Lightning Deal, when your product shows up in organic search results, there'll be a little note saying that there's a Lightning Deal running. That will be visible in search, but they are more expensive. For that reason, for your whole catalog, I would look at coupons. They're much more affordable and they'll be very visible.
Liz F: Awesome. Someone had a question about, I guess, Facebook promotions. The question is tight, "Where are the storefront pages? Not sure where they are located on Facebook or what?" I guess the question is, can you actually put some Storefront pages that go to Amazon on Facebook or what.
Liz A: Not sure.
Liz F: What does that mean?
Liz A: I'm reading the question myself. Where are Storefront pages? I think I know what they're asking. Let me see. I'm going to try and pull up an example, and then, bring it over here. Storefront is basically a mini-website on Amazon. I'm just going to pull up. I'm trying to think what brand would have a storefront. I'm going to pull up a popular brand, and I'll bring it over in just a minute. It is a mini-website on Amazon. Here, we go.
Liz A: Let me show you how I got here. I was on just a Bose product page. I clicked on their brand name. That brought me to their storefront. You can see, from here, I can swap headphones, portable speakers, multi-room speakers. It's got a good browsing structure. It's got probably some top-selling products here that I can browse through and see what's going on in the Carousel with some products. This is Storefront.
Liz A: The only way customers find it is what I just showed you. They have to click on the brand name. Not a lot of customers do it. There's not a whole lot of value organically with storefront, but it makes for a very good landing page if traffic's coming from off of Amazon. If you're running ads on Facebook, you could run them, either to your product page, or you can run into this storefront page, where they can browse kind of a wider selection of products. This is the one that I was talking about. It doesn't need to be highly optimized for conversion. You can make sure it's very easy for customers to find what they're looking for and be able to add it to their cart.
Liz A: That's one reason why we like these carousels down here, because I can easily just click "Add to cart," and I'm done for these different products. This is also where Amazon will give you some tracking. You can put these tags and create a custom URL, so you can actually see on your back end the traffic that's coming in from Facebook, and whether or not they purchased anything. That's Amazon Storefront.
Liz F: Great. That's super helpful. Thank you. Let's see. Someone had a question about, what if something was and then, they found it. Good job on that.
Liz A: Great.
Liz F: Someone said that promotions on Amazon, I specifically heard it about percentage off. I guess this person is saying that they heard that percentage off would perform better than dollars off, but you heard that dollars off would perform better.
Liz A: Amazon's language is really, it's interesting. The term, "promotions," on Amazon refers to a very specific subset. They used to do dollars off and percent off. It only does percentage off right now. You can't do dollar off anymore under promotions. Coupons, however, you can choose either dollar off or percent off. That's where we're seeing the dollar off performing quite well. Again, I would recommend testing both and see how they perform. I hope that clarifies a little bit here. Specifically, the promotions feature is percentage off only. Coupons, you've got a choice between either.
Liz F: Awesome. Thanks for that clarification. Then, we had a question that's kind of not, let's flip to the last slide if we can. We'll just tackle this last question. Our friend, Mike, asked, "What is the best way to write a thank you letter to the customer asking for a review within Amazon's Terms of Service? Also, the second, third follow-up emails asking for review?" We did a webinar recently that covers a lot of the Terms of Service that Amazon has.
Liz F: The basic no-no's in asking for review is you can't ask for a positive review. You can't try to influence the reviewer in any way, and you can't only ask people who've had a good experience. You can't ask your friends. You can't ask your family. You can only ask for an honest review. I don't think you should send a second or a third follow-up. I think you should just ask once the right way. That's my opinion on things. Liz, do you want to weigh on that?
Liz A: I would agree with that. You have to keep in mind that customers are already getting emails from Amazon, anyway, and you don't want to be bombarding their inbox. They're getting an order confirmation email and they're getting a shipment notification email. They've got two emails from Amazon already. Add to that whatever your emails you're sending, you don't want email fatigue, you're going to increase the chance that people are going to start opting out. One email follow up is good.
Liz A: The exception that I have seen works well is if it's a very technical product that requires, maybe, a little bit of extra support, or instructions, or things like that. We've often sent the first email the day of delivery that says, "Hey, here's some instructions on using your product. Please, contact us for help and let us support you, and whatnot." Then, maybe, we'll send the email a week later after they've kind of worked through those instructions and better understand how to use it, then, we'll send a second email, saying, "We hope your experience has been good. Please, leave us a message," or sorry, "Please, leave us a review." That's one exception where I'll send two emails, but, for the most part, we stick with that one.
Liz F: Awesome. That's great. Not only do we have the same name, we agree about stuff. It's awesome. All right. Super. Well, I think that is the end. Wait. Somebody asked another question. What about an email to refunded customers? If you're emailing them to talk about the refund, then, I wouldn't ask for a review.
Liz A: It could be a good way to get feedback. If someone did return their order, you could send an email. You don't have to include the review link. You can just say, "Can you reply to this email and let us know what your experience was?" The intent of that is so that you can get that feedback on how to improve your product.
Liz F: This is interesting. What is the need to show your products as sold by Amazon, instead of your company or store name?
Liz A: Say that one more time.
Liz F: What is needed to show your products as sold by Amazon.
Liz A: Sold by Amazon? That you would have been an Amazon vendor. With the shuttering of Vendor Express, it's no longer self-service. It's invite only. Amazon has to contact you and ask you to be one of their vendors. I could give a whole other webinar on the pros and cons of Seller Central versus Vendor Central. We'll save that for another time. The bottom line is there's actually no longer a very clear set of benefits that puts Vendor Central being sold by Amazon. It doesn't give you as many more benefits than being a seller. Amazon has actually leveled the playing field quite a bit in the last year on what's offered to vendors and sellers.
Liz F: Awesome. Well, we're going to give you guys about 10 minutes of your life back. This, again, has been recorded. We will email the recording to you, along with the special offer links. Liz, thank you so much for joining us today. As always, it's such a pleasure.
Liz A: Thanks, guys. It was a pleasure being here.
Liz F: All right. Happy Q4, everybody.
Originally published on November 7, 2018, updated September 2, 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.