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July 28, 2020

Amazon Experts’ Round-up: Burning Questions and Hot Tips

Being an entrepreneur means always learning by asking the right questions. To help you on this path, we’re launching the ask-an-expert series.

We’ll kick off this first issue by covering some broad topics, but if you have a burning question about running your Amazon business, feel free to ask us in the comments or through social media.

Today’s questions are:

- What is the most important skill for an entrepreneur?

Prioritization. Initially, your priorities appear clear as you mainly just need to focus on sales and growth. But with time, more and more fires will pop up in your business and you can’t extinguish them all at once.

Many of them have the potential to kill your business, both now and down the road. You need to prioritize dealing with the fires that can potentially sink your business in the near future – and then continue to evaluate what the next biggest risks are.

Over time, delegation will become just as important. Smaller fires can be delegated down the road as you hire employees, allowing you to focus on the most important ones.

The ability to adapt to change and be coachable (or to hire someone who is)
Everything changes so quickly, that if you don’t adapt, you will be left behind.

It is not enough to sit and wait, or to hope things will be the same someday, you need to constantly learn, and surround yourself with brilliant minds that also want to grow and be on the frontline of change.

Perseverance. “It's not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up”

Having a solid strategy in place and then adamantly bringing the right people on board to help you execute the strategy. In short, you must always work to "Only do what only you can do." - Andy Stanley

- Three key metrics to always keep in mind as a seller

  1. Organic rank (I keep a close eye daily) - I considered saying that ACOS or ROAS were in the top 3, but the reality is that the main reason to run ads on Amazon is to help increase organic ranking with ad conversions, and the organic ranking is the beauty of the game.
  2. Conversion rate and impressions - Knowing what is working and why. By knowing these two metrics in A/B tests I can leverage what is working, and remove the guessing or assumptions caused by our own personal biases.
  3. Net Profit - In life, not everything is about making profit, but in business it is. Even if the main idea is to help solve a need, help cure a disease, or save the planet... Like it or not, if a business is not profitable it will not last.
  1. Profitability - keep in mind Amazon has a lot of fees associated with selling. While in the short term it may be ok to run at a loss for the benefit of improved ranking and exposure, you should understand all the costs associated with selling and at what point you are profitable.
  2. Unit Session Percentage - This is the conversion rate on your listing. We use this to measure the effectiveness of our copy on a landing page. A tool like Sellerly is great because it gives us the opportunity to split test and actually test out hypotheses with data.
  3. Advertising Cost of Sales - This is associated with ad spend, which is a ratio of spend to sales. We use this as an efficiency metric to see how efficiently our advertising campaigns are performing.

1. Returns:

Product returns eat up your margin, and if there is a high rate of returns, your listing may even be shut. So, keep monitoring your return rate and monitor all messages from your customers to learn about issues.

With each refund, you will lose Amazon FBA fees and 20% of the Amazon referral fee as seen in the screenshot below. So, this does have an impact on your margin if there is a higher return rate.

2. Total ACoS:

Advertising plays a key role in increasing the sales of your product, especially when your product is competitive. Amazon Advertising Cost of Sales is the ratio between total ads spent against total ad sales and, usually, this metric is used to find out if your ads sales are profitable.

ACoS = (Total Ad Spend ÷ Total Ad Sales) *100

E.g.

For any sales of £100.00 with £10.00 spend, ACoS is 10%.

And if your profit margin before ads sales is £50.00, you’d take away £40.00.

However, due to the overall impact of generating total sales, it’s recommended to consider total sales generated for the product against the total spend.

For sales of £200.00 with £10.00 spend on ads, your Total ACoS is 5%.

E.g.

TACoS = (Total Ad Spend ÷ Total Sales) *100

So, looking at this view of the cost would encourage you to invest more in ads and generate additional growth.

3. Order Defect Rate:


An order defect rate occurs when you get an A-Z guarantee claim, negative feedback, or a chargeback claim. Amazon has set a less than 1% defect rate, otherwise you may receive a warning notice or suspension.

To resolve this issue, it is best to speak with the customer directly because if the customer withdraws their claim or a claim is denied, this won’t impact your order defect rate. Also, get an early sign from any complaints you get from a customer. Sometimes a refund can help to avoid any defect claims.  

- What is the most persistent worry for an Amazon seller?

Without a doubt, the biggest persistent worry is that your account will be suspended. There are stories all over the internet that make it seem like it could happen without warning and cause.

I have been coaching, consulting, and selling on Amazon for about 10 years now. It is VERY rare for someone to get suspended out of the blue, with no cause. When this does happen, it is usually fairly easy to get back on.

Listings and ASINs get suspended when Amazon feels that customers are having a consistently negative experience.

The best prevention for suspensions is to watch your account's health. This includes issues like Order Defect Rate and Late Shipment Rate, which are the most important to Amazon, but also ASINs with more than 3% return rate, Used-Sold-As-New, and counterfeit claims.

If you are a high-volume seller and you get suspended, my recommendation is to reach out to a specialist right away. They are expensive, but worth considering; keep in mind you only get so many appeals and Amazon expects your POA to have specific information in it.

Getting suspended. Whether it's your listings or your account as a whole, proactively staying in line with Amazon policy is critical. If suspended, I highly recommend contacting a suspension expert or specialist as your first appeal has the highest chance of success and if not done properly can do more harm than good.

SUSPENSIONS … by far. The #1 stressor for Amazon Sellers, large and small, is the dreaded account or listing suspension. Do not stress! Be prepared and address them the same way you address all business challenges.

- What is the most unexpected challenge a seller faces?

Amazon seems pretty straightforward on the front end. However, I think the biggest frustration and stopping point for many people is how unbelievably quirky the Amazon platform can be.

Once you learn how to maneuver the quirkiness of the platform it does become predictable and straightforward. However, there are a lot of things that seem to defy logic as you get started.

It can be things like how can my doll with blonde hair be fine to send in to Amazon, but the doll with brown hair is Hazmat? How could I be suspended for counterfeit when I only sell my own brand?

It takes time to learn the platform. Having access to people that can answer your questions is important. You can have an agency contact, or join one of the several Facebook groups that have highly qualified sellers who can help you learn how to navigate dealing with Amazon.

- What is the most important part of the listing you need to keep an eye on?

Buy Box ownership is very important. If you are not winning the Buy Box, you are not going to get sales. It's important to have a good MAP policy in place and limit the number of wholesalers you allow on a listing. Another approach is to have products exclusive to Amazon so you can limit the number of potential third-party resellers.

Your product photos and listing copy are what converts browsers into buyers. Developing high-quality product images that call out important features can maximize your conversions. Creating keyword-focused sales copy is what can help you index the best within the search algorithm. Over time, you will want to split test to see what gets you the best results.

However, the most important thing is to make sure that once you find the right combination, it is consistently on your listing page. Third-party sellers can end up on your listings if you sell to distributors, and even Amazon can end up selling if they get some of your inventory. The platform can allow these other sellers to change your content to whatever they please, which may end up hurting your sales if you are not constantly monitoring listing changes.

- Have you ever lost a listing, and if so, what happened?

We have been working with a supplement company for the last few years and we had a competitor who listed their product in our listing; in other words, they hijacked our listing. We then purchased the product and sent product photos to Amazon via Brand Registry case.  Amazon then suspended their listing.

Nothing is worse than having your pristine listing disappear into the Amazon vapors. Most experienced, high-volume sellers have lost a listing. There are several reasons why this can happen:

Your Listing Was Deleted:

Especially if the listing was created by another seller. If there are no sellers with inventory on a listing, and then the original listing creator deletes their listing, the entire product detail page can disappear.

The Content Was Overwritten:

This can happen if another seller on the listing has overwritten the content. When this happens, the ASIN will still be available, but the content is missing. Sometimes this is done maliciously. Sometimes it is because a seller is using a service that sends a feed to Amazon, like Channel Advisor.

If the listing change was done on Vendor Central, it will take extra work to get it repaired as the ASIN will now have retail contributions (link to podcast).

If you are a 3P seller and your brand is part of the Brand Registry program, it will be very difficult to make changes to the listing. It is rare for Seller Support to override those changes unless it is very clear that the current product description will lead to a negative customer experience. Even in that case, it might take multiple tickets and escalations to have the changes made.

Having Brand Registry will help to keep these kinds of listing issues from happening, but only if your brand names on Amazon are completely uniform. Even then, when everything is set up correctly, sometimes a listing change will sneak through.

Your Listing Was Hijacked:

This has become an increasingly big problem over the last few years. Unscrupulous sellers will look for a listing that they think has been abandoned and change all of the content to their product so that they can “steal” your reviews.

The real question that remains is - How do I fix it?

If your listing was completely deleted, it is gone forever. The reviews, the content, it's all gone. However, before you panic, do a search in the Add a Product section in Seller Central. Sometimes if a product has no inventory it won’t show up when searched on Amazon.com.

If the listing was overwritten or hijacked, you simply have to change it all back. Brand Registry will make this a simpler process. We recommend that all serious brands and sellers keep an updated flat file of their listings. This is a CSV file that has all of the details of your listing. Pulling the Category Listing Report will help you get some of the data off Amazon without having to manually scrape this data.

If you don’t have Brand Registry, be mentally prepared to file multiple tickets with Seller Support. While you can make changes through the interface on Seller Central, often those changes just don’t stick. So, you would need to follow up with a Seller Support Ticket.

Using a flat file has two main benefits: first, our listing changes “stick” on the first time more often. Second, when your listing changes don’t stick, it is easier to get Seller Support to assist you with any changes that didn’t “stick.”

Sometimes, escalation to the catalog team is necessary to have your changes made. Be prepared with evidence that the changes you are making match the product exactly.

- Have you ever dealt with listing hijacking, and if so, how did you deal with it?

We address listing hijackings every week. First, you need to ID who is hijacking the listing: another 3P Seller, an Amazon Vendor or Amazon Retail. When it is another 3P Seller, obtaining Brand Registry solves the issue and BR can be obtained via Amazon's IP Accelerator program … if you develop a brand. Amazon Vendors and Amazon Retail are different beasts. When either of them hijack, you need to develop something around the sale of the product that makes it impossible for either to develop the same consumer experience or benefit(s) the consumer receives when they buy from you.

Yes. First we send out a Cease and Desist letter through Amazon to try and get the seller to remove the product from their catalog. If that is unsuccessful, we then check the quantity of inventory available. If the person only has a few products, we will either 1) wait until they sell through it, or 2) buy it back ourselves. If we suspect the product is counterfeit, we will buy the product to ensure it is not a counterfeit. If it is a counterfeit, we will go through the A-to-Z process to get that seller removed. Keep in mind that Amazon is a marketplace, and if the product is purchased legitimately, then the seller has every right to resell the product. It's important you are careful in how you liquidate and wholesale inventory.

- What’s your view on Google SEO for Amazon products, and do you do anything for it?

The great thing is that your listings will get indexed pretty easily on Google for your brand and product names. The bad thing is that  with Amazon taking those top spots, it becomes harder to get your website’s SEO to index at the top of page 1.

We’ve used SEO techniques like guest blogging on niche content sites to drive traffic to Amazon. But it is not a primary focus for our strategies. SEO, I think, is a better practice for your website than Amazon.

What we would really recommend to any Amazon seller looking to build more of a brand over time would be to ask the content sites to link directly to both your product and your website – and possibly incentivize through an affiliate program – to give your website and Amazon listings a little help at the same time.

I often build backlinks to my Amazon listings to help with getting a higher rank in Google searches, although never using a SuperURL, just in case a lack of conversion for that keyword from cold traffic makes it irrelevant.
Then we combine it with outreach of Amazon affiliate bloggers, to make it more engaging.

Amazon, just like any other website, loves external traffic, and links back to their platform, and since they have high authority, it becomes a lot easier to rank than with our own websites.

- What are your go-to practices for optimizing listings, and do you spend much time on it?

I have two strategies:

  • Part one, during the launch, I do not optimize for the biggest keywords as they will be harder to get; I optimize for longtail and less competitive keywords that are a lower-hanging fruit.
  • Part two, as we start to gain some organic rank and reviews, I slowly start optimizing for the bigger keywords. It’s important to know that when we go after a keyword organically, the product needs to be relevant to that keyword and we go all in with PPC at the same time.

For a new catalog, we optimize the listing based on sales velocity. Our goal is to analyze Advertising data, Google Analytics data and marketplace data to get an idea of how users search for your products. The goal is to integrate natural language into your listing while only focusing on a few high-value (very relevant) keywords. Bullets should help to sell the product focusing on features and benefits, and your description or A+ content should provide technical data to seal the deal. Generally, we work through 10 parent products a month and use an internal copywriter to make sure the romance language is in place to assist in sales.

- Do you drive external traffic to your listings? What channels do you think work best?

Facebook Messenger marketing is proving to be very successful recently. It will only work of course, if your offering is genuine of good value to the customer.

In this process, instead of running FB ads directly to your product, you could engage with the customers via FB message marketing and create a subscriber list. Once you have a list to contact, you could create a sequence of product launch messages with deals that otherwise is not available directly on Amazon. The deals are generally redeemed via voucher codes so you can track actual sales.

The basic steps will look like this:

- When do you know you’ve chosen the right niche?

Generally, as an agency, we are working with brands that are already selling in a particular niche. When we recommend expansion on a catalog, we are looking at complementary products, products that are bought together and Amazon recommended products that are bought together. A lot of this data is available for Brand Registered brands and is the most efficient way to expand your catalog or go after different niches.

When a brand-new product gets checked in to FBA while you are sleeping, and you wake up to 6 sales without PPC or external traffic (true story).

Another one is if you happen to love the niche and, coincidentally, it has very low competition and good demand. In either case, it is important to know if the niche is seasonal, temporary, a fade or inflated due to external influence (Pandemic, elections, hurricane, TV show, Celebrity influence, etc.).
If it passes all the tests, I know I chose the right one.

Do something you're passionate about. If you're only in it for the money, you'll always remain short-sighted and people will always come second to profits. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is our relationships with those around us. Focus on doing something you love and you'll never regret the way you've spent your life.

Stay tuned...

Big thanks to all our panelists!

Mike Begg - @AMZAdvisers

Quin Amorim - @Quin_Amorim

CJ Rosenbaum - @MerchProtection

Shannon Roddy - @SellerCourses

Will Haire - @BellaVixMarketing

Prabhat Shah - @daytodayebay

Robyn Johnson - @AMZRobynJohnson

Leave your questions, and stay tuned for the next installments.

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