Anyone selling on Amazon has done some type of competitor research, either to know if there’s enough demand for products they are planning on selling, if the market is saturated, or even if the other sellers have too much social proof to compete against.
The most common way I see sellers do competitive research is by using a Chrome extension from one of the existing Amazon seller tools to see how many units another seller sold in the last 30 days, and how many reviews that seller has.
Although that's a good way to begin competitive analysis, it’s not enough research to be able to say for certain that you can or can’t compete.
You need to know their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and know that some of the most valuable insights about your competitors are not being shown to you on Amazon.
Many questions come to mind when I think outside the Amazon FBA box:
- Are they the top seller on Amazon because they’re getting lots of external traffic?
- Has Oprah mentioned them or have they been on Shark Tank?
- Could they have a huge external email list?
- Are they running Facebook or Google Ads?
- Very strong social media following?
- Perhaps featured on deal sites?
- Maybe all of the above.
So, how do we find out what they’re doing?
Go visit their website, their Facebook page, Instagram account, LinkedIn, and perform Google searches for their brand name and product names.
I'm 100% certain that if they have a celebrity influencer supporting them, it will be plastered all over social media.
And by doing searches for their product name, you can find out if they’re doing giveaways or special deals on rebate sites like Rebaid, eBates, or BeFrugal ...
Another important thing to check is if they are running external advertising on Google, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
With tools like SEMrush Display Advertising, you can see what Google ads they are running and even what websites are displaying these ads.
To check ad campaigns they’re running on Facebook you can visit the Facebook ad library and type in your competitor's name.
When you get to the next page, make sure to pick all countries, or, by default, only one will be shown.
Here's a list of things I would do to get the most complete competitive intelligence.
- Start on Amazon and research their seller account.
Look at product listings, pricing strategies, Amazon sales, customer reviews, and keyword ranking (take notes). Don't forget to record each competitor's keywords, PPC campaigns, and when they launched (month and year).
- Buy their product on Amazon.
This way you can see how it was sent to the Amazon fulfillment center, check for product inserts, and test customer service, product quality, and the email sequence. (Do not leave a bad review, as it can get your account in trouble.)
- Test their external email marketing.
Visit their website, create an account, and add a product to cart, without checking out. They will either retarget you or email you, so keep an eye on your inbox and look for their ads.
- Measure website stats.
How are the sellers ranking on search engines? What are the keyword gaps between a few competitors? How many monthly visitors? Check who owns the domain.
- What you don't discover, ask about.
You never know, and it doesn't hurt to try. I have asked many competitors’ customer support where they manufacture products, who built their Shopify store, how many people on their email list, and even how much they spend daily in Amazon sponsored ads.
The top reasons for doing competitor research are because you are planning on launching a similar product, or because you’ve already launched and are looking for ways to grow.
If you’re doing research on Amazon pre-launch, it’s very important that you look at the history and seasonality of the product, to make sure you are not capturing the top volume only, like measuring sales of chocolate bunnies three days before Easter, or toilet paper during COVID. To see the bigger picture, always see a full year of sales, or even two years if possible.
Don't just look at one particular seller; the whole subcategory needs to be measured in order to know the full scale of the demand, and, more importantly, who is taking away "prime real estate" on the first page for each keyword.
Just because some products are not exactly like the one you’re planning on launching, it doesn't mean they’re not competitors. When selling on Amazon, every product that is ranked on page 1 for a keyword that you want to rank for is technically a competitor for that keyword.
Decide the relevancy of the keywords by downloading the top keywords your competitors rank for and comparing 5 to 10 competitors’ keyword rankings. Then see what percentage of competitors rank for the exact same terms. The closer to 100%, the more relevant that keyword is.
Now that you’ve selected the keywords by relevance, you can use them to find any other sellers you missed in the original search, and also save these terms for when you launch your Amazon PPC campaigns.
Is your competitor making a profit?
Often during competitor and product research, we forget that not everything is perfect, and they could potentially just be breaking even or even losing money to try to get rid of inventory.
Third-party tools allow us to see how much they pay for Amazon referral fees and pick and pack if they are doing fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Then, a quick look at Alibaba will allow you to estimate the product cost and even the cost to ship your products to the FBA warehouse.
One last thing to take into consideration is the fact that some brands are vendors, and Amazon handles the selling of the product. In this case, there are no pick and pack fees, so it will look like it's impossible to compete, and sometimes it is!
So, competitor sales volumes don't mean anything if it's not possible to profit. Everything in life doesn't revolve around profit... but business does!
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