If you start a brick and mortar store, you need some business savvy. You need to find a location, cut through government red tape, take out loans or find investors, line up suppliers, hire employees, figure out a sales strategy, and more.
To start an Amazon business, you need little more than your head and your hands, plus a ridiculously small amount of cash.
The barrier to entry is incredibly low when it comes to Amazon. That means that people who know absolutely nothing about the fundamentals of marketing can jump right in. But even if you are familiar with marketing basics, you need to know how to apply them to Amazon, which is a different beast.
Niche Marketing, Amazon Style
When you’re starting any new business, it’s important to consider your niche, and also to have some sort of personal interest or in your chosen niche. (For example, don’t sell skateboarding equipment if you don’t have general knowledge and interest in skateboarding.)
On Amazon, finding a niche that will work is even more critical… but also more difficult.
You’ll need to assess the market conditions for that niche, specifically on Amazon. Are consumers mostly looking for brand-name items in that category (e.g., women’s purses)? Are the products you would be selling very heavy or bulky, which can be a logistical nightmare to fulfill yourself or costly for Amazon to store and ship? Are they overly seasonal or trendy? And most importantly, is Amazon Marketplace already saturated with similar items?
So just for example, let’s say you decide that you want to sell hairbrushes and hair styling accessories. A privately labeled hairbrush will have a TON of competition on Amazon, and most other sellers will be focusing on name brand hair brushes. You’ll have a hard time getting any traction this way.
But let’s say you’re a poodle lover. You might have heard other owners complain about matted pet fur. Selling a “dematting tool” might be the perfect niche for you, and you can eventually branch out to other poodle paraphernalia.
You’ll find the same in any niche on Amazon. The more you can differentiate yourself from the lookalike competition, the better.
The Price: Is It Right?
It’s always important to price your products appropriately. But on Amazon, it can get especially tricky.
Of course, you’ll want to price your stock competitively. You can also use Amazon’s tools, such as their Match Low Price feature. At the same time, while it can seem like you have plenty of room to lower your prices and still walk away with a profit, many sellers forget to take shipping costs and fees into account.
You’ll need to factor in…
- Your selling plan. You can get an Individual plan for only $0.99 per unit sold (which, in the case of an inexpensive product, can really cut into your profits). A professional plan costs a consistent $39.99 a month.
- Referral fees. Amazon can charge anywhere from 8-15% for referral fees on each item sold.
- Fulfillment fees. If you choose FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon), which is usually advantageous, you will have to pay a fee that varies based on the weight and dimensions of your product. This fee includes identifying and packing your products, covering shipping costs, providing customer service, and dealing with returns.
- Shipping fees. If you do not choose FBA, you will need to ship your own items. That means keeping track of how much it costs to put your item into a box, wrap it in bubble wrap, and ship it to the buyer.
That’s why proper bookkeeping is essential when it comes to pricing. Don’t take the shortcut of considering only your cost and the selling price; instead, drill down to exactly how much you are actually making on each product, and price accordingly.
Optimize for Success
Over 63% of consumers search for products directly on Amazon, so your product pages should be optimized like they would be for any search engine. That means optimizing your product titles for SEO, and making them both informative and clear. In your product details, which should also be optimized, make sure that you include all relevant information, including your brand name, the color and size of the product, and any keywords a potential customer might use to find it. It is important to blend your keywords into the title, bullet points, description, and backend search terms.
The images on your page can also go a long way towards attracting potential customers to your product. Include multiple high-quality images, including several that show the item being used.
Similarly, look at your product page as a pseudo-advertisement for your product, giving potential customers compelling reasons to opt for your product over your competition. In short, focus on the benefits, as opposed to just the features of your product. Sell your product to anyone looking at your product page.
Customer is King
Customer service is essential for any company, but Amazon in particular has built its platform with customer service at its base. That means you need to do more than than just provide customer service. You need to be irrationally customer-centric. There’s a term for this: It’s called “customer obsessed.” And Amazon is an ardent proponent of it.
“The No. 1 thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive, compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor.” –Jeff Bezos
That means responding quickly to inquiries, searching out comments and answering them professionally, and handling returns so smoothly that customers walk away feeling fully satisfied. You want your brand to become synonymous with reliability.
But it’s more than that. Take proactive steps to avoid hitting any customer snags. First of all, describe your products accurately, and give enough detail so that customers know what they’re getting. Secondly, ship products promptly. If you find out that an order will be delayed, send the customer a message to let them know. And if a customer complains about a damaged or missing shipment, take steps immediately. It is often even worth taking a loss in order to satisfy a frustrated customer.
Remember, in Amazon’s book, the customer is always right — which means that you are always wrong. Buy into that backward philosophy, and In turn, Amazon will boost your company’s shot at gaining that elusive Buy Box.
Embrace Social Media
Advertising on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or other social media channels is a prime way to attract customers to your Amazon business. It can help make potential customers aware of your offerings in general, and it can also give those considering buying your products the extra push they need to make that purchase.
Influencer marketing has been on the rise recently as well. Find influencers in your niche and request that they use your product for a video unboxing or demo. While you may have to pay them to do so, depending on the size of their following, this type of promotion can attract hundreds of customers to your product pages. For example, Jessica McCabe is an influencer who creates videos about ADHD and has over 600,000 subscribers. In this unboxing and giveaway, she essentially provided free marketing by sharing with her followers her first experience using a fidget cube produced by AntsyLabs.
Some Amazon sellers have actually become their own “influencers.” For example, if you can gain a following on YouTube with videos of skateboarding hacks, you’ll have a ready medium for promoting any skateboard-related products you decide to sell on Amazon.
So if you’re sure about becoming an Amazon seller, go for it! Decide which level of selling you’d like to start with, keep your eyes wide open for unscrupulous competitors, and make sure your marketing techniques are specific to Amazon businesses. Then give it everything you’ve got, and watch your online business grow.
This is part 3 in a series that addresses various aspects of becoming a successful Amazon seller. This post provides tips for potential sellers about how to succeed on the platform. Part 1 discussed the three types of sellers on Amazon, and Part 2 examined the platform’s downsides, specifically techniques used by bad actors on Amazon Marketplace. See all the articles in the series here.