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Ecommerce is fast becoming the most used sales channel and many businesses are looking to websites such as Amazon and eBay to set up their own online marketplace. Now over twenty years since its formation in 1994, Amazon has a recorded 270 million customer accounts based all around the world. And with over 2 million marketplace sellers, spanning over 100 countries as of 2014, there has never been a better time to sign up.
This global marketplace allows businesses and individual sellers the chance to create their own professional sales platform, making sales easy. Amazon is no longer just a bookstore but has become a complete department store which is often the first shop of choice for many consumers. Before you get started selling though there are a few things you should learn.
Depending on what kind of business you want to build there are two accounts marketplace sellers can register for:
If you have plans for selling just a few things on a semi-regular basis then the ‘Sell a little basic’ account is for you. As a basic seller you will be able to upload listings within twenty product categories but with certain limitations. This account is best for individual sellers looking to make a bit of extra money rather than a whole business or branch of business through Amazon.
For those with a more developed or confident business plan the ‘Sell a lot PRO’ account is better suited. Professional sellers have more control over their business with:
The monthly subscription cost of £25 is relatively low and businesses with keen sales are likely to see a much higher positive return.
Another possibility to consider is the Fulfilment By Amazon package which is enabled for both basic and professional sellers. FBA helps sellers increase online sales with Amazon’s guidance, boosting the competitiveness of your products by raising chances to enter the Buy Box and offering more options to customers. Last year alone a survey of active FBA users in the UK reported that 85% enjoyed sales increases.
Users send their inventory to an Amazon fulfilment centre where staff manage sales and customer service. This option is great for those planning to juggle multiple businesses or commitments. It is also ideal for businesses that have grown to the point where storing their own stock and processing orders alone is no longer feasible. Thousands of marketplace users are now making use of Amazon’s FBA services, opening up Amazon Prime, Free Super Saver Delivery and global shipping to their customers.
Amazon Prime members are some of the most active and loyal customers on the website. Reaching out to these customers can have a big impact on your sales. The membership offers Prime customers Unlimited FREE One-Day Delivery across millions of items with no minimum order size. Choosing to acknowledge Prime customers with your products is a great way to separate your business from the competition. Most items which are entered under the Fulfilment By Amazon package can be entered in for Amazon Prime eligibility. If you opt out of FBA your items are ineligible for Prime.
FBA users should make the most of offering Amazon Prime to their customers in order to build upon their reputation. A seller that offers Prime is much more likely to receive sales than one who does not because, after all, buyers want to receive their items as quickly and easily as possible. Introducing this shipping programme is an incentive for many customers and one which works.
The Buy Box is an important part of Amazon sales and refers to the top seller during an ‘Add To Basket’ sale, equating to 70% of all sales. Customers are likely to look for the cheapest price so one of the driving forces to determine which seller reigns the Buy Box is low price. Another factor is a seller’s reputation. Admittedly all businesses must start from somewhere so new sellers should not expect to enter the Buy Box immediately. By implementing the below factors into your marketplace strategy you have a higher chance of reaching the top and becoming a customer’s first pick.
The full Buy Box criterion is as follows and is only available for products listed as new. Amazon does occasionally mix things up a bit and feature lesser known sellers at the top though.
Understanding the process of a buyer is all part of the selling strategy. Consider yourself a customer looking to purchase an item that you sell. Customers are likely to search by:
The search criteria should make it easy to find your product. This relies then on the product title, categories/filters, and keyword search terms. If you have listed an item using your own images think about how appealing and appropriate they are. Ask yourself if they give a clear representation of the product and guarantee no misunderstanding. Make sure your returns policy is easy to understand too.
The title is the first thing a potential customer will see and in order to meet search criteria of consumers Amazon has a number of features for sellers. Product titles should make use of the available characters and be full of keywords. A product title should be a clear indication of what you are selling. Consider what a customer might search for in order to find your product and structure your title around this. Punctuation, asterisks, caps and special characters are unlikely to be used.
A great example of this is the top-rated product for "Nexus Charger"
In order to reach out to more customers you can be savvy with the keywords and search terms you use. Sellers are given five additional search terms for each product. These are for using broader terms not mentioned in the product title. Certain sellers swear by using one of these keywords to list a competitor’s brand so that when someone searches for that brand’s product your listing will appear first. This works best if your product is cheaper than the competitor’s.
Adding as much detail to listings as possible is imperative (without bombarding customers with unnecessary details), including filling out the (sub)categories options for exposure on filters. Not filling out this information stops your product from appearing in the filters, resulting in less exposure to potential customers.
Comparative price checks with your competitors are a good place to start in order to find out the value of your products on Amazon. Experts advise that new sellers to the marketplace create their business around unique products or those which other sellers are less likely to offer. In particular media-related products such as DVDs, music, and books have little value on Amazon and should be avoided. Another method to encourage sales is by telling customers how much they are saving. Using a ‘was’ or ‘sale’ price incentivises buyers, however there is strict criteria around using valid RRP details.
Nothing grabs a customer more than a high quality image. For those listing unique products, make sure the image is a clear representation of the product. Show off the product’s features and different angles where necessary. Products that are already listed will have images attached, as determined by the Buy Box seller.
If you are listing a new item then there are a few rules to taking the perfect photo. Try to mimic stock photos as much as possible by keeping the background clear and a single colour, ideally white. An image should just show the product, without any watermarks, URLs, borders, logos, or any other text/imagery. Flash spots should also be avoided. The recommended size is 500x500 pixels for a high quality image. With clothing products the rules can slightly change. It is a good idea to have a picture of the item alone and on a model too to give buyers a better idea of the fit and style.
Receiving positive feedback from customers is a good way to build your Amazon reputation and raise your chances of entering the Buy Box. With over 90% of buyers failing to leave feedback the handy Feedback Five tool will send a prompt to customers after their purchase. This helps sellers keep on top of their sales and proactively manage feedback scores.
Don’t forget to respond to any feedback left about your products and business transactions. A simple email directly to a customer to thank them for their purchase and feedback goes a long way to building business reputation. In the case that you receive any negative feedback it is important to contact the customer directly and try to resolve the issue. During this process you must place the customer first and consider a compromise, prioritising their trade and showing how valuable their satisfaction is to you.
The willingness to accommodate for your customers will be recognised and can all help to increase your sales and business awareness within Amazon. Monitoring performance daily is essential to ensure that no negative feedback stays live and unattended for too long. For example, a poor feedback rate of just 5% can cost you your position within the Buy Box.
Many businesses have been caught out after leaving fake reviews. This isn’t isolated to Amazon either but to ensure ultimate customer loyalty and business reputation avoid leaving reviews to your own products. As a new business it will take time to build up a valid set of reviews for your products but avoid adding false ones just to give your business presence.
Amazon actually has a feature where users can leave Amazon Verified Purchase reviews. This is a way for Amazon to identify when reviews are written by customers who have directly purchased the item through their website. It was first initiated to differentiate reviews for customers for validation and trust purposes. When writing a review a tickbox will appear for customers who have directly purchased through the website to verify their review. These reviews are the most valuable ones you can get as a seller because they may pay a big role in whether a potential customer purchases that product too.
Smaller businesses may not feel they are able to offer free shipping but it is a definite way to entice customers. This is something that should be carefully considered by a business in order to calculate the costs of offering free delivery over the expense to the business. To trial the idea you could even offer a minimum spend before free shipping becomes available.
‘Hidden costs’ are what often causes sellers to abandon their purchases at the checkout so be sure to clearly outline shipping costs if you do not make free delivery available. Free shipping is usually worth the cost though. It drives traffic to your business because realistically everyone likes receiving a product for less. Implementing free shipping is also a good way to increase your chances of entering the Buy Box as the majority of sellers featured offer free shipping.
Something many sellers forget is the postage and packaging costs. Amazon usually calculates a recommended postal charge on the product listing page but you can alter this. Prioritise the packaging stage of a sale to ensure that the correct materials are used depending on the product. Ensuring you receive positive feedback from customers can rely on the state the product arrives in so if a product is poorly packaged or arrives damaged customers are likely to question your business. Poly Postal Packaging have a range of postage and packaging supplies to make sure your products are safe and look professional when delivered.
An innovative way to stand out from the crowd is to offer product bundles. Selling two or more linked products that can be bought together makes shopping more convenient for many customers. A unique combination of relevant products can increase sales as customers won’t have to look elsewhere for another product or make separate purchases but can get everything they need in one place. Beating the competition on Amazon is essential and can be tricky to do but this method is easy and works.
Another sub-sector of this is the product variation tool. This allows sellers to group together variations of the same product under the same inventory item. Linking related items can save a lot of time and effort from uploading individual items which are very similar. It gives customers access to your full product range in a user-friendly way just like on retail websites. If you offer a product in different sizes or colours the product variation tool is ideal. Businesses can benefit from this tool especially if they sell products within the clothing category or even electrical items.
Reaching seasonal demand can cause a number of complications to businesses, especially those new to selling on Amazon. With more and more people choosing to shop online, the online shopping experience needs to recognise seasonal periods just like storefronts do. Seasonality shouldn’t be underestimated. Many businesses reap the rewards of certain times of the year, regardless of whether their products are directly relating to that time. If Amazon is offering discounts, you should too.
Plan ahead for big events such as Christmas by increasing your stock levels and working out a discount strategy. Analyse sales in order to see your most popular products, increase the stock, and make these the focus of any sales or offers. Another way to introduce discounts is on new products or limited edition items. Provide a clear date for when the offer runs until so that customers feel a sense of urgency to buy. In the case of limited edition products, a sense of scarcity can win over sales.
Amazon is an ideal place to form your online business transactions due to its high visibility, convenience and low cost. Start your seller journey today and join the 2 million other marketplace sellers by signing up for an account. Watch your business flourish, reaching customers all over the world. Amazon also offers comprehensive advice for sellers on their website, helping you every step of the way.