Looking for an Amazon sales boost? Who is doing what to make it happen?
This past summer, we started a series of blog posts that made the business case for selling on Amazon or, for existing sellers, for finding an Amazon sales boost. That first post, “Welcome to the Jungle,” ended with a key point: Amazon is not a lottery; building a strong foundation that can grow into a reliable sales funnel takes a strategic, holistic approach.
We continued the metaphor in our second post by describing an iceberg off the coast of the Amazon jungle (yes, we know there are no icebergs in the tropics). Our main point? As a sales manager, you captain the ship. You lead the party into the jungle. Navigating safely means understanding what you face, and the simple truth is that even seasoned salespersons don’t always know what they don’t know. Especially in the Amazon marketplace.
The feedback and questions we got from that article blew us away. So much so that we put our heads together to follow-up specifically for readers who are either new to Amazon or considering how to maximize their efforts. And in these conversations we shifted to a new metaphor: flying the plane. Because Toucan works to help your Amazon sales take flight, but we still have to fly together.
So how do you build that plane, and what should it look like? Who is in charge of that vision at your organization, and who on your team is working to bring it to life? What about the fine details, and the pieces that hold it all together?
This article helps to establish the wide variety of tasks and priorities it takes to get your Amazon machine off the ground, as well as the scope of responsibilities to be shared.
Assembling the Pieces & Running the Basics
Imagine any construction site. The scene teems with busy workers carrying supplies, welding parts, bolting and riveting key pieces in place. Sparks fly. Seats and cushions, knobs and levers, and even the beverage carts, trash cans, and snack supplies all come together. From initial construction to the moment a plane is ready for takeoff, every piece has a purpose. The team moves efficiently on their specialized tasks to bring it to life.
As a company, you already know how to build your product, from raw material through the pipeline to a packaged good. You probably know how to sell online already, too, through your owned channels. But does your existing expertise translate into the know-how for ramping up an Amazon channel? Does knowing all or some of the pieces prepare you to take your plane to the skies?
Consider the pieces you would need to launch your Amazon account, or the pieces you want for a strategic revamp. You have your seller profile, which needs descriptions, logos, and of course products. Each product you upload needs its own title, product descriptions, and a price. Maybe the artwork requires professional photography, or a simple video.
Once all the pieces are in place, they can often run with relatively little maintenance. Like a flight crew, they only need to monitor the status of the pieces, tend to the customers, and report back on any major issues.
But who do they report to?
Supporting the Back-End Logistics
Even when a plane is assembled, you’ll want some guarantees it will fly smoothly. In addition to regular safety checks, an airline optimizes all of its internal working systems to ensure cargo loading, cleaning, fueling, boarding, and all other essential functions are working well together. Added on top of these logistics are layers of customer experience intended to provide passengers with the best flight possible.
A good Amazon seller must build both the working systems and experience, too.
The infrastructure starts with your account set up
All the bustling workers taking care of the day-to-day keep things running smoothly, but they take direction from a mid-level manager who can see the relationships within the system. Someone who sees how the pieces fit together. In Amazon, that’s the structure of your account set up.
As you add more products, you begin to create a true brand store. You can begin to group and categorize different products, establish associations between them, and set parent-child relationships. Parts of your inventory can be bundled and commonly sold together.
This is one step above the basics. It’s not a requirement for your page to function, but it certainly is the bare minimum you must do to begin optimizing and improving your conversions. And as the tasks become more sophisticated and nuanced within the Amazon environment, it becomes more critical to assign them to accountable Amazon consulting experts with the right knowledge and skillsets.
For example, a junior employee could carry out the task of physically setting up the store, so long as they have the right instructions to follow. But are they knowledgeable enough to stay in command if something falls apart and troubleshooting is needed. Are they empowered to make decisions and adjust? Imagine you have everything set up perfectly only to realize one of your chief competitors is unfairly hijacking the market (a sneaky practice of repurposing old postings with many positive reviews to sell a new product unfairly). How do you respond? And who is responsible for adjusting your strategies?
Responsiveness to the marketplace includes customers, too
In addition to the expertise that allows you to handle troubling situations, like the hijacking described above, logistics and systems management applies to your customer experience, too. From the posting language and features on your page to returns/refunds and satisfaction surveys, it is critical to think strategically about this part of your pipeline. Being able to assess drop-off points in your conversion funnel could inform key optimizations, coupons, or promotional features on your page, as we discuss below.
Especially for leaner sales teams, it can be difficult to divide strategic thinking with logistical implementation. We often see more senior managers handling tasks or issues that aren’t always the best use of their time because they don’t have the right support. As we add additional levels of expertise and strategy, however, the absence or presence of the right support can be crucial to your overall sales — and your bottom line.
Marketing and Promotions Fuel the Amazon Sales Boost
With infrastructure in place, the show can begin. But just as an airline must sell tickets, ensure compliance with all safety regulations, and actually fuel up to fly, so too must the Amazon engine be primed and readied. Sales don’t just roll in immediately because your products are suddenly available.
Strategic marketing begins by evaluating your product’s positioning in the marketplace; revisiting a competitive price point; and doing a recheck of your product posts to ensure the descriptions and language are optimized based on common search terms. In short, you want to do everything possible to tweak and craft your posts to capture any organic traffic in your category.
In many cases, some sellers choose to enter the market at a substantially lower price point to boost their initial sales momentum. But doing so requires strategic care and balance. Doing too much can undercut your brand value in the long-term, and it can also raise a threat to your existing, owned distribution channels. Some sellers can cut off their owned distribution and go all-in on Amazon, which is great for them, but most sellers can’t. An expert in Amazon sales can help navigate the right balance to ensure neither end suffers.
But even if you enter the market with all the right organic optimizations in place, it’s not always simple to grow a robust sales funnel overnight. In fact, it rarely is. Every seller will rely on promotions and advertising to stand out, reach new customers, maintain loyal customers, and ride the annual sales cycles.
Use any historic knowledge of your retail sales if possible to project and anticipate your results. For example, if you have driven a high volume of traffic to a product page before, but sales stay low, it might reveal a pricing or incentive issue to capture that sale. Rather than lower the base price, try adding a coupon to the page for that extra nudge.
Use sponsored ads like jet fuel — full enough to get the plane off the ground and to its destination, but not overfilled and so heavy that it weighs everything down. Strategic advertising can help bring exposure to new or underperforming products, or they can give a boost to your hottest SKUs.
Be wary, however. Ads can quickly drain your budget without careful evaluation of your bidding costs, sales volume, and ACoS (Average Cost of Sale). This last number, ACoS, helps you understand how much you are earning or losing on each transaction. Some sellers confuse it with ROI (return on investment) in which a big figure is a good thing. For ACoS, higher numbers could mean you are losing money on each transaction. Savvy sellers should understand their profit margin and work strategically to optimize their conversion pathways as organically as possible. Speaking with experts in organic and paid Amazon strategies can help you find the right balance and clarity for an optimal ACoS within your specific category.
Piloting & Navigating to Your Destination
Once the pieces are assembled, the plane is fueled, and the final checks have been made, you’re ready for takeoff. But where are you going?
Pilots always get all the credit for taking a plane where it needs to go, but the strategic vision level includes many considerations far beyond the pilot who leads the way. There is a co-pilot to assist; air traffic control for guidance; and corporate planners who decide what routes are most advantageous.
Everything up to this point has served a larger vision. Expert knowledge of the company and sales pipeline are combined with market forecasts and customer research to paint a picture of the company’s key goals. By viewing the big picture holistically, you can see the analytics and performance of individual products within the context of the entire account. Is it healthy? Is it trending in the right direction?
More importantly, are the pieces fitting together well? Is shipping and fulfillment consistent; are returns causing a problem; are you being savvy and strategic with your inventory volume? At this level of monitoring the account health, it is critical to understand the business inside and out, as well as being comfortable and familiar with Amazon’s fee structure, which can be difficult to navigate if you don’t know what you don’t know.
How to Ensure Your Sales Take Flight
The beauty of the metaphor comparing your Amazon outfit to building and flying a plane is the critical attention to detail at all levels. At the operations level, every product page, including titles, prices, descriptions, and assets, must be strategically optimized. This must be guided by the next level’s consideration of the brand store, building a web of associations, parent-child hierarchies, and structure for the products to live within.
This in turn is informed by the market research and marketers looking at bundles, deals, coupons, and promotions to leverage that store structure to its fullest, all of which serves the larger strategic company vision. When done well, the system not only takes flight, but reaches a cruising altitude. Like a well-oiled machine on autopilot, the entire supply-chain can move efficiently with regular tweaks and optimizations.
When not done well, the plane is grounded. If any piece fails, the whole system can dramatically come to a crashing halt. And too many companies are actually losing money on Amazon without even knowing it or at least understanding it. Building a team of cross-disciplinary experts in-house is often time consuming and cost-prohibitive. That’s why we at Toucan have made it our jobs not just to know the things our clients don’t know, but to excel in them.
Sometimes, having a first chat can help you determine if you are strategically prepared to take flight on your own or not. Our experts are always available for a free consultation, and we’re always thrilled to discuss the pieces and parts that let us — with our clients — take to the skies.