Identify the right game pieces to boost your Amazon sales
We began the metaphor between chess and Amazon with a straightforward assertion: before a single move is made, both players have an equal chance of winning.
Then, we shattered that illusion. A level playing field? That’s not how the world works.
By now, you know that attention to detail and experiential foresight are critical components to a winning strategy, but how do you know what to pay attention to? Or, more importantly, how do you evaluate what you’re seeing so you can plan, respond, and make the right moves?
Step 1 was coming to the table to play — recognizing that Amazon is a lucrative marketplace for your business needs. Step 2 is mastering the fundamentals: Understanding the capabilities of each piece of the game, then focusing on how they can work best together.
In chess as in Amazon, you have different pieces that do different things for the game. On a chessboard, a bishop moves differently than a knight or the queen to capture enemy pieces. There are plenty of resources to pursue if you want to learn how chess pieces move, but for the sake of this article, it’s relevant only because each piece of your Amazon game also has a specific function and “moves differently” to drive your sales engine.
Before diving into the metaphor linking each chess piece to a corresponding feature of Amazon, note that each chess piece also has a points-value. Bishops, for example, are worth three points, while pawns are worth one. As a scoring system, it helps you compare your relative strength against your opponent while you play. For our Amazon metaphor, it can help you evaluate the relative value and difficulty of tweaking each product feature.
As you evaluate, just remember the main priority: Your sales velocity is king. It determines whether you win or lose the game; the other pieces protect and support it as an interdependent ecosystem.
Collectively, your “label” captures the main features (excluding price) a customer sees when searching for your product. Together, they provide the first impression and determine if your customer will click to learn more. Consider these like pawns on a chessboard. They are simple and uncomplicated, but they can be effective when used to attract new customers.
- Title. What is the first thing your customer reads about the product? Is it overstuffed with keywords, a confusingly technical description with jargon, or a simple name? Like the first move of a chess match, you can start with this straightforward optimization in your Amazon game. It will take you little time — less than a minute. Making a smart, strategic move here will set you up for success later on in the game.
- Primary Photograph. A picture is worth a thousand words. Most customers form an initial opinion in a fraction of a second, so the visual appeal of your product is critical. Hi-res images are almost a requirement now; grainy, low-quality photos will make your product seem low-quality, too. And since mobile users are bombarded with visuals as they browse, optimization of your visuals is even more crucial– even if it may be slightly more time consuming to do well.
- Enhanced Brand Content. If your ideal customer is doing thorough research, you’ll want to ensure this product description delivers on their needs. This goes beyond product features to capture benefits that improve your customers’ lives. It can be simple bullets or product details, but it can also be spruced up with a simple HTML wysiwyg editor (“what you see is what you get”). This can help you add lines, additional photos, full-width high-res videos, and well formatted text easily, even if you aren’t a developer.
Your rooks (also called “castles”) are the bookends of your chessboard, and they are highly valued. On the chessboard, they make strong, direct moves; likewise, your price can move quickly up or down to make a strong impact on your sales. Although most customers have a general sense of value before they shop, they can still be swayed by relative pricing as they browse — even seeing competitor pricing compared side-by-side. Some vendors treat price as a pawn to raise and lower — sacrificing it to increase the sales (the king). But our goal typically is to maintain or seek out premium pricing as a way to stand out in the marketplace as well as maximize profit, making up gaps in other places.
This is your queen. Quality and volume of customer feedback can make or break your sales goals. What your customers have to say about your product is a critical indicator of your future performance, too. In fact, more shoppers start product research on Amazon than anywhere else (including Google), which is likely because of the volume and quality of customer reviews. Beyond just monitoring feedback, you can use reviews to create dialogue and engage with customers more actively. Whether their first experience was good or bad, your brand can make an effort to make customers feel valued. If nothing else, you can learn from the criticism and parlay positive feedback into new product development.
Customer experience (CX) has gotten more attention in recent years. Customers expect more effort and attention to detail from brands. Like a bishop on the chessboard, this means moving a little bit diagonally or laterally with your sales efforts. You may have aggressive efforts to sell your product, but ultimately the overall CX will determine if that customer will stay loyal — or what they will say about you in reviews and comments. We view CX as increasing in relevance and encourage our clients to aggressively use these pieces as they build their strategies. Many competitors often overlook this important piece, so it is even better to differentiate your brand, and often worth the considerable investment of time and energy to do it well.
Like a knight darting around the chessboard to support wherever needed, your fulfillment infrastructure must support your sales funnel. It’s a critical part of your endgame to ensure logistics don’t get in the way of your sales growth. Too much inventory without sales can lead to long-term storage fees from Amazon if they’re housing your product. And like knights often do in chess with jumping over other pieces and forking two other powerful pieces, fulfillment and logistics can be very sneaky. For example, when your sales volume ramps exponentially (which we’ve witnessed with our clients) and quickly exceeds available inventory, it applies stress to your supply chain. If you haven’t planned for this, your product could go out of stock, and you’ll possibly miss out on customers you could have had.
Some of the pieces are obvious, but others may be less top-of-mind. Understanding your own business ecosystem is critical before you start trying to develop campaigns or “make a first move.”
Playing the Game
In chess, you can take risks with your most important pieces if it supports a larger vision. You can sacrifice your 9-point queen, for example, if it means you lure your opponent into an extremely vulnerable position. In Amazon, this would be equivalent to an aggressive market strategy, like buying up a competitor’s inventory to corner the market for example. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it is risky, and not a move typically used by beginners. (If you are interested in chess masters and famous queen-sacrifices, check out this video).
Playing the game is not simply about just risks and sacrifices, though. It’s about seeing how the pieces fit together and support each other.
You can use a knight offensively, or you can position one strategically to play defense and protect a more valuable piece. What matters most is having enough understanding to create even a basic plan.
Amazon sales are similar. Each piece has a purpose and drives different results, but the overarching goal is always to achieve sales success. Typically for our clients, this involves maintaining or improving sales volume without compromising the premium status of your product (most of the time, status = price). Take a look at some of the key pieces when we think in a broader context:
Amazon is the #1 source for online shoppers to review products and compare against competitors. In our experience, we’ve witnessed how the volume of product reviews can change the way a product “behaves” in the Amazon ecosystem (e.g., how it is perceived by potential shoppers). Right around 21 reviews, we see a product start to behave differently. Products with fewer reviews may need to rely on pricing battles or coupons or sponsored ads. Once reviews and rank begin to climb, however, the product is more trusted, and we tend to see it behave better in the marketplace. One key indicator to keep an eye on is your Unit Session Percentage (or conversion rate). Typically when you exceed 21 products reviews, you can become more defensive as it relates to pricing, with more of a focus on maximizing profit.
In chess, a pawn can reach the far end of the board and get “promoted,” or replaced by a more powerful piece — a rook, bishop, knight, or even queen. Likewise, enhancing your label can boost your sales and customer engagement. Hi-res images are great, but more vendors are starting to use videos to showcase their products and lifestyle-videos that resonate with consumers. If a customer can visualize how they’d use it, they are more likely to purchase your product. We work with many clients on emphasizing product features with call-outs and zoom-ins related to their images as well.
Fulfillment & CX
Fulfillment is the delivery of your promise. For many vendors, fulfilling through Amazon Prime is a way to provide a guarantee and instill confidence to buyers. Your label will have that nice, eye-grabbing Prime badge, too. Beyond this, you can think about the packaging, notes, and other inserts inside the box to further boost customer experience. Then, you can follow up with them in the days or weeks following the purchase to ensure they are completely satisfied — and likely to leave a positive review.
A Mobilizing Landscape
Chess hasn’t changed much in centuries, but Amazon changes constantly. They regularly update the back-end algorithm that generates search results. Campaign capabilities are enhanced to give vendors more ways to promote. Often, it changes too quickly for the average business to keep up. At Toucan, we monitor these changes for you, so you can focus on keeping your business running.
Once you’ve learned the basics of the game pieces and the ecosystem they fit into, you can build on the nuances of the platform and how customers use it. Think about using computers vs. phones. According to some sources, more than half of online shopping is done from a mobile device. And on Amazon specifically, the gap between desktop and smartphone use has been shrinking consistently for years.
Assuming your customers are shopping on mobile, you should consider that the only features they’ll see initially “above the fold” on your product page are title, price, and photos — your pawns. They’ll also see the 1-5 star ranking that reveals the quality and number of your reviews, even though they can’t see the actual comments. Everything else remains hidden further down.
Also, consider how customers research and compare options. Amazon’s product comparison table shows products with similar features, as well as products that other customers went on to buy. Unless you have a sponsored product, yours won’t show up in these comparisons. This paid-advantage could be an important component of the larger game, depending on your objectives.
Remember — every product is different, and how you play the game will change with the landscape and your needs. As you get more comfortable with the pieces, it’ll be easier to evaluate your strategy, adapt your plan, and begin to own your sales game, rather than letting it own you.