Taking the steps to prepare your business for the Amazon marketplace

If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve already decided that Amazon is right for your business, and you have a sense of what help or guidance you may need as you enter the e-commerce Jungle.

But, where do you begin?
Everyone can always and only begin in exactly the same place, right where you are.

An active question to ask is, “where do you want to go?” This allows you to best understand your mission, set clear goals, and then pick the right materials and path to accomplish it. 

For example, are you trying to spearhead a quick exploratory excursion through the competition to see what you discover? If so, you’ll want a machete to quickly clear the way (in this case, maybe some aggressive promotions and ads).

Or, are you trying to establish your brand for the long-term? In this case, you’llneed to prepare a campsite and lay a foundation to build a larger, more permanent structure.

In this article, we will delve into what preparation you should consider and the first bits of action you should take as you embark on your journey into Amazon.

Packing Your Bag

Preparation is key, and it starts with your supplies. When you go hiking or camping, you prioritize bringing what you need. You think about the experience you want to have, and avoid packing unnecessary items. 

The same can be said about how you prepare for your Amazon journey. What you ‘bring’ with you is extremely important, particularly what you bring first. You shouldn’t put your full product mix on your marketplace all at once. You need to be selective about which items are most important. Consider starting with your “winners” or what you have readily available in higher volumes ready for easy fulfillment. Then, consider how you expand your offerings. We call this a phased approach.

When you load your initial inventory, you want to start with at least 2-4 weeks of sell-through (we recommend similar stock times once you are deeper into Amazon as well). Amazon wants to work with sellers who have more products, more stock, and the ability to fulfill and meet consumer demand seamlessly. Minimally stocking (and subsequently running “OOS” or out of stock) can dampen your journey and reduce success. If this sets the tone for your launch, it can result in amplifying repercussions later on.

For the most part, Amazon optimizes its business decisions based on a combination of algorithms. If you know the math, you can maximize on each to improve your chances of success.

In particular, keep these three in mind:

  • Identify the right category. Amazon likes to be organized, hence its categorized shopping (e.g., Home & Kitchen or Sports & Outdoor). Place your inventory in the category that makes the most sense for your product and its benefits. 
  • Sell products that are price-competitive. Amazon, to a large extent, levels the playing field between small and large sellers. If your small/medium business sells a product for $18.99 on Amazon, and a larger business has a nearly identical product for $19.99, then in the long-run your product will outsell the slightly more expensive one. This assumes everything is optimized for your product’s details page, of course.
  • Fulfillment by Amazon is preferred over fulfillment by merchant, unless bulky and unwieldy. This qualifies you for Amazon Prime shipping (a key decision-making factor for consumers).

After you’ve decided what to “bring” on your adventure, you’re going to want to decide how to present your initial product set-up.

Setting Up Your Campsite

No two campsites are identical, but all should have the basics (e.g., tent, sleeping bag, fire pit, etc.). View your Amazon product set-up in the same way. Start with the basics, and do them right the first time to avoid punitive or negative consequences.

At Toucan, we like to view this as a checklist. A three-part checklist with the option for bonus points, after you’ve established the category, price objectives, and fulfillment plan referenced above. These may seem like no-brainers, just like packing a tent for a camping trip, but if you aren’t careful you could slip.

  • Title: Your first impressionThe product title is your first interaction with a prospective customer. When naming your product on Amazon, keep in mind the word choice (how would you search for your product), length (short and succinct), and persuasive (stand-out from competition). For bonus points, how do you subtly sprinkle in popular phrases without sounding overly robotic?
  • Product Images: You’re going to want at least five high-res photos (the minimum dimension is 1000px for height or width). Capture product pictures from different angles and use cases. Showcase it in use through lifestyle shots. Images (especially on mobile devices) are where much of the initial buying decision and screening takes place. Be certain to stress your benefits in the photos with supporting text as well. If you have the budget and capability, we recommend leveraging videos to demonstrate your product in action (note: you’ll need to set-up your brand registry first to unlock video). For bonus points, we typically recommend a solid border with the brand logo on each image.
  • Bullet Points and Description: View this as an opportunity to describe product benefitsnot features.Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer and develop your top points with the buyer in mind, highlighting the benefits they will receive by purchasing (hint: use bullet points in your product description; succinctness goes a long way with busy Amazon shoppers). You’ll want to focus on your word selection, combination, and order.

Extra Credit: Make sure your product set-up is mobile friendly. Is your text legible to a viewer on their phone? What about the font size in your images? Do the photo formats work seamlessly? Statista reports that by 2021, 53.9% of ALL e-commerce will take place via mobile devices. By taking this extra step, you’ll be ahead of the competition and received well by consumers.

Make Way for Pioneering Customers

What experience will your first customers have? What kind of impact will you see from their reviews?

Customers trust the opinions of other customers more than they trust a new brand. This makes sense on the surface, as every seller is most always going to say their product is the best. How you describe your product is critical to enticing the first pioneers; but how they review your product is the single-most important milestone as you get started. 

The First Hurdle(s). Early reviews are extremely important. If they’re good, your product can skyrocket. If they’re negative, you’re at risk of having to restart from scratch, because that product could likely fail outright. The one thing you can control is how you interact with your product reviewers. Good or bad, it’s important to interact quickly and in a manner that reflects your brand ethos.

The Threshold. The second tipping point we see at Toucan comes when you’ve reached about 21 product reviews for a particular product. At this point, you’ve successfully navigated your way through your early product reviews. Maintaining positive feedback and timely interactions with customers allows you the opportunity to take your foot off the gas. For example, you now won’t need to spend as much on sponsored ads to drive attention to your product, because it’ll now appear higher in Amazon searches and consumers are more likely to trust your product as others have already tried and reviewed it.

Ultimately, when it comes to product reviews the objective is to reach that threshold as best you can with positive customer input and a timely response rate, so that you’ll be able to invest the budget you likely used for building and advertising elsewhere.

Plant Your Stake in the Ground

Amazon is a jungle. It can be dense, crowded, and overwhelming. But, if you do the right things, like preparing supplies and creating a map to lead you to success then you’ve already taken the first few steps on your journey.

But, even then you may be faced with new challenges or unforeseen obstacles, just like you would on any adventure. This may lead to a few stumbles or force you to reassess or re-tool your plan. One thing you can do to fend off a bit of unpredictability and uncertainty with taking on such a beast as Amazon is to connect with a guide who knows the jungle better than anyone and not only one who can help you survive, yet can help you achieve your goals.

If you’re thinking about taking on Amazon or increasing your involvement with them, we’d be happy to speak with you. Simply reach out for a consultation to begin planning and let us be your sherpa!

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