If you’re here, you’re interested in selling your products on Amazon. What CPG brand wouldn’t be? And, if you leverage the marketplace successfully, the financial opportunities are nearly limitless.
While Amazon started as an online store for used books, the name was chosen based on a monumental vision. Bezos hoped that the company would eventually become vast and flowing like the Amazon River while offering every product “from A to Z” — the brand logo depicts this image precisely.
Today, the marketplace offers a colossal shopping experience for consumer packaged goods (CPGs), web services, video, music, branded products like Fire tablets, Echo and Alexa, and Kindle e-readers and books.
Amazon is the commerce behemoth and more than half of products sold on the platform come from third-party merchants like yourself. So now is the perfect time to start getting your slice of the pie on Amazon.
Here you’ll find a detailed summary of how to list your products and sell on Amazon, step-by-step. The aim is to answer the most common questions CPG brands have when moving to eCommerce.
Now, let’s get started so that you can set and reach your sales goals.
First, is Selling on Amazon Worth it?
Briefly, here are some facts to note before you become a platform merchant.
Success on Amazon is not like waving a magic wand and *poof* money in the bank. However, if you take your business seriously, you can generate substantial profits.
For example, with a new omnichannel strategy that included Amazon as a key sales channel, Tio Gazpacho was able to increase one-month purchases by 4232%.
Also crucial to note is that the most common complaints from Amazon sellers attest to the platform “wrongly” flagging accounts as fraudulent or in violation of its Terms of Service. With 2.2 million active merchants (748,000 new this year) on the platform, merchants swim in a vast sea of all sized and shaped fish.
As you can imagine, some bottom feeders have tried to cheat the system. So, crackdowns are expected. If you’re willing to diligently research, stay above reproach, and ready to dive in, keep reading.
Now, a Step-by-Step Guide to Selling on Amazon
Essentially, this is where you’ll find how to sell on Amazon for established brands who are moving to the platform to increase sales. The aim here is to answer the most pressing questions you’ll have as you’re guided through the setup process.
1. Research Your Marketplace Niche
You may already have a retail offer, and you want to expand your reach by selling on a marketplace like Amazon or Walmart. And, there’s a ton of competition. So, how will you stand-out?
Which of your competitors are already on the platform? Time to start stalking.
- How are competing products listed (categories, copywriting, imagery, etc.)?
- What is Amazon pricing compared to in-store and branded website pricing?
- *What are customers saying about their offers?
You’re going to want to read reviews. And, not just any reviews. Go check out your top three competitors on the platform and pull up all of their 3 and 4-star reviews. You’ll get an idea of what people who like the products, but don’t love them have to say. Naturally, this will give you ideas about how you might be able to improve your core offer.
Then, check out the 1 and 2-star reviews. This will usually tell you what problems your competitors have on the platform, operationally. Then, you can try to avoid making the same mistakes as them.
5-star reviews are worth a read as well because they essentially tell you what you have to live up to.
What cannot be sold on Amazon?
As a rule, there are many items prohibited from the Amazon marketplace, which fall into more than 30 categories. Of course, drugs, paraphernalia, tobacco, weapons, and related products are prohibited. But, did you know that there are seemingly harmless items in the fine arts, home decor, and food categories that are restricted as well?
For example, you cannot sell fine art without a named author or even giclee prints on canvas. And, reproductions that violate copyright or trademark aren’t allowed. Neither is goat’s milk infant formula or betel nut products.
If you plan on selling anything even slightly questionable, you may need to consider alternative sales channels. For a full list of what you can’t sell on the platform, see Amazon’s restricted products and related policies.
Furthermore, while you can assuredly offer most non-restricted consumer goods on the Amazon marketplace, some categories require approval before you can list.
For example, there are holiday selling requirements for toys and games. Items made in Italy, Video, DVD, Blu-ray, collectible coins, streaming media players, and personal safety and household products currently require permission before you can list.
2. Update Your Business Plan
After selecting an offer and doing some preliminary research, you will need an amendment to your business plan. Don’t skip this step. If you want success, you need careful planning. An updated plan will help you outline your goals and operations.
The business plan format you choose can vary. You might want a detailed, traditional business plan. Alternatively, if you want to include only the key elements, consider a lean startup plan.
i. Traditional Business Plan Outline
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- *Market Analysis
- Organization & Management
- Product Line (or Service)
- *Marketing & Sales
- Funding Request
- Financial Projections
The research you conducted in step 1 will contribute to your market analysis. And, your sales channels need to be updated in the marketing & sales section of your plan.
ii. Lean Startup Plan Outline
- Key Partnerships
- Key Activities
- Key Resources
- Value Proposition
- Customer Relationships
- Customer Segments
- Cost Structure
- *Revenue Streams
With the lean startup plan format, your channels and revenue streams need to be amended. No matter which format you choose, a clearly-structured plan is key to your long-term success.
3. Clearly Define Your Target Audience
One of the most important elements of planning is to define your target eCommerce audience. Your end-users will fuel your success or failure. At the heart of your business should be a desire to satisfy your customers. And, your in-store buyers don’t have the same behaviors as your online audience.
So, determine which online consumers will benefit the most from your product(s) and what they want. Then, you can restructure your plan to deliver.
eCommerce buyer personas will give you a helpful framework from which to build your sales and marketing strategy. Create several personas for your ideal Amazon buyers. These should include the following:
- Demographics (age, gender, location, etc.)
- Common life challenges & mindset
- Shopping preferences
- Typical behavior and triggers
As you learn more about the new market over time, continue to build out your personas. Use what you learn to improve your digital marketing and sales strategies.
Tip: Remember when you peeked in at your competitors’ reviews? Was there anything that stood out in the negative feedback that customers would also hate about your product? If so, consider creating negative buyer personas that represent your worst customers. Here’s why…
First, take a look at this review for a food product (apparently, Fanny hates an over-abundance of sodium).
Then, imagine that you offer a comparable food product that is also high in sodium. To be fair, you tried offering a low-sodium formula, but it just didn’t sell because the majority of consumers love their salt.
If you keep negative buyer personas, you create a database of objections like this. Then, you can address complaints in a positive light in your copy to deter people who won’t love your offer.
In the example above, the seller took this a step further by making access to ingredients and nutrition information accessible.
Use ideal and negative buyer personas to increase your selling power.
4. Sign Up for a Seller Central Account
Once you have an idea of what your Amazon retail business is going to look like, it’s time to sign up for a Seller Central Account. The platform will guide you through the process.
How long does it take to get approved to sell on Amazon?
One of the most common questions we hear is how long it will take for permission to sell on Amazon after you apply. In some cases, approval will take less than 24 hours. Other times, it takes a month or more. Use this time to learn and plan.
For answers to other Seller Central questions, explore and ask in the community forums.
5. Sign up for Fulfillment by Amazon FBA (Optional)
While it’s not your only option, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is the most convenient way to fulfill orders through the platform. For $39.99 plus selling fees, you can let Amazon store, pack, pick, and ship your items. Within this system, your products are eligible for Prime and free shipping as well as Amazon’s customer service and returns.
FBA also gives you access to the following services:
- FBA Subscribe & Save – Automate customer discounts and scheduled shipping for repeat orders.
- FBA Pan-EU – Fast shipping to Prime-eligible countries in Europe.
- FBA Export – Extend your business reach to over 100 countries.
- Multi-Channel Fulfillment – Amazon fulfillment for sales on third-party websites and marketplaces.
The best-fit for FBA are low-cost, lightweight, small commodities. And, in addition to the restricted products mentioned above, FBA has a separate set of prohibited items. So, if your offer falls into one of these categories, you will need an alternative fulfillment strategy.
Now, if your products are suitable candidates for the service, you can package and ship items directly to a storage facility for processing. Sign up for FBA if this sounds like the right fit for your catalog.
Otherwise, research alternative third-party logistics options like Red Stagg or ShipBob. And, in some cases, it may be best to handle fulfillment in-house.
6. Optimize Your Product Listings
Unfortunately, you can’t just simply upload your products and expect them to sell. Eight core elements should be analyzed and optimized before you launch a new product.
- Optimized title
- Quality images — plural
iii. Enticing copy
- Social proof (reviews and/or images of your product in a real-life setting)
- Competitive offer *you must be the best in some way
- SEO — your products should appear in Amazon and Google searches
viii. Call to action
Making sure you check each of these boxes will ensure that you don’t let valuable traffic slip through the cracks. Only when your product pages are ready, you should proceed with sales and marketing.
7. Execute a Launch Strategy
Once you receive approval to sell, have your business plan complete, and you’re ready to start selling, it’s time for liftoff. Your marketing and sales strategies won’t match any other seller, so you can’t play copycat here. But, you can find out what other sellers are doing, use what you like, and leave the rest.
Above all, consider what you can do to attract traffic to your product listings and get people to convert. Examine your key competitors’ Amazon sales funnels. Where does their traffic come from? And, which channels will you use?
Depending on your stage in business, your launch options are virtually unlimited. Here are some of the most common options to get more eyes on your products.
a. Pay-Per-Click Advertising
In most cases, a successful launch strategy starts with PPC — you pay a small fee for each click on online ads to attract new customers to your Amazon product pages. When implemented properly, PPC may be all the promotion you need to get off the ground. Website visitors channeled through ads are 50% more likely to purchase than those who arrive via organic traffic.
Here are some of the most popular PPC channels to promote Amazon listings.
- Pinterest Ads – Send Pinners directly from your pins in their Pinterest feeds to your Amazon product pages.
- Facebook Ads – Direct hyper-targeted ads at Facebook users who are most likely to need and want your offer.
- Google Ads – Get your listings to appear in the top search results for shoppers looking for items like yours.
- Amazon PPC – Bring your merchandise to the top of Amazon searches as “sponsored” listings.
The above list is not inclusive. If you know where your target shoppers hang out online, you can create a PPC strategy to get in front of them at the right time.
For example, if you sell gaming headphones, you might want ads on gaming websites. And, if you’re selling organic food, health and lifestyle apps and websites could be a good match. Your offer will always determine the best approach.
b. Amazon Launch Services
Amazon’s launch services are designed exclusively for new merchants selling on the platform. If leveraged wisely, they can help you hit the ground running.
Amazon Giveaway is a program that enables you to give your products away on the platform. It can help you promote new products, drive traffic to your pages, and create hype on social media. With this service, you pay full price for the products and the customer gets an item for free.
And, Amazon Early Review Program is another popular option. This program asks customers to review your items in exchange for a small gift (worth $1-3). It does not matter whether they leave 1 or 5-star reviews, as it is meant to entice authentic feedback. If you have less than a handful of existing reviews, your seller account may be eligible.
Note: If you accept help from a third-party service provider or tool to launch your new product or business, be sure that you stay in compliance with all of Amazon’s Terms of Service. Otherwise, the platform has the right to remove all of your listings.
c. Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing (SMM) for eCommerce isn’t isolated to ads. Rather, social platforms are designed for connections and communication. In some cases, you can use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit, and Quora to promote your products. But, don’t think you can just spam people with discounts and deals — they’re not interested.
However, social media users, including strangers are interested in helpful answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. With a strategic approach, you can offer this kind of help in a non-promotional way and get new traffic back to your amazon listings. But, be very careful with this — in 99% of cases, you don’t want to share direct links to your product listings.
Instead, interact, engage, and include notes and links in your social media bios for consumers to find “organically.”
Amazon is an exceptionally profitable sales channel for many online merchants. Now, you can be one of them. Follow the steps above to start on the right foot down the seller’s path. And, if you’re here for assistance with eCommerce marketing, reach out to us! We’d love to help.