By Aalap Shah, Founder of 1o8 Agency
As an e-commerce marketer, I meet owners and brand managers of CPG brands all the time. Lately, I’ve been hearing from more and more of them that they need to “figure out Amazon” — fast.
Often, they’re frustrated. They don’t have a strategy for Amazon. More likely, it’s that someone else told them they should be selling their products on Amazon or their competitors are now on Amazon.
They are also worried. As the retail apocalypse accelerates, CPG owners and brand managers fear that fewer consumers will shop in brick-and-mortar stores. That means fewer people will discover their products on the shelves.
They know they have to quickly change marketing tactics, but the concept of selling on Amazon is daunting to them. It doesn’t help matters that, rightly or wrongly, Amazon is blamed for contributing to the retail apocalypse.
Yet when I talk to these CPG manufacturers about their own shopping habits, I learn that they are regularly shopping on Amazon themselves. I point out that the brands they’re purchasing on Amazon took certain steps to get in front of them during the buying process. At the most fundamental level, selling on Amazon is just like selling through a physical retailer.
With that reframing, their mindsets begin to shift from dread to curiosity. They begin to wonder: Just what is possible through Amazon?
The truth is, Amazon is a game-changer for CPG brands.
The key is not to think of it as an “either/or”—as in you have to be on Amazon or you have to be selling through physical retailers. Instead, think of selling on Amazon as an “and.” Not only can you attract new customers through Amazon, you can use the platform to share your brand story in powerful ways that just weren’t possible before. This investment will in turn support your sales at brick-and-mortar stores.
Let’s break it down.
It’s a straightforward process for any brand, manufacturer or business owner to list and begin selling on the platform. Literally, all you need is a business name, verification of your address (via your bank statement) and to verify your identity. From that point on, you’ll create products, product listing pages, and setup how you’ll ship to and from Amazon. You’ll have something as simple as this or as rich in detail as this. Notice the difference? Both products are in extremely competitive segments however Bubbly is utilizing the fact that it is a well known brand and doesn’t need the added story whereas JJ Cole is adding in rich detail, photography and call outs to make the sale.
Past the merchandising comes in the heart of the platform. Amazon has internal SEO and an ads platform for brand managers to work with. I feel that Amazon SEO is catching up to the larger players in the marketplace rapidly and thus having well written descriptions, images, and keyword optimized titles is key. On the advertising front, think of it as a traditional slotting fee at retail. Without advertising, your product has relatively little chance of standing out unless your customers can find it through other platforms (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
With all of these elements working together, you greatly increase the chances that your target customers will discover your product on Amazon. That’s far more powerful than if they discovered your product on Google because Amazon users have a much higher intent to buy.
So you got your target customers to click on your listing. But how do you get them to actually make the purchase? By telling your brand story through your own content and proving it through user-generated content created by your raving customers.
Telling Your Brand Story on Amazon
Let’s say you’re selling bags of chips. As an Amazon seller, you’re getting people to your listing who are actually looking for a product like yours. They’ve typed in keyphrases like chips, potato chips or bags of chips. You have people with a whetted appetite for exactly what you produce.
The minute they hit your Amazon page, you have the chance to sell to them in a way that just isn’t possible in packaging. Forget the back of the box or the label. Now you can actually engage with them through different forms of content.
On Amazon, there are two main areas of content that any company can develop. One, you can create a store on the channel to merchandise and create an experience for consumers to navigate. You can do something as simple as the Fossil Watch Store or more advanced like Steaz, which is one of my favorite looking stores.
The other option is either Enhanced Brand Content or A+ content, depending on what type of merchant you are. For A+/EBC, I really like Fitbit and how they’ve merchandised the individual listing
It’s critical to invest as much as possible into photography and video to create a compelling and authentic experience for your brand. Copy is also very important to both sell and for Amazon SEO.
In addition to sharing your brand story, you can let your customers do the selling for you.That’s because Amazon allows users to ask questions about a product. Some of the questions the seller has to answer, but some of them the community answers. This is in addition to the reviews they can post as well.
As with any form of reviews, there can and will be negative ones (which you can address on the page). But on the good side of things, you now have the chance to use your super fans to sell. That’s not an experience or opportunity you have in retail.
Even with Instagram influencers, those people are being paid to tell your story. Do they actually love the products they post about? It’s unclear. At least on Amazon, the potential buyer know this customer bought the product because it’s verified by Amazon and the review may include his comments and a photo of him with the product. As a marketer, I think that’s a way more powerful investment to make.
Using Amazon to Drive In-Store Purchases
In a full-circle way, your presence on Amazon and specifically your positive reviews, will create credibility for the customer who may discover your product in a store and want to learn more before making a purchase. There have been many times where I’ll happen upon a new product at Target and then pull up Amazon on my phone to check out the reviews before making a decision. I know I’m not alone.
Now, if you’re a smaller company, you may be thinking that you don’t have the resources to compete against the large CPG brands. But there are many creative tactics to try, including leveraging highly targeted ads on Facebook and driving consumers directly to your Amazon store or listing. A lot of brands don’t think about the reviews.
To be sure, doors are quickly closing in retail. Analysts say up to 12,000 stores may close in 2019 alone and as many could close in 2020.
But in a time of crisis there is always an opportunity to innovate. Due to Amazon, the opportunity for small and mid-sized CPG brands has never been greater to reach new customers and tell their powerful brand stories, effectively and authentically.