2020 will be a big year for third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace. Amazon shows no sign of giving up its lead as the premier eCommerce site. At the same time, it looks like it’s opening up its treasure trove of customer data to its Marketplace retailers.
Now is a good time to consider your Amazon marketing strategy for 2020. Basically, you need to start thinking about the different ways you can reach customers, and what will create the most sales at the best margin.
When it comes down to your Amazon marketing strategy, there are four main areas to look at:
- Knowing your customer
- Winning the Buy Box
- Optimizing your PPC marketing
- Looking long term
In doing all of this, you need to audit your listings and look to update them — matching your listings to your customers and an optimized strategy. Let’s jump into it!
1. Know your customer
Any successful marketing strategy depends on understanding your customers, what they need and how you can persuade them to buy from you. But when Amazon owns the customer, you have to be on top of the data. You have to work out your own buying personas and customer buying cycles. With care and clever analysis, you can create a strategy that includes how you measure up against your competition and what new trends to expect in your particular market.
You really need to know where to look. For registered brand owners, that means Amazon Brand Analytics (ABA). ABA provides users access to a number of reports that provide valuable customer insights. Of specific interest is the Amazon Demographics Report. This provides information on average customer age, household income, education level, gender, marital status and more insights regarding your sales at a product level.
However, if you want to deep dive into transactional data, you will have to access that through Amazon Marketing Web Services (MWS). This is a powerful API that provides detailed customer reports, but only to Sellers with the technical know-how to ingest, process and display the data in a helpful way.
Pulling information from across the Amazon ecosystem builds a far more detailed picture of who’s buying your products, where they’re from and which products they buy. While much of this information is delivered to sellers, the challenge is sorting this information to create a live picture of detailed customer personas without tedious spreadsheet analysis. Analytics tools can take care of the heavy lifting, presenting outcomes and insights via an online dashboard. This leaves you to make strategy decisions based on those insights.
Knowing purchasing patterns can take your persona targeting to another level. You’ll know the days that buyers are most likely to make a purchase, products they’re likely to purchase at the same time and their average annual purchase totals. From here, you can decide when to increase your ad spend, which product bundles will resonate best and how to target your campaigns for the biggest impact.
2. Win the Buy Box
Unless your company only sells unique, branded products, the Buy Box should be a central concern to your Amazon strategy. When multiple merchants are competing to sell the same product, only one seller gets to be highlighted in the listing: it wins the Buy Box. It is claimed over 80% of Amazon sales go through the Buy Box, so you can see why it’s so important.
Amazon is a little elusive about how its algorithms make the Buy Box decision. However, it’s a common view that the cheaper your listing, the better your chance of being the ‘chosen one’. While it’s true that lowering your prices to be more competitive does more often than not result in better listings, the selection is more about how your price compares to your competition and how your seller performance compares.
In addition to delivering quality products at a competitive price, and simply making sure that you satisfy customers in order to keep your ‘star rating’ high, there are three other creative things you can try:
- Create unique bundles: Buy box competition only occurs when multiple sellers are listing the same product. Bundles are considered unique products. If you create a unique bundle, there will be no competition for the Buy Box. But you need the data to make sure that you bundle products that will actually sell.
- Be “Prime” eligible: Amazon favors Prime eligible products. FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) or Seller Fulfilled Prime status can help increase your Buy Box percentages if other Sellers are not Prime eligible.
- Target your ad spend: In order to bid on ‘Sponsored Products’, you need to be Buy Box ‘eligible’ — meaning that you need to be in competition to win the Buy Box. But that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a Buy Box win when someone clicks on your sponsored post. This means that you can win the sponsored ad, but actually funnel buyers to a listing in which one of your competitors has the Buy Box. If you know the products that you are already winning the Buy Box for, you can target your ad spend on those products and ensure that you get a better ROAS in total.
3. Up your PPC game
PPC advertising overall is a critical component of Amazon, and all eCommerce. You can significantly level the playing field in terms of visibility against long-established competitors by using advertising opportunities such as Sponsored Products or Sponsored Brands. What’s more, Amazon is constantly adding new ad products to its offerings. Leveraging new options like ASIN targeted campaigns is an effective way to incrementally lift sales in an increasingly competitive Amazon marketplace.
However, competition is a key point. The competitive nature of Amazon (and eCommerce in general) is driving up PPC prices across the board. That means being smart with how you bid is critical. All paid advertising cuts into profit margins, and it’s never a sure thing that you will win a keyword bid. But there are levers you can pull to tilt the odds in your favor.
Search term optimization
There is always more than one way that people search for different items. When creating either sponsored product or sponsored brand PPC ads, Amazon lets you choose between “broad match”, “phrase match” or “exact match” bidding. While exact matches are likely to provide the best ACoS (advertising cost of sale), choosing the best match is not easy and definitely not intuitive.
Your strategy needs to include approaches such as customer lifetime value and search term optimization to let you win those bids in the most effective way possible.
Search term optimization is a technique that allows you to harvest the best performing keywords and maximize your targeting of those terms. This is beneficial for two main reasons:
- 1. You lower the cost of the bid by being specific. With broad match and phrase match, you are always bidding on a group of terms. Particularly for ‘long tail’ search terms, that generally means paying more because those terms are grouped with higher-cost terms in that bidding pool.
- 2. You avoid bidding of irrelevant terms and, therefore, increase conversion. With phrase match and broad match, irrelevant terms always get caught up in the bidding pool. For example, a broad match bid for “dress shoes’’ might also pull in search phrases like “shoes that go with a dress”.
Customer lifetime value
A holy grail of any commerce is lifetime customer value. If you know the value of a customer over their lifetime interaction with your brand, you can gauge (with precision) the profitability threshold of acquiring that customer. But that requires you to look a little longer term – and in eCommerce, longer term could be anything from months to years.
4. Look long term
The danger with marketing on Amazon is that everything can appear immediate and “in the moment”. You can easily end up reacting to events rather than anticipating them. One key element of your marketing strategy is to look long-term.
The simplest form of long-term analysis is to identify seasonal trends and identify and exploit your overall best-performing products. To do this, you need to have all of your sales data in one place and review sales results over a long time window. Critically, you need to make sure that you export your data regularly.
Amazon only keeps ad data for 60 days, and although other customer data is kept longer, it’s not indefinite. At the very least, you should store this data in spreadsheets. However, a quality third-party analytics tool will not only keep that data indefinitely, it can let you crunch the numbers far more effectively.
Over the long-term, what analytics tools can do is provide in-depth insights on repeat purchases and cross-reference that information with persona data and PPC data. This provides an increasingly detailed estimate of how many products different buyer personas are likely to buy. Deploying
machine learning and AI, predictions can be made with stunning accuracy.
It all comes down to mastering the data
Amazon is increasingly all about data. More data is available now than ever and new tools are at your disposal to help you understand that information, so you need to take data seriously. 2020 will be all about data.
Understanding your data will not only help you plan and execute your strategy but also help drive the rest of the business. None of this analysis will be of any use if it isn’t supported by systems able to act on the insights and opportunities your data reveals.
Marketing is not a standalone activity. It is fundamentally a collaborative effort involving creative, logistic, front-office, financial, sales, and technical departments. Without a sound marketing strategy and the data to back it up, you’re in danger of falling behind the competition, especially when the industry is changing so rapidly.
Keeping outcomes in mind, outlining review processes and creating open channels of communication are important factors in developing and executing your Amazon marketing strategy. Just don’t forget the data.