There are over 400 million entrepreneurs worldwide, and each one of them has their own unique reason why they decided to startup. But building a product or service from scratch and selling it online is not for the faint-hearted. There are a number of moving parts in the business and it is important for each one of these components to work in order to drive success.
eCommerce is a two trillion dollar industry globally with nearly $423 billion of this coming from just the United States. Amazon is alone responsible for nearly 44% of all sales in the country. Given Amazon’s dominance in the US and also in many other countries globally, it is very important for any business to have a presence here in order to succeed in online commerce.
But selling on Amazon is not easy. No matter what industry you are in, there are thousands of products competing with yours for visibility and this makes success hard to come by. Also, given Amazon’s extreme reliance on seller reputation and customer reviews, a startup business may face an uphill battle in not only being seen by customers but in also surviving the cut-throat competition.
Launching An Online Store
Before you get started on your Amazon journey, it is important to establish your own online store. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, as a third party platform, Amazon holds significant leverage on the success of your business. This puts your business on shaky grounds since any algorithmic change on Amazon’s part could destroy your business overnight.
Secondly, holding your products exclusively on a third party platform would give you very little freedom with respect to promotion. All your SEO and PPC marketing budgets would be spent on driving traffic to Amazon. That money could be better spent building your own online brand.
There are a number of different platforms to set up your own online store. There are a few factors to consider while picking the one that is right for your business. For one, your online platform must be highly scalable. While it is a dream for every entrepreneur to bring in millions of visitors to their sites, this should not end up breaking your site. Secondly, you must pick a platform that has a good developer ecosystem. ECommerce is a highly resource intensive business and an app ecosystem ensures that a lot of everyday tasks could be executed through scripts that can be installed at the click of a button.
In addition to these, the ideal eCommerce platform will also be highly secure and will integrate with the payment gateway of your choice. A cursory Google search will help you find a number of popular eCommerce platforms that can be installed in a jiffy. This includes market leaders like Shopify as well as smaller, niche platforms like Virto and 3DCart.
Launching An Amazon Store – Understanding The Ranking Algorithm
The search and ranking technology of Amazon is handled by its subsidiary A9. The A9 algorithm is responsible for identifying and displaying the most relevant results to a customer’s search query on the Amazon website. There are three broad factors that this algorithm takes into account while ranking products – relevance, customer satisfaction, and conversion rate.
The title and product description play a big role in helping Amazon understand how relevant your listing is to the product being sought by a customer. This is similar to how Google determines what the most relevant web page is to a search query. However, in the case of Amazon, relevance goes beyond just exact query matching to knowing whether the product being displayed is what the customer deems relevant. For example, a search for ‘Xerox machine’ should point to photocopiers because that is precisely what the customer is referring to. Identifying the right synonyms for your keywords and using them to provide Amazon with the right product context is thus crucial.
Product relevance is only the first part of the buying process. Customers look for products that they can trust and for this, they look up to the ratings and reviews from other buyers. Encourage your customers to leave reviews for your products on Amazon (make sure you do not violate Amazon’s terms here). At the same time, it is also important to ask your customers to rate you as a seller. High seller ratings tell Amazon that you are someone that their customers can trust and this improves your ranking on their search.
Amazon makes money each time a customer buys a product off their online store. Quite naturally, the conversion rate plays a big part in determining your product ranking on search. While metrics for conversion rate can overlap with relevance and customer satisfaction, some factors that uniquely influence conversion rate include product images and pricing. Invest in professional images for your products and play around with your pricing for the sweet spot. Shipping charges for products are often known to bring down the conversion rate of products.
While the factors mentioned above can make or break product ranking on Amazon, it is also important to note that it can take a really long time for businesses to establish good customer trust. If you are just starting out, building a steady stream of customers can be a challenge in your early days. Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) can be quite handy in such instances. AMS is essentially a PPC advertising system for Amazon that allows retailers to promote their products on the search listings. Retailers may choose between two specific ad categories – Amazon Pages are headline ads that show up like banners on the top of the search results while Display Ads are sponsored listings that show up beneath the regular search results.
While this is similar to the sponsored listings on Google, it needs to be pointed out that there is currently no system similar to quality score that exists on Adwords. This makes the CPCs on Amazon Marketing Services lower than what you have on Google ads.
In conclusion, the game plan for a startup retailer on Amazon is this – establish a good product profile by investing in high-quality images and title/descriptions that drive conversion. In addition to this, establish a mechanism to generate feedback from your customers on the Amazon platform. Finally, invest in Amazon Marketing Services to drive new customers to your product. Following this strategy should build a sustainable sales pipeline that will help you establish a reputation which is paramount for success on Amazon.