A+ in e-commerce sales

AmazONLINE Part 2: Earning an A+ can help tame the Amazon

In part one of our deep dive into the Amazon of online competition, we discussed how brands can help their brick-and-mortar partners navigate a world that is increasingly online.

Today, we’ll focus on helping them thrive in the digital waters of the Amazon.

For a retailer (or a brand selling its own product), selling on Amazon isn’t as simple as uploading a logo file and double-clicking the mouse. This isn’t ’Nam. There are rules. Lots and lots of rules. So many rules that it may take an entire team of experts just to know how to post your products, let alone post and sell them successfully.

Some operations have enough in-house bandwidth to thoroughly understand the Amazonian rules, build the proper templates, understand the SEO dynamics and smoothly start selling. Others, well, they need a partner who knows the ins and outs of the Amazon e-comm arena. When you consider that selling online is so much more than knowing the rules of the various Internet outlets, the need for an expert partner is amplified. There are a lot of advantages to selling online. But there are also a lot of disadvantages. Without that direct personal connection (from retailer to customer, brand representative to customer, brand rep to retailer, etc.), the most important part of the sales game is infinitely more difficult; handshakes and sparking personalities don’t matter much when we’re all reduced to 1s and 0s.

Successfully peddling pet food or other gear requires that personal touch. It’s an inherently warm and fuzzy industry thanks to our ever-expanding love for our four-footed warm and fuzzies. Luckily for those of us opting to embrace the Amazon marketplace, the boys and girls of Bezos recognize the plight of traditional pet brands that have begun to focus on online sales. Amazon is beginning to not only educate customers more on pet consumables, but also foster that emotional connection that all pet shoppers crave. Amazon has now created “pet profiles” that act as online identities for pet owners and their pets. By entering information about any species of pet and its personal preferences, Amazon can refine the shopping experience for every individual and follow up with monthly emails, coupons, or anything that might be relevant to Billy the South African Three-Toed Gecko and his owner. It’s personalized targeting at its most relevant.

Amazon isn’t inventing the hamster wheel, here. They developed these pet education services and profiles to compete with Chewy, the PetSmart-backed e-commerce giant. Chewy has long been renowned for its customer service and personal shopping experience, and Amazon has scrambled to catch up. The good news for pet product marketers is that both online juggernauts recognize the need for customer education and the importance of their shopping experience. That’s like…half our job!

Show and tell

Even though Amazon is doing its part to help your customers enjoy the more non-personal online shopping experience, it still falls to you to make sure your customers pick up what you’re putting down. Both figuratively, literally and digitally. When peddling online (no matter the venue), you need your audience to see you and then click on you. Full stop.

This is why your product title is so important. It’s often your online shopper’s only gateway to your product. You have to make it count! You need to make the most out of that 250-character limit, which should contain the following elements:

  • Brand name
  • Product type
  • Benefits/features
  • Size

Your images are next. A customer wants to see all dimensions of a product, inside and out. They want to see charts comparing your product with the competitors. They want informational images. They want to see your product in action.

They want to read bullet points and a description. A good rule of thumb when it comes to bullets is to write five sentences explaining your product features and the resulting benefits. Benefits are important. If your new puppy sidecar has a cup holder, explain how that cup holder will change the customer’s life, or the life of her dog. You want your first few bullets to detail the most important features and benefits of the product. The final two or three bullets should answer common customer questions. If the answer is there before they even think to ask, you’ll build confidence in that potential purchaser. As far as your description, it needs to tell a story of your brand along with calling out your main selling points.

Moving picture move products

Amazon now allows brands to upload videos to showcase products. Make sure to check out the video requirements before uploading, and then upload useful video. It doesn’t have to be an elaborately produced Spielbergian joint, but it DOES have to tell the customer what they need to know quickly and efficiently. However you want to present it, it’s hard to argue against the need for video. It works!

To be A+, you need to know A+

Now that you’ve captured the customer’s attention with your product’s title, you gotta bring the wow. They’ve clicked. Now you need to entice them to scroll. You do that with images and info.

Amazon’s product detail pages (called “A+” pages in Amazon terms) usually see a conversion rate of around 15 percent. This is 300 to 500 percent higher than an average e-commerce site, according to BigCommerce. Amazon has an advantage that other online retailers don’t have: When customers go to Amazon, they are ready to hit that “buy” button. This is all a brand (or its retailers) needs to know when deciding whether to play nice with the site. A best-case scenario for any brand is to be there when someone is ready to make a purchase.

On some level, marketing is marketing. And to be successful marketing with Amazon A+ pages, you need to know the best practices of the format. You wouldn’t put 500 words of copy on a billboard, or make a radio ad with visuals. You should apply the same tactic of working with the strengths of the medium when it comes to using our fastest-growing format for marketing and selling your products. When using A+ pages, you have three seconds to grab someone’s attention. You need to make them count! And that includes making sure that your SEO practices are up to snuff, meaning that your product shows up high in the right search results. (But that’s a whole other blog post. Stay tuned!)

Get views with reviews

An overlooked but essential part of the Amazon A+ pages is the “customer reviews” tab. This tab can make or break you on Amazon. The golden number in Amazon’s eyes is 21 reviews with an average star rating of four stars or higher. This is a twofold issue. First, you have to get your customers to review your products. Then, you have to make sure those reviews are largely positive. If you hit that magic number, your search results will be better and, ideally, so will your sales. Not only are the number of reviews important, but the way a brand responds to reviews is essential, since 58 percent of product searches start on Amazon. If you are getting quite a few reviews that need responding to, it could be good to partner with a company that specializes in online reputation management with a special focus on Amazon.

Amazon is here to stay. It will remain a major player in the pet consumables arena. The sooner we accept those facts, the sooner we’ll have success playing in the biggest digital sandbox there is. Thankfully, Amazon plays nice with pet brands! It continues to innovate its marketing strategies for our brands, and the customer experience is always on Amazon’s mind.

One of the best strategies a manufacturer or brick-and-mortar store can implement these days is to reach out to a company or agency that employs experts dedicated to intimately knowing this online retail giant. The ability to quickly adapt while bringing strategic insights about how to work with Amazon’s ever-changing backend can make or break a company in this digital universe.