Million Dollar Session 9 Amazon best practices

The Million Dollar Case Study Session #9: Amazon Best Practices (from an Amazonian)

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Here we are with an important episode of the Million Dollar Case Study. This session covers a range of up to date Amazon best practices for sellers. The best part is, we’ve invited Amazonian and entrepreneur at heart Joel Lentz to share his best practices and top tips. Sound advice from someone who knows the inner workings at Amazon seems like a must-watch to me!

Just a little bit about Joel: He works for the Business Development Team at Amazon, and prior to that has worked for other Fortune 500 companies since finishing his Master’s degree in Business. Joel has dabbled with selling on Amazon himself and has plans to take this further.

 

Disclaimer: the nature of beast that is Amazon means that some of the facts in this webinar could change. But this aims to provide some hard and fast rules that all Amazon sellers should follow. 

 

If audio visual is more your thing, here’s the full video replay:

 

And here are the webinar slides:

A little bit about the Business Development Team at Amazon

To give you some background about Joel’s role at Amazon, he explains what life is like on the Business Development team doing account management.

Amazon is meant to be self-service,  both for consumers and sellers alike. But the Business Development team work on getting new sellers onboard and helping sellers to manage their accounts effectively. This is for two main reasons:

  1. Ensure Amazon has a depth of product and good stock levels
  2. To ensure Amazon has a breadth of product, and constantly brings in new products to the marketplace

This means that the team are regularly speaking with brand owners, manufacturers, wholesalers and resellers and helping sellers from all business models to get onboard with Amazon. Ultimately, to make Amazon’s offering stronger and the most competitive.

Reason number 2 is particularly relevant to a lot of Jungle Scout viewers, because Amazon are welcoming to brand owners, product inventors and sellers who source from overseas.

 

Earth’s most customer-centric company

Joel covers Amazon’s mission, which is to be the most customer-centric company where people can discover and buy anything they want. This can sometimes cause frustrations for FBA sellers. You only have to look towards a popular Facebook group for Amazon sellers to see that this is true.

Joel makes a great point that if you are ever frustrated with Amazon, it’s most likely because you feel like they are putting the customer before you as a the seller. 

This is a double-edged sword, but as Joel explains, one of Bezos most influential standpoints is to “start with the customer and work backwards”.

“Start with the customer and work backwards” – Jeff Bezos

This is a good thing for sellers because it accounts for Amazon’s success, growth and stability as a platform for you to build or expand you business upon.

Here’s an interesting slide showing a flywheel from within the walls of Amazon that shows how sellers have always been in the long-term vision:

Sellers flywheel Amazon

And here is a really interesting statistic from last year:

“50 percent of the total units sold on Amazon are from sellers.”

So there’s some reassuring facts and figures from an Amazonian. Now let’s move on to the good stuff & dig into some Amazon seller best practices.

 

Amazon Prime Day

Stop the press – a quick announcement!

Joel shared a quick explanation of the three-year running Amazon Prime Day – where Prime customers get access to the biggest Amazon sale day, with deep discounts on retail prices.

Here’s the important part, Prime Day will be in July (Date TBC) and the cut off for sellers to submit deals is May 21st!

Amazon Prime Day

Here’s how to participate:

For Prime Day submission sellers will get an email in the next few weeks to run a lightning deal if their products meet the following criteria:

  • Prime offers only (FBA or Seller Fulfilled Prime)
  • Lightning Deal prices must offer customers a 20% or greater discount from the average price listed on Amazon.com in the last 90 days
  • Lightning Deal prices must also be lower than the lowest price since January 1, 2016
  • 5,000-dollar minimum deal size (number of units multiplied by deal price)
  • Must have a product rating of 4 stars or higher
  • No listing defects on the ASIN detail page
  • Adult products, suggestive images, and products of a controversial nature will not be accepted for Lightning Deals

You will be able to research this in seller central.

 

Amazon Intel From An Amazonian

OK we’re going in. Here’s all of the key information and tips that Joel shared…

 

A few facts about the Buy Box

First up Joel explained a few interesting facts about the Buy Box:

Buy Box on Amazon

If you are competing for the buy box, these are the key factors that come into play: Price, customer reviews, low order defect rate and shipping charges.

Interestingly, Joel mentions that you can contact an account manager, if you have one, to get early buy box eligibility from day one. Useful tip for any wholesalers in particular.

Now, if you are a private label seller with a brand registered product, you should get 100% as the buy box as the only seller. For those of you following this case study, and taking steps to launch your own brand product, this applies to you.

In the Q&A we discussed what Private Label sellers should do if someone else sells the same product (aka: “listing hijacking“). Joel’s advice in this scenario is to always do a buy test. That is, order the suspected counterfeit product to see it in the flesh. This then arms you with evidence that you can give to Amazon to resolve the situation.

However, ordering a suspected counterfeit will take some time, so Joel advises that you also report the product listing from the page. Here’s an example of where that link is on a product listing:

Reporting a product listing

 

Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns

Joel takes some time to discuss Sponsored Products on Amazon, or Amazon PPC – offering this as a best practice tip for successful launches as well as maintaining a profitable product during it’s life span.

He explains that only 30% of Amazon shoppers click past the 1st page of search results, making Amazon PPC a sure-fire way to bypass the waiting game, get to the first page, and increase sales velocity.

Additionally, if you take a look at some of his statistics here, you can see that many sellers are jumping on board with Amazon PPC, and you don’t want to get left behind:

Amazon PPC sellers

Another interesting fact that Joel confirmed is that if you are competing for the buy box, then your ads will only show when you are winning the buy box. Additionally, having Sponsored Products is likely to increase the amount of times you win the buy box.

On the other hand, if you are a private label seller winning the buy box 100% of the time, you can leverage PPC to get more people to see your product for a wider range of keywords.

Joel’s key surface level Optimization Tips for Amazon PPC are:

  1. Launch with automatic targeting
  2. Identify top-performing keywords & leverage to launch manual targeting campaigns
  3. Add negative keywords for terms not meeting your goals
  4. Increase budget on top performing campaigns
  5. Optimize keywords by increasing bids on low volume terms and high performing keywords


Further Amazon PPC resources

If you’re completely new to Amazon PPC, find lots more information and detailed steps in these articles:

And here are some really useful videos from Amazon themselves, if you don’t already have a Seller Central account (best viewed in Chrome):

 

Plus, if you have an Amazon account manager, you may also qualify for the following 8 week optimization support program:

8 week optimization support

 

Amazon Marketplace: Where do you fit? 

Joel specifically recommends starting with FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon), instead of MFN (Merchant Fulfilled Network, also known as FBM or fulfilled by merchant).

Here’s the keys to success as an FBA seller:

  • Use FBA to scale your business and outsource shipping.
  • Register as a Brand Owner*
  • Apply for Enhanced Brand Content – this allows you to create more visual product listings, with text formatting and images in product descriptions.
  • Consider Amazon Exclusives – this is a paid for service for sellers who sell exclusively on Amazon and do not have brick and mortar or other online distribution. The benefits include adding videos to your listings and other tools.
  • As discussed above, set up Sponsored Products / PPC ads to maximize exposure.

*New information about Brand Registry: Amazon has temporarily stopped applications until the beginning of May, 2017, when they will roll out a new Brand Registry with more features to protect sellers. One of the new requirements will be to get your product Trademarked. At the time of publishing, Joel was not sure if a pending registration for a Trademark would suffice. Keep an eye out on the Amazon Brand Registry page within Seller Central for updates. This won’t affect existing brand registered products. 

 

Should I get an account manager?

If you aren’t selling yet, here’s Joel’s slide about qualifying for getting an Amazon account manager:

Amazon Account Management

 

This is a free service from Amazon which Joel thoroughly recommends. (Note: since the recording of this webinar, Demi Marsh will be the new point of contact). You can contact Demi, who also works at Amazon and who will happy reply directly with any questions. Here are some qualification questions he’d like to know prior to speaking with you:

  • What are your products?
  • Where are you sourcing from?
  • What is your revenue goal for the year?
  • What other marketplaces or website do you sell on, if any?

If you already have an Amazon Merchant account, even if you aren’t selling yet, then you can’t access account management. Joel’s top tip for finding answers, other than contacting the infamous seller support, is to use the search bar right within seller central:

Seller Central Help Desk

Spending a bit of time looking around this resource center is actually pretty useful, and can usually give you insight for a wide range of problems.

It has to be said, I have used seller support a few times recently, including the call-back feature and managed to find help successfully and quickly. So definitely try this out if you really are stuck!

Additionally, why not join our Facebook group, FBA Competitive Edge, it’s a wonderfully helpful community.

 

What’s Next?

Thanks for joining us for Episode #9 of the Million Dollar Case Study. Hopefully you have taken some good insights and inspirations from this session.

Make sure to stay tuned next week for episode #10 where we will be diving into Tax & Legal structure for Amazon sellers. Joining us we have Stewart Patton, US tax attorney, expat entrepreneur and founder of U.S. Tax Services. He is going to be covering a ton of knowledge on the topic and answering your questions, don’t miss it!

Join us on Wednesday, April 26th at 8p ET / 3p PT. If you’re already signed up we will send you a reminder. If not, sign up for the full case study below!

 

A Note From Joel On Qualifying for The Account Manager

UPDATE 4/1/18: Joel has recently moved to another team in Amazon. The new contact is Demi Marsh. Her email is marshdem [at] amazon.com. If you fit the following criteria, she would be the person to reach out to:

BEFORE you contact me please note that:

1. We don’t have account managers in the baby category.  Additionally, if you are not based in the US, then we can’t help you with account management.

2. If you have an account that you have listed a product on (even if you have not made a sale yet) then you don’t qualify for an account manager.  We only work with new sellers that have not listed a product.

3. You must be a US based seller in order for account management on .com.  This means you must have a US bank account and US address in order for us to work with you.

4. You must have the cash flow and potential to sell at least $400K of inventory on Amazon in the 2017 calendar year.  If this is not realistic for you, we can’t dedicate time to account management.

If you meet the above qualifications, here are some questions I’d like to know in order to determine if a conversation with me or another account manager is warranted.  Again, you don’t need to reply with answers if you have already listed a product:

  • What are your products and how many SKU’s do you have?
  • Where are you sourcing from and when will the inventory be in your possession?
  • What other marketplaces or website do you sell on, if any?
  • What was your annual revenue from last year and or what is your revenue goal for this year?
  • What email did you register with if you have already signed up but not listed yet?
  • What is the best number and time to reach you if further information is needed?

 

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20 Comments on “The Million Dollar Case Study Session #9: Amazon Best Practices (from an Amazonian)”

  1. Hi Greg and Gin,
    First want to say thank you for taking the time to do this Case Study, and to do it FREE! I have a follow up question to this webinar by Joel Lentz, “The Amazonian”. I just put my deposit on my first product from China, and I have a follow up question about the Trademark issue for Brand Registry. In an earlier webinar, Greg mentioned that Amazon does not like bar codes from places like SpeedyBarCodes because the UPC is not assigned to my LLC. So he would just Brand Register the product and use the model number as the identifier. Now that a Trademark is required for Brand Registry, what is the plan? I don’t mind applying for a Trademark, but that may take some time. I don’t mind going head and purchasing a GS1 Bar Code, but I already have my package design with my FNSKU and it has been sent to the manufacturer in China. Can I change my UPC? I would assume this can be done by emailing SellerCentral, but will it change my FNSKU? Sorry, I know that is a lot of questions, but I’m just trying to avoid any issues with an incorrect bar code. I think it may be easier to address now rather than wait until my product is here and in the warehouse.

    All of my questions may not matter if Amazon decides to accept a pending application to the USPTO. We could just apply, wait approx 5 days for the application to appear on the USPTO website and then proceed as Greg mentioned earlier. That’s the direction I am thinking of going at the present time, but I am just curious if you have any ideas or know of another work around?

    Thanks for your time!
    Brian V.

    1. Hey Brian! Thanks for joining us for the case study! We’re in the same boat as you, bought the UPC before the changes. I don’t think its a big deal to have a non-GS1 UPC for a few months while waiting for a trademark but I’m not really sure – time will tell. We’ll keep you updated in the process as we find out more but for now I’m just going to push forward with the non-GS1 barcode, I’m not too worried about it.

      Seller Central may change your UPC if you ask them, I’m honestly not real sure. Thanks!

  2. Hi Greg

    Thanks for the response to Brian V’s question. I too bought some non-GS1 UPC codes prior to knowing about the brand registry change and am just wondering if i should just wait until early May, since it is right around the corner to see what the official requirements are for brand registry to save myself some potential setbacks. This is my first amazon product I am launching and the process already involves numerous steps that I am learning along the way. In the meantime I have plenty to do with setting up my product listings and getting photo graphics done, setting up ppc campaign, brand website and etc…….what are your thoughts? Thanks

    1. It looks like you can actually get a GTIN exemption without a brand registry, according to this page: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200426310

      It looks like private label products are listed as being eligible for the exemption, you just need to provide:

      Support letter from brand owner, manufacturer or publisher to prove that they do not provide a GTIN for the products, or a list of sample products for review.
      We need a website link to view the products. If you do not have a website, nor does the brand or publisher has it, you can upload pictures to an online image service and provide us with the link.

      Seems simple enough – you’re the manufacturer, just send them a “letter” with pictures of your products and tell them you don’t want to use a UPC for your GTIN, instead, just want to use a model number.

      1. Hi Greg, I’m a newbie and confused on the barcode/trademark issue. (I’m days away from placing my first order from the warehouse.)
        Does getting the GTIN exemption mean that a trademark isn’t needed right away?

        Thank you,

        1. Hey Levi,

          Getting a GTIN exemption means you don’t need a barcode from GS1 (which is called a UPC if you are in the U.S.)

          Usually, you need to purchase a GTIN in order to generate the FNSKU in Amazon so that you can label your product for their warehouse. If you don’t want to do this, then you could apply for a GTIN exemption.

          You don’t *need* a trademark right away, but you will need a registered trademark if you want to apply for the new Amazon Brand Registry.

          You can read more about both topics here!

          Hope this helps
          Kym

  3. hi greg
    I wanted to ask you to expand on the 8 week optimization support program.
    I did not understand what it included and how to join it
    Thanks in advance
    Erez

    1. Hey Erez,

      You would need an Account Manager at Amazon to access the course that Joel mentioned.

      To qualify for an account manager you cannot already have an Amazon Merchant account. If this applies to you, you can reach out to Joel (there is a link in the post) and he will check whether you match the rest of the criteria. If you do, then you may be able to access the 8-week program that Joel mentioned.

      This is not a Jungle Scout program, it is offered as a free service by Amazon to qualifying sellers.

      Thanks,
      Kym

    1. Hi Christopher,

      You really just want to start your seller account when you need to find a distribution center to ship it to, so you can wait a little while until you need a specific address to send to your freight forwarder. hope this helps!

      Gen

  4. Don’t we need to create a seller account before that, when we add the product and create an fsnku that we need to send to the supplier to put on the package? Isn’t this early in the process, after signing contracts with supplier?

    Speaking of the bar code, is this printed on the box/package or created as a separate label/layer that is glued to the packaging?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Corina,

      You are correct, you will need a seller account (you can sign up for free) to add the product and get an fnsku.

      The bar code is printed on the packaging, or you can have your supplier add a sticker to the packaging. Hope that this helps!

      Gen

  5. Hello and thx for the awesome webinars.

    Once you have the listing created in seller central, you start creating the shipping plan. At certain point of the process, you are asked for the shipping carrier, where you have to select UPS, DHL, etc. Based on the shipping boxes you have (and size, weight, etc) you are charged from the credit card the cost of the shipping. Does it mean that the supplier in China don’t have to ask me any money related to shipping? I mean, I just pay the product because the shipping will be paid from my credit card as explained before. Is that right? Thx a bunch

    1. Hi Dario,

      Yes, you are correct in the scenario which you describe, however it also depends on how you structure your payment with your supplier, and how they will incorporate the shipping into the costs, where their responsibility of getting the product out of the factory, etc. you can check out this webinar with more details from Freightos: https://www.junglescout.com/blog/importing-from-china/

      Gen

      1. Thx Gen, that helps.

        In my case, it’s just a single box to start with (first product). I believe that when you provide the Source Address in the shipment process (the supplier address), plus the size & weight of the box/es, Amazon calculates the total cost of shipping base on the information provided for you. I mean, from the physical address of the supplier to AMZ.
        So, I can tell to my seller … check with (UPS, DHL, etc) because I already paid for the shipping. Of course, they can check that once I send them the FNSKU label I print out from the listing.

        Thx a bunch

  6. I’m reading through the case studies again making sure I’m not forgetting anything. What popped out in this particular post was the issue of ‘listing hijacking’. Isn’t that what we’re all doing though? We go out, find a niche with poor listings, beatable copy, good profit potential, and bring a better product to the market. Despite enhancing those areas, we are still essentially selling the same thing only marketing it to display higher quality all around. Joel suggests reporting the listings. Wouldn’t that mean Jungle Stix would infringe on Blazin’ Sticks, Grillin Sticks, etc or any other combination? The only thing differentiating the actual product is the listing themselves.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    1. Hey Christopher,

      You are correct in that private label sellers don’t “reinvent the wheel” completely, but the difference is when you do it right, you source your own version of an existing product that has demand, and list it under your own brand, with your own logo, and you create your own product listing.

      Hijacking is typically when someone piggybacks on your product listing with your exact product, or a cheap counterfeit version, and may use some or all of your brand identity on the packaging. They then compete for the buy box on your listing, dilute your sales and usually force the price down. As you can imagine this is a problem.

      This is why it’s so important for serious sellers to consider getting trademarked and entering Brand Registry, which gives you the protection you need to prevent this, and put a stop to it if it does happen to you.

      Here’s some more information about preventing hijackers: http://www.junglescout.com/blog/how-to-protect-against-listing-hijackers

      Hope that helps to clarify 🙂

      Thanks,
      Kym

  7. Hi-
    Im not sure if you are still answering question on the FNSKU portion of this thread. I am slightly confused on how to get an FNSKU for FOB. I am supposed to buy a SKU from a reseller, then change the owner name to my business in the GS1 database. After set up my listing on amazon and wait for my FNSKU to be made. Is this the correct order?

    thx
    Jeff

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