We just wrapped up part three of Engineered for eCommerce, a series where we look for lessons on how to win online by studying brands that were born there. If you missed the first two installments, you can find our recaps for part one here and part two here. All three webinars were part of firstmovr’s eCommerce Summit.
For part three, we focused on how eCommerce brands are winning on Amazon. We used some of our favorite examples: Death Wish Coffee, Puracy, Anker, Each & Every, and WOW. These companies established their brands using a combination of DTC and Marketplace selling.
Amazon’s Marketplace represents the bulk of the retailer’s sales, and it’s expected to grow to 80% or more of its business long term. There are two big factors that have made Amazon’s Marketplace the first choice for upstart brands: access and control. Any motivated newcomer with $39 and a weekend can get on Amazon without having to worry about meeting with buyers or dealing with the complexities of fulfillment. And, unlike Amazon’s first party approach, third party sellers control everything from inventory and pricing to marketing and content.
So, how are our 5 case study brands winning on Amazon? Here’s what they’re doing right:
- They control their distribution.
- They push the limits of what’s possible in creative.
- They hold unique positioning.
- They have diverse acquisition approaches.
- They test, learn, and optimize continuously in ways that you can only do as a marketplace seller.
Lesson 1: Control Your Distribution
Amazon can get messy for many brands, especially well-established brands. It’s not uncommon to see 20 or more sellers competing for a single item. This includes Amazon first party sales, brands selling their own products, authorized distributors, unauthorized distributors, retail arbitrage, and (though more rarely) counterfeiters.
This year, Amazon made it easier than ever before to find out who these people are by requiring businesses to use their legal names and valid contact information.
It’s extremely important to get distribution under control. When you don’t control your distribution, you’re leaving your brand’s appearance and reputation on Amazon up to resellers. You also risk prise erosion, making your retailers look uncompetitive.
Brands like Death Wish Coffee, Puracy, and Each & Every tightly control their distribution. This allows them to create well-structured shopping experiences, go all-in on creative, and respond to reviews and questions for great customer service.
One example we shared is Each & Every’s awesome parent-child shopping structure.
This allows shoppers to browse scents easily without having to navigate back to search. A typical reseller would have split all these products into separate listings with an inconsistent approach.
We go over specific tactics for taking control of resellers in this blog.
Lesson 2: Push the Limits of Amazon Creative
Amazon’s Marketplace provides a full range of tools that you can use to create a best-in-class merchandising presence for your brand. Setting up your listing is more than just checking boxes. Make every element of your creative work hard.
Images are one of the first areas eyes explore. A strong feature and benefit story can be enough to close the sale then and there. The key to a strong execution is remembering that these images are about the product, not the brand.
Anker does an incredible job delivering all the product-specific reasons to believe with their product images. Below is an example of how Anker uses one of their product images to clearly communicate the amount of time you can save using one of their portable chargers.
All of Anker’s product images communicate benefits and reasons to believe. WOW and Puracy also have listings with great examples of how to make your product images work harder.
When it comes to product titles and descriptions, marrying human readability and SEO is vital. Make sure you’re communicating the product in a differentiated way while also keeping things concise and focused.
A+ content gives you an opportunity to go deeper on the brand story or cross-selling your portfolio. Think of it like a billboard. Shoppers will often scroll past this section, so you need to make sure it’s eye-catching enough to stop them in their tracks.
Each & Every uses A+ content to cross-sell their different scents, and they also tell their brand story. Anker uses A+ to hit their shopper again with reasons to believe. Death Wish Coffee uses high impact visuals that stand out and speak to brand tone and quality.
Lesson 3: Own Unique Position
Amazon provides the perfect environment for product comparison. Shoppers can browse items from recognizable brick and mortar competitors, brands purely available online, and new and emerging brands.
Because of this, it’s extremely important to assess the Amazon Marketplace in isolation and make sure your product offering stands out enough. In other words, own a unique position.
One of our favorite examples of a brand doing this well is Death Wish Coffee. Death Wish came on the scene within the highly competitive coffee category with really established brands like Starbucks. Their claim, “World’s Strongest Coffee”, was bold, but it was also just the right amount of boldness to get noticed.
From their listing titles to their video content, this claim is carried throughout their creative to truly own their positioning. As an added bonus, this claim works to qualify buyers who love strong coffee, and it targets the right keywords. In fact, Death Wish currently ranks #1 for “strongest coffee”.
Lesson 4: On and Off-Platform Acquisition
Bigger, more established companies tend to think of Amazon as a silo and focus on using Amazon tools to drive Amazon sales. But, upstart brands use on and off-platform media to drive velocity.
Velocity and organic sales are extremely important when it comes to organic ranking for important keywords because it’s driven by how fast your product is selling. Off-platform ads give you a 2 for 1. Every Facebook or search ad that drives traffic to Amazon has a paid and organic impact.
Start by optimizing core on-platform ads including:
- Sponsored Products (Keyword & Product Targeting)
- Sponsored Brands - Collections
- Sponsored Brands - Video
- Product Display (Audience & Product)
- Amazon DSP
Sponsored Brand Collections and Sponsored Products can help you own the shelf and provide alternatives to your competition. Sponsored Brands Video ads are engaging and disruptive, and they’re definitely worth testing while the prices are still great.
Don’t limit yourself to only targeting the competition with your on-platform ads. You can also use Sponsored Brands to drive awareness of other items in your portfolio. Here’s an example from Anker:
The final major tool in the Amazon toolkit is DSP (Demand Side Platform). This combines Amazon’s platforms (Kindle, Amazon.com, FireTV) with third party placement for extended reach. DSP allows you to reach shoppers in a more targeted way and in more places. DSP comes with a learning curve, but the added capabilities make it worth it.
Of course, you will need a solid keyword strategy to get the most out of SEM. You should keep the focus on finding low competition, high volume keywords that can get you the most impact at the lowest cost. Undiscovered niches, longtail keywords, and even misspellings are good places to start.
Once you’ve maximized your on-platform ads, work on external traffic. Top brands use social media marketing, search engine marketing, landing pages, exit intent popups, and email campaigns to drive external traffic. Check out part two of Engineered for eCommerce for a deep dive into aggressive acquisition.
Lesson 5: Test, Learn, and Optimize Continuously
The final benefit of Marketplace selling that we discussed is the ability to test and learn in ways that you can’t with first party selling.
With A/B testing you can get granular about optimizing your main product images, title and listing copy, back-end keywords, and pricing strategy.
A good conversion rate on Amazon is in the 10-20% range. A/B testing can help you identify ways to improve conversion rate, whether you’re already at 20% or just starting out at 5%. Testing helps you push the needle further in your favor.
For example, we used A/B testing for one of our own products, a veteran recognition coin. We tested both sides of the coin as the main product image to see what drove the most engagement.
The result? The “thank you” side increased sales by 2.8 times, a nearly 96% statistical significance!
We don’t know why the “thank you” side works better, and ultimately, it doesn’t matter. “Why” isn’t the right question when it comes to A/B testing. As long as it’s on-brand and drives more sales, we accept the results.
When it comes to managing your campaigns, we believe humans and machines are better together. Campaign automation can help you stay ahead of the game on a daily basis, but you should still be monitoring your campaigns on a weekly basis to review your budget and make adjustments. Each month, do a deep dive to review your campaigns, KPIs, and planning.
Bringing it All Together
Emerging upstart brands like WOW, Death Wish Coffee, Puracy, Each & Every, and Anker are using Amazon’s Marketplace to reach consumers and win. Third party allows brands to control their own destiny, from distribution and marketing to creative and positioning.
To make the most of Amazon’s Marketplace, here are the three key things to remember:
- Take advantage of the tools available.
- Differentiate and manage resellers.
- Assess, test, learn, and optimize!