Building Your Brands with Storefronts and Detail Pages
Selling on Amazon’s Marketplace represents a modern-day Gold Rush, with thousands of new third-party sellers setting up shop every month. On August 21 Supplier Community hosted the Amazon Sellers Conference, designed to help small and mid-sized supplier teams (even startups) start and grow their business, with information and tools to help facilitate decisions concerning the if, when, and how to launch your own eCommerce business.
One of our features speakers was Michael Southworth, Co-founder and CEO for elemerce, a company that helps brands navigate and build their eCommerce strategies. In his presentation, Southworth shared his insights on why brands still matter and how you can build a brand that has longevity and provides lifetime value for your customers.
Brands Aren’t Dead, They’re Just Changing
There’s a common conception that people no longer care about brands. But according to Southworth, just like brick and mortar, brands aren’t dying, they’re simply evolving, and for a brand to succeed in today’s eCommerce environment it needs to evolve as well.
When Southworth started his agency approximately four years ago, he worked exclusively with Amazon. Since that time, they have expanded to include websites, another area some say are a waste of time, but which Southworth believes are still highly relevant in the total eCommerce ecosystem, and have a lot of impact when trying to develop a brand that has longevity.
To this day, Southworth’s agency only works with brands. They don’t work with private labelers or re-salers. And while he says they do work with launching brands that are just starting out, these are brands which are trying to develop a long-term lifetime value with their customers.
The Advantages of Having a Brand
Southworth says in his market, brand still matters. Amazon buyers do care about brand, and with 90 million Prime members and growing, that’s a big deal. Additionally, these 90 million plus Prime members skew to the higher income brackets, with household incomes of $75,000 or more.
For a long time, the general consensus was that much of what sold on Amazon was commodity products, that people just went to Amazon looking for the lowest price, rather than quality or more premium brands. Recent data shows that’s no longer true. Today, more shoppers are becoming accustomed to, and in fact actually prefer to shop on a platform, so building a brand of value is important from the consumer’s standpoint.
Another thing Southworth notes is that private label is very competitive. Amazon is continually adding to its own product lines and when it comes to high volume products with high income potential, Amazon is definitely going to jump in.
And it’s not just Amazon. Your other competitors are out there, too. If you find that product – not a lot of reviews, not a lot of competitors, something you can jump on, do a little bit better – and if it’s a particularly strong category or product, other people are going to catch on to that and come after you as well.
Southworth says one of his agency’s first clients was a private label, the Trunk Organizer. It was a hot category and it was ramping up, but at one point, they ran out of inventory, and because they were sourcing from China, it took a while to get the inventory back in.
In the meantime, they had dropped to third or fourth page, surpassed by competitors that were not only selling the same product but had included value ads that moved them ahead of the original item.
So, if you’re private label you have to constantly stay in front of the game, chasing new products, or continually innovating your offer to make sure you can beat out the other guys and maintain position, rather than simply providing a quality experience to keep customers coming back as you do when building a brand.
According to Southworth, unless it’s a very commoditized item, most transactions are emotional. People are moved by a brand they connect with. When developing your brand, it’s really important to understand your audience and foster a connection with consumers that will keep them coming back.
In the private label space, you also run the risk of your manufacturer coming in and undercutting your price. More and more manufacturers, especially those in China, are going directly to Amazon. These manufacturers are much more proficient when it comes to launching products and undercutting current prices because they have a better understanding of the process. So, you may be sourcing a product today and having great success, but if your manufacturer goes direct tomorrow, there goes all your market.
By having a credible brand you are building an asset, with customers that don’t just belong to Amazon, but rather come directly to you. Again, this takes time. But if you can build a following of people who are loyal to your brand, then your brand also becomes a credible company asset in the case of a potential exit.
When building your brand your goal is longevity – keep them coming back. You’re looking for something consumable that you can continue to sell them over the long term.
5 Steps to a Successful Brand
According to Southworth, there are five steps to creating a successful brand:
- Create and Communicate Value
What problem are you solving? Are you building a better mousetrap or saving them money? Having a better price or being more efficient is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing as long as it’s not the only thing. If it’s the only thing, then the next guy can come along and charge a few cents less and beat you out.
- Establish a Message that Resonates with Your Target Audience
Once you’ve determined you value proposition, establish a message that resonates with your target audience. Understand who they are and what’s meaningful to them and figure out how you’re going to connect with them through that messaging.
- Be Unique and Authentic
There are two schools of thought on this. If you just create a good tagline, a good value proposition, and something that people will go after, it can be effective and you can have success with that. But Southworth maintains that if you’re unique to you, if you really understand your customer and can really connect with them, it creates added long-term opportunity and even stronger loyalty.
- Be Consistent
Be consistent with your messaging, with your experience and throughout your entire process. If your product is about quality you should be focused on quality – product quality, packaging quality, service quality – and backing that up all along the way.
- Be Real. Put People First
We live in a virtual world, where many would rather work through an app or text than talk on the phone or engage with a human. We all do it and it’s very efficient, but there are times we need to move away from that.
Whether it’s Amazon or your utility company, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get a live person on the phone and being directed to press this number then press that number. It’s super annoying, and Southworth says, don’t be that person. Don’t be that company. There are times your customers want to talk to a human and to feel like there’s someone there that truly cares about them.
Quality Design, Consistency and Control
When building out and showcasing your brand, the first thing is investing in your images, your design, and your copywriting. If you have the ability to do all of these things in-house or within your close network, that’s great. If not, find some experts, someone you can hire, and invest the money to get these things right.
As Amazon becomes more and more competitive, it has included additional features and created opportunities for brands and sellers to add more content and control the shopping experience a bit better. As a result, plain, simple pictures with a couple of bullet points and no descriptions are becoming rare, as people invest more in their content.
Quality content starts with your titles. You want to create titles that don’t just include the brand, product, color and the part number. Always add keywords and some small differentiators, something that will help with search. However, it’s just as important to avoid keyword stuffing or using a long, irrelevant title.
Example: Wicked Audio Bluetooth Earbuds Headphone (WI-BT1753)
According to Southworth, this was a brand they recently took on that was in pretty sad shape. The product page included several images and thumbnails, and while the title did include the fact that they were Bluetooth earbuds, along with a couple of keywords, there’s a good chance no one was actually looking for that part number. So, they’re wasting valuable real estate and it’s not an optimized title at all.
Southworth says that in these cases, they’ll create two or three titles and A/B test between those using a product called Splitly. You can also use Splitly to test bullet points and images, and Southworth highly recommends using it if you aren’t already.
You always want to give yourself a few different options and test and optimize for what works best. But even then, don’t let it go stale. Southworth recommends updating every quarter or so. Try out some new images and other changes to see if you can improve your page even more.
Example: Aquapure Home Water Filter w/Carbon Fiber (Removes Bacteria, Viruses, Chlorine, Chloramines) Lab Tested (No Chemicals, Power, Maintenance) [NSF Certified] Install Under Sink by LifeSource Water
This example, hits on more of the product’s features and benefits. You see keywords such as filter, removes bacteria, viruses, chlorine, so it offers more search terms, without being super wordy or keyword stuffed, which is against Amazon’s terms of service.
- Bullet Points
You don’t want your bullet points to be too lengthy, but they should clearly communicate the features and benefits of buying the product. In other words, why should a customer buy your product instead of someone else’s?
Amazon regularly updates the features Seller Central offers, and during the last several months has provided the ability to do product comparison charts. You can now compare four or five different listings and different products you have for sale, and they’re actually clickable so can go right to that listing. This new feature is just another way for you to show variations on your page.
- Questions and Answers
Questions and answers create an excellent opportunity to remove some friction or potential friction and answer some commonly asked questions customers have early on, rather than just waiting for them to just show up eventually.
It’s important to answer these questions, and you’ll also notice that customers, those who have purchased the product, will often respond to them as well.
In addition to being very helpful on your listings, these questions can also be helpful on Google because it’s such a question and answer-based search engine now, and it can help your products show up and rank on that SEO.
- Driving Traffic
There are a number of ways to drive traffic to your page. A recent landing page for Guinness featured the Guinness Webstore, which listed a number of different apparel and accessory products. While on this page, shoppers can click on the brand name in the index bar just above the title and be taken to a page where they can purchase official Guinness merchandise. The different imagery and options give this page a feel similar to a web page or Shopify store.
However, Southworth says the number of people that actually click on that headline is pretty limited, and what they find most successful in getting people to view multiple listings is actually driving traffic from Facebook or other promotional channels.
Southworth says they also drive traffic through headline ads. These give you the option to show individual products and send customers to either just one listing or to your brand store where you’re showing multiple products, so they have a number of purchase opportunities.
Amazon has a number of different tools that are at your disposal, so keeping up to date on those and leveraging them as best you can will help you keep your page fresh and drive maximum traffic. It’s also another area where A/B testing can be useful, along with measuring the data to determine where you are having the best conversion and the most impact.
Your detail pages are also a great place to communicate your brand culture and mission, along with the product’s benefits and value. Talk about your value proposition, but also talk about you and your team and underscore the connection you have with your audience and shoppers.
As mentioned before, be consistent everywhere. From your website and social media to your Amazon pages you need to represent your brand in a clear, consistent way, and to do that you have to have control over your brand. If Amazon controls your page it’s going to build it with the most basic information, and that won’t represent your brand at all.
In order to have the most control over your brand, start off just being the exclusive seller. If you’re selling retail you have other sellers on your brands, so at least gain control of the content. However, Southworth highly recommends trying to reel that back in, becoming the exclusive seller, and just having one or two exclusive FBA sellers so it doesn’t get out of hand.
Working Outside of Amazon
Your business doesn’t end on Amazon. In order to become and remain relevant, it’s important to put in the work off Amazon as well.
Southworth advises that you think about investing in a custom site. At elemerce, they like to build custom sites within the Shopify platform to protect their clients against other people who would jump in to find out what their best sellers are and to add better design features and a better custom flow.
He also reiterates how important it is to connect to your customers by talking about your mission and who you are as a brand, on your sites and through social media. Shoppers may be searching by category and find a new product on Amazon, but in order to establish the credibility of that brand, will often go to the website to check it out. This is your opportunity to make that connection and build loyalty to your brand.
You can also use platforms such as social media, Google Product Listing Ads, Google Shopping, and YouTube to drive sales to your site by regularly posting content and engaging with that audience to build an even stronger connection.
Lastly, don’t forget reviews. They’re going to read your reviews and so should you. You need to read the comments and feedback on Amazon and understand what those mean for your company. Social media can also help you know and understand what people are saying about you, and how you can improve the product or shopping experience, and what they’re saying about your competitors as well.
The eCommerce world is not a set it and forget it marketplace. It’s always evolving, and as a brand, you must continue to evolve as well.
- delivering on your brand promise
- listening to your customer
- keeping a holistic view of your eCommerce big picture
- measuring and adjusting
Once again, consistency is key. Never stop delivering on whatever your brand promise is and always pay attention and listen to what your customers are telling you.
It’s also important to keep a holistic view of your eCommerce big picture. This whole space is rapidly evolving, and while there’s great value in being focused, in really putting the adequate resources and focus towards making it work on Amazon, we can’t lose site of the other opportunities that are out there and the things that are going to influence or impact us.
Amazon is obviously hyper-relevant and continuing to grow explosively, but elemerce’s philosophy as an agency is to look at how all of these things are best leveraged against each other to help build Amazon, your website, and your sales.
A/B testing and looking at every place you can capture data are such important pieces. In the end, Southworth says to continually measure, measure, measure again and adjust. It’s that fluidity which will keep you moving and ahead in today’s constantly changing eCommerce landscape.
If you would like to hear the entire presentation, please click here to view the video.