The holiday season presents a significant opportunity for sellers to capture unprecedented sales on Amazon. Cyber Week alone, the seven-day period beginning the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving and running through Cyber Monday, will account for 40 percent of all e-commerce sales during the holidays, according to the Annual Salesforce Shopper-First Retailing Report.
Black Friday will have the biggest digital shopping day of the season, with 10 percent of revenue, followed by Cyber Monday, with 8 percent, the report further predicts.
The bulk of those holiday sales are likely to occur in one place: Amazon.com. Amazon had between 45 percent and 50 percent of all e-commerce sales on Black Friday in 2017, GHB Insights has estimated. If you want a piece of the holiday pie, focus on optimizing your Amazon channel.
Following are my top 10 tips for how to prepare your Amazon channel for a successful holiday season, starting with a strong Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
1. Run seasonal marketing.
Studies have shown that emotions have a powerful impact on purchasing decisions. Ads with the best emotional response generated a 23 percent uptick in sales, The Nielsen Company found. Demonstrating your holiday spirit will build rapport with consumers and make your brand more memorable.
- Update your listing images with seasonal graphics. For example, if you are selling a coffee mug, add an image of it sitting on the hearth, filled with milk beside a plate of cookies. Using holiday-themed images to suggest festive uses for your products persuades shoppers to purchase.
- Suggest seasonal uses for your products in the titles, bullet points and product descriptions to inspire shoppers, strengthen customer relationships, and improve your organic discoverability.
- A+ Detail pages and enhanced brand content not only are crucial for mobile, but also are the perfect places to create gift guides. Promote your other product lines with suggestive phrases, such as “great gifts for dads” to retain interest from uncertain or indecisive shoppers.
- Many consumers turn to Instagram and blogs for gift ideas. Partnering with influencers to promote your products in their gift guides is an excellent way to reach large, targeted audiences, and it creates hype for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
2. Analyze search data and identify trending products.
Play to your strengths. Applied to e-commerce, the Pareto principle — also known as the “80/20 rule,” means that 80 percent of your profits come from 20 percent of your products. Identify your top-performing products, and invest your time and resources into optimizing those listings first.
- SEO optimization is key year-round, but its effects are amplified during peak shopping events. Update your listings and back-end keywords with seasonal terms now, to start building traction before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Update your CPC campaign search terms and bids for Cyber Week and the holiday season. Regular CPC campaign maintenance is always important, but holiday sales events may necessitate daily updates.
- If you handle customer service yourself, take the time to review and respond to questions on your listings now, so shoppers already have the information they need on the big shopping days.
3. Schedule holiday promotions in advance.
Amazon’s coveted Deal of the Day (a single item or small set of closely related items discounted for one day only) placement on the Today’s Deals page offers enormous revenue potential, but it has specific requirements. For example, each Deal of the Day must be the lowest price offered all year.
- If you want to run the promotion multiple times during the holiday season, pre-determine the lowest discount you will offer, then price the preceding deals accordingly.
4. Offer incentives and communicate them clearly.
Speaking of holiday promotions, shoppers expect best-of-year deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and brands compete fiercely to win a place in the shopping cart. Use clear messaging to ensure that shoppers notice your Amazon promotions.
- Make sure your deals are prominent and clear. Shoppers come to Amazon expecting to see holiday deals, so be direct and concise. Descriptions should answer, “What are the product’s differentiating features, and what is the deal?”
- Lightning Deals and Deals of the Day feature countdown timers to let shoppers know how much time is left on the deal. These promotions create a sense of urgency, especially during large, competitive shopping events, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Best Deals run for two weeks, so they lack the same sense of urgency, but the discounts are still enough to pique shoppers’ interest when they come looking for holiday sales.
- When you run deals, have enough inventory to last the entire promotion. Running out of inventory before the deal ends can cost you sales.
- Offering coupons is another excellent way to incentivize your products. Purchases tend to increase while coupon codes are running, which drives sales and creates residual traction even after the coupon has concluded.
- You can get ahead of the competition by promoting your deals beyond Amazon. Use social media to announce your upcoming deals early, building awareness so shoppers already have your products in mind when they come to Amazon for the sales.
5. Optimize for mobile.
Mobile will deliver 68 percent of all e-commerce traffic this season, reflecting a 19 percent year-over-year growth, Salesforce has predicted. Fortunately, Amazon’s mobile platform is already a well-oiled machine, with quick load times and intuitive controls. Still, there are a few tricks you can use to optimize your listings for mobile shoppers.
- When viewed on mobile devices, titles, bullet points and product descriptions are previewed rather than shown in full. This means that you have less space to capture shoppers’ attention, so you need to place your most important features and keywords at the start of the title, bullet points and description. It’s good practice in general, but crucial for mobile.
- Unlike bullet points and the product description, A+ Detail pages and enhanced brand content are not condensed when viewing on mobile. The A+ and EBC images and copy come before the product description and are shown in full, more than doubling the space you have to educate and persuade shoppers.
6. Run tests and collect data for the future.
It’s never too early to start preparing for the next big sales event. After you’ve spent the previous weeks or months preparing, use the actual days to collect data. Wrap up any ongoing tests prior to the weekend, and run tests designed specifically for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A data-driven approach is the foundation of a successful marketplace strategy, so use this as an opportunity to position your brand for long-term growth.
- Run A/B testing on your sponsored brand ads (formerly known as “headline search ads”) and be prepared to deactivate the less effective of the two variants when a clear winner emerges. What patterns can you identify from the data? What wording, emotionality and format converted, and what fell flat?
- What types of deals performed best? Did your Lightning Deals or coupons generate more activity? Try to identify why they performed the way they did, and see if you can apply those lessons elsewhere.
- Generate search term reports to identify what queries have been driving traffic to your ads and listings, and use the results to add new search terms to your CPC campaigns. The high traffic during the holiday shopping season results in more unique searches for your product, providing you with extra data for refining your Amazon ad campaigns.
7. Communicate early with manufacturers and retailers.
Get in touch with your retailers and manufacturers to help you plan for inventory. Everything becomes more difficult and expensive the closer you are to the peak holiday season.
- Answer these questions: What are your competitor’s prices? What are the seller and product saturations? Who else is selling the product? Your answers will help you understand the landscape as you forecast sales.
- When estimating your inventory needs, review last year’s sales history and consider how this year’s performance will impact your projections. Ask your retailers how much product they plan to buy. Then, contact your manufacturer to verify they are able to provide enough product for the Q4 sales increase.
- Prepare for last-minute opportunities, such as a seller who needs to order more inventory before the holidays end. Have the staff and procedures in place to expedite that process so you can maximize sales.
8. Understand and comply with fulfillment guidelines.
Noncompliant packaging can sideline your products and cost you sales. Don’t lose profits during peak season due to an oversight.
- Ensure your distribution teams abide by Amazon’s packaging requirements and shipping guidelines so that your shipments can go out in full and in a timely manner.
- Secure an adequate stock of shipping materials and deploy enough staff to process shipments quickly and efficiently.
9. MAP it out.
A Minimum Advertising Price (MAP) policy helps safeguard your brand image and maintain legitimate pricing among official retailers. Your legal counsel can review your MAP policy to confirm it complies with state and federal laws. Once reviewed, share your MAP policy with your authorized sellers.
- Understand your limits and review your competitors’ prices to determine your starting price point and flexibility. You want to be competitive with your pricing without compromising your brand’s worth.
- One of the greatest challenges for enforcing MAP comes from retail arbitrage. Retail arbitrage is often performed by individuals who buy discounted products from brick-and-mortar stores and resell them online. To combat this practice, limit your sellers, and allow buybacks from sellers struggling to move your product.
10. Minimize your risk with distributors and sellers.
The surge in Q4 sales brings an increased risk of trademark and copyright infringements, counterfeit products and scams. These violations can harm your Q4 profits and undermine your brand integrity for the long term. Monitor who is selling your products and for how much. Work with distributors and sellers you trust to uphold your policies. If a distributor sells your product to everyone and anyone, you become vulnerable to unauthorized and rogue sellers.
- Scam sellers tend to increase during the holiday season as ne’er-do-wells take advantage of seasonal shoppers, selling products but never shipping them to customers. Generally, you can identify scam sellers by their low customer reviews, dubious seller names, and large inventories from “just launched” sellers. The best way to fight scam sellers is to work only with trusted retailers.
- Amazon’s Brand Registry program expedites the process for reporting and combating rogue sellers, counterfeiters and trademark infringements. Enrolled brands have been finding and reporting 99 percent fewer suspected infringements than before Brand Registry’s launch, according to Amazon.
- Transparency by Amazon allows brands to track by item-level. A Transparency code is placed on product packaging that Amazon warehouses and consumers can scan to confirm the product is authentic.
Amazon is poised to account for a hefty slice of holiday sales. Following these 10 tips can amplify your sales this holiday season and position your brand for future success.