Today we have Brian Johnson of Sponsored Product Academy (& PPC Scope) to talk to us about PPC and the REAL reason for the end of Amazon incentivized reviews.
This is a guy that has been in ecommerce industry for years. He started out selling banking equipment on eBay for seven years before a friend pulled him into Amazon. He began launching his own private label products. This was about three years ago when Amazing Selling Machine launched.
The first thing to do when you get started with Splitly is to sync your Amazon account with Splitly. Splitly will then organize your products based on the best selling products. It also provides a hint as to what product you should start with. It will offer suggestions for each listing before you even start testing. For instance, if you are only using 5 of your 9 images, it will alert you.
The best place to start, when you’re ready to test, is with images and pricing. These are the easiest tests to run without much effort, and give very good results. Bear in mind that these are general suggestions and it will vary person to person.
Even if you’re not willing or able to get new images of your products, you can still test you main image. Simply test one of your other images as your main.
Pricing is another great test to run as long as you’re changing the price significantly. If you’re only adjusting is by $1, you’re not likely to see much improvement. However, if you alter it by $5, you’re probably going to see a large difference.
The best technique is to start wide, and narrow down through testing. Let’s say you’re testing $19.99 against $21.99, and you find that you get better results with $21.99. The next thing is to try $20.99 against $22.99 and see what performs better.
One thing to keep in mind is how Amazon does it’s search results. Google isn’t going to boost a page in its results because it’s selling well. Amazon does. This is probably the single greatest factor in search ranking. So if you’re testing different price points, you will want to go with the one that has higher sales. Since this can complicate the test results, they released a new feature called Profit Beak.
With this feature, you set the minimum and maximum price for the product. The software will then update your listing every hour, and try a different price point. This allows Splitly to gather data much faster and they can determine the best price based on profit and sales. You can adjust it so it focuses on one or the other. It can also test multiple other factors including keyword ranking and conversion.
Keyword rank tracking is a standard piece of software that most people are familiar with. Now, you can tie it into Profit Beak. You can then tell the software that you don’t want to fall below number 10 on a keyword, and that become a new floor. So during testing, Splitly will monitor that and keep it ranked high enough.
At its core, Splitly is a testing suite. When you get started with Splitly , the possibilities are endless. Unlike other tools, the software create more work for you because now you have to think of different ideas of how to tweak your listing. However, in the end, it will make you more money.
You can test a title that is packed with keywords against one that isn’t. This is really useful because the effects happen quickly. You can see your ranking change within 10 or 20 minutes. It’s very useful if you’re testing your keywords.
Your bullet points are another great test because it’s never easy to figure out the best way to go about it. It’s best not to stuff keywords in your bullet points. It’s best used for selling to potential buyers. You can look at the negative reviews of your competitors, and address those concerns in the bullets. Then you can split test them to figure out the best way to do it.
Split testing is a technique you can use to test which variation performs better. It’s very common in web design. An online store may want to find which color checkout button converts the best. They would then show half their audience one colour, and the rest another and track conversion rates. It’s very important to split test your Amazon listing to help optimise it.
Andrew Browne co-founded Splitly as a way to use this technique with Amazon listings. This way you are able to test different aspects of your listing, to fine-tune every feature so it converts as good as it can. You can test different main images and title to find out which gets better traction. This uses objective data rather than your subjected intuition.
It is the first thing your customers see therefore has a major impact on getting potential buyers’ attention. If you split test your Amazon listing image, you can determine the best picture that will get people to click on your product.
One success story that Andrew shared was one he did on his own product. He wasn’t looking for results, he was merely testing the software. In doing so, he found that by changing the main image, to one he thought were do poorly, he improved his conversion rate by 50%.
Another great place to start is your price. It’s easy to test and is incredibly impactful on your conversion and you can get your results quickly. Other places to test are your title, bullets, and product description.
Splitly is an amazing tool that does the split testing for you. When your start you test, your listing updates at midnight, Amazon time, which is GMT-8. The reason for that is Amazon does your reports based on that time. Then every night at midnight, you listing updates with the other version of your listing. While it’s not true AB testing, it’s the best you can do with Amazon’s limitations, and it’s better than using your own intuition.
It’s important to understand that split testing isn’t for saving products. If you have a failing product, it won’t help to split test to try and save it. You need to have enough traffic in order to get enough data to make improvements. You want to split test products that are already doing well in order to improve them and boost them a few percent. You’re looking to improve upon products that are already getting traffic and sales.
How long it takes to split test a listing depends on a few factors. The more sales your product gets, the quicker you’ll get your results. If you’re selling 5 units a day, Splitly will be able to collect enough data much quicker than if you’re selling 1 unit a day.
The significance of the difference places a large factor. If you’re testing a price difference of 5 cents, it might not affect the sales enough to determine a winner. Whereas if you’re testing a $5 difference, it will have a larger effect and the software will be able to determine which is better.
There is no specific number, it just depends on how long it takes Splitly to gather enough data to give you an answer. It may determine that there isn’t enough difference to go one way or another.
It’s offers more robust to you PPC advertising. The top banner ad on Amazon, that is usually a link to someone’s storefront, that’s Amazon Marketing Services. Sometimes there are ads under the Buy box, those are Amazon Marketing Services ads. It’s more exposure and drives more customers to your products which, in turn, could lead to more sales.
It’s only accessible to vendors. This used to be invite only until Amazon started Vendor Express, which is open to everyone. Now you can get access to Amazon Marketing Services once you have a purchase order. So once Amazon orders product from you, then you have access to AMS and all the benefits that come with it. To learn how to get started with Vendor Express, please check out my interviews with Will Tjernlund.
If you don’t want to go down the route of Vendor Express, there is a work around. You can sell Amazon a product that you don’t intend to keep in stock. Go to aliexpress and buy 10 units of some item. Tell Amazon that you want to sell it to them and they will request samples. Once that process starts, you should be able to then sign up for AMS. Once in Amazon Marketing Services, you are able to advertise any products, not just the ones you have in Vendor Express.
Not only can you advertise products that are in your Seller Central, you can advertise products for items that Amazon doesn’t list you as the seller of. This is very beneficial if you have a Merch by Amazon account. If you sell Merch, you don’t have access to ads. With Amazon Marketing Services, you can then run ads for you t-shirts. You can check out my interview with Chris Green if you are interested in getting started with Merch by Amazon.
It may not be worth it, for everyone, to utilize Vendor Express beyond getting your foot in the door. There are many issues with it because they take over the listing and they tend not to optimise it so it converts. However, it’s almost a necessity for some. For example, Anthony has a friend that selling a health and beauty product that he makes from home. Since he makes it from home it is impossible for him to get ungated. However, by selling through Vendor Express he is now able to get past that since it’s technically Amazon selling it, not him.
Vendor Express is making strides to improve the listings by making some of it available to the sellers to be edited. Some aspects, like the title, you may need to ask Amazon and jump through hoops for, but it is possible to optimise your listing.
Get in touch with Anthony:
He has written two books about selling on Amazon:
Bootstrapping E-commerce: How to Import and Sell on Amazon
Bootstrapping E-commerce: Advanced Amazon Tactics
You can contact him at he publishing company
There are a few things to remember with an Amazon product launch. You need to get as much traffic and sales velocity for your product as quickly as possible. This is a given in any sales capacity. Also, you need to high rankings early, as in on the first page, using an important key word related to your product. Run a promotion when your product goes live which will get people talking and stimulate sales velocity. You can make your products even more visible by turning on the automatic sponsor ads. Lastly, go after some reviews and use family and friends, who will be sure to help your product out in the early days.
It goes without saying, you need to find the primary and most relevant keyword for your product. This is something that people will be able to identify and make the connection to you as the one selling said product. You should make sure the keyword(s) are in the title of your product AND inside the URL address. People can be very lazy so when they are looking for something they are overjoyed when they can find it with relative ease. You can run Facebook ads, external ads and even banner ads from Amazon Marketing Service. Aside from Anthony’s launch too, Zonblast, you can also use Keyword Inspector and Merchant Words.
This has a lot to do with the total views your product actually gets during an Amazon product launch. If you have a low number of searches in a month, say under 20,000, you could see sales velocity stimulation in one day, see some solid movement, as opposed to over several days. However, if you only spike with search hit one hour of each day, your average will be lower. It would be much better for you to spread it out over a number of days for better results. Anywhere from 4 to 7 days seems to be a good time frame in which to work from. It’s all about averages. If you can spread your views and sales over a longer period of time, it will average out to a total that will look much better to you as the seller and to a potential buyer as well.
Make sure you understand Amazon’s new Terms of Service. ‘Free’ sales or giveaways are now considered product manipulation. The big reason the Terms of service were put into place was to stop people from operating multiple accounts and thus being able to receive ‘sales’ of the same product anywhere from 50 to 100 times during an Amazon product launch. Specifically, Amazon are trying to stop buyers from receiving codes to allow them to do this for free. You can now have your product suspended for this. Always remember this and you’ll be fine: Real sales are unique sales to an individual.
Great customer reviews are always welcome but you should not depend on them to help boost sales of your product. While Amazon won’t remove or stifle a review if a customer got a discount on your product (remember though, no coupon codes for free) they can take down good reviews, paid in full by the customer, if they have been attacking the buyer accounts. There is also some unpredictability overall in terms of the reason or reasons why Amazon removes some reviews. All you can do is turn the review machine on, have a great follow up sequence in place, and get reviews as naturally as you can. The best way to success is to have a great quality product and then you can worry about everything else.
There are many things that you have to take into consideration. You have to think of your lead time and everything that goes into it. Also consider receiving time at Amazon. It might take awhile for them to check it in. When planning a strategy for your FBA inventory, you should plan for the worst case scenario. There could be issues with it getting backed up at port or issues with your supplier.
A great thing about using software for forecasting, is that they can keep track of that, whether it’s Jeremy’s Forecastly or another piece of software. It tracks inbound inventory, current inventory, what you have in manufacturing, and true sales velocity.
You also need to consider spikes in sales. You may have consistent sales every day, but a couple times a month your sales spike. This is why you need to build in a safety stock. That gives you a cushion so that if you get a surge in sales, you have enough stock to cover it until your next shipment gets there.
Forecastly has many business that use its service. The software can then use this anonymous data to make predictions about Amazon as a whole. It takes ASIN level data over the past 30, 60, and 90 days to makes prediction about future sales numbers.
Their main focus is demand forecasting. It considers your recent sales including stock out periods. If you were out of stock, it can determine what you would have sold had the product been available. It also tracks the variability of demand which is something you can’t do in a spreadsheet.
The main thing you have to be conscious of when managing your FBA inventory is, what do you need to replenish, when do you need to replenish it, and how many units do you need to replenish. Forecastly tracks all that while monitoring your inventory and will recommend your orders.
Many sellers want to use a 60 day trend to determine their sales velocity which is a bad idea. If you selling in an upward trend, meaning your sales are growing, then your sales were much lower 60 days ago. This will make your average too low. Forecastly uses a 30 day trend to get the most up to date projections.
We, here at Amazing FBA, love a rule of thumb. Unfortunately, when it comes to FBA inventory, many sellers follow a rule of thumb that won’t help them, and could hurt them. It’s the idea that you need to have X amount of days worth of inventory. Whenever they place their order, they bring it back to this magic number.
For example, if you wanted to maintain 90 days of inventory and you order monthly with a 30 lead time. When it’s time to make an order, you have 60 days of inventory. Based on this, you would order 30 days of inventory.
You don’t need that much inventory. You wouldn’t need to order for another month because you have a 30 day lead time and you’re tying up cash in stock you don’t need. The rationale behind this method is security. The attempt to avoid stock outs by keeping a large amount of stock on hand.
Amazon will continue growing their own private label brands. So Amazon is now your competitor. International markets are growing. The European markets are booming. If you’re having success in the US, you’ll want to take those products to the UK and the rest of Europe. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to come up with a separate replenishment strategy as well as deal with the tax regulations. There is an opportunity, though. Especially in Germany where 40% of the sellers are non-German, and very few are American. That means they are willing to buy from foreigners, but not many Americans are there yet.
As Amazon grows, the more warehouse space they will need. They are investing in new space, but they don’t want to overdo it. You will likely see seller-fulfilled-prime see some growth as a solution to this problem though will come with its own issues.
The inbound process is likely to change. It used to be that you would just slap on a UPS label. Then you had to also do the Amazon label. Now you have to do box contents. It’s going to get more and more complicated as Amazon continues handling more inventory.
If you want to receive a free tool for launching new products, head on over to Forecastly.
Brad runs a one-stop consulting firm that helps Amazon sellers and one of the strategies they use is not to think of a product or product sales life cycle one dimensionally. There are different phases a product goes through. You want to identify those phases and what is need for each phase. A lot of people are wondering what to do for an Amazon launch. After the review blast is over, what do you do?
They have something called “Spur the Machine” that they do for their ASINs and sellers. It’s a four phase approach to the first step of getting something up on Amazon. In their experience, it takes about three months to get a product up and running and there’s a lot going into this.
The big thing is to take a snapshot, then stop and review your data. People tend to keep going and make small adjustments along the way. Doing that makes it difficult to see what’s happening and what’s causing it.
Some research was done on this topic. They gathered data from millions of SKUs and they found that the number of reviews stop mattering after 21 reviews. After that, it’s the amount of stars you have. Reviews matter for sure. Intuition would say that a product with 3000 reviews would do better than one with 100. However, according to the data, what really matters is the star rating.
Brad has found that when you run promotions, there is a higher rate of reviews that comes from people buying your product. The normal rate is about 1-3% of people who buy your product, will review your product. That number jumps up quite a bit when you run promotions. Usually, you don’t have to give away more than 30-50 units on products with a lower price point. With product over $100, you could probably get away with less.
A Facebook crowd around your brand is a great resource. You can promote new products there and get a good response
If you have built up a following around your brand. i.e. A Facebook page or group. You can leverage that following to help you. When you have an Amazon launch and are trying to get a new product out there, you can post about it on your page or group and tell them about your promotions, and ask them to leave a review. It’s a great resource if you have that following.
You can. It’s the idea of making your Facebook community feel special.
It’s hard to say. Within Amazon, it’s an individual person making the call every time. They have their SOPs that say if someone is given a promotion for a review, take it off. If it’s in a grey area, Brad has seen them overreach their bounds too much. However, there should be nothing against giving away promotions for your products.
It shouldn’t. It’s such a new thing and Brad doesn’t know what the internal procedures are but it’s not an incentivised review. You’re not saying, “Here’s a product so that you’ll review it for us.”
Brad could see that argument between two VPs as he has seen in the past, however, he doesn’t have much more insight than that. All he can really go on is the success of promotions in that past that his firm has experienced.
To find possible best products to sell online, as Greg mentioned in the previous episode, you can look at Amazon’s best seller, or look for trends in your everyday life. If you have time and are cost conscience then that works. However, the Jungle Scout web app was created to solve that problem. There are a few tools in the Jungle Scout web app, which is different than the Chrome extension. It’s more like traditional software. It has a database tool which is a recreation of the Amazon catalog. It’s available for the European and North American marketplaces.
What they’ve done is rebuilt Amazon’s catalog so it’s more user-friendly for sellers. You are able to search by metrics that sellers care about. You can search for all products that sell more than 500 units, have less than 50 reviews, have a poor listing, and weigh less than 5 pounds. You can put all that in and get it down to 5000 listings. From there you can get ideas of the best products to sell online. What people are are some really obscure products that people would have never thought to look for.
There’s a few strategies you can implement. One is finding a product, and improving on it. This is the age old practice. Take an item people are already buying even though it’s crappy, and just improving upon it. That’s what’s great about this day an age. 20 years ago, big corporations had to spend a lot of money doing research to find this same information that any average Joe can get by reading product reviews.
Just find a product to sell online that is selling despite poor reviews. Then filter by 1-star reviews and find out what everyone hates about it. Then contact a factory in China and have them make this one simple change. Put it on Amazon, and now you getting 5-star reviews while your competitors are getting 3-4 star reviews.
You’ll also find that anything with a higher barrier of entry will have less competition. If it’s a larger item that need to come in containers, those will have less competition, but will come with headaches. More expensive items will have less competition. The U.S. is the most competitive out of all the markets, so Greg has been expanding into Europe. According to an Amazon representative, if you combine all the European stores, they do about as much volume as the U.S.