IE Interview

Heather Sears

Heather L Sears

What is one of the fastest ways to reach more customers, tap new markets, and test new product concepts? If you guessed Amazon, you’re right. As e-commerce is becoming integral to companies’ go-to-market strategies, having an Amazon strategy is key.

For many of our clients, the shift to selling on Amazon is a priority – and a challenge. How do you stand out in this super-crowded marketplace where customers can instantly compare prices, read customer reviews, see how fast an item will ship, and then click “place your order” (or not) in a flash? No salesperson helps decide, no chance to touch the product first – just the seamless ease of buying and returning.

We recently spoke with marketing expert Heather Sears to see what she recommends. Heather has over 20 years’ experience working with established brands such as AT&T, Coors, Dunkin’ Donuts, General Motors, Kimberly-Clark, PayPal, Tiffany & Co, and she understands both the challenges and opportunities large companies face. In addition to consulting, she has first-hand experience with her own Amazon based e-commerce company, Kensho Kitchen.

As she points out, “Amazon is a democratizing marketplace that allows early stage, niche brands to have an almost equal playing field with well-established brands. The big guys need to stay on top of the changes and opportunities on Amazon to optimize their sales.”

So, we asked Heather what the critical success factors are for ‘big guys.’ Here’s what she shared:

Q: What are the biggest opportunities for established brands?

Heather: Amazon is literally the new Google for product search, with 52% of all shoppers saying it’s the first source they turn to. Most advertisers are still allocating dollars to more traditional channels like Facebook, not realizing this. Not only does Amazon attract more shoppers, the conversion rates are much higher (72% of Prime members will convert from search to shop). So, if you make the move and know how to play the game, you can gain significant competitive advantage. You can also get ahead of the small startups by leveraging your trademark through the brand registry which offers bigger ads and higher visibility.

Q: How do you ensure your product listings stand out?

Heather: Amazon ranks by algorithm, velocity, and conversion – understanding this can enable you to grow as much as 10x in a week! Your listing is critical: prioritize key words, use videos, images, descriptive terms, focus on customer reviews, offer coupons and rewards to drive traffic. Build relationships with current customers to encourage reviews, follow up with them in the voice of your brand. Monitor the competition; keep your prices low enough and reviews high enough to be an ‘Amazon’s Choice.’ You don’t need to offer the lowest prices, though – people will pay more if listing and benefits are strong. Take advantage of the various third party tools that can help you identify opportunities, analyze results, scrape search terms to optimize listings, and more. Here are some that I have used: JungleScout.com, keywordtool.io, managebystats.com and helium10.com.

Q: What are the major watch-outs on Amazon?

Heather: Amazon can be complex, it’s not the easiest or prettiest interface but it gets easier once you get the hang of it. Dedicating resources is crucial, otherwise sales will just dribble in. Keep an eye on all the elements, merchant fees can be steep – for example, storage fees (removal, return, etc.) just went up and changed from quarterly to monthly. The biggest watch out, however, would be to NOT list on Amazon. It’s huge, but you must be ‘in it to win it!’

Bottom Line:

We concur with Heather; listing your products on Amazon is a must. To sum up, the three keys to competing successfully are:

  1. Make sure your listing is strong and benefit-oriented. Recognize that Amazon has become consumers’ primary search engine; optimize key words, customer reviews, and pricing.
  2. Dedicate resources, don’t just treat e-commerce as a side project.
  3. Monitor your competition, stay on top of Amazon’s continuous updates. New opportunities and capabilities emerge daily. Take advantage of the myriad third-party tools that can improve your visibility and conversion to sales.

Heather is glad to provide pointers to build your brand on Amazon. To arrange an exploratory phone consultation with her, just send us an email and we’ll set it up.

Overall, we encourage companies to make the commitment now and make it cross-functional — Marketing, Product Development, Supply Chain, and C-suite collaboration is essential for success. Further, e-commerce requires its own strategy; brick-and-mortar approaches don’t necessarily transfer.  Innovationedge will be offering several resources to guide your strategy; be on the lookout for our upcoming webinar with Amazon executives, next issue of IE Insights and more.

We’d love to hear from you about your e-commerce experiences and challenges. Please email or call 920-967-0470.

Related information: Don’t just list on Amazon – learn from the company’s own double-digit growth playbook. Download our exclusive white paper: How Amazon Achieves and Sustains Record Growth.

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