Practical Ecommerce

Using Amazon to build an ecommerce brand

I love Amazon, both as a consumer and as a seller. There isn’t a more effective place to launch a brand and learn about consumer behavior than the Amazon marketplace.

In this post, I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you why you will love it, too, especially if you are a budding Amazon entrepreneur.

Let me preface by saying that I don’t sell any other brands other than those I own or control. That is the only way I sell on Amazon. It’s the best way to do it.

Like most ecommerce sellers, I was hesitant to embrace Amazon when I began many years ago with a skin care line. My sales were acceptable via my own website. I looked at the marketplace as another revenue channel. I didn’t really work it and didn’t pay much attention to building it.

Then, in 2012, I got into the shaving business with 800razors.com. I put the items on Amazon and, again, thought of it as another revenue channel. That’s when I met a very successful seller who changed my entire way of thinking. And the dollars quickly followed.

The revelation

Once I began to think about Amazon as a customer acquisition tool rather than another selling channel is when I harnessed the power to grow a brand.

Fifty-two percent of all product searches begin on Amazon. Combine that with the fact that in Q4 2016, almost 60 percent of all ecommerce sales occurred on Amazon. Now consider that 82 percent of the items sold on Amazon are from third party sellers.

What does that tell you?

Amazon is where the customers are.

When you use Amazon as a customer acquisition tool and brand awareness builder, you will be able to focus your product sets and marketing around this concept and start competing with the big dogs.

Amazon is far from a mere revenue channel. It’s a brand-building machine.

So how do you use Amazon to build your brand? It’s easy: Don’t compete with your own site.

For 800razors.com, I only sold sets of cartridges and handles. I did not sell replacement cartridges. I wanted the customers to be exposed to the product on Amazon, but once they liked it, I wanted them to come to my website for the replacement cartridges.

Customers didn’t need or want a handle with every purchase of cartridges, so they would go to our site for replacements. I was fully within Amazon’s guidelines as I did not market to its customers. Instead I forced shoppers to a different behavior. Once they purchased from my site, they were my customers.

I did the same approach with shave creams, soaps, and aftershave. I always sold these on Amazon in sets with razors. If the consumers liked it, they had to go to our website to replenish.

Amazon ads build awareness

Amazon’s sponsored ads are similar to AdWords in that they are keyword-driven. I used sponsored ads aggressively to target any company selling a razor because the click cost was so much cheaper than paid search.

If you searched “Gillette” or “Schick” on Amazon, I wanted you to see my razors. It wasn’t about the conversion as much as it was brand awareness. The more those consumers saw my brand, the more familiar it would become.

Amazon and SEO value

Once you begin to drive your products sales on Amazon and they start to show up high in Amazon’s search rankings, you will likely notice that those Amazon items will also show up in Google organic search for your big keywords.

While I’m driving customers to Amazon from those organic listings, I am also showing potential consumers that my products are sold in multiple places — including Amazon, which consumers trust. Plus, if you did your job correctly on Amazon, you should have good customer reviews — those little stars mean a lot to an undecided shopper.

Every ecommerce merchant that I speak to has concerns about selling on Amazon. I can certainly understand. But much of this is driven from myth.

  • Myth 1: “Amazon will kick you off for no reason.”

No, it won’t. The foundation of the marketplace is third-party sellers. As long as you are within the Amazon guidelines and not doing anything underhanded or illegal, you have nothing to worry about.

  • Myth 2: “When I get big enough, Amazon will take my business.”

How exactly will Amazon take your brand away? Amazon’s staff may ask you to become a vendor versus a marketplace seller. But that is a strategic decision you can make.

  • Myth 3: “Amazon is totally different than an ecommerce store.”

No, it isn’t. It is an ecommerce store with its own, built-in search, which is keyword-driven, similar to Google. Yes, there are nuances to it, but it is ecommerce through and through.

Selling on Amazon is a decision based around strategy and control. There are many ways to list and sell on Amazon to accomplish your end goal of selling more and adding satisfied customers. You have to determine the best method that fits with your brand strategy. Then you reap your well-earned rewards.

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  1. Elizabeth Hollingsworth January 28, 2017 Reply

    This is an interesting article, Phil about using Amazon to grow your brand.

    I am unclear if you use Amazon Fulfilment to ship your products or you do it yourself. If it’s the former you cannot include your own promotional material.

    I am also unclear why someone would switch to the vendor’s website and pay for shipping – and potentially higher product prices – when they might continue to get competitive prices and Prime shipping rates from Amazon.

    Lastly, as an Amazon buyer, I could honestly say I have no sense of “experience” buying from one vendor over another for the same product from Amazon, ie it is just a product in a box when it arrives.

    However, I never feel that “generic experience” when I buy direct from the vendor’s website. I am sure I would feel more “special” buying from you direct than through Amazon!

    If you don’t mind me asking, what is your customer conversion rate from Amazon to your website?

    • Keith January 31, 2017 Reply

      So true, Amazon = a box. Buying the razors website would likely be much more personalized. We sell point of sale thermal rolls on Amazon, not sure how we’d get them to our website except to include something in their shippment.

    • phil February 5, 2017 Reply

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for responding to the article.

      I generally try to use FBA when applicable, although I have also worked under FBM and Vendor.

      Let me point out that I never said or alluded to putting anything in the boxes.

      Also, Amazon charges for shipping. Even with prime. The difference is with Prime you pay for it ahead of time. That said, I always offer Free Shipping on any site I run. It may have a minimum purchase or it may not. With this particular business we offered free shipping on all purchases.

      I’m also not sure about the pricing issues you bring up. Why would my pricing in Amazon be cheaper?

      Thank you again.

  2. Carlos Rivera January 31, 2017 Reply

    I like it a lot! Thank you for sharing this Amazon strategy with us!

    • phil February 5, 2017 Reply

      My pleasure. Thanks for reading

  3. David February 2, 2017 Reply

    Thanks for your article. Great!
    Have you got more Input for using Amazon as a branding function? Do you know where i can get more information about this topic?

    What else do you do beside PPC?

    • phil February 5, 2017 Reply

      As far as i know, there is not a lot of info on this articular strategy. But i would be more than happy to share any data with you. Thank you.

  4. Nikki February 21, 2017 Reply

    This is very insightful and helpful..thank you! I just started selling my own brand on AMAZON (the products arrived there last week) and still trying to figure out the best strategies. I am trying to understand their sponsored ads program to drive traffic. I created two ads, one with automatic targeting and the other manual. Is that really all I need to do to drive traffic, or should I be looking into some other strategies? Would you potentially suggest having more than two ads running? So far only impressions, no clicks or sales. Any insight you can give me will be highly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Phil February 21, 2017 Reply

      Hello Nikki,
      Thank you for your comments.

      Sponsored products will work well. make sure you have the correct keywords and key phrases picked. In my experience, automatic targeting does not work as well. Put in the minimum bid on all of your keywords and let it run for a few days. then look at the keywords and see what the suggested bid is for the keywords you are getting click through on. Make sure you take advantage of negative keywords. Review it every few days and make bid changes.

      The best way to get traffic quickly, i have found is with coupons. Generate a few coupons for your products and then find places to post them. Social Media, affiliate sites, coupon sites, coupon bloggers, etc. this will also help your product ranking as traffic to the products will come in off the platform.

      Good luck

      • Nikki March 14, 2017 Reply

        Thanks so much Phil for taking the time to respond and for the helpful tips!