Oct 23, 2019 8 min read
How to Manage Marketing Efficiently and Beat Your Competitors on Amazon this Holiday Season
Updated: November 5
As Prime Day and summer have come to an end and the peak holiday shopping season quickly approaches, many of our eCommerce clients have been asking us the same fundamental yet complicated question: “how do I ensure that I beat my competitors on Amazon this Q4?” This question has become even more critical to plan for now that we have another quarter of CPC and competitive data from our recent Pacvue Q3 CPC Report, which shows that CPCs have risen for all ad types and product categories from Q3 2018 to 2019. In a fast-paced retail landscape that is quickly becoming more competitive, it has never been more important for brands and agencies to have a solid game plan in place before the inundation of holiday shopping begins. While there is no single approach or tactic that will guarantee your success this holiday season, we have compiled our list of the most important steps that brands can take in order to maximize their sales, increase their efficiency, and beat their competition. Our recommendations vary from retail readiness fundamentals to automation and technological improvements, but if implemented together, these tactics can help put your brand in the best position possible to have a successful holiday 2019 shopping season on Amazon. They are:
1 – HOLIDAY-SPECIFIC PRODUCT AND MARKETING CONTENT UPDATES
One of the most overlooked aspects of selling on Amazon in Q4 is holiday-specific content and creative, which provides brands with a great opportunity to grab customers’ attention and tell a story about their products. Given the numerous ways in which brands can update their content on the site, this should be both a first step in your holiday prep plans and an easy way to make your brand more relevant for the season. Three of the easiest and most important places to update content for the holiday season are the Product Detail Page (PDP), the Brand Store, and within AMS campaigns that support creative customization (Sponsored Brand and Sponsored Display). First, brands should be updating their PDP content to highlight why items are giftable or relevant for the holiday season. This could include additional lifestyle images or videos in the PDP image gallery, updated bullet points that highlight gifting opportunities or usage occasions, or holiday-specific widgets within A+ content. If brands have ASINs that are highly specific to a certain season or holiday (like a Christmas scent for a scented candle), they should consider variating those items to the PDPs of similar top-selling items. These simple steps can help brands break through the noise during a crowded holiday shopping season and give their items greater visibility and relevancy.
As an example (for Halloween), Reese’s PDP has been updated with additional thumbnail lifestyle images of Halloween, the title has been updated to reflect “Halloween” SEO, as well as the bullets and content.
When you search “Halloween Candy”, Pepsi’s Sponsored Brand ad drives to a seasonal Brand Store
2 – ALIGNING AMAZON MARKETING WITH NATIONAL MEDIA AND PROMOTIONS
While this recommendation may seem overly simple, ensuring that all Amazon marketing efforts are aligned with national media campaigns and on-site promotions is a critical step in providing a seamless customer experience and maximizing customer engagement. First, brands should make sure that any Amazon marketing efforts match external media or marketing campaigns that customers may see in the marketplace. For example, if your brand is running a national TV campaign that highlights a specific Hero ASIN, make sure that ASIN receives increased Sponsored Product support and is featured in your Sponsored Brand campaigns for the duration of the campaign. Since Amazon is the first destination that many online shoppers turn to after hearing about a product in the marketplace, it is critical to make sure that they find your item as easily as possible. Second, brands should also be supporting their promotional calendars with increased Amazon marketing efforts. Boosting an item’s visibility while it is on sale is a great way to dramatically increase sales velocity and hopefully organic search ranking over time. In our experience, brands have had the most success when planning far ahead for their promotions and ensuring that a sizeable amount of budget (2-3x of normal daily spend) is reserved to support these deals.
3 – FOCUSING ON TOP SELLERS AND PROVEN VOLUME DRIVERS
Many brands are tempted to support less established ASINs during Q4 or even launch brand new products, with the assumption that the increased traffic and sales will naturally boost these items’ performance. While it is perfectly fine to launch new items during Q4, we recommend that all marketing efforts are focused on top-selling items and ASINs with a proven track record of performance on Amazon. This recommendation is based on two main principles: cutting through the clutter during Q4, and leveraging top-selling ASINs’ relevance scores. First, brands can help their products stick out and grab their customer’s attention by only promoting those items with higher review counts and better average ratings. This fairly simple tactic ensures that your products aren’t buried in the deluge of Q4 marketing and paid placements, and gives your products the best chance of reaching customers in highly visible placements. Second, brands can increase their marketing efficiency and win a greater number of paid placements by focusing on items with the most well-established relevance score. While this metric is not made publicly available by Amazon and there is no surefire way to determine an item’s relevancy, we have determined in our testing that a brand’s top-selling items (those with higher sales velocity and customer reviews, compared to the rest of the catalog) almost always have the highest AMS relevance. This relevance score is a critical piece of the Amazon algorithm’s determination of which products should appear in which placements for which search terms. We have even seen cases in the past where brands are able to beat competitors for a Sponsored Product placement for the same exact search term with a CPC bid that is 30% - 50% lower if the item they’re promoting has a much higher relevance score. While there is unfortunately no definitive way to measure an item’s relevance score, brands should already have a clear idea of which of their items are the most relevant, and thus will have the best chance of winning head to head vs. their competitors.
4 – HAVING A ROBUST AND FLEXIBLE CYBER 5 PLAN
It goes without saying that the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday is one of the most critical time periods for brands that sell on Amazon – being able to beat your competitors during this time frame can not only boost your short-term sales, but also help increase long-term organic search ranking and establish a new, higher baseline of daily sales velocity. Having a robust and flexible marketing plan during this five-day window is even more important in a brand’s ability to break through the noise and support their top deals and promotions. First, brands should be planning budgets and campaign flighting at least 3-4 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. This should allow marketing teams to fully align their Amazon marketing campaigns with their Cyber 5 promotional calendars and ensure that all deals have full marketing support. Second, brands should be leveraging existing campaigns which have already established relevance in the Amazon algorithm over the previous weeks and months. We consistently see brands and agencies launch all new campaigns right before an event like Prime Day or Black Friday, only to be disappointed that their campaigns drove less Impressions and Ad Sales than expected. This is often influenced the new campaigns’ lack of relevance, as their performance is unproven, and the Amazon algorithm is hesitant to let them win premium placements. Third, brands should be creating marketing plans that include various levels of support at different investment and bid levels. For example, all top-selling ASINs should be supported with multiple Sponsored Product and Sponsored Brand campaigns with aggressive bids for all relevant high-volume or top-performing keywords. These top-selling Hero ASINs should also receive support from Auto and Product Targeting campaigns, which leverage Amazon’s wealth of customer data to automatically match products with relevant customer searches and can dramatically increase a brand’s reach and customer awareness. These Auto and Product Targeting campaigns should usually have CPC bids which are less aggressive than keyword-based campaigns, as the matches can be less relevant and thus lead to lower sales return. Finally (and most importantly), brands should reserve excess budget for marquee days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in the chance that search volume or competition are higher than expected. As Amazon’s massive sales events have continued to grow in scale each year, we consistently see brands that are caught off guard by how high volume is on the day of the event. This often results in budgets that are either too small for the day or too inflexible to allow for additional spending if sales are strong. We highly recommend planning ahead and setting aside a dedicated portion of your budget as ‘flex’ spending for marquee days, with the goals of supporting increased customer demand and being able to keep winning placements while your competitors have already exhausted their budgets.
5 – LEVERAGING AUTOMATION AND TECHNOLOGY TO DRIVE EFFICIENCIES AT SCALE
As Amazon’s seasonal sales events continue to quickly grow in size each year, and as competition becomes ever more fierce on the site, we believe that leveraging automation and technology to manage your marketing campaigns is absolutely essential in winning on the site and beating your competition. Over the past 12-18 months, numerous SaaS platforms and software solutions have become available for brands and agencies, which automate CPC bid and budget management and leverage computer learning to increase campaign efficiency. These platforms also allow marketing or sales team to dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on managing their marketing, especially when those brands have a high number of ASINs or campaigns. Finally, these automated solutions can operate 24/7, 365, and react to changes in website competition much more quickly than human practitioners.
We recommend finding a software solution which allows your campaigns to react in real time to changes in the competitive landscape – something which becomes even more critical on a highly-competitive and crowded day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These software solutions should allow for enhancements like budget scheduling (selecting different daily budgets for specific days of the week), dayparting (automatically flexing bids up or down based on the hour of the day), and programmatic optimizations (automatically optimizing campaigns based on real time performance data). No matter how skilled a sales or marketing team is at managing their Amazon campaigns, these automated solutions can free up significant amounts of time and operate at a scale much greater than most teams can support. Given the large improvements in efficiency that they drive, these tools are often what sets brands and agencies apart during key drive periods like Cyber 5.
In our experience, brands who have adopted these automated marketing solutions have seen noticeable improvements in their efficiency metrics like CPC and ROAS, as well as incremental sales volume which is achieved from the greater efficiencies that these software solutions drive. We have also seen numerous marketing and sales teams have the ability to spend less time manually changing bids or budgets, and more time focusing on strategic work that adds real value for the brand.
Holiday shopping will likely continue to get more and more competitive each year on Amazon, and key events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday will almost certainly continue to break records for customer traffic and sales volume. While there is never a guarantee of success on Amazon during these critical shopping periods, there are still numerous steps and strategies that brands can take to set themselves apart from the crowd and beat their competitors. Whether that be custom holiday creative, more robust marketing plans, or greater efficiencies from automation, we believe the steps outlined above can help you have your best holiday season ever on Amazon.