Jul 26, 2019 4 min read
The Amazon Roadmap — Winning in Natural & Organic
Updated: July 26
Q&A with Betsy McGinn, CEO of McGinn eComm
On July 23rd, Pacvue hosted a webinar with Betsy Mcginn, co-author of The Amazon Roadmap: How Innovative Brands are Reinventing the Path to Market and CEO of McGinn eComm - view the recorded webinar here. Discussion points included the components of a successful Amazon go-to-market strategy, how getting that right makes or breaks your Amazon experience, along with examples of trends for Prime Day 2019. We had a number of questions answered during live webinar that we wanted to follow up with. Thank you to Betsy for presenting this webinar and answering the following questions for us!
Q. Are some items (example, the Bhakti Chai items) sold in a bigger case then broken down by Amazon or are the sold in two pack cases, 3 pack cases and a single serve?
If you are selling on the Vendor Central platform, Amazon will determine the “right pack” to sell and may break down a case into a smaller quantity that is a reasonable and logical size for the consumer and typically pass on “prep charges” to the brand. A good example of this – when I worked at Seventh Generation, we sold tampons in 12-pack cases, but a $65 case of 240 tampons is probably not the right pack for the consumer. So clearly a 2 or 3-pack is the right direction for the brand and the consumer. However, in Seller Central, Amazon does not assemble multi-packs or bundles. The Seller must send in the item as it will be sold and shipped to the consumer. Caveat here, if it is an item like supplements that is sold as a single unit, Amazon will pick it from a master case and the individual unit must have stickers and be ready to throw in a box and ship to the consumer. Increasingly, even on Vendor Central Amazon is nudging brands to provide the right pack for the consumer to avoid extra handling and to also provide a product that is SIOC (Ships in Own Container).
Q. Do you know how brands using seller central ramp up review generation at time of launch (seems like early review program would take time)? What is the best strategy?
One of the best ways is through social media and this is often a strength for emerging brands. They often have a mission or “reason-to-be” like nutpods who provided one of the first clean non-dairy creamers with a luxurious texture and Cali’flour Foods that created one of the first gluten-free pizza crusts make from Cauliflower. In both cases, they were able to build a community around their brand and leverage that into fans that wanted to review their products. In an attempt to clean up and provide an authentic review process, Amazon has shut down a lot of other alternatives for quickly generating reviews. So, even as you use your social media to announce your presence on Amazon and encourage reviews, it is important to be neutral in your messaging when encouraging your followers to review product. I didn’t used to think so, but now believe there is also value in the “verified purchaser” label that Amazon assigns the product is actually purchased on the site and not just reviewed on the site. I think we have all seen some sketchy reviews that we questioned their authenticity and “verified purchaser” helps with the credibility.
Q. Can you discuss the so-called "A10" SEO changes from late 2018 -early 2019. What was changed?
I checked in with my colleague and co-author Phil Segal since this is his area of expertise and here is our combined response:
No one knows exactly how Amazon’s A10 algorithm works but the essential change we have seen is that they've decreased the important of sales driven by PPC. If you wanted to rank for 'sunflower seeds' for example, you bid heavily on the term and Amazon doesn't really differentiate between organic and paid sales for determining that keyword rank. It looks like PPC's influence on that has been demoted a bit, though still a factor.
Another change that I know about is nerfing the value of discounted sales. People were essentially using Facebook Bot campaigns to provide massive discounts or free products in order to boost sales velocity and reviews. They've significantly reduced the impact of these campaigns.
Lastly, Amazon has put more emphasis on a seller’s reputation in determining ranking - how long they have been selling, product return history and how you handle returns and the amount of positive feedback the seller receives, now has more impact. I think these are upgrades that honest sellers can appreciate since a new seller cannot jump in and game the system to improve their ranking.
There are more subtle differences but this are the biggest we have witnessed.
Q. Regarding Amazon prime day, am I just pushing my direct to consumer customers from purchasing on my website to purchasing on amazon? How do we balance selling on our brand store vs selling on amazon?
This is a complex question that is actually multi-faceted.
First, do you want to push buyers to your own site in general versus Amazon? There are questions I would ask myself when making a decision here, including do you have the resources (expertise & money) to drive to one or both, where will you get the best ROI and what is your ultimate goal? If it is to generate revenue, it’s important remember that there are 130 million unique visitors to Amazon every month and an estimated 105 prime members that are extremely loyal shoppers. Amazon provides a strong suite of promotional tools for you to reach that consumer and is probably going to be your best return on investment. Amazon fans like the ease of buying their cashmere sweater with their favorite crackers and the needed garden hose that just sprung a leak. If your goal is to gather consumer information and get a sense of who is buying your product, you will get some great data from your own website. Some of my clients do not have the bandwidth or funding to do both so need to make a choice around the best strategy for their brand.
As far as prime day, I would use this as a day to leverage your investment to gain some loyalty for your brand by tying your promotion to sign-up for subscription or getting buyers to your variety pack. I don’t believe in big discounts just to be a part of prime day. Use it strategically to be seen and have an end-game in mind.
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