Amazon is one of those household names that isn’t restricted to any specific demographic of people. Buyers of all professions, locations, ethnicities, cultures, and hobbies shop at all hours of the day. All of us are aware of the seemingly infinite number of products available and know that it can be overwhelming to discover the best option when looking at competing products.
Amazon’s solution to customers feeling bombarded with options is to challenge companies to win the “Buy Button” on a product in addition to the general refinement options such as prices and ratings. This means that companies can no longer simply list items and hope that the good name of the product wins their buyers - they must actively compete to be the favored in the marketplace in order to attract with consistency. Not only does this prevent a general monopoly from being established, but it forces companies to strive to outperform the competition.
While the “Buy Button” is an extremely powerful option to strive for, your performance shouldn’t be based solely on achieving the button. Amazon maintains strong rulesets about who they allow selling as it is Amazon’s marketplace and Amazon’s reputation at stake when a vendor fails to perform. It is easy for small companies looking to enter the fray to make mistakes on Amazon, simply due to not having done research or by continuing habits that are permissible for small companies acting independently. Many companies have had their selling permissions revoked for issues which Amazon views as baseline necessities which the small vendors viewed as over the top. With this “do or die” environment, expect to be ready to perform at an extremely professional level. Here are some tips to help you capitalize on Amazon’s reach without getting on their bad side:
1) Actively read then POLITELY and PROMPTLY respond to your customers’ messages.
I wanted to keep this point at the top as it’s an issue which surprisingly crops up constantly within the small business community. I, as well as several of my colleagues, have witnessed businesses who are late to respond, condescending to their customers, and sometimes even flat-out never respond to queries. Sure, some customers will be rude or may not properly phrase their questions, but this doesn’t excuse a professional from employing proper etiquette in response. Keep to the message tame and explain as concisely as you can what the solution your company will provide is going to be. Respond within a 24-hour window, even during the weekends. Add the appropriate apps to your phone to check your messages, or even hire a dedicated staff member to handle all customer relations. Make sure to respond concisely, quickly, and politely. Amazon prioritizes its customer base, and in turn, you should be matching their priorities to ensure all parties involved are happy.
2) Have either an extremely reliable form of fulfillment, or use Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA)
Similar to how point #1 is repeatedly offended by small businesses, the concept of quick and reliable fulfillment to the customer isn’t always a priority for some business owners. With Amazon, you should keep in mind that the direction they want to take with all products is their “Prime” selection, which offers 2-day shipping to subscribed customers. Aim to make sure that your fulfillment center is processing purchases and shipping *the same day* whenever possible. FBA is the most surefire way to ensure success, as it’s done by Amazon themselves. Not only are you insured reliable service for yourself, but you’ll be on Amazon’s good side for working side by side with them.
3) Keep your products in stock.
There’s a novelty idea that selling out of a product means it looks good to potential buyers who see that the demand has actually overcome the supply. In general, and ESPECIALLY when it comes to Amazon, running out of stock causes customers and Amazon both to view your company as someone who’s unprepared for the appropriate volume of orders. If you DO have a limited stock which cannot be replenished quickly, make sure you are properly maintaining inventory on both your data management programs AND AMAZON ITSELF!!! It’s easy to update one but not the other, so make sure you or your employee is disciplined in ensuring BOTH are always up to date to avoid being dinged for late shipments, A-Z claims, or chargebacks.
4) All product listings must be as accurate as humanly possible.
For those with a smaller volume of products, this point seems rather obvious and something that has no downside. Those with a large volume of products (several hundred or more) will see that creating and editing massive bulks of products can be tedious and be viewed as pricey, especially if having to hire multiple data-entry staff members. As with any other portion of your online sales strategies, you cannot afford to drop quality on even the small details such as listing your products with accurate descriptions and photographs. Customers have been trained to look for stock photo quality images and descriptions which have long detailed descriptions as well as bullet points to evaluate the product without having to leave the page. Amazon provides fantastic details on listing your products to their standards, and there are non-official Amazon resources created by super-users which will help break down all the mentioned and unsaid criteria which Amazon operates with.
5) Use the available resources to maintain strong account health and ratings.
With Amazon being such a huge multinational business, there are users and official staff worldwide who have provided resources tailored to nuances in the Amazon workflow. Here is a list of some (but not all!) powerful tools to help you understand how to optimally perform on Amazon:
Amazon Seller Central Forum. Seller Central is considered Amazon’s “elite” sellers. Go to the forums occasionally and read up on the various topics presented by the users. Some will be proactive and help you understand how to improve, and others will be mistakes made by other businesses which will help you avoid making mistakes which can be detrimental to your seller account’s health. Several of the users have posted thousands of replies, so make sure to keep an eye out for them in particular.
Amazon's FAQ for Vendors: You can go to Amazon’s vendor FAQ to learn about anything to do with listing your products. You will notice that there are several other options on the tables on the left side of the screen; I would suggest using these to understand all components of Amazon’s operation so that your account health isn’t tainted by being ignorant of the rules.
Amazon's Buyer-Seller Messaging Service Guidelines: Amazon has provided their guidelines and general how-to for vendors sending messages or replying to buyers. This messaging method allows you to directly respond via their user interface, or even route emails to and from your email of choice through their system to allow ease-of-use while maintaining the appropriate level of security for both the buyers and vendors involved.
Amazon's "Fulfilled By Amazon" (FBA): Amazon’s fulfillment is one of the strongest choices you can make for your business if you don’t have an already tried-and-true fulfillment option of your own. You send them some inventory, and they’ll ship everything for you without any hassle. FBA sends you inventory updates and requests so that you are always in stock with them, and even helps you ship for platforms outside of Amazon itself (such as your company’s website). The page linked contains information about all of the frequently asked questions directed to FBA.