October 30, 2014

The Amazon Listing Status That Could Cause Your Sales to Decline

Do you pay attention to restaurant inspection grades? The ones that rate the establishment on cleanliness and whether it’s following regulations for food handling and storage? Maybe you’ve even seen a restaurant shut down while it works out its compliance issues.

Well, Amazon has a similar grading system that it uses to determine whether a product listing is up to its standards. Listings that don’t make the cut are given a suspended listing status and are often referred to as suppressed listings.

Last year, Amazon announced that it was using a suspended listing status to control the listings published on its site, in an effort to ensure that all the ingredients for success are included in the product page. (Read our prior blog on it here.) Amazon looks for listing elements like images, descriptions, Item Type Keywords (ITKs) and titles with an appropriate length. When Amazon finds listings to be noncompliant, it sends them to “listing jail” and suppresses from search results.

Just last week, Amazon announced that it will start grading listings in additional categories. Here’s a summary of the Amazon US Help page about it:

On or after October 22, 2014 sellers in Shoes, Jewelry, Watches or Luggage categories may experience suppressed listings. Items that don’t meet this criteria will be suppressed and will not show in search or browse until the issues are resolved.

For Shoes, child listings need values for Department, Size and Color. Also, the main images should be least 1,000 pixels on the longest side and needs to have a pure white background.

For Jewelry, child listings need a Department and Metal Type value and also must have images with pure white backgrounds.

For child listings in Watches or Luggage, you must include a Department and have an image with a pure white background.

If you’re a US seller in the Shoes, Jewelry, Watches or Luggage categories, you’ll want to complete a quick check of your listing statuses to see if any listings are suspended. You can do so within Seller Central by viewing the Listing Quality and Suppressed Listings Report under Inventory Reports.

If you’re a ChannelAdvisor customer, you can also view your suppressed listings within our application, where you can filter, sort and export notices about your suppressed listings. You can also use our Data Transformation Engine to apply business rules or lookup lists that can help you address many product suspension errors at once.

Amazon’s motivation with suppressed listings is to improve the shopping experience for buyers on its site by providing them with all the necessary details they need to make an informed and confident purchase decision. Regardless of the category that you sell in, you can be proactive in complying with Amazon recommendations and requirements so that you give your listings the best chance of success with buyers.

Some ways to avoid getting your listings put in the slammer:

  • Review what is required for your listing category, some like apparel, shoes and jewelry. Amazon is stricter about listings in these categories.

  • Send a valid UPC (or other product ID)

  • Keep titles less than 80 characters

  • Include brand values

  • Include a description or bullet points (preferably both)

  • Use a compliant image (e.g., white background, at least 1000 pixels minimum on the longest side)

  • Where applicable, provide values for department, size and color

  • Categorize your products with an ITK or Browse Node ID

When conducting account audits, I find that suppressed listings can account for a significant portion of listings and are sometimes at the root of a seller’s sales decline. If you don’t know whether Amazon is suppressing your listings (or how many listings it’s suppressing), now’s the time to research it further. Set your listings free and watch your sales soar!

 

Blog post by Rachel Miller, product marketing manager, ChannelAdvisor

October 29, 2014

5 Quick Ways to Run Successful Amazon Promotions

Running promotions on Amazon can be a great way to help boost your revenue by increasing conversions where potential buyers view your products. Promotions help your buyers see additional value in your offerings by adding an extra benefit such as free delivery or a discount. This can help you to stand out from the crowd on Amazon’s competitive marketplace.

To run these special offers on Amazon, you must first own the Buy Box for the product you want to promote. If you’re ready to get started, we’ve rounded up the below tips to help you choose, set up and optimise some great promotions.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 09.59.33Tip 1: Choose an Effective Promotion Type

Your first step should be determining which of the four Amazon promotion types best suit your products. Your decision should depend on both your product range and your goals. Here are your options:

  • Free Delivery: Offering free delivery can help increase the size of your shoppers’ baskets. You can set this promotion to apply to orders above a certain threshold in value — or only if multiple items are placed in the shopping basket. That often pushes customers to add another item to reach the free delivery threshold.

  • Money Off: With this offer, you can highlight additional savings for consumers. This can be useful in increasing the average basket size if you set a saved amount when multiple items are bought. Alternatively, you can encourage customers to buy an item at a special reduced price.

  • Buy One, Get One: Give away additional items that add a compelling selling point. For example, buy one mobile phone and receive a matching accessory for free. Alternatively, you can create bundles of full-price items and give away one item for free with the product bundle.

  • External Benefits: This flexible option allows you to offer any post-order benefit. It’s not used often, but it can work well when you want to encourage customers to shop with you again. A good example is awarding loyalty points for a specific amount spent.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 09.59.52Tip 2: Optimise Your Offer

Once you decide which promotion best aligns with your products, you can go ahead and tweak your offering.

Generally, it’s a good idea to customise your messaging. Adding text to display in search results and on the item detail page will help your offering stand out.

Edit the section in your Amazon listing called Short display text to make your benefit clear.
Example: “FREE UK Delivery on orders over £30” or “Buy One Get One FREE on all Men’s T-Shirts”.

Additionally, you can optimise the promotion text on the item detail page. Edit the Amazon section titled Detail page display text. Explain your offer in plain but compelling words that describe what the offer applies to. This will make it very clear what the customer should expect. Example: “Get FREE UK delivery when you spend £50 or more on all items in store.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 09.59.58Tip 3: Use Promo Codes

You found a suitable promotion, and you know how to make it stand out in search and on item detail pages. What’s next?

Rather than making a promotion available to all Amazon shoppers, some retailers choose to make their offer more exclusive by allowing promotion codes, which can build customer loyalty but limit the audience who will see these promotions. If you do decide you want to go down the route of using promotional codes, we have a few tips for you.

You can set up several promotions for the same product range, and users can combine promotions depending on your settings. There are three types of codes that you can offer: preferential, unrestricted and exclusive.

  1. Preferential: This means customers can’t include more than one preferential claim code in a single order.
  2. Unrestricted: This code allows customers  to combine several unrestricted claim codes in a single order.
  3. Exclusive: With this type of promotional code, shoppers  can’t use any other claim code in a single order.

Also, if you’re running several promotions on one product range, you can rank a promotion over another by updating the display-precedence number for each.

Again, make sure to customise your messaging to fully optimise your promotion.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.00.07Tip 4: Stand Out from the Crowd

The key to successful sales on Amazon is setting yourself apart from the competition. Take a step back and review your Amazon performance, asking yourself:

  • How does your product range compare to other retailers’ on Amazon?

  • Do you own the Buy Box for your top-performing products?

  • Do you need to distinguish your offering with more selling points?

Promotions are a great tool for standing out from the crowd, but remember that Amazon promotions are visible only for products where you own the Buy Box.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.00.14Tip 5: Measure Success

You’ve chosen the most effective promotion for your product type and have optimised it as much as you can. Now the question is, Is it working?

To evaluate how effective your promotions are, you first need to know how your products perform without active promotions.

To get insights into your results, go to Seller Central and export relevant data on your products from the Business Reports section. It’s worth comparing values such as sessions, impressions, Buy Box percentage and orders before and after promotion activation. This will help you identify which promotions drive conversion considering other factors have not significantly changed. 

Uk-ebook-amazon-metrics-explained-imgPromotions can be a great way to increase your conversions on Amazon, but keep in mind that you must own the Buy Box before you can try these techniques. Check out our How to Advance Your Amazon Metrics eBook for helpful suggestions to help boost your Amazon performance.

Blog post by: Dominic Grevsmuehl, campaign manager at ChannelAdvisor

October 27, 2014

Don't panic! - Amazon's Q3 results from a seller's perspective

Last week, Thursday, October 21, 2014 Amazon announced their Q3 2014 results.  The results were much worse on the expense/losses side than Wall St. was expecting and there has been quite a bit of gloom and doom in the press since the results.  In this post, we'll parse through all that and see what it means for sellers.  First...

Don't panic!

It's easy to read the headlines and think that the wheels are coming off the Amazon bus.  As we dig into the results that matter for sellers, you will see that Amazon's 1P and 3P businesses are doing quite well and the problems are in media (which grew only 4%) and  non-seller oriented areas such as the Fire phone which had a  $170m write-down for the Q and Amazon is sitting on $83m in inventory.  The most impressive metric was the acceleration of North American EGM which accelerated to 31% - more than 2X the growth of e-commerce.

Q3 Highlights

There was a lot to process in the Q3results, here are the key points that we think sellers should focus on:

  • Acceleration - EGM (Electronics and General Merchandise) accelerated in NA (third Q in a row) from 29% to 31% which was good news because that's where most of the 3P action is with our sellers.
  • Paid item growth -Paid item growth came in at 21%, a slight deceleration from Q2's 23%.
  • Active users - Q3 active users grew 16% y/y to 260m (in-line with Q2's 17% growth rate).
  • Units per user - One interesting metric is the units/user - this metric shows us buyer frequency.  In other words, are buyers increasing or decreasing activity. Of course, increasing is good and indicates that programs like Prime, recommendations and upsells are working.  Units per user were up 5% on a y/y basis, which is an impressive metric.
  • Media share - Media's share came in at 25% with EGM at a high-water mark of 68% (the missing 7% is "other" -ads and AWS).
  • 3P unit share - One positive is that 3P unit share ticked up to 42% up from Q2's 41%.  While this doesn't seem like a big move, when we look at the interior math, we see 3P GMV grew 30% y/y (an acceleration from Q2) compared to 1P GMV which grew at 19%.
  • Amazon 3P GMV > eBay GMV - As you will see below, Amazon's 3P GMV is now greater than eBay's and projecting forward.  Unless something major happens to slow down Amazon or accelerate eBay, the lines have crossed for the foreseeable future, making Alibaba the world's largest marketplace, Amazon number 2 and eBay number 3.

There were a couple of other interesting new datapoints from the conference call and press release:

  • Amazon forecasted Q4 total revenue growth in the 7-18% range (12.5% at the midpoint) - this was not well received and if the mid-point is the result, will be a tough holiday outcome for Amazon.   ComScore and Forrester are forecasting 15%+ growth for the holiday, so if we do end up at 12.5% it will be due to softness in the media category and tough regions like Japan and China.
  • Amazon's geographical mix for the Q was 63% North America, 37% non-domestic
  • Amazon highlighted that they have 13 net new FCs built this year and the 15 sortation centers.

Those are the seller-oriented highlights from the Q and here is an updated dashboard with all the key metrics.

Amazon Q3 2014 Key Performance Indicators (for sellers) Dashboard

Amzn_q3_dashboard

Q3 2014 Amazon growth rate cube

Here is our regular matrix of the different Amazon growth rates.  The category most 3P sellers focus on is EGM (Electronics and General Merchandise) and you can see that it grew at a rate of ~2X e-commerce  domestically.

Amzn_q3_cube

The biggest movement on the cube was a decrease in North American Media which grew only 5% - down from last quarter's 13%. Intl EGM slowed down a tad compared to Q2's 20%, but overall EGM ticked up from 25% to 26% based on the strong performance of NA EGM.

 How big was 3P in Q3 2014?

For Q3 2014  Amazon's quarterly GMV (1P+3P) came in at $40.56b.  Here is a stack chart with the 1P and 3P GMV trends since 2011.  

Amzn_q3_mp_chart

eBay vs. Amazon GMV Q3 2014

Now that we have both Amazon and eBay reporting, we're able to compare apples to apples (eBay's GMV vs. Amazon's 3P GMV):

Amzn_q3_vs_eBay_q3_chart

 

Here you can see that Amazon's 3P GMV was greater than eBay's for the first non-Q4 timeframe since we've been tracking.  With eBay's GMV growing at 8% and Amazon's 3P GMV growing 28%, if we project the lines forward, they do not cross again and Amazon's lead increases as you can see here (this assumes a 8% growth rate for eBay and 20% growth rate for Amazon):

Amzn_q3_vs_ebay_15

 

Conclusion

 From a seller's perspective, this was a strong Q with EGM in NA accelerating and solid international EGM results, both of which about twice the size of the 15% e-commerce growth rate as reported by comScore.   The guidance on Q4 is lower than expected at 12.5% growth rate, and we'll have to see if that is conservatism or a true concern for the fourth quarter.

 

This blog post was written by Scot Wingo, CEO, ChannelAdvisor.

October 23, 2014

Cyber Five Frenzy: eBay/PayPal Returns Policy and RLSAs

UPDATED 10/29/2014 

To help all retailers prepare for the holiday rush, we’ll be kicking our blog into high gear, sharing several holiday preparation tips over the span of the next two months. We want to make sure you’re covered from all angles, so two tips per post — one on digital marketing and one on marketplaces — and two blogs per week. We’ll begin with the tips that take the most time to implement and end with the less complex. Let the prepping commence!

 

October is coming to an end, and once November hits, holiday shopping will steadily pick up. To complete the purchasing cycle, also spend some time reviewing your eBay/PayPal returns policy. Returns are inevitable, even with great products and a superior user experience. Review your current returns setup to ensure your customers have the most seamless experience possible.

To help products fly off your virtual shelves, consider implementing retargeting ads to your existing webstore visitors. That way, you aren’t prospecting blindly but are focusing your efforts on consumers who have already shown interest in your products.

Spend what’s left of this month preparing your newly targeted ads and reviewing your returns policy. You’re going to want to be ready to put your best foot forward once November 1 gets here!

Marketplaces Tip #6: Review your eBay/PayPal returns policy

Let’s face it, nobody enjoys product returns — neither buyer nor seller. Sellers lose sales, and consumers don’t receive the products they expected. As an eBay seller, don’t make these situations worse on yourself by being unable to refund the customer through PayPal.

To receive the Top Rated Plus badge on eBay, you’re required to offer Extended Holiday Returns. This gives buyers until January 31 to return anything purchased between November 1 and December 31 — approximately 90 days. EBay recently announced that extended holiday returns are no longer necessary to earn the Top Rated Plus badge. More details here.

Make sure you extend to the 90-day PayPal refund window to accommodate buyers and to make sure you can refund through PayPal. Of note:

  • You have to call a PayPal rep to make this change, and it goes into effect the moment you call.

  • To revert to a 60-day window in December, then a 30-day window in January, you need to call PayPal again.

 

Digital Marketing Tip #6: Make use of RLSAs

Google Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow you to customize your search ads campaign for people who previously visited your site. You can tailor your bids and advertisements to these specific visitors when they’re searching on Google. RLSAs are a great way to target shoppers with text ads, based on the shoppers’ prior actions and interests when they visited your webstore.  

RLSAs deliver, too. In an analysis for one of our customers (using Q4 2013 data), we found that:

  • RLSAs made up 15% of total spend and resulted in 21% of conversions.

  • The RLSA click-through rate was 321% higher than the non-RLSA click-through rate.

  • RLSAs delivered a conversion rate that was 72% higher than that of non-RLSAs.

 

These tips can take some time to implement, so put them into action pronto. We always love hearing about your progress as we approach one of the busiest times of year, so feel free to update us in the comments below.

Be on the lookout for the next blog post in our holiday series. We’ll discuss strategies for testing cross-border trade as well as looking beyond Google Shopping!


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Sales feeling stale? Maybe it's time to think outside your borders. We've got tips for making cross-border trade a reality in this free eBook.

October 22, 2014

Amazon Q3 2014 Results Preview (from a seller's perspective)

Tomorrow, Thursday October 23rd, 2014, after the market closes, Amazon will release their Q3 results. 

 ComScore recently reported that US e-commerce grew at 13% y/y for the desktop, which translates to 15% y/y with mobile included, so that is the baseline for Q3 2014 growth.  eBay reported first this quarter and came in at 7% y/y GMV growth, which was ~8% below the comScore baseline.

From our SSS data, Amazon averaged 41.1% y/y growth over the third quarter, a step up from Q2's growth rate.

It will be interesting to see if Amazon accelerates this Q as that will show strength heading into the important Q4 holiday quarter and also show that Amazon does not suffer the same issues facing eBay and perhaps is taking share.

Key metrics and themese we are watching carefully:

  • Active users  - Every other metric is "backwards facing", so we like active users because it is forward looking and because  it tells us how many shoppers are actively buying on Amazon and that sellers will be able to market to.  Last year (Q3 2013) there were 224m active users and last quarter (Q2 14) Amazon broke through 250m.  This metric has been growing around 17%, which would yield a Q3 14 target of 262m.
  • EGM y/y growth rate - This blog is for Amazon sellers and the bulk of Amazon sellers are in the EGM category (Electronics and General Merchandise).  Last Q (Q2 14) , EGM grew at 25% with the US at 29% and non-domestic at 20%. A year ago (Q2 13) EGM grew 29%.
  • % units from 3P - For the last year this metric has been "stuck" at 40% after previously moving a point or so every Q.  We'll be watching this one closely.
  • Paid Unit Growth/Sold Item Growth - eBay reported sold item growth of 9.1% for Q3 2014.  Last Q (Q2 2014) Amazon reported 23%, which was down from the year ago period (Q2 2013) of 29%.  It will be interesting to see if this metric accelerated or stayed flat from the first Q.  Some Wall St. Analysts are concerned this will dip below 20%.
  • Fulfillment and sortation centers - Sometimes Amazon will slip in a comment on their conference call such as "we are building 15 sortation centers."  We carefully track Amazon's buildout and they continue significant investment in this area.  
  • Fresh and same-day delivery - We are closely watching the battle between Google and Amazon for same-day and groceries.  Amazon recently rolled out Fresh in NY/Brooklyn and currently supports 15 metros for same-day delivery.  They also recently rolled out a news store pickup service in the UK. We'll be listening for any color on all these initiatives.
  • Holiday 2014 - Wall St. is expecting Amazon to forecast 21% y/y growth for Q4.  Anything below that will indicate Amazon isn't feeling great about the holiday season and anything above will indicate a more positive stance. 
  • Drones - Drones are just cool and we like to hear more about them.

This dashboard shows all of the metrics we'll be watching closely to see how Amazon performed a year ago and last Q.

Amzn_q3_preview



 We will have the highlights from the report out Thursday - stay tuned!

This blog post was written by Scot Wingo, CEO, ChannelAdvisor.

October 21, 2014

Cyber Five Frenzy: Emerging Marketplaces and Keyword Bids

To help all retailers prepare for the holiday rush, we’ll be kicking our blog into high gear, sharing several holiday preparation tips over the span of the next two months. We want to make sure you’re covered from all angles, so two tips per post — one on digital marketing and one on marketplaces — and two blogs per week. We’ll begin with the tips that take the most time to implement and end with the less complex. Let the prepping commence!

 

41 days until the much-anticipated Cyber Monday. Don’t panic. There’s still time to implement tactics that will expand the breadth of your business. Maybe that includes exploring an additional marketplace beyond Amazon and eBay. How about tweaking your existing paid search practices to reflect eye-catching promotions? If you’re feeling really ambitious, why not try both!

Holiday prep time is dwindling, so it’s best to try to wrap up holiday initiatives now — especially if you’re interested in launching on an additional marketplace, as that can take several weeks. Below, we’ve outlined best practices to help you get started.

Marketplaces Tip #5: Check out emerging marketplaces

We all know that Amazon and eBay dominate the marketplace realm. They’re the biggest and baddest online product hubs around. But limiting yourself to selling on just these marketplace behemoths may be holding you back from potential sales. Below, we’ve compiled a list of emerging marketplaces around the globe, all of which give you access to fresh sources of demand. There’s still time to launch on a new marketplace before the holiday season picks up, if you act now!

Emerging Marketplaces.jpg

*Providing listings here as seller information is unavailable.

 

Digital Marketing Tip #5: Put your best bids forward

During the holidays, competition gets feisty! One piece of low-hanging fruit is using callout extensions and sitelinks within your ads to highlight eye-catching promotions. Sitelinks and callout extensions, which are both free to incorporate, can be used together to alert potential customers to information about offers and services you provide. In the Lenox example below, they’ve called out a 40% off promotion, as well as free shipping, all within a branded paid search ad.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/flDfDScIj3Ze0j95xIkGcKfaBVzSYQWyh5HR8c3UmICxwZd1uRbZLG3jEBPk7C5pQeOgbqhp59RcZ2YXENWFIWTlW1Fd7h-upeJigAQQ7DJuMafXdLVhcShMcTBeFvZ1Dw

As you’re planning for the holidays, consider the following search tips:

  • First week in November: Ramp up bids.

  • Right after last shipping day: Ramp down bids to pre-holiday levels.

  • Review last year’s performance:

    • Ensure that strong-performing keywords from last year are not paused.

    • If there’s a new product model, update it and give it an appropriate bid.

    • Use ChannelAdvisor’s Seasonal Bid Adjuster to understand how keywords performed last holiday and bid up or down appropriately.  

    • Review your daily spend totals from 2013 and consider increasing these budgets by at least 20%.

 

These tips can take some time to implement, so put them into action pronto. We always love hearing about your progress as we approach one of the busiest times of year, so feel free to update us in the comments below.

Be on the lookout this Thursday for our next blog post in our holiday series. We’ll review eBay returns policy as well as discuss the best use for remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs)!

 


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Need tips on making fulfillment work for you and your customers this holiday season? This holiday eBook has tips

October 13, 2014

Webinar: Simplify Global Expansion with the Right Marketplaces

Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT

 

According to PayPal and Nielsen, cross-border online shopping will be worth $307 billion by 2018 — a 200% increase from 2013, with 130 million cross-border online shoppers. Let us repeat that: $307 billion! Expanding to new marketplaces

The internet has opened up a new world of consumption. Borders don’t represent separation barriers like they used to, meaning shopping is no longer restricted by geography. This is prime time for
retailers to consider global expansion.

Representatives from MercadoLibre and Trade Me join ChannelAdvisor for an upcoming webinar that
will talk retailers through today’s e-commerce landscape. During the webinar you’ll also learn:

  • Why a global strategy is essential in today’s e-commerce market

  • The main challenges retailers face when expanding internationally

  • How to decide which marketplaces are best for your business

  • Tips and best practices for selling on a new marketplace

Don’t miss this free opportunity! Sign up today to claim your spot.

October 10, 2014

Top 10 Takeaways from the 2014 Shop.org Summit

Last week, thousands of retailers gathered in Seattle for the 2014 Shop.org Summit. Over three

days, conference sessions covered topics such as retail strategy, e-commerce, digital marketing, Shop.org 2014consumer behavior — and lots, lots more. If you couldn’t make it (or even if you did), we’ve rounded up some of our top takeaways for retailers.

  1. Omnichannel is getting smarter. In the kickoff keynote session, executives from the outdoor company REI shared some interesting stats about the store’s shoppers. For example, 75% of customers who made purchases in store also visited the REI website or mobile app. REI even offers free Wi-Fi in its stores to encourage shoppers to research and browse products online. And they do — REI’s app is the most-visited site by REI in-store shoppers.

  2. Build your brand via your customers. Websites Birchbox, Houzz and Zulily each have a compelling, unique and memorable brand. But all three have one thing in common: deep customer relationships. Birchbox tailors its communications with individual shoppers to introduce them to beauty products they’d like. Houzz opened a marketplace because its users were clamoring for one. And Zulily essentially launches a new website each morning, with a new variety of curated products. Bottom line: If you’re searching for your brand’s story, look no further than your customers.

  3. Weave a rope of small advantages. Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, shared insights into Amazon’s founding and continued success. One of his points that stuck was Amazon’s emphasis on small and constant innovations. If your company doesn’t have a single, standout advantage in your industry, keep creating small ones. They eventually add up.

  4. Going cross-border? Start slowly. International online selling should start with baby steps. In most developing countries, marketplaces are playing a large role in e-commerce growth. Most important when you’re starting out? Logistics like shipping, legal and taxes. A fully translated local website in every region should be one of your last tasks.

  5. Focus on what you do best. When it comes to the scope of your business, more isn’t necessarily better, says Michael Rubin, founder and CEO of Kynetic. Successful companies zoom in on what they’re good at, and in doing so differentiate themselves in the market. Rubin’s point was made even stronger given the big news that day: the separation of eBay and PayPal.

  6. Experiment on Amazon. In a talk titled “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Amazon,” Dale Edman of The Wasserstrom Company stressed how easy it was to get up and running on Amazon (his company had been selling on eBay first). His advice for new sellers: Experiment (it’s hard to predict which products will sell well — he was surprised that bulky cutting boards were popular) and take advantage of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).

  7. Headlines rule in SEO. Yeah, we all love to hate Buzzfeed. But we can learn a lot from the site’s attention-grabbing headlines. Spend time crafting headlines on your website — they’ll encourage clicks and boost SEO. Make your headlines remarkable, so that they’ll generate interest in and of themselves.

  8. Marketplaces are eating the e-commerce world. ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo’s session on marketplaces painted a picture of the breadth and depth of global marketplaces. Speakers from MercadoLivre and Alibaba shed light on the rapidly growing e-commerce markets in Brazil and China, respectively. And with 90% of online sales in China occurring through marketplaces, it looks like the US has some big footsteps to follow in the coming years.

  9. When you think social, think mobile. With so many smartphone users accessing social media via their mobile devices, social and mobile should be closely linked. Consider Google Plus: When users search for, say, “coffee” on their phones in a new location, local Google Plus listings pop up in the results (instead of those bigger national coffee chains). More food for thought: Mobile users spend 24% of their mobile time on Facebook. That’s huge.

  10. It’s a great time to be in e-commerce. This takeaway sounds like a throwaway, but it’s true. We heard from Marc Lore, founder of soon-to-be-released marketplace Jet — if you sell online, you’re going to want to remember his name. Plus, Alibaba offered lots of insights into its e-commerce opportunity following its recent IPO. Add to the mix new digital marketing developments like Yahoo Gemini and Google Local Inventory Ads, and, well, we’re only scratching the surface.

 

Blog post by Leanne Link, ChannelAdvisor Global Copyeditor


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Craving more e-commerce tips? You’ll find 16 more in this eBook, 16 Things You Wish You’d Known When You Started Selling Online.

September 30, 2014

How Amazon’s Search Engine Works

Retailers are always vying for top position on Amazon, but what does the marketplace look for when it compiles results? Given the many options for customers, we’ve identified what retailers can do to improve their listings and ranking on the marketplace giant.

How Buyers Search

Buyers scan results pages very quickly. They spend a fraction of a second on each result, taking a longer look if something is worth it. With this in mind, it’s important to optimise your titles and photos to capture attention. Buyers are also interested in words related to the terms they type in Amazon’s search engine. For example, a buyer searching for a MacBook will likely notice words like ‘Air,’ ‘Pro’ or ‘Retina’.

Amazon Search Blog 1

How Amazon's Search Engine Works

AmazonSearchBlog2When a buyer types a query into Amazon’s search box, the search engine looks up those words in its index, finds all the results and then ranks them accordingly. This ranking system uses several factors to identify which results are relevant. When doing this, Amazon is assessing the quality of the product and listing, the degree of text match and customer feedback.

It’s a sophisticated engine that excludes common words like ‘the,’ and it also learns common misspellings automatically — and provides spelling corrections. It’s not case-sensitive, so it ignores uppercase and lowercase letters. It also ignores punctuation, so there’s no need to list different variations in a listing (‘t-shirt,’ ‘tshirt’ and ‘t shirt’).

AmazonSearchBlog3

How to Improve Titles

Because buyers spend only a fraction of time on any result, you should keep your product titles short. A minimal amount of information is needed to identify the item. A title of 60 or fewer characters is highly recommended, but the shorter the better — especially as many shoppers now search from mobiles. It’s harder to read long titles, so buyers may just skip them. Plus, they take up more space, showing fewer results.

Ask yourself which words are likely to be relevant when buyers scan results. Once you’ve identified these, you can assess what information you may not need to include. Titles shouldn’t include full item descriptions. You can use the descriptions and bullet point areas in your listing to provide this additional information.

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These examples of good titles are effective because they’re short, rich with keywords and relevant to what consumers tend to search. The examples of poorly constructed titles are less successful because the titles are effectively product descriptions. Titles shouldn’t include details such as compatible model numbers, testimonials, packaging details or other options.

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Amazon provides recommendations to sellers about titles within category-specific style guides. It’s a good idea to look this up for your category to see learn the recommended format. In general you’ll see Amazon suggesting the following: 

[Brand] + [Series] + [Model] + [Product] 

At ChannelAdvisor, we strongly recommend doing an audit of your listings to make sure they’re optimised. To get started, review titles, starting with the longest ones, and identify where you can condense them without losing impact. If you are following a title format like the one suggested by Amazon above, you can even utilise ChannelAdvisor’s Data Transformation Engine to build titles in the format shown by using Business Rules.

Let’s take a look at this example:

Current Title (146 characters):

Pixnor USB AC Power Adapter Home and Travel Charger with US/EU/UK/AU Plugs for Apple IPAD / IPHONE / SAMSUNG / BlackBerry / HTC / Nokia / Motorola

Assess which words in your title are the most important, then move these to the front so it’s easier for your buyer to spot them. In this example, ‘AC Charger’ and ‘USB’ are the critical points to highlight. Information such as the fact that the item is universal and that it can be used when buyers ‘travel’ or stay ‘home’ are not as important. Shoppers are less likely to search for those points, so remove these from your title and include them in your product description instead. You should also clean up capitalisation to make your listing look more professional. Here’s our suggested update: 

Optimised Title (53 characters):

Pixnor International USB Power Charger for Smartphones and Tablets

How to Improve Keywords

Keywords are one of the primary methods buyers use to find products on Amazon. Your keywords should include product attributes — such as model numbers, materials or specs — and alternative ways of describing the product.

Amazon’s algorithm uses a ‘match score’ to promote the most relevant search results, so relevancy is key. Your match score will be better if the words you use are in the same sequence as the buyer’s query. We also recommend listing different phrases as different entries, instead of together on the same line.

Keywords should not include:

  • Information that is already present in other fields, such as your title or brand
  • Subjective claims about the quality of the item (‘best’)
  • Statements that are only temporarily true (‘new,’ ‘on sale’, ‘available now’)
  • Information that is true of most or all items in the category (‘book’)
  • Common misspellings of the product name
  • Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalisation and plurals (both ‘80GB’ and ‘80 GB’, ‘computer’ and ‘computers’, etc.). 

Keywords should never include information that misrepresents the product, such as a competing brand or a different author. Doing so violates Amazon’s policies.

Summing It Up

When building or reviewing your keywords, remember that the aim of the game is to have keywords that help buyers by providing additional information that wouldn’t otherwise be searchable. Keep that in mind as you review yours.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 16.01.10When selling on Amazon, it’s in your interest to spend some time focusing on your data to attract more customers. If you’re interested in learning more about the latest from Amazon, join our ‘What’s New with Amazon’ webinar on 30 September at 7 p.m. BST/ 2 p.m. EDT. For more information and to register, please go here: bit.ly/ECOMAmazonWebinarSeptember

Blog post by David Le Roux, account manager, ChannelAdvisor EMEA

September 29, 2014

Navigating E-Commerce Channels: Are You Prepared for the Holiday Season?

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With the assistance of Redshift Research, we conducted the Multichannel E-Commerce Study with more than 200 respondents — US and UK retailers that already sell products online. Respondents were e-commerce decision makers at companies that averaged $3-5 million in revenue in 2013. The survey was intended to pinpoint e-commerce trends, as well as help identify opportunities and challenges in the online market.

 

’Tis the season…for retailers to maximize their online holiday sales, that is. Retailers plan for the holiday shopping season all year long, and now, it’s just around the corner. In our Multichannel E-Commerce Study, we asked retailers to answer a number of questions related to the holidays. This portion of this study was intended to gather retailers’ expectations and associated strategies they’re using to maximize sales for the 2014 holiday season.

Thanksgiving falls during the last week of November again this year, and Cyber Monday will be in December. With a compressed holiday season on the horizon, retailers are rolling out their holiday promotions early, and focusing on customer service features to help increase sales.

Retailers Expect a Successful Holiday Season

E-commerce holiday sales are outperforming those of brick-and-mortar stores, and retailers expect this trend to continue in 2014. Despite the shortened shopping season, 86% of retailers expect to increase their year-over-year online holiday sales in 2014. Over a quarter of retailers (27%) expect an 11-15% increase in holiday sales this year, and 46% expect an increase between 1-10%. Not a single retailer surveyed reported that they expect their online holiday sales to decrease this year.

Holiday Promotions Are Starting Early

As we expected, retailers are addressing the challenge of a shortened holiday shopping season by starting their holiday promotions early. Creating a sense of urgency will help encourage consumers to make their holiday purchases sooner. Roughly half (42%) of retailers surveyed planned to start their holiday push this month, and 20% planned to begin their holiday push in August or earlier. Almost a quarter (23%) of retailers surveyed planned to start their holiday marketing promotions earlier this year compared with previous years.  

Customer Service Is Important for Driving Sales

Retailers seeking a jolly holiday season need to find ways to create a pleasant shopping experience for consumers and offer exceptional customer service. Almost half (41%) of retailers surveyed plan to offer free shipping and returns as a strategy to increase holiday sales, and free shipping was named the most successful service feature for generating a higher level of customer satisfaction. One-third of retailers plan to stock higher product quantities to increase holiday sales this year, and 27% plan to offer discounts for select products. Most retailers (67%) said that offering these customer service features has resulted in increased sales, followed by increased online traffic (60%) and increased repeat shoppers (42%).  

Retailers Are Embracing Trends, Including Digital Marketing

The e-commerce landscape is constantly evolving, making it critical for retailers to evaluate and modify their holiday strategies each year. Digital marketing is mandatory in the e-commerce world, especially during the holidays. More than three-fourths (77%) of retailers surveyed plan to change their holiday strategy in 2014. More than a quarter (27%) plan to increase their overall digital marketing and advertising budgets to boost holiday sales this year, and a quarter of retailers plan to launch new digital marketing initiatives.

What approaches are you taking to increase your holiday sales in 2014? Are you evaluating customer service options with the consumer in mind? Have you considered recent trends? In the weeks leading up to the Cyber Five (the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday), we’ll be sharing tips to help get your listings in shape for this exciting season. Stay tuned!   


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For a visual recap of our Multichannel E-Commerce Study results, check out our infographic.