5 Steps to Product Launch on Amazon in 2019
Launching a new product on Amazon is like being thrown into the cockpit of a plane in flight. There are dozens of levers and flashing buttons but no clear indication of how to stay in the air.
It’s not enough to have an amazing product. And shoveling loads of cash into advertising simply does not work. The truth is, rushing what should be a detailed and incremental process quickly turns an all-but-guaranteed success into an expensive and underwhelming cold-start.
Successful product onboarding requires a step-by-step plan that leverages Amazon’s algorithm and accounts for the unique challenges that new products are likely to face. With a bottom-up approach, brands of all kinds can systematically prepare their products for marketability before implementing a comprehensive strategy to drive customer traffic and optimize performance.
If you read my instructions carefully, you can land this plane and make it safely to the bank.
Strategies For Launching a New Product on Amazon in 2019
- Step 1: Secure the Prime Badge
- Step 2: Improve Product / Brand Content
- Step 3: Get Customer Reviews
- Step 4: Generate Traffic
- Step 5: Test
Step #1: Secure the Prime Badge
Always (and I mean always) start with securing your Amazon Prime badge. It’s the marker that lets a customer know that your product can be reliably and safely shipped to their front door in two days or less.
For over a decade, Amazon has been investing in its promise to the Amazon Prime customer. So it’s no surprise that customer conversion drastically increases when a product receives the Prime badge, leading to an average sales lift of over 50%. This is, in part, because Amazon’s search algorithm is more likely to place Prime-eligible products in front of Prime shoppers who spend more time and money on the platform.
Most first-party vendors are Prime eligible by virtue of selling wholesale to Amazon. However, third-party sellers need to take extra steps to receive the badge. One option is to enroll in FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon), a popular fulfillment option which allows sellers to fulfill their orders from Amazon warehouses while maintaining ownership over the products.
Although FBA is not the only way that brands can receive the all-important Prime badge. Those who utilize the Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) program to ship products directly to consumers can apply for Seller Fulfilled Prime if they can prove their ability to reliably and consistently meet the Prime shipping standards. Seller Fulfilled Prime products appear on the platform like other Prime products but are shipped directly from the seller. While the program is not currently accepting new enrollment, brands can get on Amazon’s waitlist here.
Step #2: Product and Brand Content
Often when on-boarding new products, brands are eager to begin driving customer traffic with advertising campaigns and promotions. But without high-quality content to communicate product value and drive conversion, their advertising budget is wasted on low sales volume. That’s why establishing optimized basic and enhanced content is a crucial step that should be taken early on in the product onboarding journey.
It should be noted, though, that high-quality content is not as cut-and-dried as Prime badging. Good content can look different from one product to the next dependent upon the category and target customer base. Lifestyle images may be more important, for instance, on a fashion product than on office supplies.
Though making too many category generalizations can lead to an oversimplified approach. Instead, brands should be catering to a clearly defined avatar who represents a psychographic conception of their ideal customer. Every creative decision thereafter should be made with that avatar in mind. And as a rule, the more impactful that content is for the avatar, the more likely customers will be to convert.
Another overlooked aspect of content is mobile optimization. This means ensuring that your content follows Amazon’s best practices for mobile devices by literally thumbing through your content on a mobile device to make sure that it renders well. Sometimes images will appear pixelated or oddly cropped when viewing in mobile, so taking the time to check is imperative, especially considering that almost 60% of customers are shopping on mobile.
Be sure to also check your product titles while on mobile, as they can often become shortened. If you don’t include your relevant keywords early in the title, Amazon shoppers might see your “Tropical, 8×11, hand-made, fits well in your home…” as a picture frame instead of an area rug.
Lastly, brands with an existing catalog should set up a brand store (if they haven’t already). This is an exclusive page for your brand hosted on Amazon featuring grouped product listings, branded video and image content, product comparison charts, and much more. These online storefronts are a huge opportunity for brands because they allow for a catered brand experience without the concern of competitors advertising on the page. They are also an ideal location to highlight newly launched products. By listing “New Arrivals” next to “Best-Sellers,” existing traffic and customer interest can be leveraged to kickstart new products.
Step #3: Customer Reviews
Over 49% of customers listed reviews as their primary influence. In other words, half of all customers want a review to verify their purchase decision. This statistic alone should encourage brands to establish a basis of reviews before driving traffic to their products. But further still, for customers (like myself) who filter their searches based on review quality, products without reviews are immediately dropped out of consideration. So it’s clear that getting even a handful of initial reviews can help get a product marketing-ready. Unfortunately, getting reviews can be easier said than done. After all, the average organic review rate is around 2%. In other words, you have to sell 50 products to get one review.
Amazon does have programs to speed up the process, such as Early Reviewer or Amazon Vine. However, both programs require some level of sales to work properly. And since reviews are needed to drive conversion, these options are often best suited for after a baseline of reviews has already been set and a product is marketing-ready.
There are other options which have been shown to reliably improve your product review rate. One of which is Buyer-Seller messaging, a free program for third-party sellers whereby brands can send a customizable message out to customers after purchase. Brands can include useful information to their customers like tips for product use, maintenance instructions, and even creative add-ons like recipes or word games. Of course, the additional touchpoint also serves as an avenue for requesting product feedback with a simple message like, “Tell us how we did.” While you can’t incentivize feedback or request positive reviews, the messaging is still an effective method for increasing review rate, often bumping the average up to 5 or 6%.
Step #4: Traffic, Traffic, Traffic
You’re finally there. You patiently took the prior steps to ensure the highest level of conversion. Now your product marketing-ready, meaning everyone’s favorite word finally comes into play. Traffic, traffic, traffic.
Advertising for new products should be hitting both sides of the funnel. Search advertising should include spending on broad keywords, with emphasis on driving traffic and increasing brand awareness, as well as detailed keywords to drive conversion and increase organic search rank.
But ranking and algorithms also take into account external traffic. So brands with the financial bandwidth should also utilize Amazon DSP (Demand-Side Platform) to deliver customizable display advertisements across the web to customers targeted using Amazon shopper data.
In addition to DSP, external traffic can be driven using social media, blogs, and any other brand-controlled online presence. The key to generating higher relevance is capitalizing on every possible avenue for traffic to your new product.
Step #5: Testing and Optimization
Above all else, brands want a guarantee that their new products will be successful. And while certainty is hard to come by on Amazon, there are ways to check your work and optimize for better performance.
Optimizing and problem solving based on metrics is only possible when the prior four steps have been checked-off. Otherwise, the number of variables lead to crowded explanations for poor performance. Conversion across Amazon averages out to about 5-6% but varies based on price point and category. New products might land a bit lower, but if you are hitting anywhere below 1% conversion, you should start digging.
Is my content targeting the correct customer avatar? Do I have enough reviews?
Are my ad strategies effectively hitting both the upper and lower parts of the marketing funnel?
Organic keyword rank is a good indicator of the overall performance of your new product. When the above steps are working in tandem, you should see your rank slowly increase over the first weeks. Are you stuck on the 300th page? Or have you moved up to the 100th page?
Another option is to do some A/B testing. This means testing out different images for your products, allocating advertising spend differently, and generally testing the performance of your product after tweaking. But remember to only change one variable at a time, otherwise you will be unsure as to what is truly making the difference.
Lastly, brands should take a look at their competitors and evaluate how their strategies differ. Perhaps the top-10 brands in your category are all designing content for a customer avatar different than your own. Or maybe they are all offering promotions and undercutting your product’s price. Taking lessons from those who have already established success can give you a leg-up when searching for ways to optimize your own strategy.
Launching a new product on Amazon can be one of the more difficult tasks brands face on the platform. After all, the marketplace favors products with established sales momentum. But by executing a plan based on long-term lift, products can break into the pack.
There is no exact timeline for launching products. For some products, sales momentum picks up almost immediately. For others, it can take upwards of 90 days. The key is to pull the right levers in the right order and maintain patience as you prepare your product for an influx of traffic. Once the traffic hits, constantly work to maintain lift. And before you know it, your product will have taken flight.
Karleigh Roberts came to Orca Pacific after spending three and a half years at Amazon with experience primarily focused in Marketplace. She started on the Home Innovation Team focusing on furniture, Dropship, and catalog creation for 1P Vendors. Karleigh then moved to the Amazon Exclusives team as an Account Manager where she worked with Hardlines & Consumables 3P startups with a Sponsored Products SME-ship.At Orca Pacific, Karleigh uses her extensive understanding of the Amazon platform to provide strategic guidance for clients. She specializes in marketing strategies for new product launches and
Outside of work, Karleigh enjoys snowmobiling/snowboarding, yoga, pretending she’s a great cook, and hiking with her husky!