By Claire Leon, Co-Founder, Acorn-i
Amazon has kicked off the Christmas shopping season even earlier this year, with its rescheduled Prime Day event perfectly timed to cater for consumers fearing a festive sell-out and empty stockings if they don’t grab their gifts fast.
Brands will now turn their attention to the next milestones in the festive shopping marathon – namely Black Friday and Cyber Monday – and the focus is naturally on digital channels. ECommerce sales are booming as a shift in shopping behaviour that accelerated during lockdown becomes habitual. Over the course of four weeks ending on 8 August 2020, UK consumers spent £678 million more on FMCG products, and online sales accounted for 97% of this increase.
For brands, this growth in online shopping means a narrower but potentially deeper channel dynamic and a more competitive landscape. They can’t afford to focus solely on their own webstore, but must leverage other online channels to expand their reach. With 63% of consumers starting online shopping searches on Amazon, it’s vital products are discoverable on this platform and optimised for purchase.
Attitudes towards selling on Amazon are rightly evolving, with brands increasingly seeing the benefits of working with the eCommerce giant. With that in mind, here are four ways they can make effective use of the platform this Christmas and scale Amazon as a profitable channel.
Understand where consumers shop
One reason brands can be reluctant to sell on Amazon is a fear of cannibalizing sales on their own webstores. Amazon is sometimes seen as a black box that doesn’t allow access to data, making it difficult for brands to understand the true costs versus sales opportunities. In reality, Amazon isn’t a closed environment, but a complex one. The technology now exists to extract the necessary data and shine a light on how consumers behave online.
By using this insight into consumer behaviour, brands can learn about what their audiences search for and why they buy on the Amazon platform, in addition to their own webstores and other online channels. They can determine whether customers are unique to each channel, whether there is overlap between them, and whether or not shoppers migrate from one platform to the other for subsequent purchases. It’s only by evaluating all eCommerce channels altogether that brands can make more informed decisions on where to invest.
Analyse and respond to shopper intent
The only predictable thing about Christmas this year is its unpredictability, with a continually changing situation meaning brands can’t rely on past experience. With so many other events canceled, consumers may put more effort into making their Christmas celebrations meaningful and special. On the other hand, financial uncertainty and the inability to gather in large groups may mean shoppers spend less on gifts and socialising. Ever-changing circumstances will inevitably impact when shoppers buy, how much they spend, and the products they choose.
To truly understand shopper intent, retailers need live data insights. Amazon is an enormous marketplace that is regularly used by millions of consumers, so analysing search trends on the platform gives retailers a pretty accurate picture of what consumers are planning to buy and when. For instance, search terms such as ‘xbox series x’ and ‘ps5’ are continuously highly ranked, indicating these next-generation gaming consoles will be popular purchases over Black Friday weekend. Equally the search term ‘Christmas pajamas for family’ was trending as early as September, suggesting consumers are preparing to cozy up at home for the festive period, rather than going out or visiting relatives.
When they understand shopper search trends and what consumers are looking for, brands can use this information to optimise product content for organic search on Amazon, their own webstore and any other eCommerce platforms. They can also use it to inform product development and to enhance promotions, deals, or discounts around key shopping days.
Make the most of sponsored content and target your ads
In addition to optimising product content for organic search, retailers can also use Amazon search trends to inform their paid strategies. They can sponsor specific search terms, allowing customised product ads to be displayed on the Amazon search results page for those terms. Sponsoring generic terms such as ‘Christmas gifts’ will be competitive and costly as retailers in numerous product categories will be bidding on them, but search data can help retailers uncover opportunities and find more specific search terms to target at a lower cost per acquisition.
As well as keyword targeting, brands can also explore product targeting on Amazon. This allows their product ads to be displayed on the details pages of products that are in the same category, have similar features, or are sold by competitors. Product targeting is an effective tactic for ‘stealing’ market share, reaching in-market shoppers and driving visibility in a new category, and is particularly effective during peak shopping periods where keyword targeting becomes more competitive.
Brands can also take advantage of Amazon’s demand-side platform (DSP) and harness their retargeting capabilities. This allows them to reach audiences programmatically through Amazon’s own sites and apps, and also target customers on partner publisher sites and third-party exchanges.
Hone inventory management and own the Buy Box
Understanding what consumers are searching for is important, but brands also need to have the right products available to convert those searches into sales. Taking ownership of the Buy Box – where consumers click to add items to their online shopping basket – requires excellent inventory management. This means prioritising Amazon as a sales channel and ensuring there is enough stock in warehouses to meet demand. Having ‘Out of Stock’ on an Amazon product is a big miss for brands; along with the obvious loss of potential sales, it also ruins their organic rankings and gives competitors the opportunity to step in. It’s vital not to let the traction built on a product suffer because stock planning is not in top condition.
Brands have an unpredictable Christmas shopping period ahead, where they need live data insights to make the most of all their digital channels. By leveraging available Amazon data, brands can discover where their audiences shop, respond to intent by optimising product content, and ensure they have the right stock available – ultimately making the most effective use of Amazon this Christmas.