Yeoman is often asked by clients to help identify 'gaps' in their teams' abilities to be more digitally focused. Most companies we work with often have great sales teams, a solid marketing group, and good business analysts but they still struggle with the best way to support their sales and distribution efforts online.
Over the years, Yeoman has found most organizations have gaps in 3 key areas:
1. Online Product Merchandising: The actual creation of product details online is often relegated to a junior buyer, marketing associate, (or worse) an intern. The thought of what product details will be often comes last and is rushed out as the product is shipping. Big mistake. Building up your internal content skills is one of the best ways to improve your overall footprint. This includes everything from best practice titles, product details, images, specifications, categorization, etc. This isn't a one time task; it needs to become part of someone's role for three reasons:
- Optimized Channel Content – Once you create this base of content, you need to not only make sure it gets on your main site, but on partner sites like Amazon, Wal-mart, or Graingers. They have a massive volume of visitors and some unique ways that they present their content. Your staff need to be able to write web-friendly descriptions and titles, as well as understand applicable keywords and categorization for each partner.
- Content Updates – This is different from creating the initial content and is more about learning to look at high volume items and adjust the copy or add images to help increase sales. With experience, your team will be able to take slow-moving items and turn them into top sellers. The ability to look at overall volume across different online channels is a major competitive advantage (trust us--most companies never do this).
- Review Management and Response – This should be the responsibility of your merchandising team (vs customer service). Sites like Amazon rely so heavily on reviews that your merchandising team should be tasked with monitoring overall review activity and responding to product questions or negative reviews. This is a critical part of success on Amazon or other larger marketplace sites. Amazon does not monitor your products for bad reviews - you have to.
2. Demand Generation Management: Yeoman likes to use the term "demand generation" as a way to categorize the execution of the different components of your overall Marketing plan. Most organizations have good marketing visions and strategies, but most fall short when it comes to executing the actual digital plan. One of the biggest mistakes we see is the organization outsourcing the entire demand gen effort to an outside agency, believing that they have the skills and best interest of the business. Big mistake. Your team needs to be the leader and driver of the digital programs and make sure they fit with the overall plan - especially the offline sales efforts. An agency will likely have the skills in one or more areas, but rarely has the desire to directly support all required online programs including:
- Classic Paid Search: Including text and display ads
- Re-targeting programs: Every visitor to your site should be part of a long term re-marketing program that is used for new product releases, seasonal activity, etc. Most organizations look at re-targeting as 30 to 90 day buckets. We recommend thinking in 1.5 year levels.
- Email marketing: Still relevant and important for every organization
- Social: Yes, we know it's the darling of most marketing folks today but are you using it properly or just following the pack? Quick test - if you're a B2B or educational vendor, the bulk of your social posts should be on LinkedIn, not Facebook.
- Channel Demand Programs: This is often the biggest misstep, especially with Amazon. The monster of all ecommerce has their own series of demand generation programs that every organization should be capitalizing on:
- Merchant Demand Programs: These are keyword ads that run on your merchant account.
- Brand Page Management: Amazon Brand Pages are a great way to represent your company and product line on Amazon. Brand Pages allow for their own keywords campaigns as well.
- Review Program Management: This is a key area for careful attention, especially for new products. Your staff need to be responsible for any review campaigns as well as leveraging a feedback system to help request additional emails from customers who purchase on Amazon. The response or updating of any questions or negative reviews will typically be the responsibility of the product merchandising team.
- Author Page Management (for Publishers): This is a marketing function to make sure that your listed authors are properly represented on the site.
3. Business Analytics Reporting: If you have an existing team who is responsible for business and ecommerce analytics reporting, this team needs to step it up and start integrating digital behavior, especially web and channel activity. We’re not talking about just sales figures. This reporting is more about overall activity and how it relates to revenue. Your reporting team should be tracking:
- Key impression levels and desired activity: Most organizations have a misunderstanding of who sales are made online. Marketing agencies often get in trouble for claims like "Ad impressions closed 25% of direct sales" because it's simply not true. The entire organization needs to build up their understanding of key data elements:
- Impressions - How many times was your product or brand is seen digitally. This includes ad impressions, emails sent, social chatter, etc. This is a high level number that helps you see your 'depth.'
- Desired Actions - This is NOT just sales, but includes site visits, product detail pages views, dealer look-ups, trial registrations, etc. Every product has a slightly different path to sales. Key actions help the organization understand if the funnel is being filled.
- Sales Driver and Influencer Factors - A big step for every organization, especially when you're looking at direct site activity. Yeoman has analyzed over 1 billion visits over the last 6 years in almost every industry and has found that 100% of all ecommerce sites have a percentage of visitors that are 'multi-visit' and 'multi-funnel' (which mean that some % of people come back multiple time and different ways before they buy). Let's say that again - every business has a % of customers who engage multiple times before they buy. Offline we all know that historically but online you can actually see it (if you look). Every campaign needs to be able to report its sales support in three ways:
- Last click - Did an email or ad 'bring the user back" to the site to complete the sale (or desired goal)? This is the most common way digital ROI gets reported and can severely understate the overall impact of a campaign.
- Assisted click - Any typical company will likely see 25-75% of their direct traffic coming back multiple times before buying, requesting a quote, or competing some other goal . It's critical to report on how many times the average user returned and what % of a campaign's clicks 'assisted' in an eventual sale. Email is a classic example of a campaign that tends to have a higher 'assist' rate than 'last click' rate.
- Impression assist - If the user didn't click on an email, social post, or ad, but did eventually buy that 'impression activity' can be attributed as helping the sale. It shouldn't be claimed as the reason, but instead seen as part of that overall blend that supports a plan. This type of data is trackable if your team properly configures their systems.
- Product views and close rates (both direct and on Amazon): This is a key analytics report that should be monitored weekly. All the data is available, your team just needs to pull and monitor it on a regular basis. This is a key report that helps both teams:
- Merchandising team – Identifies items with low or high close-rates for optimization
- Marketing team – Leverages data on volume and trends for marketing programs
- Campaign Reports: These would include any marketing campaigns (like Google AdWords or email) and channel campaigns within Amazon. Your team should pull this data and integrate it with the product activity reports to give Marketing some insight on direct and indirect influencers of sales. The three buckets above should be part of any campaign report.
- Brand and Review Performance: Yeoman recommends that you monitor overall review performance and brand chatter online. Review management is critical for partners like Amazon and if left unchecked, one bad review can torpedo a strong product. Brand chatter monitoring also helps you identify potential issues or negative activity and cut it off before it does damage. Need an example? Ask your team to sweep your products on Amazon for you. Chances are you'll find a top seller that is sitting with 1 or 2 negative reviews and is dying on the vine at Amazon.
Need guidance on where to begin? Yeoman can help develop and launch all of these programs, processes and reports. Yeoman engagements always have the goal of training and transitioning on-going tasks over to your staff, but if you prefer, Yeoman is also available to stay on and run operations on a longer-term basis, especially if your internal staff needs to build up their skills. Call or email us today!
A recent Yeoman study of over 1,500 items sold on Amazon from a leading US manufacturer found a whopping 70% contained errors or did not follow Amazon’s best practice recommendations for providing product details. This study further showed the same level of inaccuracy on Google and Bing product searches. This is a maddening problem that plagues manufacturers in every industry. Once a product is “out there,” resellers, partners, distributors and reviewers end up shaping and revising the product details that your customers are going to use to make their purchase decision.
Products sold by Amazon definitely had better data quality, but less than 4% could be considered 'optimized' with the proven best practices for any item:
- Descriptive title at least 50 characters long (including brand, purpose, color, and set/quantity info)
- Multiple images of product
- Bullet/summary list of product features
- Complete description that includes product benefits, usage instructions, what's in the box, and etc.
- MSRP reference price
- Proper brand name and manufacturer info
- Mfg part number, ISBN, or UPC
- Proper categorization within Amazon browser tree
This isn't necessarily Amazon's fault. Amazon relies heavily on third party merchants as part of their product information set. Manufacturers who don’t understand how product details evolve online end up with a mish-mash of ‘ugly baby’ product details that hurt their sales - both offline and online.
To address or avoid data quality problems, make sure you have these three key components in place:
- Baseline data components in an accessible format. It's amazing how many manufacturers and publishers claim they have great data only to find out its on a spreadsheet somewhere in engineering or marketing. If you're data isn't in an easily accessible format that partners can use, you can't expect them to get it right. There are 64 "standard" fields that every manufacturer could pull together and offer up to their partners. Do you know what they are?
- A monitoring program for your online product set. If you don't have a program that monitors your product details on the major channels (including eBay, Amazon, and the general web) you can't take any action.
- A product detail action plan. Once you've begun monitoring, make a plan to address bad data as you find it. This includes:
- Registering with Amazon brand registry (key for disputes)
- Addressing any trademark or misrepresentations on Google or other sites
- Providing easy access to your product details (either via website or product feeds)
Yeoman specializes in working with manufacturers and publishers to help you understand your online sales and distribution channels. Contact us today for a review and assessment of your current data quality online. We've helped scrub, clean, and optimize over 500,000 items in the last year alone!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, so it’s time for manufacturers to do a prep-double check. Most manufacturers are thinking "my job is done, it's all up to retail and my partners". Think again. Today original manufacturers can make a major impact on holiday sales - regardless of whether you sell direct or not.
It’s not too late! There are still a few key things you can do to help boost holiday sales.
1. Make sure your main website is ready for prime time
A recent study found that 65% of shoppers visit a manufacturer's direct website to research a product prior to purchase. Your website needs to present your products in a clear, salable, format—whether you take sales or not.
This starts with polishing your product details. A full 70% of manufacturer sites we’ve studied have missing or inaccurate product information on the main site. This includes everything from inaccurate specs to missing images and even missing products. The time is NOW to do an audit and get to work cleaning up and completing critical product details.
While you’re at it, take a peek at your “Where to Buy” page. If it’s inaccurate and out-of-date (or absent), shoppers will go scurrying right back to Google, where they’ll be bombarded by search results featuring the competition.
2. Audit your online product pricing
The days of the "fake" MSRP/list price are over. Yeoman has found that sites with bloated “list prices” had 25-30% lower quality visitors than sites that posted more accurate “street prices.” Shoppers were 5X more likely to leave the "list price" site without looking at "Where to Buy" OR adding anything to their cart. You can keep the list price for comparison, but Yeoman highly recommends showing a sale price that is 5-10% above the average street price. This provides three major benefits:
- Gives shoppers an accurate price that won’t scare them back to Google.
- Supports your channel with a price that is slightly higher than theirs, giving them the extra edge—especially if you integrate “Where to Buy” right on your product detail page.
- Lets YOU take the order. Yes, a growing percentage of consumers want to buy direct regardless of the product. Up to 5% of B2C customers and 5-15% of B2B customers are looking to buy direct.
3. Audit your Amazon—and other ecommerce channels—presence
Now that you’ve got your own house in order, it’s time to tackle your ecommerce channels—especially Amazon. It’s critical to check your product details and images to make sure that they accurately represent your products. You also need to make sure you have your brands registered and the proper plan in place to provide updated and accurate information to Amazon.
Next, check the reviews for your products and manage any negative reviews to keep them from sandbagging sales. Key suggestions:
- Address the reviewer’s complaint and acknowledge the issue
- Offer a resolution or refund if needed
- Do not engage in a back and forth in the review system, have the user contact you directly (and say that in the review)
- Ask the etailer to remove any reviews that do not comply with their review guidelines
Before you move onto the next item on the list, take a moment to protect your brand from piracy. Unfortunately, as Amazon and other etailers have grown, so has the number of fake products being sold—sometimes piggy-backed onto your own listing. If you detect a pirate, you can report them to Amazon; be sure to check all your etail platforms for their policies and procedures.
4. Use paid channel support programs
At Yeoman, we’re always on the lookout for new services that help manufacturers increase online sales. Some of our favorites from this year include:
- Google affiliate location extensions: original manufacturers that sell their goods in retail chains can now begin promoting those locations to nearby consumers within their own AdWords ads (https://goo.gl/tFq3ff).
- Bazaarvoice: syndicates customer ratings, reviews, questions, and stories across the web to reach shoppers wherever they are (www.bazaarvoice.com).
- Hooklogic: gives manufacturers a clear view into channel sales resulting from online ads (hooklogic.com).
5. Polish up your social media presence
Just like any other time of the year, social media campaigns need to be carefully planned and executed to align with the rest of your marketing efforts. If you haven’t started thinking about social media for the holidays yet, it’s not too late—but it will be soon. In addition to planned social media campaigns, it’s also important to have a “live” presence on social media, to interact naturally with followers, and for the inevitable customer service requests that come in through these channels.
Relax and enjoy the holidays!
These 5 steps are the perfect action items for the lull that most manufacturers see right before the holidays. And the benefits extend well beyond Christmas, to help you have more integrated online plan in 2017.
If you’re overwhelmed by where to start, feel free to give us a call to help you get a handle on it.
Amazon had 900 million visits Christmas 2014, 1.3 Christmas 2015, and have regularly cracked the 1 billion visitor mark every month this year (as of May 2016). Let that number sink in. That’s 3x the population of the United States. The giant of retail, Wal-Mart only has 240 million visits a month. Target? 140 million. Grainger (for you B2B manufacturers)? 7 million. And Amazon visitors are buying. Amazon holiday sales will likely be up 20-25% over Q4 last year. That’s a decade of double digit YoY holiday sales growth (in case anyone’s counting :) And its not just the US - we see this growth in UK, Europe, and Canada.
What's their secret? They key for any manufacturer or publisher to understand, is that Amazon’s success IS NOT simply due to the products Amazon buys and sells online. That’s only one part of it.
They succeed because Amazon.com is really a system that pits 4 competing divisions against each other to drive overall sales - Amazon Supply, Amazon Merchant, Amazon Marketing Service, and the technology teams that optimize the content that's produced.
While these 4 groups are all technically ‘part of Amazon', they actively compete against each other in a way that creates an optimized experience for the customer. No single group has full control over the products sold or the final price. A buyer can be undercut by a merchant, who can be stepped on by a marketing campaign from another brand. And all three of these forces have to deal with the search and performance engine that heavily leverage performance based analytics to select "who" gets top results ranking and the coveted buy box.
The best way to illustrate this is to break down an actual Amazon search results page and define who’s in control. Search usage dominates Amazon buyer behavior with an estimated 90%+ of users searching during their visit.
If you break out a typical search results page you see how the 4 pieces interact and conflict.
- Search results delivered: What makes the top of the list is a based on the proprietary search model that’s managed by Amazon’s A9 search team. The system is heavily data centric and is not directly controlled by Amazon buyers, merchants, or marketing teams. Top results are typically the best sellers, however, the system regularly manipulates results to test overall close rates. What’s interesting to note is the close rate does not just measure the item, it can include the overall shopping cart and favors items that tend to attract ‘add-ons’ to the sale. Classic ‘search terms’ apply and manufacturers can add hidden terms (e.g. competitor brand names) to ensure proper placement.
- Product details shown: Product details are created by mixing Amazon supplier and third-party merchant content. Any partner can upload an image, change a description, or add features and it will be tested and implemented by the system. Any partner can create any SKU at any time (as long as it is not a restricted product) . This is an area that should be regularly reviewed by your team. If you don’t sell the item to Amazon you can bet someone else will do a listing for you. (link to quality report)
- Sponsored product listings: These are paid product ads available exclusively to third-party merchants. The third-party must own the buy box in order for the ad to run. This gives merchants the ability to get their products seen (and pay for a click). If an item does well, it begins to naturally move up the results, freeing up the space for the next paying tester.
- Categorization: This area is largely controlled by the Amazon supply group. They are responsible for creating all of the different groups and subgroups for every department. The supply side is also the primary populator of these categories, but does NOT have exclusive control. A third-party merchant can upload any item into a relevant category by adding the SKU. This is critical for items that cross multiple categories (e.g. many office, home, and health and beauty items should be in multiple categories).
- Brand ads: A relatively new addition, the brand ad box is controlled by Amazon marketing. Brand manufacturers can create specific brand or product campaigns selecting any group of keywords they like. In this example, York Nordic hiking poles show up as an alternative option for canes. This is an excellent option for a manufacturer with items that sell across different consumer groups.
Today, Amazon seems to be in everything from movies, to cloud, to drones. This ability to diversify is funded by a simple reality – online sales continue to grow exponentially. Over 70% of Amazon’s revenue comes directly form ecommerce sales, either direct or through third-party merchants that are forced to share a common platform that is designed to squeeze out the best result for the consumer, because the underlying technology is optimized to drive the best value to the front. The relatively new Marketing Services adds a new wrinkle to the mix—we’ll keep you posted on new developments.
Yeoman’s recommendation for manufacturers and publishers selling on Amazon remains the same: you must have a strategy and plan to actively manage supply, merchant, and marketing forces in order to optimize your results with the underlying technology engines. succeed with them. Simply ‘selling to the buyer’ at Amazon is only one piece of the puzzle. Contact us today to review your Amazon position!
Amazon recently announced Launchpad a custom program that helps start-ups “launch, market and distribute” new products on Amazon. The program is really a re-skinned version of Amazon's Vendor Express, but it's goal is to let smaller manufacturers sell directly to Amazon. The reason for the re-branding? Simple - it's cooler and let's them position it as an option for business that were funded by Kickstarter, Circle up, or just an old fashion invention.
Their pitch is that you get to tap into Amazon's massive presence to quickly build your brand leveraging their platform to grow. They are correct - Amazon is the largest online retailer with over 1.4 billion sessions last Christmas. A recent Forrester survey noted that 50% of American's search for product on Amazon regardless of whether or not they're going to buy on the site.
Any Company needs a presence there and Amazon is positioning Launchpad as the way to do it for start-ups. But is it worth it? Here's the details you need to know about:
- You sell to Amazon at wholesale.
- Amazon sets the retail price (not you). Prices can (and will) adjust based upon overall competition
- You have to provide free product to start.
- You are charged an additional 2-3% fee for returns.
- You are changed an additional 10% fee for marketing fund support (but you don't control how its spent)
- Any promos or special offers are funded by you.
A better alternative for a start-up is to sell via Amazon Merchant and leverage Amazon's fulfillment services (FBA). It gives you
- Direct control over your pricing - critical if you're building up a retail channel
- A set 15% fee to Amazon (plus shipping costs)
- One of the most affordable and efficient logistic systems in the world
- Amazon buyers still get free 2 day shipping direct from Amazon's warehouse
- You still get access to product ads, but not necessarily brand pages. You spend exactly what you want, where you want it.
If you're a larger manufacture, Yeoman recommended both as part of your overall plan in addition to fully investing in Amazon marketing programs. When you combine merchant and vendor relationships you fully leverage the amazing selling engine that Amazon has created.
Contact us today if you're interested in implementing a better Amazon plan.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, so most manufacturers have 'checked out' on the holiday season. If you walk around a manufacturer's or publisher's office this time of year, you wouldn't think it's the busiest time of the year. Most organizations are focused on 2016 budgets, new product plans, and 2016 forecasts, with the occasional glance at the POS reports.
To quote one manufacturer: "all of our heavy activity is leading up to the holidays; our partners take it from there. We don't sell direct." That may have been true in years, past, but original manufacturers have a major impact on holiday sales - regardless of whether or not you sell direct.
A recent study of 5,000 shoppers found that 65% of have visited a manufacturer's website as part of researching a product over the last year. Not presenting your products in a clear, salable, format is just a mistake. Key things you can do this week to help sales include:
1. Polish the product details on your site: Yeoman found that 70% of manufacturer sites we studied had missing or inaccurate product information on the main site. This included everything from inaccurate specs to missing products. The #1 reason for this screw-up? The main website was not part of any new product release plans and was often overlooked when rolling out new products.
2. Make sure the “Where to Buy” page is accurate: These often get created when the website first goes live, then are left to gather dust. An inaccurate, out-of-date (or absent) “where to buy” page can send your potential customers right back to Google, where they’ll be bombarded by search results featuring the competition.
3. Find out the real "street price" for your products: The days of the "fake" MSRP/List Price are over. Online users expect to see an accurate price for any product when they look online. Don't believe us? We studied sites that had high "list prices" versus sites that had accurate 'street prices.' The 'fake' list price sites had 25-30% lower quality visitors than the street price sites regardless of brand or volume. Users were 5X more likely to exit the "list price" site without looking at "where to buy" OR adding anything to their cart.
You can keep the MSRP/List price for comparison, but Yeoman highly recommends showing a sale price that is 5-10% above the average online price. This provides three major benefits:
- Immediately shows the user an accurate price they'd pay without having to go back to Google
- Supports your channel by having a price that is slightly higher than theirs, giving them the extra edge (works great if you integrate where to buy right on your product detail page)
- Let's you take the order! Yes - every manufacturer should be willing to take a direct order (B2C or B2B). A growing percentage of consumers expect this and want to buy direct regardless of the product. The actual percentage will vary by industry, but you can estimate that 1-5% of B2C customers and 5-15% of B2B customers are looking to buy direct.
4. Audit your Amazon presence: The online giant will likely surpass 1.2 billion visitors this quarter. That volume is higher than the top 5 competitors combined. It doesn't matter if you love or hate Amazon, every manufacturer needs to manage them. It is your responsibility to check your product details, reviews, and images to make sure that they accurately represent your products. Don’t think it’s an issues for you? A recent Yeoman audit found 70% of items had incorrect data! Your retailers or sales team won't fix this for you. A manufacturer needs to make sure they have their brands registered and the proper plan in place to provide updated and accurate information to Amazon.
These 4 steps are the perfect action items for the lull that most manufacturers see at the holiday. The benefits extend well beyond Christmas and will help you have more integrated online plan in 2016.
If you’re overwhelmed by where to start, feel free to give us a call to help you get a handle on it.
Google has confirmed it - a Buy Button is “imminent.” The button is expected to be rolled out on mobile devices, and will enable people who click on product ads in search results to buy those products without navigating to a third-party site. The button, following similar moves by Facebook and Twitter, are a significant departure for the search giant, which has built its business based on ads that link to other websites.
"The rationale is to reduce friction for customers'" said Omid Kordestani, Google’s Chief Business Officer, "making it simpler to complete online purchases." Trust us, there's another reason - Google is facing significant competition from Amazon and others when it comes to people searching for products and has been steadily moving to be more "direct." Recent examples include:
- Direct sales of smart phones & service
- Google Glass (sold direct only)
- Direct sales of insurance (new for 2015)
- Google Express (Google does not stock items, but delivers same-day or overnight from local retailers).
Their skill sets in selling direct have been honed by almost a decade of direct sales for its mail apps and cloud services. They have even tried the payer route with Google Wallet. In fact, the "Google Graveyard" is a robust list of products and services that were tested and then scraped including Google Reader, iGoogle, Google Commerce Search, Google Wave, etc.
Don't expect them to quit on the Buy Button any time soon. Don't think of this as a test, but more of an 'evolution' in online commerce. For a manufacturer, this presents several key questions:
- How real is the Buy Button threat for your market segment? Mobile purchases vary greatly by market segment. The most likely segments that will be impacted are any purchases that are under $50 (a proven price point for mobile) OR items that have a 'fast pickup' option
- Are your retail and distribution partners properly aligned with Google? If you have B2C end customers you should already be verifying if your products are available via Google Express
- If they are not aligned, should you take a more direct position with Google?
- Have you looked beyond Google and assessed all the 'digital' players that continue to make inroads? This includes the major players like Amazon and Wal-mart, as well as the up and comers like Hayneedle, Jet, and Rakuten.
- Who is responsible in your organization for following up on this? If you're thinking "Google is handled by marketing," you're dead wrong. This is a sales and distribution challenge you need to address. Let marketing market.
If at first you don’t succeed try, try, again…
Amazon this week announced its "new" Amazon business. The service offers B2B level ecommerce to any qualified business. If that's sounds vaguely familiar it is. Amazonsupply.com was launched back in 2006 after the acquisition of smallparts.com. That was Amazon’s initial entrance into the world of B2B ecommerce.
Unfortunately, the specialty site never really gained traction as a true B2B site when compared to its primary competitors, Grainger, ULine, Global Industrial, etc.
To put these numbers in context, Amazon.com had 2.4 billion visits during this same time period. Therein lies the problem.
It's important to note that Amazon has been successful growing B2B sales, just not Amazonsupply.com. Industrial and Business categories have grown double digit for the last several years. Yeoman's B2B clients have seen doubling and tripling of sales over the last 5 years.
The reality is the sales of industrial and B2B goods are being done on Amazon.com not the specialty site. This week's announcement just shows that Amazon figured this out and opted to consolidate the site under the Amazon.com umbrella.
The change is more than just a simple facelift. They did update the program to fully leverage Amazon's strengths in several key ways:
- More 3rd party merchants: This is a huge change. The majority of the Supply products were direct purchases by Amazon. 3rd parties account for 30-40% of Amazon’s total volume and often have specialty items that Amazon won’t stock. There are strict requirements to enroll, but Amazon is dangling a lower commission rate to bring in more users
- Different Price Levels for business products: Amazon is a bit unclear at this point, but a B2B client may be able to buy products at better pricing than consumers. They won’t be supporting the traditional tiered pricing or standard discounts any time soon but it’s a start
- Updated site interface with better product comparison options that are different from the traditional amazon.com comparison.
- A new set of integration APIs that can tie purchases into back-end ERP systems.
The old features that B2B folks loved will remain – phone support, PO support, limits by user, and corporate credit.
Should your Company be involved? If you’re a B2B manufacturer the answer is simply – yes. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate Amazon, they have the volume of potential customers that you need a strategy for. See Yeoman’s “Why Amazon succeeds” analysis.
Companies should have already had an Amazon strategy even if you don’t sell direct. Contact us via the options on the right. Let's get started.
March 20, 2015: This week was a very rough one for manufacturers and their relationship with Amazon. Amazon announced they will be ending the 'Amazon Webstore' service in July 2016. Many people may not realize that Amazon offered a private label web hosting, but Yeoman estimates they host almost 2,000 sites. Many of these sites are original manufacturers like Fiskars, Cuda, Black and Decker, Eclipse, Lacoste, Remmington, Sesame Street, and Isaac Mizrahi to name a few.
For a manufacturer, the appeal was clear: A world class hosting platform that uses the exact same product data they have to create to be successful on Amazon. Amazon leads B2B and B2C when it comes to product details online, an area that all manufacturers have struggled with since the internet evolution started. They have to create high quality data to get on Amazon, why not leverage it for their own site.
A recent UK study found over 67% of buyers visit branded pages to find out information about a product BEFORE heading off to shop. Vague, brochure-like, or non-existant brand manufacturer sites are a thing of the past. So too are 'marketing sites' that simply push a theme or message. Consumers want product details and webstore seemed like a fit for Amazon and the manufacturer.
So why did they shutter it? Yeoman estimates that only 15% of the 900+ webstore users were original manufacturers. The majority of the rest were third party marketplace sellers and online retailers looking for a web solution for their retail strategy. Webstore simply did not have the same level of features that 100s of ecommerce hosting competitors offered. However, Amazon's prices were very aggressive and offered some of the lowest operating costs in the business. Add it up - small clients who paid dirt cheap for hosting yet were constantly pushing for more features...... It's a money loser for Amazon so they're pulling the plug.
All manufacturers will need to revisit their site usage, but can take a pause. This change won't happen until July 2016 and several major hosting players are working on migration plans. Yeoman will realize a recommendation guide next week, but in the meantime there are 5 items to factor in:
- Design migration - Demand your existing design be migrated by the vendor
- Product synchronization - This is the big one. A shared Amazon/Store product catalog was the #1 benefit of an Amazon webstore. Most vendors have some level of synchronization, but look for a 'full synch' including images, descriptions, and features
- Monthly cost - Not a major concern, the market pressure keeps everyone closely aligned
- Processing fees - This will bother folks that generate $1m + from their sites, Amazon had the best rates of every provider
- Stability - Now is the time to question this. Amazon's move surprised every client, partner and even a few Amazon employees we spoke with. Look towards a vendor fully vested in ecommerce.
The good news is you have time. However, anyone on webstore should have an evaluation and vendor selection completed by August 2015. That gives you a full year to migration and cutover.
For clients, Yeoman will release it's general assessment of the webstore alternatives later in April.
Amazon wants more B2B and used their holiday boost to try and jumpstart the program. Many Amazon visitors (mostly businesses users) started seeing new ads for Amazon for Business service. This is a re-labled version of their existing Amazon Supply (www.amazonsupply.com) service that has been around for a few years. The Company has seen some of its fast growth in traditionally B2B categories - industrial supplies, office equipment, basic medical supplies, etc. The issue for Amazon has always been their inability to support what a business wants - purchase orders, multiple users, and a phone number to call.
Enter Amazon Supply. Launched back in 2012 it was positioned as a 'Grainger killer' and would woe the industrial world. The separate site even has a phone number for users to call. Flash forward two years later and the site still says "BETA" and it's monthly traffic barely cracks 100,000 visits (source compete.com data) So is the push to B2B and industrial a failure? Hardly.
These categories are exploding on Amazon.com, not on the specialty site. Users are used to Amazon so that's where they go. The 'new' Amazon for business has all of the features of Amazon supply, just rolled into Amazon. Expect it to continue to drive their business.
For a manufacturer or publisher this is another sign that you need to rethink your Amazon strategy. Yeoman's team are experts at modern channel management and can help your organization expand their Amazon footprint.
What's on tap for next year? And what should you be doing with your online channel initiatives so that you can hit the ground running on 1/1/14?
Join us for our popular ‘look ahead’ at what will be trending in online sales and distribution next year. We'll talk about such hot topics as:
- Will tablet growth slow?
- Will Amazon stumble?
- Is B2B ready for a big leap in activity?
- Is social commerce finally ready for prime time?
- Will Google launch direct ecommerce?
- How many more retailers and traditional sales organizations will fail next year?
Yeoman’s unique ‘no hype’ approach relies on researched trends and facts to help you plan your year.
October 24th at 10AM EST
NOTE: The webinar is free, but attendance is limited. The session is designed for original manufacturers and publishers and preference will be given to those clients first.
As multi-channel businesses look to expand product and business lines quickly as a key competitive advantage, the speed to deploy a material handling solution becomes a critical success factor. Fast system deployment can be the difference between kicking the competition out of the water and limiting your growth.
According to a recent article in the International Business Times, Kiva - Mobile-Robotic Fulfillment System founder, Mick Mountz, had a vision for hardware starting way back in 2002. He felt that pick-pack and shipping systems were excessively hard and labor intensive. So he decided to do something about it.
Mountz set out with a goal to "turn the warehouse into a parallel processing engine," and in nine short years, his revolutionary technology and state-of-the-art processing system was the key to Kiva's $775 million acquisition by Amazon.com in March of 2012.
Kiva has become a favorite among top e-commerce retailers. Thousands of these bots have been deployed in fulfillment centers by Staples, the Gap, Walgreens, Saks Fifth Avenue, Toys “R” Us, Follett, Timberland, Diapers.com, and Dillard’s. Mountz says, "If you saw our robots in action and thought about all the expensive, exhausting, and unproductive effort they eliminate, you might say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
This is a great story! A reminder for anyone building a new product that they must focus on maximizing the delta between the value proposition and customer's perceived risk (not just the value proposition). This is particularly true for new B2B products, where the new product disrupts existing business process, has a potentially long life, and affects the careers of buyers.
Note: this page contains paid content.
Please, subscribe to get an access.