Three Little-Known Tools That Retail Brands Are Using To Drive Sales On Amazon – Forbes

For most retail brands, selling on Amazon follows a predictable playbook.
For most retail brands, selling on Amazon follows a predictable playbook. Design appealing product detail pages, set up pay-per-click advertising campaigns, and do your best to gather product reviews in a compliant manner.
But there are many more tools and programs that Amazon has launched in recent years that somewhat fly under the radar. Here are 3 tools and programs, all launched in the past 3 years, that brands are using which generally have lower adoption rates compared to the standard Amazon growth playbook.
One of the first places a brand looking for growth on Amazon is through advertising. But ad costs are rising on Amazon. According to ad tech provider Pacvue, CPCs (the Cost Per Click) increased for Amazon’s two most popular biddable advertising types over the past 12 months: up 14.3% for Sponsored Products and up 7.5% for Sponsored Brands.
CPCs for Amazon pay-per-click advertising units, quarterly comparison.
One culprit for rising advertising costs is that there is now more competition on Amazon from established brands, from new brands, from FBA aggregators with deep pockets. It costs more to get in front of customers than ever before.
Amazon is also dedicating more and more of its real estate to ads. An organic-only strategy means that your products have less potential space to occupy on Amazon’s search results page.
So how are brands dealing with rising ad costs? I’m seeing two main options playing out for brands: jumping on new ad formats before the masses arrive, and retargeting existing shoppers.
The first – being quick to jump on new advertising capabilities, is a game of skill, risk, and dedication. Sponsored Brand Video was first launched in beta in November 2019 and has offered great returns for brands who jumped in early. The ad type also had the benefit of requiring videos – a more significant creative investment than static images alone.
A sponsored brand video ad for SmartSweets
SmartSweets is one brand that has experimented with this ad type. “We’ve played around with different lengths, on-screen text in-lays and specific claims that tell the consumer more about why she should check out SmartSweets” says the company’s Senior Director of eCommerce, Justin Bomberowitz. This kind of format experimentation requires an investment in itself, so many brands simply skip this ad type in favor of simpler campaigns.
But the competitive edge you gain from being a first mover may not be permanent. At Bobsled we have noted the efficacy of Sponsored Brand Video campaigns has waned in recent years as more brands have jumped on board.
Retargeting advertising shoppers is one more defensible strategy. Using retargeting campaigns – either through the Sponsored Display ad type on Amazon’s self serve advertising console, or through Amazon’s DSP (Demand Side Platform) – has the benefit of reaching customers who have already demonstrated interest in your products. Although competing advertisers can advertise to ‘in-market’ shoppers (customers who have viewed similar products) they are unable to target one specific brand’s shoppers. So while a specific search term like “keto cookies” could be viciously competitive, a brand’s own retargeting audience is essentially protected from competitors. That doesn’t mean that the cost to target your own shoppers will never increase, but there is an inbuilt mechanism to keep customer acquisition costs low.
Although you can engage with Amazon shoppers on a more organic way now, remember that they are Amazon’s shoppers and not you brand’s customers. In a sense, by creating these engagement tools that work within the confines of their walled garden, they are reducing the attractiveness for brands to grow their customer base off Amazon, say via a direct-to-consumer website.
I wrote several years ago about the ill-fated Amazon Spark program, where Amazon tried to get shoppers to create product-related content. I lamented that Amazon had not given brands – the stakeholders with the most interest in creating engaging content – the opportunity to do so.
But now, the concept of brand followers on Amazon has started to build. And it offers brands unique ways to engage with shoppers.
At first, shoppers could “follow” a brand through its storefront. Amazon didn’t promote this ability much, and it was unclear what the benefit for brands or shoppers would be for doing so. There was not even a way to count followers. Today, shoppers can follow brands and engage through live video streams, storefronts, and “posts” (akin to an instagram feed with content generated by brands).
A post on Amazon by SmartSweets.
SmartSweets has been testing Posts out in recent months, and the trick is in persistent A/B testing to see what content shoppers actually engage with. “Because SmartSweets is a disruptive better-for-you confection brand, we’re uniquely positioned to test posts that are package, product, or eating-occasion focused to see what garners the best engagement,” says Bomberowitz. Bomberowitz found that posts featuring all 9 of the brand’s products performs best, for example. This type of insight can also be used to inform creative on product detail pages and in advertising.
Most recently, brands can take advantage of a new tool that makes ones’ follower count really interesting: Manage Your Customer Engagement – a very complicated name for a tool that allows brands to announce new product launches via email to their followers. This tool was announced in late 2021 but has only started rolling out beta users in recent months. At my agency we have starting experimenting with this tool with some clients. Unfortunately the results were underwhelming in terms of shopper engagement, with two main culprits: a fairly buggy interface, and low follower counts. This was not just our experience at Bobsled – competing firm Kaspien also cited low reach and a click-through rate of just 0.92% on their client tests.
An email sent to followers of the brand Simple Mills, through Amazon’s Manage Your Customer … [+] Engagement tool.
We can expect that Amazon will improve the technical aspects of the program and ensure accuracy in the data. But at this point in time, few brands have really invested in growing their follower count. And why would they? Until now there has been no real legible benefit for doing so. Now there is, but there are still few ways that consumers are prompted to follow a brand.