There is no denying that Amazon is one of the top sales channels in 2019. It can be tempting to throw all your eggs into the basket since it does have the highest conversion rate of any website, but that would also be a critical mistake.
In this blog post, I will do my best to explain how Amazon’s algorithm works, the dangers of an Amazon-only strategy, and how you can increase sales now while protecting your brand tomorrow.
Amazon’s A9 Algorithm
So what is the Amazon A9 Algorithm? In laymen’s terms, it is the AI that sits behind the Amazon search bar. It is the “unbiased” ranker in which your listing is subject to. I use the quotations because no one is quite sure of the exact specifics. Further, you have things like the Amazon Brand Registry which allows trademarked manufacturers to rank higher with no extra work.
While the actual code is secret, we do have a pretty good general consensus of how A9 works. The top four factors are going to be Sales Performance History, Text Match Relevancy, Price, and Product Availability. In that order. Other things that affect ranking will be Fulfillment (is it Amazon Prime eligible?), Reviews, Images (so you can use the Image Search on the App), Promos, Amazon Advertising, and EBC (enhanced brand content) which comes from being in the Brand Registry mentioned above.
I will get into the best way to boost your Amazon ranking right after we explore some of the extreme pitfalls of an Amazon-only strategy.
The Danger of Amazon
Amazon is this massive planet sweeping up everything in its orbit with cosmically destructive capabilities. They tout themselves as a place where entrepreneurs can flourish, but it can leave you precariously positioned to the whims of a giant conglomerate who really doesn’t care about you.
Studies from the Harvard Business School suggest this relationship is often predatory and my anecdotal observations would agree. Researchers found that when companies post their new products, Amazon tracks the data and eventually starts selling the most popular products themselves. Even if Amazon isn’t using the data to directly compete they are using it to extract a higher marketing price on their platform.
According to ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news organization, Amazon consistently ranks its own products above third party sellers. So what do you do? The answer is not to leave Amazon altogether, but it does mean you should start shifting your strategy away from advertising that really only helps Amazon to one that will position your brand well into the future.
‘Win the Buy Box’ while Building Your Brand
You have to help give the A9 algorithm some extra juice, this is known as “winning the buy box”. It is actually brilliantly simply- use paid media (Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc) to drive RELEVANT AND CONVERTING TRAFFIC to your Amazon listings. The bold words are key terms as it can actually hurt your Sale Performance History (the number one driver of A9) to simply push glazed stares.
You have to look for more than the lowest CPC for conversions and think on a deeper strategy. Paid media display ads can also include the possibility of social sharing/tagging, which doesn’t happen on natively on Amazon. Even Amazon advertises on Instagram.
But what do you do with the traffic?
If you drive your paid media traffic to a landing page where you collect an email in exchange for a newsletter or discount code you have done a host of important things in securing your future. When you collect an email before the Amazon sale you are not breaking the terms of service which is imperative to creating a long-term customer for your brand instead of one sale for Amazon.
You’ve read this far so seriously take a moment to think on this. Amazon is incredibly protective over emails for a reason. It is one of the most valuable assets of any company. With an email list, you can promote product launches, send newsletters, drive additional sales, increase lifetime values, and even retarget on other channels by building lookalike audiences. You have full control over your brand narrative with a community invested in you.
Collecting and sending traffic in this way acts as a filter to the bad traffic. The people who aren’t serious won’t give you an email and might be picked up in Amazon anyways. In theory, you’re only sending converting sales to Amazon, which it sees as organic traffic coming their way. This spike in traffic and more importantly CONVERSIONS translates directly to better placement. Your relevancy to your paid media audience will be a very important KPI.
This type of strategy is what Michael Scott would call Win, Win. Win. You win, your customer wins, and even Amazon wins…just not as much as they would have.