This post is by Dom Haines, an online business geek who shares his business ventures on his blog, domhaines.com.
Product launch is a very important part of the Amazon private label process. It’s capable of totally ruining your innovative ideas and hard work through lack of market exposure, or conversely, it can rocket a product to success in a matter of days.
With that said, an awesome and unique product that fulfills a market need is far more likely to succeed than an ill thought-out shot from the hip, regardless of launch strategy.
However, through my own trial and error, I’ve found the most effective approach for an Amazon product launch to contain a combination of appropriate keyword research, paid advertising and brand awareness initiatives.
Sounds like hard work? Fortunately, it’s actually straight forward if you have some direction. Allow me to share how I go about it – I hope you find it useful!
Step 1. Getting your products where they need to be
Working in a rough chronological order, firstly you need to think about how to ship your products to the Amazon fulfillment center. The vast majority of my shipments come from overseas. Assuming this is the same for most sellers, this opens up the possibility of shipping by air or by sea.
There are pros and cons to each depending on your specific requirements. However, some of the big considerations are:
Time to market
How quickly does your product need to launch on Amazon? Is your first sale time-sensitive to achieve “first to market” advantages? Do you have competitors trying to get there first?
Time to market can be very important in some instances and not at all relevant in others. If the success of your product will be affected by timing, you absolutely should make decisions to reduce shipping time.
The obvious win in this instance is to source from a local supplier, but in many cases, this isn’t possible and is too late if your products are being manufactured already.
The next best option is to utilize air shipping, specifically by courier. Companies like FedEx, DHL and UPS have streamlined processes and can get your products from A to B more quickly than anyone else. But of course, there is a high price to pay for the service.
If the speed is worth the high price, consider using DDP (delivery duty paid) Incoterms to minimize any hassle in customs.
Cost vs speed
When time to market is less of a concern, you will still need to decide whether to prioritize cost or speed of delivery.
For international shipments, I would categorize the options into three delivery time periods:
- Less than 10 days – air courier
- Less than 20 days – air freight
- 20 to 60 days – sea freight
Naturally, faster delivery times are more expensive.
Also bear in mind that many costs involved with sea freight are “one off” charges. As a result, sea freight gets increasingly cost effective at scale. Conversely, low quantities of small products may actually be cheaper to send by air!
If you are not convinced that your new product will sell, using smaller air shipments is a sensible approach to adopt. However, if you have conducted thorough research and are taking calculated risks, then you should already know that your product has good sales potential.
If your Amazon product launch is time-sensitive but you are tight on budget, the best strategy is to organize hybrid shipments.
In short, this means having your batch of products split up into air freight and sea freight. I like to send 30% by air to get the ball rolling and sales coming in, with the remaining 70% sent by sea to save money. If you are lucky enough, you should experience a seamless restock and maintain sales velocity more cost effectively.
This technique also works well when running out of stock!
Step 2. Keyword research for your listing and PPC
Amazon is effectively a search engine that displays products in response to search terms, much like Google displays websites in response to search terms.
Consequently, this means sellers must target search terms/keywords that they want to be indexed for. The more sales you get for each specific keyword, the higher your product will rank in the search results.
When it comes to product launch, I like to consider the following:
Research what your competitors are ranking for
Start by finding out what is currently working, you want to know what people are searching for, and which products are already high up in the search results for each term.
This is best done manually or by using a paid tool like Helium 10.
For example, let’s say you are launching an epic new elbow support. Analyze your competitors’ listings and look for which keywords they have in the:
- Beginning of the title
- Rest of the title
- Bullet points
While no one knows the exact ranking signals for the A9 algorithm, it’s widely accepted that you should prioritize keywords in the order above.
Explore short-tail and long-tail options
For the elbow support example, you should definitely explore search terms like “elbow support” and “elbow brace”. But also consider long-tail keywords. These are phrases with more words, like “strong brace for elbows”.
Generally speaking, these long-tail keywords have a lower search volume (because most people would search for “elbow support”). However, with lower search volume often comes lower competition. Sometimes it can be highly advantageous to target a long-tail keyword and get the number one spot in the search results.
This is an easier way to get initial sales in a competitive niche, and once you have some sales you can optimize for higher competition keywords.
If you are having trouble ranking for the big money-making keywords, consider giving this a go.
Pick the search terms that you want to rank for
You’ve completed thorough keyword research of your competitors’ listings and a range of search terms, both short-tail and long-tail. Now you’re ready to choose the most appropriate keywords that you want your product to rank for.
Again, structure your listing with the highest priority keywords at the start of the title, then work backwards to the rest of the title, bullet points, description and back-end search terms.
Step 3. Preparing your Amazon listing for launch
Your products are in transit and will hit Amazon soon, so it’s time to create a 10/10, fully optimized listing.
The product title is the most important part of your listing from a keyword perspective.
There are two parties to please here: the Amazon customer and the Amazon ranking algorithm.
Customers will scan over your title in the search results, look at the picture and your price. If it looks promising to them, they will click on your listing. A high conversion rate from customers then buying your product will boost you up the rankings.
Titles should strike a healthy balance between keyword stuffing for the algorithm and descriptive prose for the consumer.
Pay for professional photography and editing.
I started by taking my own pictures and photoshopping them myself, which can work if you have a reasonable level of skill but it’s still massively time-consuming. For most people, you would be better off hiring out these tasks so you can focus on steering the ship that is your business.
What has worked wonders recently for me is 3D-rendered imagery. If your product is suitable for this, I would highly recommend getting it done. Conversion rates on listings with 3D renders are higher than comparable listings with standard photography.
Furthermore, having a 3D model file allows you to create new images without paying for more photography, such as exploded diagrams, color changes etc.
Your amazing title and image choice got a customer onto your listing, but now you have to secure the sale. Great bullet points that are useful to the customer will get them ever closer to the “Add to basket” button.
Bullet points are your chance to tell potential customers exactly why your product is perfect for their needs.
Vague long points seem to be a thing of the past. It’s best to use concise points that inform the customer without presenting a wall of text, as this increases the likelihood of them actually reading it.
Additionally, include keywords that make your product relevant to the queries prospective customers are searching for.
Previously known as Enhanced Brand Content (EBC), A+ Content is essential when launching a new product on Amazon.
To be eligible for A+ you need to be in the Amazon Brand Registry. That requires a registered trademark, which can take months to complete, or even longer if there are objections. So, get started early with your trademark application.
My preferred way of using A+ content is to use large images; this allows my designer to have free rein in that area using lots of eye-catching design. Using images instead of text may prevent it being indexed for keywords, but I’m content with this as I think the visual impact improves conversions more than a few extra keywords.
Remember to fill these out when creating the listing.
I like to include my main one or two keywords again even though repetition is supposedly not required. The rest of the character limit is filled with more obscure keywords that have not been mentioned anywhere else.
Stick to the character limit and don’t use any punctuation like commas, which is just a waste of precious characters.
Step 4. Building launch traffic and sales
The following points are things to consider when your product finally launches on Amazon.
The primary method for gaining product reviews should be:
- Creating a great product.
- Getting it selling as quickly as possible.
There is also merit in using a friendly product insert to help persuade customers to leave a review for you. An insert that offers some sort of value, such as a quick usage tip, works well in my experience. Don’t ask specifically for positive reviews, as that is against Amazon’s Terms of Service (TOS).
The first few reviews are always the hardest to acquire, and I have been known to ask people I know to purchase my product and leave an honest review. But this is a risky area in relation to Amazon’s TOS and as such I would not advise you to take this course of action.
Once sales are being made, an email follow-up sequence is probably the most effective way to maximize your review rate. Treat these similarly to product inserts, and try to provide some value for the customer, rather than only asking for reviews.
Drive external traffic
This largely ties in with brand awareness – make sure to drive as much external traffic to your listing as possible. This could be from a blog you’ve been building, from an Instagram account, or from an email list you’ve been growing.
While Amazon provides a huge amount of traffic overall, initially your product won’t be ranking anywhere visible in the search results. Generating orders from outside the Amazon platform will start to build the sales velocity that will signal to Amazon that your product should start moving up the search results.
However, bear in mind that these sales may not be attributed to specific customer search terms as the sales have come externally. This is why you need on-platform sales as well, which brings me to paid ads.
Amazon PPC ads
Amazon Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is the best paid ads solution for launching a product.
Firstly, it provides on-platform sales so will start connecting your product to specific search terms and thus increase organic ranking more than a sale from off-platform.
Secondly, it allows you to generate data on keyword conversion rates.
Thirdly, it has worked out to be more cost effective than other paid ads for me personally.
Amazon PPC is a huge subject and very technical, but to get started I suggest running an automatic campaign with an aggressive budget, which will generate useful performance data. Leave this to run for 2-3 weeks then switch to manual campaigns with broad, phrase and exact keyword matching, drawing from the data you have collected.
To run FB ads you need to have a Facebook page for your brand or product.
To be safest in respect to Facebook’s Terms of Service, direct your ads to a landing page which then leads to an Amazon listing. Alternatively, direct people to your brand website and attempt to convert for product sales, email addresses or both. Avoid linking directly to your Amazon listing.
Install a Facebook tracking pixel on your website or landing page to collect customer data. You can then use this in an advertising campaign with lookalike audiences, to ensure you are putting your ads in front of a relevant audience.
I’ve always found Amazon PPC to be a better option for both cost and effectiveness, but your results may vary.
Similar to Facebook ads, Google ads can be used to direct traffic to your listing via landing pages or your brand website. I’ve found this to be the most expensive of the three options and thus largely unsuitable for Amazon product launch purposes.
You may want to consider Pinterest ads if your niche is suitable for the platform. I’ve heard great things from those that have appropriate products.
Amazon product launch services
Giveaways used to be a primary method for product launch, enabling new products to quickly gain sales velocity and reviews through heavy discounts.
Amazon have made their stance clear that they do not take kindly to this anymore though.
I would advise staying away from launch services for this reason. Furthermore, it costs a lot to launch this way, and you will likely do better using this money for Amazon PPC.
Step 5. Getting long-term brand awareness
Coherent brands with a loyal following will perform the best in both the short and long-term, on-Amazon and off-Amazon. So, any diligent private labeler should be doing exactly that – building a brand. Here are some of the best ways to go about it.
Using influencers is highly effective at building awareness in general, but also for launching new products. You can drive huge amounts of traffic to a listing in a short space of time using an influencer. This is great for building initial sales velocity.
Instagram used to be my go-to for influencers, however they are now overpriced in my opinion and don’t perform quite as well as they used to. My new preferred option is approaching smaller YouTube channels that are highly relevant to my niche.
Sometimes a channel will be happy to give you some coverage with just a free product, and sometimes they require payment. Again, smaller channels with 1k-50k subscribers have offered the most cost-effective solution for me.
Building a large following for a Facebook page is quickly becoming obsolete in my opinion. I now only bother to create a Facebook page so I can access Facebook ads.
But what remains a good use of Facebook is private groups. These can be leveraged to build an active community, and that can give your Amazon product launch a substantial boost. It does of course require quite a lot of work to keep the momentum. Whether this is an endeavor worth doing will be up to you – I choose to spend my time elsewhere.
Instagram remains a good platform to publish content on. An incredibly active user base allows fast and regular updates to your community. I would recommend hiring someone to run your Instagram account, as it is very time-intensive to do it yourself.
Building a sizable following is a grind, where your content has a very short lifespan before it becomes irrelevant and lost in the dark depths of the platform. I currently prefer to use YouTube, which allows for “evergreen” content which is indexed on search engines and continues to be found for years, not hours.
This is a superb choice for building your brand if your product is highly visual. Niches that work well are art, fashion, fitness and diet for example. If however, you sell office filing cabinets, you will likely find time spent on Pinterest to be a waste!
Every brand should be leveraging YouTube in 2020.
It’s a search engine in its own right, it’s indexed on Google, the content is evergreen, and it can even provide another form of income via ads if your videos are popular!
Build a following on YouTube that you can send to your Amazon listing at launch. Provide real value to your YouTube community, consistently and for free.
Come product launch day, some content ideas could be: unboxing videos, product reviews and product comparisons.
This has been a quick canter through how to launch a product successfully on Amazon. There is so much more I could talk about but in short:
- Decide how time sensitive your product launch is and organize shipping appropriately.
- Conduct thorough keyword research making sure to analyze your competitors closely.
- Build an optimized listing targeting your chosen keywords.
- Make use of professional photography, 3D renders and A+ content.
- Drive external traffic to your listing at launch. YouTube influencers are a great way to do this.
- Use Amazon PPC for paid advertising.
- Build your brand on social media and YouTube before and after launch.
This post was by Dom Haines, an online business geek, specializing in ecommerce and marketing. When not building his brands, he can be found flying the skies in a helicopter or sharing his business ventures on his blog, domhaines.com.