Let’s face it, starting an Amazon business can be a dissuading experience. If you’re new to selling on Amazon, this might strike a familiar chord. Getting started often involves walking through a proverbial minefield of YouTube personalities, Google searches, and fancy selling tools that the developers insist you absolutely must-have. And while each of them carries with it some degree of legitimacy, parsing the noise and getting down to business can oftentimes be the most difficult step in your Amazon selling journey.
There are literally thousands of credible and very well-researched articles, books, and online tutorials about selling on Amazon. Rather than rehash these familiar talking points, let’s chat about 5 secrets few sellers are talking about, and why they will be critical to your success on Amazon.
1. Customer Service Still Rules
As cliche as this may sound – hear me out. We all know that customer service is fundamental to any business, but here are a few tips to providing exceptional service on Amazon that will net you some Amazon street cred and convince buyers that you’re the real deal.
First, reply to absolutely every buyer’s direct message
Not only does Amazon keep performance metrics on how quickly you reply to direct messages, your overall performance score as a seller can and is used by Amazon to determine product placement and ranking. So it’s imperative that you stay on top of your game here. Make it a habit of checking direct messages multiple times a day. While it lacks configurable alerts, the Amazon Seller app for your iPhone or Android device does come with a few nice features, one of which is the ability to reply to direct messages from the convenience of your phone. Your goal should be to NOT exceed the SLA (Service Level Agreement) time Amazon has allotted for your communication. For most sellers, this window is 24 hours.
Secondly, reply to all product inquiries
Think of these as an accruing FAQ for your listing. Questions appear on your listing as potential buyers ask questions about your product. Fortunately, you don’t need to constantly monitor your products for questions. Amazon actually does you a solid here and will send you an email each time a new question is asked. They are usually titled “Can you answer this question”, so be on the lookout and stay vigilant. To guarantee you receive these emails, be sure that your customer service email is accurate and that you haven’t opted out of any communications or notifications.
An additional point to note is that as you answer questions, Amazon keeps a running tally of “answered questions” next to your product’s rating, so the more questions you’ve answered, the more credible you’ll look to prospective buyers.
And finally, let’s talk about ratings
While 5-star product reviews and seller ratings are always welcomed, you will nonetheless have to contend with the occasional disgruntled customer. And since we’re all humans and humans make mistakes, it is inevitable that you will make them. Defective products, shipping errors and warranty claims are part of the game, so don’t fret if you get a poor review. The goal, of course, should always be for perfection. When a mistake does happen and it’s your fault, honesty and transparency is always the best recipe. In fact, you can often leverage poor reviews as opportunities to build trust in your brand. Admit your mistake, correct it immediately – and if possible – offer some form of compensation for their trouble.
Often times you can encourage a customer to revise their review once their issue has been resolved. You can also make this transaction public by replying directly to the negative review. Any reply to a negative review should be done with these things in mind, but your reply gives future buyers an opportunity to see your customer service in action. When all else fails, buyers are able to translate these experiences as a legitimate attempt at correcting an honest mistake.
2. Complete your Amazon Seller Profile
I am always surprised at how many of my clients don’t take the time to properly and thoroughly complete their Amazon profile. By profile, I mean a few things. Here’s a shortlist of the items you’ll want to ensure are completed thoroughly:
Here you can define rules for product returns and clearly explain any return instructions. You can find this section under the general Settings area in Seller Central. Believe it or not, buyers will seek out your return policy prior to purchasing, so having a well-thought-out and actionable policy will help convince buyers that they have recourse should a return be necessary.
Shipping continues to be one of the more complicated subjects for Amazon sellers to navigate. Whether you decide to tackle the complexities of paid shipping or simply offer a free shipping solution, what’s important to note here is that your shipping settings should be well thought out and carefully calculated. There’s a voluminous body of research on this subject. I would encourage you to be well-researched on shipping and how it will impact conversions. There is certainly a psychological element at play here, so be mindful of what your competitors are doing while keeping your margins and costs in mind.
To ensure you’re in compliance with all federal and state tax laws, you may want to spend some time here. Moreover, Amazon has specific tax compliancy rules when you’re located in a state Amazon already has tax jurisdiction in. In most cases, Amazon will calculate state taxes for you and apply it to a buyer’s final cost, so more often than not there’s nothing for a seller to do here. State tax reports can be easily downloaded and given to your accountant at the end of each fiscal year. However, it’s important to understand how tax calculations affect your buyer’s price. You will almost certainly be asked about this at one time or another.
Your info & policies
In this section, you’re able to provide a description of your business, upload a company logo, describe your shipping and privacy policies, explain any applicable tax policies, add to your FAQ section and create custom help pages. We always encourage our clients to spend a fair amount of time on these items. They lend credibility to your brand and help customers make more informed buying choices.
3. Outsource the Talent You Lack
It’s common for new sellers to take an approach that involves doing everything themselves. We get it! It’s expensive to hire professional photographers, content writers and consultants. But keep in mind that Amazon is a dog-eat-dog world of sellers trying to establish their brand identity and create competitive content.
Content sells on Amazon, so your ability to design powerful and convincing listings is critical to your success. Just as important, is your ability to get your products in front of prospective buyers. Think of Amazon as its own search engine. Amazon ranks and prioritizes product listings based on thousands of variables, and while there are some easy rules to follow, they don’t guarantee your listing will appear on the first page of results.
Good search ranking on Amazon is the result of:
- Careful keyword analysis
- Seller performance
- Good content
- and yes, trial and error.
While sellers should exhibit some patience, it often helps to partner with professionals who can help you succeed in these areas you lack competence in. We’re certainly not advocating a non-DIY approach, but outsourcing the talent you lack can ultimately get you where you want to be faster.
4. Subject Matter Expertise
Want to stand out on Amazon? Become a subject matter expert!
Not all sellers on Amazon are manufacturers and product experts. In fact, a large piece of the Amazon seller matrix is dropshippers, wholesalers, and affiliates. Just about anyone can sell on Amazon these days, but do you truly know the product you’re selling? When a seller is an expert, it’s evident by their response to questions and their direct communication with buyers. And while being a subject matter expert may sound intuitive, you would be surprised by just how little many sellers know about the products they’re selling. Don’t be that guy! If you want to convince buyers you’re legitimate, you’ve got to put in the time. There’s no secret formula to hard work and you’ll find that your expertise will pay off in the form of brand recognition, buyer confidence, and sale conversion.
5. Leverage the Right Tools
There’s an endless ocean of Amazon seller tools at your disposal. Everything from eCommerce plugins to shipping and analytics tools. Do you need everything? Absolutely not, but what we typically advise our clients to do is choose the tools that make sense for them, when they make sense. Sometimes the free tools will suffice. Sometimes a paid solution is necessary. Whatever the case may be for you, don’t buy into the YouTube and Internet hype that you need absolutely every 3rd party solution to be successful.
Being smart about the tools you decide to leverage will allow you to control costs and learn each tool well enough to make them effective.
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