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Why You Need 2-day Delivery

Let’s face it, we’re spoiled. The more we, as customers, get into the eCommerce revolution the more we expect not only great selection and value from the comfort of our own home, we also expect great speed in getting our purchases.

Amazon has pushed speed and efficiency as important factors and its customers agree.

In this article we’ll look at why fast shipping matters and how to get it, regardless of what kind of Amazon seller you are.

The Reasons You Need Fast Shipping

It is not only customer expectations that benefit from fast shipping. It’s proven that your business metrics improve as well.

Fast – and ideally freeshipping increases conversions, average order value (AOV), marketplace benefits and customer loyalty.

Let’s take a look at these points

Customer Conversions

Customers are more likely to buy from fast shippers because they want instant gratification. The reasons for this can be multifaceted – of course they want the thing they are buying asap, but also getting something free and fast gives that sense of VIP treatment. Free and fast shipping has been show to increase conversion rates up to 300%

Average Order Value (AOV)

Fast and free shipping with a threshold motivates customers to add more items to their shopping cart. The customers want to get to the free threshold and will add items to get there. Often they will add even more because they see they’ve already reached free, so why get something else!

Marketplace Benefits

Amazon likes sellers who sell. The more you sell, the more they like you. Because free and fast shipping increases conversions it has a direct effect of pushing you upwards in 2 key areas:

  1. Organic Search – more conversions is proven to help with search ranking.
  2. Winning the Buy Box – fast delivery directly impacts winning the buy box

Customer Loyalty

Jeff Bezos coined this term ‘The Flywheel Effect’ which is a positive cycle for your business in which customers return, unprompted, to buy from you because they had a great experience. Features like 2-day delivery greatly motivate people to return to you, especially if you are selling consumables that need to be replaced.

How To Provide 2-Day Shipping

Here let’s look at the 3 basic scenarios – merchant fulfilled, marketplace fulfilled, and 3-rd part fulfilled.

Merchant Fulfilled

This involves using your own space and pick, pack and posting your own orders. There are pros and cons to this.

Pros

Control

You have control over the entire fulfillment process, from how much inventory you store and the shipping carriers used to where you invest money and cut corners. 

Seller Fulfilled Prime Badge

If you can maintain service level agreements, you may be eligible for marketplace fast tags through your in-house fulfillment.

Cons

Space

You need a lot of space to maintain inventory and have a good area to efficiently pack and store while waiting for pickup.

Cost

You pay for all fulfillment costs, including warehouse space, insurance, wages, heating, cooling, shipping, and packaging.

Marketplace Fulfillment i.e FBA

FBA of course is the easy option, but is not without it’s drawbacks. It can be unreliable, and you are without recourse if it is. It can also be expensive.

On the upside, often the shipping fees are less than what you as an independent can negotiate. Also is the benefit of being part of Amazon Prime, which gives a boost to sales.

Third Party Fulfillment

Outsourcing 2-day deliveries to a fulfillment company involves handing over your entire fulfillment process to a fulfillment service, including storing, picking, packing, and shipping. 

It is a lot like using FBA, but just with a different company.

As always, there are pros and cons.

The major con is the cost, which can be higher than either FBA or MFN, depending on the products you are selling. Also be away that some third party fulfilment services may not be able to scale with you! Stay on top of this as you grow.

The major pro is if you are also selling in other marketplaces like Walmart or eBay you can use the same company to fulfill.

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Getting More from Amazon Advertising PPC

Without a doubt, good use of Amazon PPC advertising can boost both sales and organic ranking. This can make a huge difference – if done right.

In this article let’s take a look at some top tips on boosting your Amazon Pay Per Click results.

Use Auto Campaign

Amazon makes entering the PPC space relatively painless by having an automatic PPC campaign generator, where they will suggest the best keywords to use for your product. If you already have keywords on your listing’s back end search terms Amazon will include those, but they will also supply what might be some surprising suggestions!

Start With Small Bids

Regardless of whether you use an automatic PPC campaign or roll your own, start with a low bid of 50¢ per keyword. This gives you a good starting point to monitor performance. Gradually increase your bids by 10¢ or so each week, monitoring the changes.

Smaller bids mean bigger profits (it’s better to spend 50¢ on getting a sale than $3!), and you might not need to throw away the extra money.

Research Those Keywords

We’ve got another article on here about keywords where we talk about how to find them. Using the tools mentioned should get you a big list to choose from. Once you have your list, set up a manual Amazon PPC campaign with a budget between $5 and $10 and closely monitor the performance.

Measure

It can’t be said enough – you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

Pick a time every week to sit for 30 minutes to an hour and check all of your product’s spend and return. Doing it at the same time every week gives you an easy way to compare numbers.

Don’t underestimate the power of metrics!

Build on Auto Campaigns

One of the great things about about Amazon’s auto-campaigns is that you can see the performance of keywords and mine those for your own custom campaigns.

Set up a new auto-campaign and move over profitable keywords from your low-bid auto campaign as clear winners start to emerge.

Do this weekly, along with your review mentioned above.

Listing Optimization

Not technically part of the PPC campaign, but, ensuring your listing is as optimized as possible will push through conversions.

As a reminder – we cover optimizing in some other articles – check that your photos, title and description are good enough and contain some good keywords.

A/B Test Pricing

Small changes in pricing can mean big changes in sales numbers. Test your pricing frequently. Cheaper does not always mean more sales (there’s a whole psychology behind pricing that maybe we’ll write an article about!). Sometimes you will get more sales by RAISING your price (and sometimes even raising it a lot).

Experiment!

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FBA Inventory Performance Index (IPI) – What You Need To Know

Amazon is constantly working to tweak its FBA efficiency and increase its warehouse space. But it does prioritize certain sellers.

Last year Amazon announced that it was increasing the Inventory Performance Index (IPI) threshold that would avoid storage limits. That IPI number went from 400 to 500.

That’s nice, but what is the IPI? Lets take a look at it.

Amazon and Storage Limits

As of August, 2020, FBA storage limits are not applied to professional sellers with an IPI of 500 or higher. Storage limits are also not applied to new sellers who have been active for 6 months or less.

If you do fall below an IPI of 500 and have been a professional seller for 6 months or more you will be limited in your FBA storage. Limits vary and are calculated on a combination of:

  • Your past IPI scores
  • Sales Volume
  • Available space in fulfillment centers

Your limits are updated every quarter, so even if you make some changes or improve your IPI nothing will change until the next quarter.

How is the Inventory Performance Index Calculated?

This, unfortunately, is some Amazon secret sauce that we cannot see the recipe for!

But Amazon does give us some insight into it by listing four areas on your Inventory Performance Dashboard.

Excess Inventory Percentage

The problem here is the definition of ‘excess’! Amazon’s view might vary greatly from yours. Excess is determined by Amazon to mean ‘units unlikely to sell in the current quarter’.

This can be because they are new listings (so Amazon has no idea if they will sell) or because you aren’t selling as many as you have in stock. For the sake of your IPI one thing you can do is drop the price on these items to get them moving. Once a good sales history is established Amazon is more forgiving of inventory. Or you can choose to have that inventory sent back to you and out of Amazon’s warehouse.

Amazon does let you know of the dashboard which are the offending items, so you can get a clear picture of what you need to do.

FBA Sell-Through

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon rewards sellers that are constantly moving inventory. Your FBA sell-through rate is calculated by the dividing the number of units sold and shipped over the last 90 days by the average number of units available in the warehouse.

The break down that rate like this:

  • < 1.0 = Poor
  • 1.0 to 2.0 = Fair
  • 2.0 to 7.0 = Good
  • > 7.0 = Excellent

Again, if you have slow moving items then either pull some or all of the inventory out of Amazon or reduce the price.

Stranded Inventory Percentage

Stranded Inventory is when you have items in the warehouse but the listing is not active. Stranded inventory is basically money sitting on the sidelines, so this should be a key metric that you look at!

FBA In-Stock Rate

Kind of the inverse of Stranded Inventory, this number tells you if people bought your product but it was not in stock. Not only do people not like waiting for their purchases, Amazon penalizes you big time if you don’t have items in stock (and are selling FBA of course).

Fix and Wait

Because IPI and storage limits are calculated only quarterly, it can be frustrating to be in a position of needing to fix it. We strongly recommend keeping on top of your inventory performance by frequently checking the Amazon Dashboard

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Breaking News! Main Canada/Toronto Fulfillment Center Closes!

This just in from Amazon! This is a closure notice for the main fulfillment center in Canada. Presumably this is about Covid 19.

Amazon Notice

On Friday, March 12, Amazon Canada received an order from the local government in Peel Region requiring us to temporarily close our YYZ4 fulfilment centre located at 8050 Heritage Road in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, effective March 13 at 12:01 a.m. ET. It is anticipated that YYZ4 will reopen on Sunday, March 28.

We are working urgently to minimize any potential disruption to our selling partners and customers.

Please note, our other fulfilment centres throughout Canada continue to operate as usual. Our customers will continue to be able to find and order the products they need most on Amazon.ca, through Amazon’s flexible operations and seller-fulfilled network.

YYZ4 is also where Amazon did tours of their centers. Photo by Zonmaster!

For more information and the latest updates, check the Temporary closure of YYZ4 fulfilment centre (Brampton, Canada) help page, here: https://sellercentral.amazon.ca/gp/help/GRJBZ626U87TZ3V7. Selling Partner Support does not have additional information at this time.   

Please be assured that as we adapt to challenging circumstances, our focus and absolute priority continues to be the health and safety of our employees, selling partners, and customers.

Amazon teams in Canada will continue to be relentlessly engaged on your behalf to find the operational solutions best suited to your specific needs and provide you with the support you need through this critical time. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate this unprecedented situation.

Update (March 29, 2021)

This Fulfilment center has reopened. This from Amazon:


We’re pleased to confirm that our YYZ4 fulfilment centre, located at 8050 Heritage Road in Brampton, Ontario, reopened on March 28.

Your FBA offers remain available on Amazon, and no action is required from you. If you converted any offers to seller fulfilled, we recommend that you convert them back to FBA as soon as possible.

For more information, including partnered carrier updates, go to our YYZ4 Help page:
https://sellercentral.amazon.ca/gp/help/external/GRJBZ626U87TZ3V7


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Finding High Value Amazon Keywords

Having the right keywords in your listings is a key component to building and sustaining sales of time on Amazon. For the purposes of this article you should think of keywords as falling into two categories:

Core Keywords

These are the core terms that shoppers are using to find your (and your competitors!) products. For these to be effective for you, you need to be better at optimizing your listings and also run better ads than your competitors.

Long Tail Keywords

Slightly less obvious keywords that perhaps your competitors haven’t struck upon. They have lower search volumes, but often indicate more motivated or interested buyers.

Top Ways to Find Keywords

Amazon Search Term Report

Let’s start with the obvious: Amazon’s own report that lists the words and phrases shoppers are inputing to find your products. Helpful for finding ‘real world’ words and phrases that sometimes, when you are so close to the product, you miss out on.

Auto-Target Campaigns

Let Amazon do the work for you! Amazon’s Auto-Target PPC campaigns will generate their own list of keywords. Always keep them running with a low budget. These are not for generating sales – though you might get a few. These are for generating valuable search data!

Other Listings – ASINs

In the Search Term Report mentioned above there is a list of terms. But also you will find a section that is a list of ASINs.

ASINs are a set of letters and numbers that start with a B and are around 10 characters long (eg: B08R988XHQ)

When you see these in the Sponsored Search Term Report that means that your product was listed on that ASIN. This often means that someone was looking for your product but found the competition! Examine that listing and see how you can incorporate things into your listing so you become the better match first time out.

Product Reviews

Product reviews are a gold mine of ‘real world’ language that people are using to describe a product. Incorporate these into your listing in a natural way to reap the benefits.

Don’t forget to examine the competition’s reviews as well!

Top Selling Competitors

While we’re looking at the competition’s reviews, let’s not forget to find the top-selling competitors in your category and find out what is so appealing on their listing that might be lacking in yours.

Non-Amazon Channels

It’s a big world out there! Look at competitive products on other eCommerce channels like Walmart, eBay and Target. Due to the differing nature of the marketplaces you might find different keywords and phrases to use for inspiration.

What’s Next?

After you find some new powerful keywords you can update not only your listings but also your PPC campaigns.

Don’t forget to checkout Amazon’s own suggestions for the effective use of search terms. That will keep you onside with Amazon and make sure your are getting the most bang for your buck!

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Amazon AI Identifies Non-Compliant Emails

Just a quick announcement. In various marketplaces Amazon is rolling out new updates to ensure that emails sent comply with their new guidelines. You can read about those guidelines here.

We are trying our best to update our compliance checker, but we may not find more complex issues.

Email Styling Rules

Do not include any of the following display material:

  • Emojis. 
  • GIFs.
  • Message margins over 20% maximum width.
  • Image or graphic sizes larger than 80% maximum width.
  • Overrides of Amazon’s default line height, font family, or font color.
  • Fonts in more than three sizes.
  • Message bodies that are centered or otherwise override default text alignment settings.
  • More than two line-breaks (spacing between paragraphs) in a row.
  • Unsecure images (http instead of https).

Email Content Rules

Do not include or do any of the following in your emails:

  • Order confirmations and product images.
  • Shipping confirmations.
  • Thank You messages.
  • Contact us if you have a problem messages.
  • Promotional messages including coupons.
  • Promotions for additional products.
  • Referrals to any 3rd party products.
  • Repeat requests for product reviews.
  • External links (unless necessary for order completion).
  • Attachments (except for instructions, invoices, or warranty information).
  • Logos displaying your web address.
  • Email addresses and telephone numbers.
  • Sensitive content (violence, bare skin, gore, adult, and offensive language).
  • Language that incentivizes buyers to leave a review (a free gift, discount, compensation).
  • Links to opt-out of messaging.
  • Tracking pixels and images.
  • Provide instructions or guidelines when requesting reviews.
  • As per the previous change in guidelines, you can’t use the word [Important] in the subject of the message unless it’s a critical one to complete the order (personalization required etc…)

As of March 1st, 2021 Amazon is now scanning emails for content and styling violations and not delivering those messages.

Yes, there may be instances where an email gets through, but you have been warned! Historically, the next step Amazon will take – typically a few months after stopping delivery – is to issue you with warnings and then suspensions.

The Good News

Here is what we do know for sure:

  • You can still send emails
  • 3rd Party tools are ok to use with Amazon.

Auto Review Requests

The absolute best way to ask for reviews is to use Amazon’s own Review Request tool. Inside of Zonmaster we have a simple switch that lets us send out these review requests automatically. No need to keep on top of orders. The really good thing about Auto Review Requests is that Amazon will send them out in the preferred language of the customer! You don’t need to do anything.

Auto Review Requests are available on ALL Zonmaster plans, even the one starting at $6.99 a month.

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5 Tips For Increasing Feedback

For the purposes of this article, ‘feedback’ can be considered either Seller Feedback or Customer Reviews left on the Amazon site.

Why Feedback?

Two words: social proof.

Despite what we might think of ourselves, the fact is that it is human nature to rely on and, to a certain extent, copy our peers. (The big issue is actually who you identify as your peers!).

So if we see a group of people doing something, we tend to react favorably to that thing. The more we know and respect someone, the more likely we are to trust their behavior. But, in the case of not knowing anyone, the number of people doing something will have an impact.

There are lots of studies and papers about this that dive into the details but basically that’s it.

This is why Amazon promotes items that have more, and more favorable, reviews over two otherwise equal products. They know people are more likely to buy the one with more social proof.

5 Ways To More Feedback

1. Remove Negative Feedback

Hey, it happens.You will get negative feedback at some point in your Amazon Seller career. And in some cases you can have it easily removed. To see the official guidelines and what Amazon will remove click here.

2. Focus On Customer Service

Jeff Bezos has said it. Amazon has said it. As Amazon Sellers, you should do it: focus on the customer.

Answer customer questions within a maximum of 24 hours. Faster if possible. Pre-sales (i.e. in your Amazon listings) give the customer as much honest information as possible.

Don’t hype. Help.

3. Stay Active on Social Media

Track down people talking about your products and engage with them. If no one is talking about your products, look for people talking about your niche and engage with them. It should go without saying, but, do this is a non-spammy, non-salesy way!

Start conversations, not funnels.

4. Make The Unboxing ‘YouTubeable’

Your customer’s experience starts from when they open the Amazon packaging. Make your packaging small, but fun. Add some extras – stickers, cards, engaging pre-printed notes with your social media channels on them asking for a follow. Put these inside your packaging, but also put some url’s on your packaging too. Don’t ask for positive reviews, just give some fun.

And if someone does put an unboxing video up on YouTube or Twitter or wherever , like and comment!

5. Follow up, nicely

Depending on the type of product you sell, follow up with your customer via email a few days after they receive your product. Not so long after that they forget their excitement, but long enough after that they can give some feedback. Don’t ask for a positive review. Just mention that reviews help.

Luckily, this last step is easily done using Zonmaster. With our extensive triggering options you can configure emails to go out and prompt users for reviews or give additional infomation. Even better, you can flick on ‘Auto Review Request’ option and we’ll get Amazon to send out their Review Request form at the right time! It truly is set and forget. This is available on all Zonmaster plans (even the one starting at just $6.99 a month!)

Sign up today to start your free trial, no credit card required.

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[Amazon Australia] Tracking Numbers Required For MFN

This update just in from Amazon Australia. They will be requiring Tracking IDs for most MFN shipments.

A very similar rule came into effect in Europe on February 8, 2021.

Please note that what Amazon does in one marketplace may or may not make its way to other marketplaces, but best to be aware of it!

[Action Required] Providing Tracking ID for seller fulfilled orders to be mandatory

Upcoming changes to seller fulfilled order requirements.

Effective April 15, 2021, all seller fulfilled orders will require a valid tracking ID and carrier name when confirming shipment on Seller Central. You will not be able to ship confirm your order without providing tracking information. This change will help improve the delivery experience of seller fulfilled orders for our customers, so that they can see detailed shipment tracking information wherever possible. Tracking also reduces customer contacts, order-related defects, and lost-shipment costs, while improving seller feedback ratings.

This requirement will apply across all three ship confirmation methods:

  • Single and Bulk order processing on ‘Manage Orders’ page;
  • bulk confirmation using ‘Shipping Confirmation file upload’; and
  • API feeds.

However, you are not required to provide tracking details in the following circumstances:

  • Orders that cost less than $30 (including shipping) and are shipped using Australia Post Regular Letter Service; and
  • Orders that cost less than $50 (including shipping) and are shipped from outside of Australia using non-integrated carriers.

For more information visit Mandatory input of carrier and tracking ID FAQ.

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5 Ways To Boost Your Alexa Search Rank

“Alexa, please stop telling me that voice search is the next big thing!”

“Sorry, Dave. I can’t do that.”

Yes, voice search is a growing trend that shows no signs of stopping. And Alexa, searched by Amazon products such as the Echo and Amazon Fire TV, only looks on Amazon for products. It means that there are potentially new customers for your products, but only if they can find you!

Voice vs Text Search

Before we get into specific tips on how to boost your ranking in Alexa searches it is important that you are aware of some key differences between text – how people search on the web – and voice – how people search via Alexa – search.

It’s a Conversation

Humans use their voice to communicate. As such, even things like voice search is seen as a conversation. And in a conversation we tend to be specific. So we don’t tell someone to ‘pick us up some tea’ from the grocery store. We say ‘pick us up some Red Rose Orange Pekoe’ from the grocery store.

This is a key reason to raise brand awareness. You want your brand to be the brand associated with a product.

Because of the conversational aspect of speech, voice searches tend to be longer as well. We might write (because we have been trained over the years of text search) ‘green pillow case’, but in a voice search we will say ‘What is the best pillow case that comes in green?’.

You need to optimize your listings for longer, more complicated search queries.

How Does Alexa Decide?

Previous Orders

First thing Alexa/Amazon does is look through your past orders for something that matches. This is a good reason to target new customers (versus repeats) in your Amazon ads. You need to get on that ladder!

Amazon Choice Badge

If there is no matching past purchase the next port of call for Alexa is Amazon Choice badged products.

The Amazon Choice badge is completely different than the Best Seller badge.

The Best Seller badge is determined by sales velocity – typically the product that has sold the most units per hour in their category.

The Amazon Choice badge is determined primarily by SEO. Products that are the ‘best match’ for a keyword or phrase will get the Amazon Choice badge for that search result. Amazon also factors in if your product is ready to ship, or Prime eligible.

Tips For Improved Alexa Ranking

1. Optimize Your Listing

First and foremost your listing needs to be ‘optimized’. This means you need to do keyword research and write great listing copy that naturally incorporates those keywords. You also need to have great images that show your product in the best possible light (literally!).

2. Create a Conversion History with Ads

To get Alexa’s attention you need to have conversions. The best solution at the moment is to run ads on the keywords or phrases you want to target. Ad conversions let you rank organically. When you are launching let ads with a higher ACoS to run until your conversion history is stable.

3. Be Available

As we said, a factor in getting the Amazon Choice badge is product availability. It is essential (in our opinion) that you list your product in FBA and be eligible for Prime. But FBA is not infallible, so have a backup plan of fulfilling by merchant. MFN orders can now be Prime eligible as well.

4. Target Repeat Purchases

To increase the number of purchases that your product receives on Amazon, you might consider adjusting some of your campaigns to focus on customer acquisition. Amazon brand dashboard now provides new customer data to tell you which customers repeat-purchasers and which customers are first time buyers. You can design campaigns specifically to generate new customer adoption, especially if your product is consumable and will likely be reordered multiple times.

5. Get Reviews

Reviews show customer satisfaction. Luckily, if you are a Zonmaster subscriber you have an easy one-click solution to getting reviews – Zonmaster’s Auto Review Request tool which will fully automate the Amazon Review Request button. The easiest way to get reviews is to ask for them!

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7 Tips For Saving Money When Shipping To Amazon

Amazon Sellers often spend between 5% and 20%(!) of their product costs on shipping. Here at Zonmaster we’ve pulled together 7 top tips about how maybe you can save a little bit of money on freight costs when arranging you shipments to Amazon.

Some of these may seem obvious, but, the obvious can sometimes be forgotten in the rush!

1. Pack Small

Make sure that your product packaging AND outer packaging is as compact as possible. Often suppliers and their factories have a standard packaging size they use. But, they are not the ones paying the freight costs, so investigate whether anything can be done to trim it down.

Smaller packaging means more items can fit in a box. Combined savings can sometimes reduce freight charges by 40% or more!

2. Pre-Warehouse

Most Amazon Sellers get their goods shipped directly from the supplier or factory (often in China, or abroad) to the FBA Warehouse. But, recently Amazon has pushed the responsibility of warehouse distribution down to the seller, asking you to ship to multiple warehouses. If you are doing this directly from China, then your shipping costs may be triple what they should be.

You can save money by first shipping to an ‘in country’ warehouse. For example, if you are selling on Amazon.com, then ship to an intermediary warehouse in the US. Then from that warehouse have shipments sent to the FBA Warehouses. Domestic shipping is a LOT cheaper than international (and this is without anything like customs brokerage fees, etc).

3. Compare Points of Entry

If you are having your goods sent via sea, then look at which port they are going to. All ports are not the same, and prices can also vary widely depending on season. Keep on top of this as it is easily ignored!

4. Multiple Quotes

There are many ways to get goods from A to B. Get a shipping quote from your supplier, but also look at other freight-forwarding services.

Ask around, but remember that small forwarding companies won’t have good rates. A good metric is to look for a forwarding service that has at least 2 offices.

5. Sea vs Air

Air freight is seen as being more expensive, but this is not always the case. For small shipments, or very lightweight items, air can be the same or cheaper than sea, and of course significantly faster.

Sea freight usually comes with a minimum fee, whereas air does not.

As with a lot of things on this list – it pays to compare!

6. Plan Ahead!

Shipping rates can vary during the year, with peak times like Christmas being significantly more expensive. Save money (sometimes a lot of money!) by getting your Christmas goods in the autumn or earlier.

7. Measure Your Profit

Inside of Zonmaster you can track your true profits, by entering all your landed costs like shipping. Using our Financials area you can see just how each product is performing in each marketplace. This feature is supported for all marketplaces on all plan levels – even our $6.99/month plan

Start your 14 day free trial today – no credit card required!