What this article is…
The purpose of this article is to provide a general overview of what is holistically required to successfully sell on Amazon. That is, the things that will need to be completed for you to go from having no Amazon account, to having a fully optimised active listing (product). The information is designed to show you the breadth of requirements rather than the depth.
What this article is not…
If you are after an in-depth step-by-step instruction on how to create an Amazon business from start to finish this article is not it. For that I would recommend doing a course where you can follow each step via screenshots or video. There are plenty out there on the internet, just ensure that you practice due diligence when looking for one. NOTE: Some of this information can also be sourced directly from Amazon’s website.
This article assumes that you are planning on selling via Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). If you are fulfilling the item yourself – Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) – You can still utilise the advice provided, but step 3 (suppliers and shipping) will change from ‘ship to Amazon warehouse’ to ‘ship to your chosen warehouse’. FBA is just usually where I would recommend you start as a beginner, firstly because most people cannot fulfil the item themselves and secondly (most importantly) because FBA automatically makes you Prime listed, which in turn makes it easier to win the buy box (higher volume of sales). If you would like a detailed look at what the buy box is here is a link – https://sellercentral.amazon.com.au/gp/help/help.html/?itemID=G200418100&ref_=xx_G200418100_a_r0_cont_sgsearch
With all of that out of the way, let’s have a look at the 6 important things you must do to succesfully begin selling products on Amazon.
6 high-level steps…
1. Research product – What should I sell?
There is nothing more important than this step. If you are interested in creating a business selling via Amazon, then you must do extensive product research. You should not simply sell products that you think are cool or that you think people would buy. After all, how could you know what people want? Personal Note – the kind of products that our research pointed us to when we first began selling always felt incredibly random. We assumed that there was little chance that they would sell… This assumption was as wrong from the first day we started selling until today. Trusting the process and not just your feelings is the key. Your goal is to use criteria that has been tested by other sellers to identify if the item(s) you choose will sell. Answering questions such as, will it cost too much to order? Will it generate a healthy Return on investments (ROI)? Is there already too much competition? Etc. Fortunately, there are tools that can be used to help you assess products sold on Amazon.
The tools that can be used to help you conduct your research are Viral Launch, Jungle Scout, and eGrow. There are others but these are by far the most popular. These tools have product research features that run a search of all the products on Amazon and can filter by the inputs (criteria) you provide. The criteria will be made up of the following; product price, feedback ranges, categories to sell in, etc. To source this criteria you will have to either read ‘how-to’ articles or watch vidoes (Youtube has a few) on what yields the results. NOTE: I would recommend taking notes on at least 5 different poeple’s recommendations and creating a tailored version to call your own (you can try different combinations over time to see which provides the best result). Once you have this information, enter it into one of the tools mentioned and see which products it spits out. Then, simply scroll through the list and chose a product.
Things to consider…
- These research tools cost money (monthly subscription)
- ‘Google Trends’ for further research and validation of your ideas
- These tools do not work on every Amazon marketplace (all work in the US)
- Not all information found for the criteria required is free
- Not all criteria recommendations are equal, that’s why you should look at a few and listen to their rationales before creating your own
Practice some common sense when choosing a product as well as doing the relevant research. For instance, it would serve you well to stay away from products that have moving parts. Try to avoid selling electronic products as well as beauty products. The reason is that the rate of faulty product return can be high which impacts your account. Too much can go wrong with these types of products. The success of products like these hinges on the manufacturing quality. NOTE: If you find a niche product that you have assessed and are certain will be successful then this advice may not matter. Again, it is completely up to you. What you want to ensure is that your first product is as successful as possible.
2. Create Amazon account – How can I create this?
Simply sign up here: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/
The process is incredibly easy. Click ‘Register Now’ and follow the bouncing ball.
Things to consider…
- You will require a Business or Company name (ABN/CAN)
- The seller central domain you use will determine the marketplace you sell on (.com .com.au. .com.ca etc.)
- You can add additional marketplaces after the account is created if you wish (this will cost more)
- Seller account fee is a monthly subscription and must be factored into the product cost
3. Source suppliers and shipping – Who should I get my product from and how?
This is without a doubt the worst part of the process (in my opinion). And I mean that as a beginner, since after a few products it becomes less of a burden. To be honest sourcing a supplier is easy, you can use Alibaba, AliExpress, or any other local manufacturer to source the product you require. Most use Alibaba as the products coming from China are generally cheaper – alibaba.com provides buyers a list of products in various categories that can be purchased in bulk. Whichever supplier you go with, you will want to reach out to them and negotiate price for the quantity you require. Once you are satisfied, get them to send you a sample (I would recommend negotiating and getting a sample from at least 2 suppliers to compare). You can also ask the supplier if they provide a ‘quality check’ (some perform this function in-house). This is where somebody goes through and looks at 20% of the products you are ordering (at random) and performs an inspection. A score for the items is then noted and sent to you. This is to help give you the confidence that most of your items are as good as the sample you received. NOTE: This is not something that you have to do. If the supplier offers it just note that there is a fee attached. Weigh up whether it’s worth it to you.
If you have an idea for a niche product but can’t find a supplier that makes it you can reach out and ask how much it would cost to create it. For this, you should ask a supplier that makes similar products with similar material. If you choose to do this please note that development costs can be extensive so the product should produce an ROI that is worth it. I would not recommend this course of action for the first product you choose to sell. Listing your first item is as much a learning experience as it is anything else. Get the steps right the first time around.
Shipping is the difficult part. My advice would be to ask the supplier upfront whether or not they can ship directly for you. Most will say yes but prices will vary so ask a few of them as part of your negotiation. The other option is to contact couriers overseas directly and provide them all of the details for a quote. There are several international couriers that offer this service and can be found with a quick Google search. NOTE: You will need to know what the sender and recipient addresses will be (warehouse for both supplier and Amazon), and the weight and dimensions of your products – receive from supplier.
The next part is completing the ‘Shipping’ section in Amazon Seller Central. This will require barcodes for your products which need to be purchased via a different website such as https://www.gs1au.org. The instructions for adding products to your shipping section in Amazon can be found here: https://sellercentral.amazon.com.au/gp/help/200141420
Things to consider…
- Samples will cost you money
- Barcodes will cost you money
- Shipping via Air Vs Sea will cost more
- Shipping via Sea Vs Air takes longer
- Smaller bulk orders will cost you more per unit
There are Third-Party companies that collect the product from the supplier’s warehouse, do a quality check, deliver to the country you are selling in, and send it to the warehouse – An all-in-one service. These companies make the process easier but cost a bit. If you go with this option, please make sure that you calculate it into your ROI. Feel free to look at their prices and make up your own mind. An example company would be https://sellerkai.com/. Also, if you get confused when filling out the Shipping section in Amazon and don’t find the instructions particularly helpful, reach out to seller support for advice – https://sellercentral.amazon.com.au/cu/contact-us?ref_=ag_contactus_shel_G201281490
4. Optimize listing(s) – What will make my product stand out?
Once your item has been shipped it will appear in Amazon Seller Central as an ‘inactive’ listing. The next step is to create a title and description for your product that captures attention, helps rank your item when searched, and most importantly makes sense. To do this successfully, you will need to do keyword research for anything related to your products. You can simply search Google for keyword tools such as ‘Keywords Everywhere’ and ‘ZonKeywords’ to name a few. Even Viral Launch and Jungle Scout (mentioned in step 1) have keyword search features.
Another great (free) website is https://answerthepublic.com/ which is a search listening tool that helps you discover what people are asking/searching online regarding the topic/keyword you enter. Once you discover what your main keywords are you should add/embed them into your title and description. NOTE: You must avoid keyword stuffing when incorporating your keywords. That is, adding keywords in back-to-back for the sake of ranking. Your prospects will not click on your product if the title does not make sense/read well, and will definitely not convert if the description follows the same logic. Make sure they understand what it is they are buying, key features, directions of use, weight, height, benefits, etc. Instead, skilfully weave in the keywords with coherent and helpful text. Amazon also has a ‘Keywords’ section on their backend which I would advise adding short and long tail key words to (one word, a couple of words, phrases, etc). Once all of the Vital Info is filled out for the product, plus all other mandatory fields, your item will be ready to sell. Remember, your listing will only become active once it arrives at the Amazon warehouse.
Lastly, you must ensure that your images are high quality! This is absolutely crucial. Stock images can be sourced from manufacturers, but I would recommend professionally photographing your product(s). You can do this using your sample product (what the manufacturer sends you). You can do this yourself (if you are confident and have the means to) or outsource it to a professional. If you want to add graphics to it but you aren’t exactly a Photoshop wizard then you can send the pictures you snap along with some ideas to a freelancer on www.fiverr.com to create this for you – further enhancing the look (people holding, standing next to, or using the item. Even adding a scale next to it (ruler displaying dimensions) or placing it in the environment where it will be used helps greatly).
Things to consider…
- Keyword research tools are not always free
- Keyword research takes time
- Professional photographs will cost you money
- fiverr freelancers (while cheap) will cost you money
- Do not choose too many top priority keywords (4 max)
- Optimise listing before the product arrives at the warehouse
Most of the products that you are likely to sell already exist, therefore, look at the supplier’s page or even other competitors selling the same item. Get some ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ ideas by analysing theirs, look at their keywords and which category they are selling in.
5. Product Launch strategy – How can I sell products from Go-Live?
There are a few things to consider for your launch strategy. In my experience, the best way to launch your product is to price it competitively. What this really means is making it cheaper than your competition. The aim of the game at launch is to sell as much product as quickly as possible, allowing you to generate feedback quickly. Positive feedback is critical to gaining sale velocity, which will occur once your product starts selling well – fast and in decent quantities. This sales velocity ultimately helps you win the buy-box when competition is fierce. NOTE: Product sale velocity does not just rely on feedback and price, it also relies on your fulfilment method, shipping time, defect rate, on-time delivery, customer response time, cancellation rate, refund rate, and valid tracking rate. Most of these are covered by Amazon via FBA but the ones that are not and are your responsibility (underlined). You must ensure that you maintain a high standard by adhering to and exceeding these requirements, but at launch all you can control is price, so that is what you must utilise to your advantage.
Other successful launch strategies include optimization which has already been covered above. NOTE: Amazon used to run giveaways (Amazon Giveaways) on the platform which helped greatly when preparing for a launch. The still run internal affiliate marketing (Amazon Associates) but is unfortunately no longer as popular due to the reduction in the commission offered – 8% to 3%. For these reasons launching a product with the idea of getting immediate traction is harder than ever. This is why optimisation, quality of the product, and pricing is king!
Things to consider…
- ROI on your product(s) needs to factor in and allow initial launch price
- Customer service must be managed as a priority
- Amazon associates – https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
- Poor product quality will impact positive feedback and hurt sales velocity
- If product defect % is high early on, a new supplier must be sourced (if you want to continue selling that product)
You can also drive external traffic to your product page via Facebook, Instagram, or an existing blog. Even though I understand that many of you won’t be doing this, it is worth mentioning. NOTE: Amazon does not condone sellers getting their friends and family to write positive reviews. They claim to have ways of figuring this out, and if they do your account will be deleted, and all your hard work will be undone. More on this can be sourced online via Google searches. Find out what people have to say regarding fast (above board) product feedback strategies.
6. Leveraging paid campaigns – How does this work?
Amazon has its very own Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad campaign marketing section for product listings. This allows sellers to boost their product visibility by ranking higher based on keyword bidding (much like Google Ads). Unpacking just how PPC works on Amazon would have to be its own article. With that said, while there is a lot to understand, the steps to setting up campaigns is not overly complicated. Here is a link for detailed information on Amazon PPC and how to use it – https://advertising.amazon.com.au/products/sponsored-products?tag=googhydr-20&hvpos=&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4509642311646534328&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9071944&hvtargid=kwd-842430596340&ref=pd_sl_3oqck1y4yn_b_sspa_ggl_d_au_ct_427612072534
Things to consider…
- Cost per aquisition
- Must be proactively managed
I would recommend bidding low to begin with. Also, set your budget low (paying attention to the money that you can afford to part with for advertising). In addition to that, I would recommend using ‘automatic’ settings for at least a month or until you understand how it all works, then eventually switch to ‘manual’ settings for greater control. After some time using PPC your advertising results will allow you to pivot your strategy, allocating funds where the value is greatest.
My general advice is to take things one step at a time. These 6 steps help provide the overarching tasks that must be performed to successfully start selling on Amazon. Like any business venture worth pursuing it takes time and effort. If nothing else, this article should paint a picture of just how extensive the work needed to create and sell on the marketplace can be. Hell, this is not even an in-depth look at everything. That would take at least another 5,000 words! Hopefully, this can help you create a strategy and guide in the early stages. For detailed steps for each of the 6 points above I would recommend doing a course online that you can download or watch – paid or free.
The advice that I have provided comes from my experience selling products on Amazon for my business, which proved successful (though not without several roadblocks). Every bit of advice is not a ‘must follow’ but I urge you to at least consider all 6 steps regardless of my breakdown of each. All of this information can seem overwhelming when you start but just break it down into manageable chunks. It does not matter if it takes you 2 months or 12 to get started, the important thing is that you get there in the end. Hopefully this helps you take your first step towards learning how to sell on Amazon.