The Retail Scale is Tipping

Amazon’s dominance is undeniable. Its staggering growth year after year has put most retailers on their heels, and many others out of business. Brands have been forced to adapt, and most consumers have benefitted.  

U.S. consumer behavior was slowly shifting more into digital. In the last five years, Amazon has continued to gain market share, grocery delivery services like Instacart started becoming popular, and Uber Eats and Grubhub have become the standard for home delivery of restaurant meals. The biggest factor keeping traditional retail relevant was slow adopters. This all happened before the world changed.  

All of a sudden, we got hit with COVID-19. This black swan event is causing digital retail adoption to accelerate years into the future in just a matter of weeks and months.

As people stay locked inside their homes, many have opted to change their shopping habits. It is safer to have your food, groceries and personal care items delivered to your front door rather than wandering out to stores and restaurants (if they are open) with the risk of getting infected.

What does that mean for consumer product brands? It means that now is the time to make Amazon the single most important focus of your entire retail strategy.  

Many of us have been waiting for the moment when the scale tips. The moment when Amazon becomes a brand’s number one focus.  

That time is here. 

Brands that properly resource their Amazon efforts will come out on top. Those that think Amazon should be an afterthought will suffer the consequences and get left behind.

So, what can brands do? Here are my top five:

Develop a Strategy: Your brand can’t run itself on Amazon. It’s too critical of a channel. Sit down with your team and pick a path. The model I recommend the most is some variation of a hybrid strategy (I recently wrote about Why a Hybrid Amazon Strategy is More Important Than Ever). You can also choose an exclusive retail model or you can sell directly to Amazon. Regardless of which path you choose, make it your choice and do it with purpose. Some strategies are better than others, but they are all better than no strategy.

Become a Great Marketer: Five years ago, successful brick-and-mortar brands could rely on their brand awareness to translate into growth on Amazon. Not any more. Today, you have to be a great marketer. Create an advertising strategy and allocate a budget. Don’t have the right internal digital marketing resources? No problem. There are plenty of great Amazon marketing agencies that can do this for you, at very affordable prices. In any case, the days of free and magical Amazon growth are behind us. You need to allocate money towards advertising and you need to do it effectively.

Control Your Brand: If you want to be successful on Amazon, you must have control of your brand. You can’t rely on a nebulous web of unknown third-party sellers to have your brand’s best interest in mind. Here are some of the top things you can do: 

  1. Create your Brand Registry account to control your content and protect your trademark. 
  2. Implement a MAP or authorized retailer policy to protect your brand equity and integrity. 
  3. Gain control of the content that is on the listing pages. 
  4. Decide how promotional and advertising dollars are spent. Take control. It’s your brand.

Clean Up Your Listings: Your listings are your position on the shelf. Poor content, duplicate listings and random multipacks will only cause consumer confusion. Treat your listings like you would ask a merchandiser to manage your shelf at a brick-and-mortar store. Create beautiful, educational and SEO-friendly content. You can do all of this yourself, through a third-party seller partner, or by hiring an Amazon brand management agency.

Track Your Sales: This may be one of the most important things you can do as a company. By design, Amazon is a fragmented retail channel. Let’s pretend you sell to Target. If you want to know how much you sold to them in one quarter, you add up all of your Target POs during that time period, and voila!  On Amazon, it’s not that straight forward. Even if you sell directly to Amazon, your listings can have dozens of third-party sellers. You probably don’t know where those third-party sellers purchased your inventory, making quantifying your brand’s Amazon wholesale or retail consumption sales almost impossible. Thankfully, there are a few companies out there that can help you bridge that gap and give you your total brand sales on Amazon. Find the right data provider and leverage this data to guide your growth. As they say, you don’t know where you are going, unless you know where you’ve been.  

Hopefully, you have talented people in-house that understand the intricacies of Amazon. Some of those skill sets include a digital marketer, D2C fulfillment manager and an Amazon channel manager. If these people don’t exist within your company, don’t be afraid to look for help. There are plenty of knowledgeable agencies out there that can help you navigate this channel, and they usually charge below what it would cost a company to hire and do this in-house.  

Expert advice will help position your brand for success. View Amazon as an opportunity rather than a threat. If you do things right, once the COVID-19 dust settles, you will be ahead of your competitors and on a path to success!