Jocelyn Macdonald advises brands on how to master the seven stages of growth on Amazon.
In 1938, American psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed the now-famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which envisioned human happiness as a series of stages. In order to pass through each stage, you more or less had to fulfill all of the previous ones – the idea is that you can’t seek inner enlightenment if you don’t have food on the table first.
Brands today are facing a similar situation with advertising on Amazon. While there are a bewildering set of advertising possibilities — automated, retargeting, demand side platforms (DSP), branded keywords, and so on — most of them aren’t a good idea unless a brand has mastered certain basics first. It doesn’t make much sense if you spend a lot to drive people to your product page, if the page itself isn’t ready to convert them into sales. And it doesn’t pay to do complex forms of targeting before you know your audience.
So, as a brief homage to Maslow, welcome to a brief hierarchy of needs for growing brands on Amazon.
Stage 1: Retail readiness
Retail readiness is the Amazon equivalent of having your doors open, your shelves stocked, and a friendly face behind the counter. Any product needs to have a full listing, with all relevant text, images, and keywords optimized for search. Ideally, you should also have at least 10 reviews of your product, which is critical for placement in search results.
Stage 2: Supply chain readiness
The very worst-case scenario for any brand is to spend money to drive people to your product pages when you are out of stock. In addition to missing sales and wasting valuable investment, it also creates a negative customer experience that people will remember. You never want to spend money to make a bad impression. Before trying out any ads, you should have a clear plan as to how you’re going to manage your supply chain, including visibility into everything from your manufacturer through to your inventory at Amazon warehouses.
Stage 3: Automated targeting campaigns
Next, you need to learn who your customers are and what they want. Automated targeting campaigns can help you start to understand conversion rates, cost-per-click (CPC) in your category, and what search terms drive results. While automated campaigns are typically more expensive than selecting keywords, they quickly help you build an understanding of your audience, which is necessary for moving forward.
Stage 4: Enhanced content
It’s essential to get your conversion rates up, and that means making the benefits of your products as clear as possible. If you haven’t done so already, it’s essential for you to create a brand store, complete with product videos, and take advantage of A+ content. Both brand stores and A+ content provide up-selling and cross-selling opportunities that enable you to increase your customer lifetime value (CLV) and justify further advertising investment.
Stage 5: Separating keywords
At this point, it should be clear that certain keywords are doing very well, and they should be moved to their own, manual campaigns (this is likely something that your advertising tools can do automatically for you). It’s also critical to build an understanding of match type, or how closely search terms need to match what people are actually typing.
State 6: Going for broke
If everything is going correctly, you should be a category leader, which means you should operate a little differently. On the advertising front, you can start targeting your competitors with brand-specific keywords in hopes of siphoning away traffic to your brand store. Or you can implement an intelligent, cross-selling strategy, launching products that are either adjacent to yours or ones that data tells you your audience may be interested in. This can again increase your customer lifetime value, which, in turn, allows you to look at your advertising budget in a more expansive light.
Stage 7: DSPs and beyond
It’s well known that Amazon rewards brands for driving new customers to the platform. A big way you can do this is to purchase ads across the internet and direct them to your Amazon listings. You can also create automated campaigns using demand-side platforms that enable demographic, behavioral, and other targeting to identify and reach your desired audience. Amazon can also provide data to target these audiences at scale.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all of the activities that you can do on Amazon, but it covers all of the highlights of successful product training on Amazon. If you’re just starting out, you should focus on the fundamentals.
As you grow, you can sustain that momentum by taking advantage of new opportunities for content and advertising. But no matter where you are in the hierarchy, it’s important to realize that each stage should serve as a foundation for further growth, and that each one should be nailed down firmly before moving on to the next.