Can The Coronavirus Boost ECommerce Traffic In 2020?

Can The Coronavirus Boost ECommerce Traffic In 2020?

It’s no exaggeration to say that most of us are currently feeling the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in one form or another. Some of us quite profoundly. Fears are at an all time high, and justifiably so. But with global health officials encouraging social distancing and self-quarantining it may be fair to ask: what sort of effect will the coronavirus have on the retail sector over the next few months?

 

We’ve already seen a fundamental shift towards the digital marketplace over the past fifteen years, with consumers being driven as much out of convenience as a growing technological dependence. As early as 2019, a report issued jointly from Nielsen and FMI indicated that 74.7 million American households are expected to be omnichannel shopping from the same retailer by 2025. But what does it mean for consumer behavior when that shift is driven by need, not choice?

 

ECommerce sales in the U.S. were estimated to be over $187 billion for the fourth quarter alone; an increase of 28 percent from the previous quarter and representing an increase of almost 15 percent from 2018. And it’s fair to say that’s a result of the holiday season. But eCommerce sales as a whole have also gradually spiked over the past ten years—well in excess of 400 percent

 

Consumer behavior is largely a question of routine, and the coronavirus is anything but routine. As early as last year, eCommerce was predicted to increase by almost 13 percent to a total of $666.8 billion. But 2019 didn’t anticipate a global health crisis. And while it’s too early to tell how the U.S. retail segment will fare in the coming months, there are positive indicators of global growth in eCommerce as a whole.

 

      • A survey from IPSOS released earlier this month indicates that China and Italy—the two countries most affected by COVID-19—are reporting increases of consumers using eCommerce to purchase items normally bought in-store by 50 and 31 percent respectively. The same survey among American consumers indicates a growth of approximately 23 percent.

We’re not suggesting that short term spikes are indicative of long term growth. First quarter reports for 2020 haven’t even been released yet. But retailers have also never faced a global crisis of this magnitude in well over 100 years. There’s a very good chance that some of them simply won’t survive in spite of their best efforts to embrace digital shopping. But there’s an equally good chance that the retail industry will thrive in the most unexpected segments as our familiarity and comfort with technology becomes more pronounced. The future remains unwritten and no one can predict just how drastically the coronavirus will affect consumer behavior.

 

But it’s up to all of us to adapt to the future. Let’s just hope it’s a healthier one.

 

 

Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.
How Will COVID-19 Affect Amazon Vendors?

How Will COVID-19 Affect Amazon Vendors?

 

The coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent economic uncertainty may have affected all of us, but retailers have been particularly impacted by the recent crunch. At least 150 publicly traded companies, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, HP and Visa have already warned investors of a significant economic hit during the second and third quarters of 2020 since the global outbreak. But the impact isn’t solely limited to physical retail outlets. Even digital platforms are likely to feel the pressure in the coming weeks. 

Amazon in particular. While the eCommerce giant may have announced an expected increase in sales over the past few months, much of that increase can be directly attributed to the increased demand for essential household goods and medical supplies—with the resulting shortages driving both public demand as well as panic. The result, as Amazon has indicated, has meant “temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers.

It seems like a reasonable solution; particularly at a time when over 5,000 separate incidents of drastic price gouging on essential products have been reported by state attorney generals and consumer protection agencies. There’s just one problem for vendors and sellers of non-essential items:

For products other than these, we have temporarily disabled shipment creation. We are taking a similar approach with retail vendors. This will be in effect today through April 5, 2020, and we will let you know once we resume regular operations. Shipments created before today will be received at fulfillment centers.

 

Who Is Affected By The Suspension?

It’s important to remember that this temporary suspension only applies to merchants who are currently using Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) services—which is likely going to be many of you reading this. All other Amazon services, such as Fulfillment By Merchant (FBA) or Seller-Fulfilled Prime (SFP) are exempt since you’re not actually using Amazon’s internal fulfillment network; and it’s quite common for merchants to use both Amazon’s network as well as their own fulfillment services. Hybrid Seller Central accounts are fairly easy to set up, and can actually provide you with a greater profit margin in spite of less convenience.

But even with this exemption, non-essential product orders are likely going to see temporary pauses as a result of Amazon’s change in prioritization.  But what constitutes an essential household item? Amazon has given the following examples:

  • Baby Products
  • Beauty & Personal Care, including personal care appliances
  • Grocery
  • Health & Household
  • Industrial & Scientific
  • Medical
  • Pet Supplies

As you can see, many of those items can be interpreted fairly broadly. It just happens to leave out apparel, books, consumer electronics, entertainment and luxury retail product listings. All items that have historically been top sellers for Amazon merchants.

 

Is The Measure Needed?

In times of a global medical crisis, it’s understandable why Amazon needs to focus on the quick replenishment and delivery of essential household items—particularly given the shortages reported in regions hit the hardest by the coronavirus.

However, some merchants have critical items that can help during this global pandemic but are not allowed to ship into Amazon. Still, other merchants are wondering if they’re missing out on a potential sales advantage; particularly in the U.S., where state and federal officials are doing everything in their power to encourage remote work for non-essential employees. Yet reports appear to have indicated that many sellers of non-essential goods have seen their sales drop by 40% to 60% on Amazon in the past three weeks alone as discretionary spending becomes less of a priority for many consumers. In fact, some have reported seeing 40 to 60 days worth of inventory in stock, necessitating an entirely new refocus of their own sales strategies.

 

How Drastic Is The Measure?

While the suspension isn’t an outright prohibition or ban, the window between now and April 5th can seem like an unbearably wide one; particularly when maintaining first quarter revenues seems so positively vital given the current economic state. 

But even given the uncertainty and constantly evolving status of an epidemic that could potentially last for months on end, it’s important for merchants to remember that Amazon’s solution is far from permanent; nor is FBA the sole fulfillment service to sell with. In fact, Amazon isn’t even the sole eCommerce platform currently available. Learning how to navigate a crisis has always been the hallmark of an intelligent business, be that through marketing strategization, supply chain management or product development. Amazon’s product orders depend on public demand—and meeting that demand during an economic crisis requires booth foresight and adaptability. Don’t rely solely on Amazon’s FBA to drive that demand. Focus on the quality of your product, not its culpability. Customers can see the difference. Even when you can’t.

 

Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.

 

How Do I Activate My Amazon Product Listings Report?

How Do I Activate My Amazon Product Listings Report?

One of the more common dilemmas for any Amazon seller is a question of predictability. It’s not just sales predictions you’re concerned with. Predictability in shipping times. Seasonal interest. And the predictability of your inventory tracking and performance.

Amazon Seller Central doesn’t necessarily make it much easier for you. Making mass changes to your product listings requires some fairly time intensive manual uploading—time you don’t necessarily have to spare remembering search terms, bullet points and descriptions.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to keep track of your pertinent product listing information. It’s called Amazon’s Product Listing Report. It allows you to download all the relevant product information you need to make informed inventory listing changes. 

If you’re a seasoned Amazon seller, you may have wondered where it went to. It hasn’t necessarily gone away; it’s simply no longer a default feature. But accessing it isn’t quite as difficult as you’d think. In fact, it’s simply a question of customer support.

 

Steps to Activate Your Amazon Product Listings Report

  1. Log in to your Seller Central account.
  2. Select the ‘Help’ tab in the upper right hand corner. Select ‘Contact Us’ from the dropdown.
  3. Select ‘Your Account > Make changes to your account > Get help with a different account setting issue.’
  4. Open a ticket with Seller Support, preferably via live chatbot.
  5. Once your report is active, go to your ‘Inventory Reports’ in Seller Central. Ensure that one of the options includes ‘Category Listings Report.’ It should now be categorized by product.

Tips:

  • You must download a different report for each category if you’re selling in multiple ones.
  • The report is only available for 24 hours after activation.

 

What Information Does A Category Listing Report Contain?

There’s over 100 inventory-critical descriptions contained in Amazon’s Category Listing Report, including:

  • ASINs
  • Brand name
  • Color and color map
  • Currency accepted
  • Department
  • Image URLs
  • Item Type Keyword(s)
  • Key product features
  • Manufacturer’s suggested retail price
  • Parentage (if any) and relationship
  • Product length/height/width and weight
  • Product Description
  • Product ID
  • Product tax code
  • Shipping weight and cost
  • SKU

And just about every other relevant piece of information you need to revise or renew your listing.

 

Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.

Amazon A+ Content: How to Use It And Increase Conversions

Amazon A+ Content: How to Use It And Increase Conversions

It might seem like an obvious point to labor, but visibility is the cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy. But we don’t just mean greater traffic. We don’t just mean conversions. And we don’t just mean content generation. We mean a visibility that showcases your product line, your product brand and your product story.

Amazon can help you achieve that visibility through one of the most valuable features available for sellers: A+ Content.

But just what is Amazon A+ Content? How do you use it? And why should you evaluate it before launching your Amazon sales strategy?

 

What Is Amazon A+ Content?

In a nutshell, Amazon A+ Content (formerly known as Enhanced Brand Content) allows sellers to change product descriptions in their branded ASINs by integrating brand narratives, charts, enhanced images, text and even video to better inform potential customers. And customers have responded positively. In fact, a recent poll from Marin Software indicated that 85 percent of advertisers felt Amazon has played a decisive role in their marketing strategy since the feature was first introduced in 2016.

Amazon likes to claim that the A+ Content feature can result in higher conversions and an increase in sales—sometimes by as much as 10 percent. But they’re also notoriously tight-lipped about providing any statistical evidence. So before you consider A+ Content as an Amazon eCommerce solution, just consider the following:

Can Amazon provide you with statistical evidence proving A+ Content can increase conversions? Not necessarily. But with the examples given above, can you afford to doubt them?

 

 

Who Is Eligible For Amazon A+ Content?

Right now, A+ Content is available only to sellers approved by Amazon’s Brand Registry program as well as emerging sellers using select programs such as Amazon Launchpad. Once approved, you can begin to use A+ features to enhance your product listings in as little as 15 minutes. Perhaps more importantly? Under certain conditions, basic A+ Content solution. And while Amazon does have a paid premium version of A+ Content with an even wider array of features, it’s by invitation only.

 

 

How Do I Use Amazon A+ Content?

If you’ve been approved, there are two specific modules available for A+ Content users:

  1. Self Service: There are four levels to Amazon’s Self Service module for A+ content: Basic, Gold, Silver and Platinum. But for each, you’re expected to provide both content, copy,  layout and design yourself.  and each comes with a corresponding flat fee.
  2. Amazon Builds For You: Much like the Self Service module, Amazon Builds For You has the same four tiers of Basic, Gold, Silver and Platinum. It can be up to three times more expensive than Amazon Self Service; but Amazon will optimize layout and design work based on both your content as well as the sales history of similar items.

 

Content Guidelines For Amazon A+

  • Only products not listed on Amazon by another vendor are eligible for A+ Content promotion. At no point can a competitor or product be mentioned by name.
  • Much like other listings, Amazon reserves the right to remove or cancel your eligibility for A+ Content for any reason including service complaints, account closure or violation of Amazon’s code of conduct policies.
  • Vendors must submit all content required for A+ Content promotions within one month of confirmation of their eligibility.
  • A vendor has up to only two business days to edit or update any A+ Content once a listing has gone live.
  • A+ Content is limited to five or less product pages per seller.
  • All images and text must be original and entirely unique to the A+ platform and must depict the product or lifestyle activities associated with the product.
  • Inclusion of copyright, trademark or registered symbols is prohibited on Amazon A+.
  • Customer reviews and testimonials may be grounds for rejection for Amazon A+ standards, as are unverified claims and time sensitive promotions.
  • A+ Content has not been verified to boost SERP and will not be indexed specially as a result.

 

Ready To Take The Next Step With Amazon A+?