I resolve to sell my product on Amazon in 2019 – WHERE TO BEGIN [Velocity Amazon Strategy Series]

Author: Christa Klausner

Is launching your product on Amazon on your list of New Year’s resolutions? Or is optimizing your brand’s presence on Amazon part of your 2019 eCommerce road map? If not, it should be.

According to eMarketer, Amazon’s online sales grew nearly 30% in 2018, outpacing total US retail ecommerce’s growth by 16%. What’s more, Amazon took almost half the share of retail ecommerce sales in the US. And 2019 is looking even bigger. Let’s make sure you get a part of that pie.

Success on Amazon is highly dependent upon understanding its inner workings, knowing what they expect from you, properly setting up your internal operations and logistics and strategically leveraging the tools available to vendors and sellers.

In a new series of articles we will be sharing with everyone, we outline various tools, processes and considerations for either launching or optimizing on Amazon.

Where to Begin?

Conducting an audit of your current presence and of the competitive landscape will give you a view into the current situation on the platform and can help identify specific opportunities for launch or optimization.

  • Who is your competition? It might be different than you think.
  • Insight on your competition. Where, what and how they are selling.
  • Current ASIN performance. What areas can immediately be improved?

New to Amazon?

Gathering information from the competitive landscape will help you make important launch decisions once you get a bit further along in the process including. Details including category selection, price, marketing and merchandising, product listings, content, pack types and selling channels, are a few of the important criteria to evaluate when auditing the landscape.

If are you already selling on Amazon…

If you have already launched on Amazon, conducting an Amazon Product HealthScoreTM(PHS) can help identify specific areas to focus on in order to improve your Amazon brand presence, product awareness, traffic and overall conversion. Velocity’sPHS is a proprietary process that takes a quantitative and qualitative analysis of an individual SKU’s health on Amazon. The process analyzes creative, SEO, inventory management, third-party sellers and merchandising & marketing, and assigns a score to each area, on a 5-point scale. The lowest scoring areas identify the immediate areas of opportunity for improvement.

Evaluate CONSTANTLY

Conducting a PHS on a monthly basis can provide an ongoing look at your individual ASINs performance and continuously provide insight for areas for improvement.

Competitive audits should be conducted monthly or quarterly in order to stay on top of the rapidly changing landscape on Amazon.

Velocity Knows Amazon

Velocity currently conducts competitive audits and Amazon Product Health Score for a variety of clients at varying cadence. Please reach out to either Christa Klausner or Rami Odeh so you can learn more about what YOUR health score is.

Amazon’s Customer-centric Evolution—What Amazon’s predictive AI means to Manufacturers and Brands

Author: Rami Odeh 

We already know Amazon is a customer-centric company, and quite possibly the most customer-centric company in modern day history.

Amazon prides itself on focusing on the customer—period.  But even now, the company is evolving into something…more. Recent changes and announcements from Amazon indicate that the next era for Amazon is approaching—or in some cases, already here—focusing on predictive AI feeding its efficiency and profitability.

Let’s be honest, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, is a visionary with a master plan and that somewhere in his R&D department, predictive ordering will be coming very soon.

Huh? Said differently, Amazon’s artificial I intelligence (AI) will use past data to predict your future needs.

Bezos Knows You More Than You Do.

Amazon knows its customers VERY well.  Some would argue that Amazon’s data on its customers is unmatched to any other company (or even any government agency).  Amazon’s AI has reached a point where it is able to make some bold moves based on the confidence of their data.   Amazon not only will predict what a customer will order before they even think about it, this predictive AI is essentially picking which products and ultimately brands will succeed before they even launch!

In other words, Amazon has so much confidence in its ability to predict the future, they will be able to tell brands notto launch products, and what products customers actually want before it even happens.  This can have some huge implications for brands in terms of production, demand planning, research and development, and even finances.  A brand can spend tons of money on R&D or production, only to find out that one of their main selling channels is rejecting the product because its predictive abilities already know the product will fail. Let that soak in for a second.

This ultimately means that Amazon is less of a level playing field for all sellers, and products success will be determined through predictive AI.  Evidence of Amazon’s confidence in their predictive AI can be found in the following events that lead us to believe that the is time is now.

Amazon Apple deal–  Apple is selling on Amazon directly, and Amazon is removing other distributors from selling Apple products.

Amazon One Vendor– Amazon is approaching supply chain in a new way where they are dictating if a brand will be a vendor or seller. 

Amazon CRaP Clean-Up– Amazon removing CRaP items from its catalogue, forcing manufacturers to refresh packaging, and kill production of less successful products.

Why AI?

We are entering an era where Amazon’s technology and algorithms are starting to do the thinking for the customer—as opposed to a customer having to choose brands, products and sellers on her own.  Amazon is confident with its own data to dictate products, pack types, sellers, vendors, fulfillment and even brands to be sold on its site.

Some would say that Amazon is going to a more traditional retailer model; I would argue that Amazon is doing its best Walmart meets The Matrix mash-up to create a mass retailer model that is infused with technology and data.

The bottom line?  Amazon has reached a point of confidence in their predictive AI where they are able to make supply chain decisions for manufacturers, and fulfillment methods in the name of customer-centricity.

Velocity. believes that there is common ground where Amazon, the customer, and a manufacturer can profit.  Want to talk about what you can do to be on top of the upcoming changes?  Reach out to us here with questions.

“TALK” ABOUT A BUSY HOLIDAY SHOPPING SEASON— V-COMMERCE JUST GETTING STARTED. ARE YOU READY?

Author: Joe Scartz

We are already anticipating the largest digital commerce holiday shopping season of all time this year. Digital Commerce is set to account for $123.73 million out of the roughly $1 trillion dollars that will spend this holiday season at retail, according to eMarketer.

Voice, while a fractional amount of that total currently, is accounted for in the digital commerce number. The question is…how big can voice commerce (v-commerce) grow in the years to come and what should brands and manufacturers do about it?

 

The Landscape Today

Today, voice commerce is benefitting from broad adoption of software and hardware platforms and tools that enable voice shopping. At VELOCITY., we divide this software and hardware into four primary categories: The voice assistant powering the experience (distributed through various devices), the pervasive smart phone, smart speakers, and IOT as a category.

The Voice Assistant

The four major AI players are Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri and Cortana. Nearly half of U.S. adults use voice assistants on their smartphones, but also through IOT, laptops, tablets, cars and various other devices. Siri is the most widely used due to the iPhone followed by Alexa, Google Assistant and then Cortana. However, Amazon and Google clearly lead in proliferation and usage of smart speakers (Echo and Google Home specifically).  More on that  in a moment..

The Smartphone

We all know that the smartphone has reached critical mass (particularly in developed countries). What is important for v-commerce is that AI and voice assistants are being embedded into the user experience on these phones more seamlessly. Siri integration was a major component of ios 12. Earlier in 2018, Google announced that 95% of Android phones will  be reached by Google Assistant. Clearly the two biggest players in the smartphone world want their assistant to be the center of your relationship with their hardware and software.

The Smart Speaker

It is anticipated that the Google Home and Amazon Echo (all variations) will be two of the hottest selling items this holiday season and throughout 2019. As of June, 2018 20% of U.S. households own a smart speaker and Deloitte expects 63% growth next year globally.

 

The Prospects for Growth

As we have seen, the technology and the platforms for continued growth in voice are established. So, what are the commerce opportunities for voice?

Some firms have predicted that voice will grow to $40 billion dollars in the U.S. and U.K. by 2022. This is significant, when you consider that those two countries are leading nations in adoption of voice globally. Therefore, brands need to be prepared. In a world where one or a firm search results on Amazon or Google, or even Siri could limit your brand exposure, optimizing for voice today; not tomorrow, is your best bet. Measure your voice readiness on a brand-by-brand and product-by-product basis now. The future of search and brand engagement via voice has arrived.

Mobile World Congress 2018

In many ways, this year’s Mobile World Congress was an evolution, not a revolution, but none-the-less the show provided a very important peak into the not-too-distant future of mobile experiences and connectivity. Here are a few of the highlights:

5G:  Like the past couple of years MWC was highly focused on what a 5G future will look like. The promise of an ultra-fast and reliable mobile network like 5G is easier to envision when you consider that 5G is estimated to be more than 10X faster than current 4G networks. In essence, that means consumers will be able to download a full-length HD movie in less than a minute. More importantly, it means that all of the technology advances we are currently being promised like smart cities, autonomous vehicle fleets, IOT, OTT 4k / 8k video services, and rich AR/VR experiences will find a home beyond WIFI, and that is critically important if we are to move a distributed experience society.  The big news in 5G is that we now have dates for its gradual rollout. Sprint announced that it will be bringing 5G networks to six cities (Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston) by April, and T-Mobile announced that it will begin building out 5G across 30 cities this year.

AI:  Artificial Intelligence is the buzzword that can’t quit giving and that was rather evident at MWC 2018. Still, there is some truth in the marketing spin around AI, even on the trade floor. The latest Samsung flagship smartphones (the S9 and S9 Plus) were revealed and were built with AI in mind, quite literally. Samsung’s virtual assistant – Bixby – is integrated tightly into the phone and allows for image recognition, translation, and is much more useful than the first edition of Bixby. New chips from Qualcomm and others were built to allow for AI processing and most manufacturers touted some kind of AI support. The real test of AI, beyond the spin, will be if computers can get smarter and faster in delivering seamless, personalized experiences to the consumers. If they are, then what we saw at MWC will live up to its hype….

Time will tell.

Other tidbits:  Oath announced AR ad formats, bezels on your smartphone are disappearing for good, Nokia re-released the banana phone, Android Go gained steam and there was a human-sized autonomous drone on display at Innovation City. The future is look faster and smarter than ever before.

 

Author: Joe Scartz | TPN Chief Digital Commerce Officer

Amazon Wants to Own Your Home

In the past several years Amazon has moved from your desktop to your mobile to your home speaker to your home broadly and now to your front door. Amazon is buying smart doorbell maker Ring for a reported $1 billion.

The move makes perfect sense as:

  1. Amazon continues to play a massive role in the smart home market and Ring was already integrated as a partner.
  2. Amazon probably arrives at your front door more than any other delivery service or friend or family member, (other than possibly the US Postal Service)
  3. They have already let it know that they want more frictionless entry into your home via Amazon Key for delivery

As Amazon continues their seemingly relentless quest to embed themselves into all the cracks of life, its evident that they are looking to enable everyone to shop as they go through their day, but obstacle-less delivery across the board. So in sum, Amazon has added a key element in the smart home ecosystem and a technology with an installed base that will further accelerate the user satisfaction and growth of their core e-commerce business.

Using AI to Provide Shoppers With Guidance & Personalization

Artificial Intelligence is now being used by B&M retailers for everything from supply chain management to personalized apparel recommendations. Knowing that shoppers want guidance and personalization, smart retailers are using AI engines to create style pairings for shoppers, while also factoring things in like inventory levels and seasons. Then, these pairings can easily be applied to every shopper touchpoint. The result: sales. And, resulting analytics can then be used to refine the strategy and product mix.

TechDMC – February 5, 2018 from TPN on Vimeo.

Digitizing Your Brick and Mortar: Where to Start

If you’re looking to bring digital into your brick and mortar, but don’t know where to start…. don’t worry, you’re not alone. With the ever-changing digital landscape and expectations of today’s always-on connected shoppers, retailers everywhere are facing the same challenge. So, where do you start?

The simplest answer is that in-store digital should be leveraged to solve a current problem. Today’s consumers are more informed than ever before and are mobile focused. They have higher retail experience expectations and demand personalization. Digital technology can come in a variety of forms to meet these needs, but without a clear objective, even the best technology can have low adoption by your staff and customers.

Digital can be a solution when you need to:

  • Reframe your customer’s experience – from neutral or negative to positive
  • Create an immersive environment – make your customer’s aware of their options
  • Empower your staff – reduce turnover and instill trust to your team
  • Integrate the technology systems and channels – connect the in-store experience to the pre and post store visits

Whether you are looking to bring in digital display screens, data capture technologies, mobile order and pay, digital check-in, interactive selling or simply wish to improve your customer’s in-store experience through their mobile device, bringing digital in-store does not have to be daunting. The first step is to determine what problem digital may help solve based on your needs and budget.

There is no digital “silver bullet.” First set your goal, then evaluate various digital technologies to find what’s best for you and your brand. Identify what you can learn from digital and develop a measurement plan.

And remember, “going digital” does not mean your traditional signage should be removed. A balance of the two can create an optimum in-store experience.

 

Written by: Dan Chiado, TPN Account Director

 

 

 

Hotwire’s Handle on FOMO

Missing out on something awesome is a total bummer. It leaves you feeling hopeless, disappointed, discouraged. It’s the sort of sorrow that drains you until you reach a point where you confront yourself and say, “Never. Ever. Again.”

The people at Hotwire know this pain. And they know exactly how to use it.

But that’s not a bad thing…

Hotwire loyalists love the rush of adventure and journey into the unknown. If you’ve never booked a hotel on the travel site, it comes with a catchy quirk — all hotels are booked blindly — you don’t know where you’ll be staying until after you pay—but the mystery doesn’t stop there. 

Those in the loop to receive Hotwire emails receive regular Mystery Deals throughout the week. Even if the recipient isn’t looking to travel, the email still triggers curiosity — a tactic that could inspire spontaneity, or simply keep Hotwire top of mind. In other emails, urgency comes into play, as many of Hotwire’s Hot Rates live under a running clock. When time’s up, the deal goes down and customers miss out on what could have been.

Often times customers land spectacular stays at a great savings. Millions love it.

So whether it’s a mystery offer or ticking timer, Hotwire makes FOMO a fun thing with a stroke of suspense, drama and gamification.

It’s a smart play that their passionate customers not only seek, but appreciate, too.

What We Expect to See From Amazon in 2018

At this point, its clear that Amazon has become more than just another e-commerce company that we all shop from. They are also a digital content provider, research destination and marketing channel. And, with their first brick and mortar opening to the public earlier this week, their bigger step into grocery last year and other recent innovations, everyone seems to be watching and wondering what’s next. Based on what we know and are seeing, here’s what we expect from Amazon in 2018: Sensor Replenishment, Voice and Camera-Enabled Machine Learning.

Continued Alexa Growth

Amazon Alexa is growing at a faster rate than any other voice platform. Today Alexa is used mostly for Setting timers, playing songs, reading the news, and shopping.  Shoppers that utilize Alexa purchase 30% more than Prime members that do not utilize alexa, and 70% more than non-Prime members. With this much potential growth, Amazon looks to be doubling down on voice. We expect to see continued aggressive discounting on the device to get the Amazon Echo into more homes and continued improvements and skills.

Amazon Dash Replenishment Program – More Automatic Reordering

Early 2018 Amazon announced that several manufacturers are producing smart products that integrate with Amazon to automatically reorder for consumables when supply runs low. 3M, Blustream, Epson, HP, and Kenmore are some of the key players in this program. It is expected that several more devices will follow suit.

Amazon’s Dash Replenishment leverages multiple sensors to analyze when a consumable is running low inducing a buy order to replenish the product before it runs out.  Printing paper, ink, laundry detergent, and coffee are some of the products that will be available through Amazon’s Dash Replenishment.

Machine Learning Video Camera

Amazon is capturing voice. So, what’s next? View. Amazon has technology that they are releasing to developers to utilize Machine Learning-enabled video cameras. We know Amazon is obsessed with tracking through sensors, and now they will continue to develop on their camera tracking. The next step from here is to follow a similar path to Alexa, where amazon will offer the technology to be included in the manufacturers’ end so they can continue to dominate auto-replenishment and more.

 

Written by: Rami Odeh, TPN VP, Digital Commerce

Meet Me Where I Am

Technology and e-commerce have contributed to a monumental shake-up in shopping behavior. Shopping is no longer a deliberate, compartmentalized, discrete act. Today it’s something much different. It’s spontaneous, deconstructed, and integrated into the flow of everyday life. We are seeing more and more retailers with new store formats, new models and new ways of engaging consumers and shoppers. They are showing up in unexpected yet meaningful ways, creating engaging retail moments along the consumer lifestyle journey and are enabling shopping and the buy to happen anywhere.

Pop-up retail is a perfect example of meeting consumers everywhere they go (shopping-related or not). The craving for convenience quickly created a $50 Billion industry that stretches way beyond what we’ve traditional seen. From home decor Frontgate to retail behemoth Amazon, brands are actively experimenting with pop-ups. We now see mobile pop-ups that relocate to follow consumer traffic and pop-up store hubs that allow brands to rent temporary space creating an “always new” shopping experience. Some use pop-up formats as testing labs to learn about new product or technology potential. In return, brands get a unique opportunity to connect and interact with precisely a targeted audience before competitors do. Couple that with incredible distribution velocity and you get a bullet-proof recipe of success.

The battle for consumer attention reaches an entirely new level as brands bring retail everywhere consumers go, even into their homes. 

Meeting shoppers wherever they are is not limited to out-of-home solutions. Today, brands are bringing physical commerce to the most sacred place of all: our homes. Warby Parker’s try-on program means that you don’t have to stop by one of their stores to pick a frame: with up to five styles sent right to your home you can now choose your perfect fit without even stepping outside. And StitchFix business model is grounded in making your home a store branch: shopping pre-selected items and transacting is frictionless. We’ve already witnessed eCommence reaching extreme flexibility: online transactions are happening everywhere, as consumers do grocery shopping on a train, make restaurant reservations from their cars, and manage Amazon subscriptions while brushing their teeth. What we’ll see next is physical shopping becoming a true on-the-go deal, redefining what we used to call brick and mortar retail.

 

Written By: Elena Petukhova | TPN VP Planning