Many B2B as well as retail sellers will learn the hard way that building a profitable business on Amazon requires more than simply listing items and waiting for sales, writes Ryan Faist of Channel Key. He offers a blueprint for making sales happen.

RyanFaist_ChannelKey

Ryan Faist

One of the most appealing aspects of Amazon, apart from its more than 200 million monthly visitors, is how relatively easy it is to set up a seller account.

Many sellers underestimate the importance of including optimized images for each product. The adage that an image is worth a thousand words is especially true on Amazon.

Unfortunately, this also happens to be one of Amazon’s greatest pitfalls—the illusion that if you list it, buyers will come. It’s one thing to become an approved seller, it’s quite another to generate meaningful sales. The latter requires a lot of work, which is why a virtually endless supply of resources exists to help sellers build a profitable business on Amazon—from blog posts and videos to courses and full-length books. Most sellers will, at some point, emphasize a term that has become increasingly prevalent within the Amazon discourse: retail readiness.

Although there is no official definition for retail readiness provided by a reputable and relevant source such as Amazon or the American Marketing Association, it essentially means that your product listings are fully optimized to attract, convert, and satisfy customers in an efficient and streamlined manner. This definition is admittedly vague, and a simple Google search will reveal competing interpretations.

Nevertheless, just about everyone agrees that the foundation of retail readiness as a concept is built upon several core principles. Below are the seven basic components of retail readiness that will best position your Amazon business for success on the world’s largest ecommerce platform.

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Great Product Detail Pages are 50% of Retail Readiness

The Amazon Services Quick Start Style Guide begins with the following statement: “The way you present your products influences a customer’s decision to buy your product on Amazon.” This is 100% true and a fundamental tenet of retail readiness. Customers cannot physically inspect products on Amazon the way they can in brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Instead, they have only the information you provide them. The quality of this information can and often does make or break a sale. It should be no surprise, then, that creating compelling product detail pages is half the battle of retail readiness. The following are the four main areas of a product detail page, along with best practice recommendations and guidelines for creating them.

1. Product Titles

The product title is the first thing customers see when they visit your product page. Therefore, your titles need to provide the right information. Since Amazon uses the words in product titles to display your products in search results, it’s important to include your primary keyword at the beginning.

It’s also advantageous to include relevant keywords, although this should be done in a way that enhances the title instead of crowding it with as many keywords as possible. Concise, informative, and relevant product titles will drive traffic to your product listings. Additional optimization recommendations include the following:

  • Capitalize the first letter of each word;
  • Do not capitalize conjunctions (and, or, for), articles (the, a, an), or prepositions with fewer than five letters (in, on, over, with);
  • Use numerals (2 instead of two);
  • State the number of items in a bundled product (pack of 10);
  • Keep titles under 200 characters;
  • Use only standard text; special characters or symbols like © will not display in the title;
  • Do not include price and quantity;
  • Do not use ALL CAPS;
  • Do not include information about yourself or your company (if you are the brand owner, you own the brand, include your brand information in the brand field);
  • Do not include promotional messages, such as “sale” or “free shipping”;
  • Use your seller name as the Brand or Manufacturer only if your product is Private Label;
  • Do not include subjective commentary, such as “Hot Item” or “Best Seller.”

2. Key Product Features

The second most important area in your product listing is the bulleted list of key features. This is your opportunity to showcase the unique benefits of your product. Most categories allow five bullet points. The best way to create compelling product features is to highlight the most attractive features and benefits of your product with clear, honest language. The following guidelines will help ensure your key features increase customer interest in your product:

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    • Keep each bullet point between 150 and 250 characters;
    • Highlight the top five features that you want customers to consider;
    • Begin each bullet point with a capital letter;
    • Write in fragments and do not include ending punctuation;
    • Write all numbers as numerals;
    • Separate phrases in one bullet with semicolons;
    • Spell out measurements, such as quart, inch, or feet;
    • Do not use hyphens, symbols, periods, or exclamation points;
    • Do not write vague statements; be as specific as possible with product features and attributes;
    • Do not include promotional and pricing information;
    • Do not include shipping, seller, or company-specific information.

3. Product Images

Many sellers underestimate the importance of including optimized images for each product. The adage that an image is worth a thousand words is especially true on Amazon. Since customers can’t touch, hold, or physically inspect your product, including compelling product images will help give customers a better sense of what they will receive in return for their purchase.

Your images should showcase as much information about your product as possible, including but not limited to different angles, infographics showing benefits and features, size/dimension charts, and lifestyle images that show your product being used in real-life situations. Use the following guidelines to optimize your product images for better customer experience:

  • Use pure white backgrounds;
  • Make sure images are at least 1,000 dpi so they remain clear when customers zoom;
  • Show the entire product, and make sure the product occupies at least 80% of the image area;
  • Include only what the customer will receive. If your image includes any of the following elements, you may receive a quality alert on your listing:
    • Borders, watermarks, text, or other decorations;
    • Colored backgrounds;
    • Drawings or sketches of the product;
    • Accessories or additional products not included in the offer;
    • Image placeholders, such as “no image available” text; (Amazon will provide a placeholder if you do not have an image for your product)
    • Promotional text, such as “SALE” or “free shipping”;
    • Multiple colors of the same product.

4. Customer Reviews and Product Ratings

About 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase, according to Spiegel Research Center. Upon visiting a product page, many customers will skip immediately to the first few reviews to determine whether they should read more. For this reason, building positive reviews is a core component to retail readiness.

This may seem paradoxical. After all, you need reviews to get customers, but you need customers to get reviews. Fortunately, Amazon has a few mechanisms in place to help sellers acquire reviews, including Amazon Vine and the Early Reviewer Program. While earning reviews can be challenging, sellers should earn at least 20 positive reviews for each product before considering them retail ready.

In 2019, Amazon enabled customers to rate a product without a written review. Under the star system, customers can rank products from one to five stars. Instead of simple average, Amazon calculates a product’s star rating using machine-learned models. While less influential on a customer’s purchasing decision than the number of positive reviews, sellers can safely consider their products to be retail ready once they have achieved a 3.5-star rating or higher.

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5. The Buy Box

It’s no secret that most purchases on Amazon take place via the Buy Box, the area to the right of a product listing that includes the orange “Add to Cart” and “Buy Now” buttons. Sellers of the same product compete over who will “win” the Buy Box, which Amazon determines based on several factors including price, customer shopping experience, order defect rate, and length of time selling on the platform.

Winning the Buy Box is essential to generating sales on Amazon and is therefore an important aspect of retail readiness. For brand owners, one of the easiest ways to secure the buy box is by enrolling in Brand Registry. Under this program, only brand owners can list their products on Amazon (as opposed to multiple resellers), effectively guaranteeing them the Buy Box for their entire catalog.

6. Enhanced Content

Another important benefit of enrolling in Brand Registry is the ability to create enhanced content. The A+ Content feature enables brand owners to further modify the product descriptions of branded ASINs. Using this tool, you can describe your product features with a unique brand story, enhanced images, and text placements. Adding A+ Content to your product detail pages can result in higher conversion rates, increased traffic, and increased sales. Registering your brand with Amazon provides you with additional benefits and tools not available to other sellers, including:

  • Amazon support for case management and resolutions;
  • Exclusive search and reporting tools;
  • Proactive brand protections;
  • Exclusive visibility options like Sponsored Brands, the Early Reviewer Program, and Vine.

7. Inventory

Inventory management is the final component of retail readiness. If you can’t fulfill orders, meet customer expectations, and adhere to Amazon shipping standards, you will face challenges—possibly even account suspension.

Brands should pay close attention to what products they anticipate selling the most, including organically driven sales and those resulting from paid promotions. Be sure to keep these items in stock by shipping inventory to Amazon well in advance of key shopping dates. Sellers who enroll in Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) should be mindful of inventory deadlines.

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Key Takeaway

If you dig deep into the global archives of marketing content, you might find the term retail readiness mentioned in some obscure context. As a concept specific to ecommerce, however, it didn’t begin gaining traction until a few years ago. Since then, the term has become ubiquitous among professionals leading the conversation about how to sell on Amazon—and for good reason. The platform is skyrocketing in popularity.

According to Statista, Amazon’s annual net revenue has increased 58% over the past three years. With this kind of growth comes more competition. Marketplace Pulse reports that more than 4.5 million sellers have joined Amazon since 2017. This equates to about 3,400 new sellers every day, all lured by the purchasing power of 200 million monthly shoppers.

Unfortunately, many will learn the hard way that building a profitable business on Amazon requires more than simply listing items and waiting for sales. Optimizing product listings with compelling content and images, acquiring customers reviews and ratings, securing the Buy Box, leveraging enhanced content, and managing inventory are just a few of the challenges to ensuring your products are retail ready.

Perhaps one day this concept will enjoy legitimacy on prominent Amazon seller marketing collateral or, more broadly, in the glossaries of ecommerce textbooks. Until then, retail readiness remains the most important unofficial term in the Amazon lexicon.

Ryan Faist is the Corporate Content Marketing Manager for Channel Key, a full-service channel management marketplace consulting agency. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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