Today we’re going to be shifting focus from creating Kickstarter success to looking at what happens post crowdfunding and how to make the most of it.
And there are many avenues successful products entrepreneurs can pursue – retail, ecommerce, as seen on tv…the possibilities are endless.
We’ve covered some of the advantages and disadvantages of each in previous posts in addition to strategies for finding the best fit for your company, goals and product, but today I’d like to speak to the opportunity of Amazon.
Private Labeling Products
Jeff Bezos originally launched Amazon with a singular purpose, the best price possible for consumers. It was meant to compete with traditional retailers in offering buyers everywhere a vast variety and diversity of products within the comfort and convenience of their homes….price wars and low margins dominated the early days and still do in some ways.
As the internet and entrepreneurial world have advanced however, businesses have started flipping the script. Where once product sourcing and manufacturing were worlds apart from most western entrepreneurs, the progression and growth of sites like Alibaba, AliExpress and Taobao have made it possible for savvy marketers to make a killing white labeling products.
And if you’re not familiar with private labeling it goes something like this. You’re an entrepreneur interested in turning a profit. You see XYZ product is making a killing and decide to get in on the action. You contact the manufacturer in China, India, or wherever they may be and work out a deal(for more on alibaba sourcing see this post).
You have your own branding and packaging designed, perhaps a few tweaks to the product and suddenly you have saleable, branded product to offer to consumers. Now find a channel, start marketing and build a business.
The Google of Goods
What is Amazon but a search engine – the most powerful product search engine in the world. And buyers everywhere increasingly go straight to Amazon, as opposed to Google to search and shop for things.
This is every entrepreneurs dream and turned the business of private label on its head. It’s a proven sales channel, a place where people ONLY go to buy and an incredible launch platform for success…especially after Kickstarter!
Buyer Behavior and Intent
Have you ever run PPC Adwords promoting a product or service? …it’s hard. Agencies are built solely to optimize company spends on Adwords but the thing is – not all browsers are buyers.
Click through rates(CTR) on google ads are awful. When your searching for “how to be a better golfer” you aren’t exactly excited to see ads for the latest sexy and super expensive Calloway, you really just wanted some tips and tricks of the pros to practice on your next round – there’s a MAJOR disconnect in intent and search results.
Amazon on the other hand works. Buyers come to buy and conversion rates are off the charts. Where typical ecommerce might expect 1% and be stoked by small increases, Amazon entrepreneurs routinely break the 10% mark and it’s all due to buyer mentality….when you need something you NEED it now!
Product fulfillment sucks. Packing and shipping product to customers is costly, time consuming and something you should consider outsourcing as soon as possible. And if you are considering selling on Amazon after crushing Kickstarter there’s even better news: Amazon FBA.
FBA or Fulfilled By Amazon is your secret strategy to scale your one man operation -it is something I myself do and will continue to use in my businesses. Here’s how it works: if you’re selling on Amazon you print an FNSKU or Amazon bar code and ship your products to their warehouses. Whether you send 10 units or 2000, simply ship them in and when sales happen their automated systems push product out to your customer.
This is really really nice when working to grow and scale your startup. You cannot dedicate time, resources and creativity to the steps needed to expand and build the business if you are worried about fulfillment every time an order comes in.
Note: If you don’t wish to use Amazon FBA then Shipwire is an excellent alternative.
Amazon as a Sales Channel
There’s a reason I’m so bullish about Amazon as a growth channel for business success – it’s almost entirely hands off. You create the product, ship it in and with good marketing are able to continually make sales in an almost passive way(REMEMBER – No businesses are truly passive!).
For inventors and product creators that means two things: it frees your time for new product development and it allows you to leverage systems for sustainable growth.
If you go the route of Amazon as an early growth platform following a killer Kickstarter campaign you need to get sales. As an entrepreneur, nothing keeps the business going as much as money and customers coming in the door. And just like more traditional ecommerce sites, there is three ways to do this: paid ads, organic traffic and repeat buyers.
Amazon’s Organic Ranking Algorithms
The biggest factor when looking at the success or failure of brands and products selling on Amazon is organic search rankings – if people can’t find you they can’t purchase your product!
So, what’s the 80/20 when it comes to ranking high and reaching larger numbers of Amazon’s product hungry base of users?
As of today, three factors play an enormous role in where you product shows up in Amazon, these are: product reviews, product sales and seller feedback and experience.
Product Reviews and Conversions
Social proof sells products – there is a reason I push testimonials so heavily, they truly count. This emphasis on reviews is elevated when it comes to Amazon.
As a rule of thumb, products with more reviews rank higher. It is just the name of the game. And Amazon does this for two reasons. First they’re interested in making money and product reviews boosts conversion rates….more buyers equals more commissions for them.
Second and arguably more important however is trust and track record. If you haven’t heard, Amazon makes very little profit(a lot of times the company actually loses money over the long haul due to investments in growth). And as ludacrious as this sounds, it makes sense in their shoes. Amazon wants to be the biggest, most reliable retailer in the world. That means customer service is incredibly important. They want sellers they KNOW will deliver quality results to their buyers.
So what does this all mean for you? It means if you decide to build a business on Amazon or use this channel as part of your product puzzle then you need a review system in place, something to gather these all-important reviews and show both Amazon and potential customers that you are a credible company with a sweet product.
The best tool I’ve seen for this(thanks to Scott Voelker for showing me) is FeedbackGenius. This simple automation system allows for post-sales email marketing and follow ups(like an autoresponder) and can help build your reviews organically.
Another great tactic is soliciting past Kickstarter backers who helped launch the company to leave reviews on your Amazon listing. Sure unverified(not tied to purchases made directly on Amazon) product reviews hold less weight, but they are still a strong tool for Kickstarter creators to utilize.
Paid Ads on Amazon
Another interesting aspect of Amazon which undoubtedly works in product creators favor is the powerful, transparent adverting platform built directly into Amazon. Unlike with Adwords, Facebook ads or any other type of traditional PPC advertisements, Amazon product ads give sellers exact data on an particular keyword’s success or failure.
By setting up both Amazon suggested ads and individual product or keyword postings you can quickly and profitably rank for relevant search terms buyers are looking for. All this means you get your newly launched Kickstarter brand in front of potential customers faster than traditional ecommerce channels. On top of that your listings will convert better, generate more sales and reviews and organically grow the reputation and exposure of your company online and off.
The Cons of Amazon as for Ecommerce
It’s not all roses and sunshine for Amazon based entrepreneurs however, there are some inherent challenges and it is important to be cognizant of these before jumping the gun and going all out on Amazon.
The biggest issue most business owners have with building upon existing channels is a loss of control. Whether it’s Amazon, Ebay, Etsy etc…when you are relying on another company or entity for a crucial part of your business success, things can backfire – it can be ugly.
With Amazon the potential headaches are definitely there. From changes in the algorithms eliminating sales, policy updates which put your company at risk and poorly handled fulfillment fueling a bad customer experience it is all possible.
Is Amazon a Channel for Your Startup Success?
Given all that, all we’ve covered on Amazon for product entrepreneurs and post-Kickstarter growth, is it a good idea for you?
While this of course is a highly personal decision and dependent on your situation, products and goals, but I’d argue Amazon is an incredible launch tool for Kickstarter companies. Plugging into that existing channel of customers and speeding the process to profitability is a sure-fire way to build a scalable, saleable business.
For me personally, I’ll be kicking off Shido Stand with Kickstarter and graduating quickly to Amazon FBA to build the business of better, more mobile standing desks for everybody. In my situation the location independent opportunities and ability to grow and expand the Shido product line with subsequent Kickstarter products puts this strategy squarely in my sights.
And just like with Kickstarter, as your company grows, scales and launches new product lines, your customers on Amazon will often times come along for the ride. Having more than one product on Amazon will boost the sales and success of both products, leading to more sales, reviews, credibility and success.
Say hello to the Kickstarter-Amazon ecommerce explosive growth flywheel.