How to Start Selling on Amazon

As a First-to-Market (FTM) brand, you carry the exciting burden of readying your products for a successful expansion onto the marketplace. Being the captain of your fate can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming, especially when breaking ground in a foreign market.  

If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that anything can happen. It’s important to understand that there’s no ‘silver bullet’ for launching a new product or brand, but there are proven tactics recounted here to help you successfully navigate the ecommerce seas.   

Why Amazon? 

Amazon is turning into a marketplace that is well positioned for brands, as having made strides to keep brands safe on the channel through programs like Brand Registry. Amazon seems to understand and hold stock in the fact that brands invest in research and development, advertise through other media outlets, engage with customers, and create a shopping experience that excites folks so they come back for more.   

The Two Types of FTM Products 

An FTM launch will look different for each brand, but we can divide the launch types into two very broad buckets: emerging products and established products.  

Often, an Amazon launch consists of a manufacturer creating a product or products with specific intent to sell them on the Amazon channel only. We would call this an emerging product. 

Established products, on the other hand, are products that have been selling for years in small brick and mortar stores, large box stores, Etsy, direct websites, and even farmer’s markets, and the brand now wants to transition their catalog to online marketplaces.  

Brand genesis is an important factor that will play into a brand’s overall FTM strategy, so it’s an important distinction. 

farmer's market

Established Products 

For those brands who do have some form of exposure already, be it online or in a physical store, step one will be determining which products from your catalog will be added to Amazon.  

With the pandemic forcing many brands to look to online platforms to maintain profitability, there’s been a rapid and unique shift in the ecommerce landscape, so again, remember that the FTM strategy will look different for all brands.  

Emerging Products 

For manufacturers that are looking to create a product line exclusively for Amazon or ecommerce marketplaces, there are fewer ‘keeping everyone happy’ hoops and more ‘what products can I rely on to sell’ hoops, which is just as tricky of a situation.  

With roughly 12 million items on Amazon.com, you need to know who and what is out there before you drop your anchor. There is a range of free and paid options to help research product opportunities, which are highly recommended for existing brands and new products alike. 

Company owners often turn to index & rank checkers and search volume tools to ascertain what products currently sell well on the channel, then further research whether the items are viable for production, and then finally, launch.  

Getting That Paper. (Not the Green Kind. Yet). 

We’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t the sexiest section of this guide, but it could be the most important. Having your general business in order is key to avoiding frustrating lag times during set up.  

The enclosed checklist is a fantastic aid for maneuvering through this section, since the majority of the tasks discussed below will require you to work with government agencies and third parties to compile the necessary paperwork. We’ve included helpful links that will take you exactly where you need to go. 

  • Secure your trademark with USPTO. In totality, this process can take 6 months, so the earlier you begin, the better. You will need to have a trademark in order to file for the Brand Registry program on Amazon.  
  • Secure UPC codes (synonymous with barcodes and international EAN) for every unique product in your catalog. This includes product variations, like size or color.  
  • Certain products require testing and material information in order to be approved for resale on Amazon.  
  • Set up processes for tracking, storing, and filing sales and use tax. Once you are a registered business within that state, you will need to file a report annually with the Secretary of State and track the expiration date of your license so you can renew, as needed.  
  • Pull together all contact information, identification, and accounting paperwork necessary for opening an Amazon Seller Central account.  
  • Determine your fulfillment strategy, as the route you take will determine whether you get the highly sought-after Prime delivery badge. 

Download our free First-to-Market Checklist to see if your brand is ready to launch new products on Amazon.

Planning Logistics

Next up, it’s time to plan how you’re going to get inventory from point A to point B in the most effective and secure way possible. This became quite a bit trickier in 2020, which strained supply chains at every juncture. As such, approaching these steps with care is even more important.

Plan Early with Your Manufacturer 

Start planning with your manufacturer early to confirm availability of raw materials and start calculating cost of goods. Confirm lead-times with your manufacturer to assess timing for your initial shipments into Amazon, as well as align your future inventory planning ability for stock replenishment and gauging timing for any new product development. 

Apply Amazon-Compliant Packaging during Production 

For sake of efficiency, having your product packaging modified for Amazon compliance during production is highly recommended. Be sure to include expiration dates, shelf-life, age restrictions and UPC/barcode on the product packaging for Amazon. 

  • If you plan to launch on Amazon Global marketplaces in the future, include multi-language packaging and product directions 
  • If you sell temperature sensitive products, note that Amazon removes any meltable product from warehouses April-October

The actual product packaging (the box the product comes in), it doesn’t have to be pretty! Feel free to shave off some costs and use a plain brown box that has a scannable barcode on the outside. Or, if you choose to polybag the product, then you’ll need to make sure your warehouse can apply all product prep to be acceptable at FBA.   

Amazon FBA shipping requirements

Secure Your Distribution Contracts 

For brands that are established in the market already but looking to expand into the Amazon marketplace, you should notify your distributors and develop parameters to ensure other resellers do not become instant competition. Having iron clad online distribution policies and strict MSRP will be extraordinarily useful as your brand gains momentum on the channel and outside parties become interested in claiming a piece of the pie.  

There are legal resources and consulting partners that specialize in strategy development to keep online channels clean, such as Amazon Sellers Lawyer, that can help you understand your legal options and reduce the chances of channel conflict or price degradation post-launch.  

Create a Warehousing Plan 

Begin building relationships with a warehouse solutions partner quickly. Many brands will use an independent warehouse solution to hold stock that has been manufactured domestically or imported to reduce monthly storage fees to Amazon. Most often, independent warehouse partners will have a competitive fee structure compared to Amazon FBA.  

Product that sits at FBA longer than 12 months will be subject to increased fees under their Long-Term Storage policy. Other brands may lean on established supply chain partners like Deliverr to facilitate storage and shipping which guarantee Amazon compliance. 

Send a Small Initial Shipment 

Your initial shipment into Amazon should be small to help troubleshoot any unforeseen issues and reduce fees as you ramp up sales velocity. Roughly 20-50 units should suffice, with a secondary shipment sent 1-2 weeks after. Once product has been selling on Amazon for 30 days, subsequent shipments should include roughly 4-6 weeks of coverage, increasing upwards of 8-12 weeks during relevant seasonality.   

Time Your Launch Strategically 

Having time is a luxury. But timing is a necessity. Do not rush a launch for sake of excitementExamine your product and pick your launch timing with intent. Will your catalog align with the back to school season, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.? Kick off the main event when the opportunity is greatest 

Keep the Learning Going with our Free eBook

The above only tips only scratch the surface. Deep dive into everything your brand should do before launching on Amazon in our free eBook, “How to Launch New Products on Amazon.”



The Ultimate Guide to Prepare for Q4 on Amazon

Remember the days when Q4 was the focal point of the year for retailers? 2020 has certainly stolen that spotlight and pushed any semblance of normalcy to the back seat. But thankfully, the familiar panic of Amazon Q4 prep is slowly creeping back, and it’s go time.  

Year over year, restrictions on Amazon continue to increase, so it’s imperative that you start planning no later than late June. Which is now, folks! That’s why we’ve put together this prep guide. This guide will help you put Amazon Q4 prep back on the roadmap for 2020 and set yourself up for success. (Here’s hoping 2020 doesn’t throw us all another curveball – like locusts, that would be very bad.) 

Designate Leaders to Guide Strategy 

Your future success ties back to your team and partners. You need to start with a look at your internal teams. Who within your organization is taking ownership of Amazon? Does that person need additional support? Who are your warehouse and shipping partners? Do you have SLA’s in place that you can count on? Many brands turn to an expert partner to help fill those gaps, leaning on Amazon-focused digital agencies or retail partners that conveniently come with a fully stocked tool belt of standard operating practices and resources.  

Regardless of what your team looks like, you need to finesse and develop an org-chart that explicitly designates working procedures, growth targets, demand forecasting, warehousing solutions, and marketing per person. Your success is tied to those KPI’s, and your team should have them top of mind as well.  

If you don’t already, begin scheduling quarterly business reviews to allow for pivot time if the KPI’s are not lining up with targeted goals. Take inventory of segmented portions of your operation: What do stock levels look like? Have we heard of sourcing issues? What are our customers saying? Are there any product issues noted from reviews? What does your Amazon presence look like? How are advertising budgets performing? The answers to those questions will drive the strategic implementation and changes for the upcoming quarter and help position you well heading into Q4 on Amazon and beyond. 

Conduct a Content Audit 

In line with the basics, commence an audit of your catalog and corresponding creative assets. As Kaspien says, “People remember 80% of what they’ve seen and just 20% of what they read, which is an important reminder. At minimum, the top 20% of your product catalog should have Amazon-compliant and visually exciting A+ Content to boost shopper buying confidence. Then stroll on over to your Storefront – have you organized your product categories in a logical fashion? Is your brand story being portrayed to meet customers at an emotional level?  

Check out our on-demand webinar, 12 Amazon Marketing Opportunities & How to Use Them.

A+ Content and Branded Storeare one of the simplest ways to communicate who you are as a brand and reduce negative reviews. If you can write a big green check mark next to that advice, then take it one step further. Determine which products could use a ‘seasonal facelift’ and find ways to incorporate holiday themes into the gallery of your product detail pages. If you are a manufacturer of photo frames, could you photoshop a snowflake into the frame? Small changes to your organic marketing efforts can make a big difference when customers are scrolling through hundreds of products trying to find a gift. Simple images that naturally connect dots in our brain are a surefire way to stand out from the crowd. 

A+ Content Page on Amazon

AMAZON Q4 TIMELINE 

Determine Q4 Stock & Lead Times 

Do your due diligence hereThis is one of those tasks that will be critical for a brand to take ownership of. You need to know what your expected lead times will be, based on where your product is manufactured. And if that’s proving difficult due to the Coronavirus affecting predicted ship windows, you’ll need to be ready to invest in more expensive options. Air freight is the most expensive option, but it delivers results. Costs range greatly by product and day, and fees are based on “dimensional weight,” so cost also varies greatly by the volume you ship. Due to COVID-19, the costs of air freight have increased dramatically from where they were a year ago, so this should be a last resort.  

Get creative with your strategy and think outside the box. If you have sourcing issues with your manufacturer, look for unique ways to fill in the gaps. Are portions of the product or packaging not sustainable? Could you find a U.S. based manufacturer that can make the product out of recycled materials instead? Invest in new partnerships right now to ensure you don’t reach 10x growth without inventory to continue the trend.  

Some sellers have learned a hard lesson about tardiness in past years, and we’ve all learned from those mistakes. Amazon implemented key FBA holiday selling dates for Amazon.com that can act as a guide right now (given Amazon hasn’t realized 2020 dates quite yet) 

Amazon Seller Q4 Timeline with Key Dates

Apply to Applicable Categories ASAP 

New brands and products have an increased hurdle this year, as Amazon continues to increase its barrier of entry for some categories. Recently, our brands have experienced issues in gaining access to the Personal Safety and Household & Medical Supplies and Equipment categories, requiring them to apply and, in some cases, wait over a month for any response.  

Start this process immediately to ensure you gain access prior to using expensive shipping methods to get your product here in time. On this note, it never hurts to have a marketplace back-up plan. Is Walmart a good fit for your products? If so, begin the process of either finding a partner to help you launch there or apply on your own. For more information about Walmart, read our blog here.  

Use Prime Day to Inform Amazon Q4 Strategy 

While certainly not its primary purpose, Amazon does provide a convenient holiday that is a perfect opportunity to analyze sales, brand visibility, and advertising performance – Prime Day! Prime Day is a phenomenal opportunity to get a peek into the future and collect data points that should be used to develop a Q4 strategy. The increased volume of shoppers, increased ad spend, and heightened opportunity to rope in new loyal customers creates a similar landscape to what Q4 looks like on Amazon – namely, weeks prior to Black Friday and up until December 15th. Check out our top 5 tips for how to maximize Prime Day sales.

There are whispers that Prime Day will be moved to September, given the current situation, which is considerably later than past years July dates. While that reduces the time you have to use Prime Day stats to your Q4 advantage, don’t cut it short. Sources say there could be a ‘Summer Sale’ that can act as a great segue into Prime Day and thus provide two pools of data from which you can develop strategy 

Meltables Will be Accepted Starting October 15th 

There are a few additional key dates that are certainly worth sharing for the world of meltable products. Per a notice Kaspien received in April 2020, “[…] meltable inventory will not be fulfilled or accepted by Amazon fulfillment centers starting May 1, 2020. Meltable inventory will be accepted again starting October 15, 2020. ‘Meltable’ refers to heat-sensitive grocery, health, and personal care products that are eaten or swallowed, including chocolate, gummies, and probiotics.” Brands that fall into this category should work backwards, using their lead time, to understand when inventory should be prepped and ready to send back into FBA. 

AMAZON MARKETING FOR Q4 

Create a Product-Level Advertising Strategy 

If ever there was a secret sauce for Amazon, advertising is it. Amazon Advertising is one of the most profitable areas of Amazon, and Pivotal Research reported that, Amazon is expected to reach $38 billion in advertising sales by 2023.” If something is making Amazon money, you need to pay attention to it, because you can guarantee they are.  

Many brands find this planning metric quite difficult, given the variety of aspects that span budget constraints, inability to see into the landscape future, and catalog size. To avoid a drinking from the firehose situation, go back to your basic target planning. If you have a partner, sit down with them and discuss what your high-level goals are. Use resources around you to understand target ACoS, ROI, ROAS, and budgets. Spend some time doing the math to understand your per product margin, and work backwards to figure out how much you’re willing to spend on customer acquisition. 

Watch our on-demand webinar about How to Create High-Performing Amazon Ad Campaigns.

Many brands fall victim to assigning one target for their entire catalog, but if you have multiple products with varying price points, then you should be developing an advertising strategy at the product-levelA product that’s 5% over the target ACoS needs to be optimized differently than a product that’s 20% over the target ACoSEven if your target ACoS is the same across the board, varying price points necessitate a product-level strategy. A $10 product with a 10% target ACoS needs to be optimized differently than a $100 product with a 10% target ACoS. 

Amazon PPC Management Software Can Help

This is no small feat, so find time and cost saving tools to help you do this. We’ve even built one: Kaspien AdManager. Our 30-day trial allows brands to test our strategies and see results before committing to a subscription. Explore your resources and network with others in the industry to help yourself.  

Request a demo

Work Backwards from Goals 

To understand performance and refine strategy, you’ll need to track advertising KPI’s. Start with goals: Define when you will bid up and bid down, how you’ll mine high-converting search terms and at what frequencyin what ways you will identify low converting keywords to be added as negative keywords, and finally, what your daily spend budgets need to be in order to work within your product level marginRemember, Amazon only gives you advertising data for about two months, so find a way to store this insight and lean on the findings once Q4 rolls around. 

Use Amazon Promotions Before Q4 

Seemingly overshadowed by the power of Amazon Advertising are evergreen marketing tactics that deserve a fighting chance: Promotions! Start running promotions now, collect the data, store it, and analyze it. Lean on a combination of tactics, including coupons, Deals, BOGOs. While each targets a different subgroup of shoppers, you’re gaining insight into what lowered price points increase sales and which promotion types yield successful results and should be used during Q4. Hot tip: Today’s Deals during Q4 are about as crowded as B&M stores on Black Friday, so think about using other promotions, like coupons, to help carve out a space for your products in the rush.  

beauty products with a bow

Advertise Beyond Amazon 

Additionally, one of the most successful tools Kaspien has used to circumnavigate the crowded Deals section during Q4 is off-Amazon advertising. Inventory your visibility on other platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc., and start A/B testing ad types on those platforms. While some categories are better fit for social advertising, don’t be afraid to get creative here. Who would have thought that a face shield would be a prized holiday gift? Use that to your advantage and sync up with partners in the space to help build content and advertise your product in ways that you hadn’t previously 

Social media marketing for Amazon

Influencers are another incredible way to call out to both niche and major segments of the population and get eyes on your brand. Many brands halt at the thought, thinking their products just aren’t a great fit – but you’d be surprised. And you don’t have to spend a fortune, tapping into micro influencers can be a powerful option.  

Take this example:
Watchmaker Daniel Wellington is known for collaborations with fashion and travel influencers, but the brand also frequently works with CanadianBros (@CanadianBros), an Instagram account for two dogs named Jasper and Louie. Though dog lovers isn’t an obvious audience for a watch company, the fact that the account has featured Daniel Wellington on more than one occasion indicates it’s working. In one post, Louie gazes up at his owner who just happens to be wearing a Daniel Wellington watch. Like many of the account’s other posts, the caption is from the pup’s point of view.  

The big bonus here is most influencers allow brands to have rights to the content they develop which can be used on your direct sites, social pages and even Amazon. 

More free resources

Q4 Planning Starts Now 

We are living in a different time, and while nothing is certain, being a brand on Amazon puts you at an advantage during the holidays. Customers can shop from the safety of their couch, and you can help put a smile on the face of recipients around the country. 

Think of the extra time you have as an opportunity to really give Q4 2020 the planning it deserves. Sit down with your teams, cultivate your goals, develop new relationships, and talk reality with your suppliers. Look at your products through a new lens, play around with organic marketing tactics, and take the time to implement an advertising strategy that spans both marketplace and beyond. The time is now. And if you need support, you can always reach outWe’d love to chat about your goals and the tools and services we have to help you reach them. 

Happy Q4 planning!