Marketplace Madness: What’s Your Amazon Game Plan?

March 16, 2019

Digital Marketing Bradley Hearn By Bradley Hearn

When selling online, the Amazon search results page is pretty much the Big Dance. It’s competitive, unpredictable, and it can make or break your year.

But you’ve got your Amazon gameplan, right? Your e-commerce team is a well-oiled machine of marketplace best practices: proper categorization, SEO-friendly titles, proven keywords, optimized product descriptions, pricing strategies and more.

Not so fast.

Just when you thought you’ve bested every opponent with your marketplace experience, preparation and execution, another young upstart brand checks in and starts boxing out your listings.

Even when shoppers search for your specific products, your competitor’s name appears. It can be hard to keep up.

Welcome to Marketplace Madness. It’s like March Madness, except it’s every day of the year.

And success on Amazon often comes down doing one thing really well: Amazon Advertising.

Amazon Advertising achieves two primary goals for you as an Amazon seller:

  • Reaching new customers through more visibility
  • Protecting your brand space from competitors bidding on your brand terms

An advanced Amazon Advertising program has become “table stakes” for brands and retailers on Amazon. If you’re not paying to get your products seen, your competition certainly is.

Though Amazon still makes up a relatively small share of total digital advertising (4.1%) — compared to larger advertising giants like Google and Facebook — it’s gaining ground fast. According to eMarketer, Amazon is now the third largest digital ad platform in the US.

The fight for Amazon’s shoppers grows more competitive every day, and brands and retailers are responding by allocating bigger chunks of their budget to the marketplaces giant.

So where do you start?

Your Star Players

Amazon Sponsored Products

Lately, it can seem like the entire search results page consists of Sponsored Products.  

Amazon Sponsored Products is a keyword-targeted, cost-per-click program that can be used to promote individual listings. These ads appear alongside or above organic search results and are driven by search keywords you choose. Targeting with this type of accuracy gives you higher-quality clicks on your listings — since these shoppers actually searched for terms associated with your product — and will potentially yield a much higher ROI than many other cost-per-click programs.

Shoppers who click on these ads will be directed to your product detail pages.

Sponsored Brands (formerly Headline Search Ads)

If you’re a third-party retailer enrolled in the Amazon Brand Registry, Sponsored Brands is an impactful advertising option that will help you build brand recognition and drive more clicks. Sponsored Brands are often found above the search results, but can also be seen in other placements on Amazon.

These banner ads feature a customized design, a headline (think about your brand’s differentiating factor), your logo and a few product offerings.

This can be an effective way to reach consumers who are browsing but don’t yet know what they want to buy, and thus may be using broad keywords such as “sunscreen” or “sundresses.” Like Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands operate on a cost-per-click pricing model.

You can send interested consumers to your Store or a customized product page that includes a collection of your brand’s product lines.

Your Initial Game Plan

1. Start small and build from there

If you’re new to advertising on Amazon, start with some of your more popular products and use them to test the waters. Once you have a comfortable gauge on ad spend and ROI, expand your strategy.

The same applies to automatic versus manual keyword targeting. Try starting out small with manual keywords and slowly building up your glossary and your budget. That way, you’re not letting an algorithm pick keywords that aren’t optimized — and sometimes make no sense — and potentially blowing through your ad budget with no return. Start small, be strategic and slowly add in some of the automatic keyword suggestions after you’ve cultivated a good list of proven keyword coverage through manual choices.

2. Protect your side of the court

Does a competitor’s product show up when you search for your product? If so, that competitor is obviously bidding on your terms.

If a shopper is actually searching for your brand name, they’re likely pretty far down in the purchase funnel. Don’t let another brand swoop in and distract them. How? In addition to bidding up on necessary brand (and brand-related) terms, analyze search query reports and study how shoppers are finding your brand and your site. Perhaps you’ll discover a specific, popular term that you haven’t bid on. Also, think like a shopper and perform various searches on your brand. Complete the keyword puzzle. And above all, protect your brand space.

3. Set a clear “branded” versus “non-branded” keyword strategy

When auditing accounts for various retailers, we often come across promotions that have branded and non-branded keywords in the same ad campaign. Would you bid the same amount for your brand name as you would for a keyword that vaguely describes your product? No. There are huge performance differences between the two, and they need to be segmented in separate campaigns.

4. Use all your weapons

Like a good basketball team, you wouldn’t keep any good players on the bench and let one or two players do all the work. The same applies to your advertising strategy. Experiment with various combinations of Sponsored Products listings and Sponsored Brands in addition to all the optimization features available to you, including:

  • Category and ASIN-refined targeting within Sponsored Products
  • New-to-brand metrics
  • Placement bid adjustments
  • Dynamic bidding
  • New automatic campaign match types
  • Automated bidding within Sponsored Brands
  • Brand Stores
  • And more…

5. Find an experienced coach

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for advertising success. The key is simply to get started, experiment and align yourself with a team of e-commerce experts that can provide you with the experience, the technology and the scalability to compete on Amazon.

With ChannelAdvisor’s proven multichannel platform and expertise, our Managed Services team works to understand the goals of each retailer and brand and constructs a strategic plan that delivers success day after day.

For more information on Amazon and the highly competitive search results page, check out our eBook: Owning the Amazon Search Results Page. Or if you’d like a one-on-one breakdown of your accounts by one of our digital marketing experts, request a complimentary advertising analysis today!