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Introducing Amazon Posts

Amazon has been successful in making immense strides in growing their digital advertising platform. Currently ranking as the third largest digital advertising platform, behind Facebook & Google, Amazon continues to siphon away ad spend from their behemoth competitors.

Another industry Amazon has attempted to penetrate (but honestly, failed miserably) is social media. You may remember Amazon Spark, but it's more likely you never heard of it in the first place. Heralded as "the Instagram of Amazon," the Spark program targeted Prime members and was designed as an infinitely scrollable feed of shop-able stories and photos: imagine your Instagram feed, but everything is a clickable, buyable product.

After two years the Spark program was finally laid to rest in June 2019, and its bones were repurposed into the #FoundItonAmazon page, which caters solely to Women’s Fashion and Home Décor.

Fast-forward two months and Amazon has begun subtly promoting a new mobile-only program: Amazon Posts. Eerily familiar to the layout of an Instagram feed, these lifestyle-based images have that familiar square aspect ratio and description below.

So What Are "Amazon Posts"?

Amazon messages Posts as an opportunity to "use curated photos to inspire shoppers to engage with your brand and products on Amazon."

Each post is slotted into a carousel on product detail apges, directly above "Customer Questions," and links directly to the advertised product. Posts also include category tags, encouraging customers to explore and discover related products and brands.

Amazon messages that Posts will show up for related brands, category fees, and related posts, generating opportunities for product discovery, increased browsing activity, and most notably: shopping.

Where the Posts program differs from the Spark platform is that Amazon is not trying to camouflage a shopping feed beneath a layer of lifestyle, food, and travel photos. The Posts program is significantly more transparent and brand-centric, tailored specifically to businesses looking to generate awareness and connectivity between products in their assortment.

What's Amazon’s biggest selling point? It’s entirely free. There is no cost-per-click attribution, no merchandising fees, and no cost to participate in the program.

Are All Brands Eligible? How Does My Brand Qualify?

As with all Amazon programs, there are minimum eligibility requirements for brands to participate, however in this case, the bar is relatively low.

At the moment, the Beta program is available exclusively to Vendors, but the Posts team is hoping to expand eligibility to Sellers in the very near future. For Seller Central Administrators, there is already a toggle to enable "Posts" under "User Permissions," but this functionality has not yet been implemented.

Brands wishing to participate must also have an active Storefront and ensure their brand byline (the brand name hyperlink listed underneath product titles) appears correctly and links to the appropriate Storefront. Storefronts are available after successfully enrolling in Brand Registry and implementing brand name mapping for all enrolled products and brands.

Once a brand has been accepted into the Posts program, they will have complete access to the portal and will need to create a minimum of three posts before going live.

Weighing the Opportunity

While the Posts program is enticing with its no-cost model and attractive UI, brands need to consider whether this is program warrants the significant time investment required.

Benefits

The immediate benefit of the program is access to additional traffic metrics: brands can measure the impressions, clicks, and click-through rate (CTR) for every post and dissect performance with customizable timeframes.

While not specifically eluded to, it's apparent that brands can also replicate social media posts from other platforms and evaluate customer engagement. Using the same image and caption from a Pinterest or Instagram post, brands can tie-in the product ASIN and transform their content into a shop-able feed.

Finally, Posts aren’t deprecated after a specific time window, so generating relevant, evergreen content is much more approachable for businesses looking to test this awareness driver.

Drawbacks

A big detriment to the Posts program is the lack of sales attribution associated with each post: Amazon simply does not provide revenue metrics for this program.

Additionally, the traffic source is not provided: while brands can quantify total pageviews, they are unable to generate tags or identify the traffic channel of origin.

Brands seeking to submit gifs and/or videos will also be disappointed: this functionality is not currently available, but is on the Posts team's roadmap.

What Is the Future of Amazon Posts?

The Posts program is still very much in its infancy, and the team behind it is rapidly expanding the program's scope and functionality. With Q4 right around the corner, major changes are unlikely to be implemented before the end of the year, but the Beta will provide the development team valuable feedback and help fine-tune the program to maximize engagement.

Brands seeking a low-cost opportunity to drive brand or product awareness and gauge interest in their social media content could stand to benefit from the click-through metrics available for each post.

Every brand should consider testing Amazon’s newest foray into the social media world, but the biggest unanswered question still remains: how will customers engage with this content, if at all?


Curious to learn more about Amazon Posts or other programs? Want to know how to take your brand's marketing strategy to the next level? Our team of ex-Amazonians are here to help. Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Amazon Deals, Discounts & Promotions: 2019 Update

In 2017 brands on Amazon witnessed a shift in the promotional opportunities allotted to them through Seller Central: the tide in promotional parity was changing.

Fast forward 24 months and the shifting tide has only accelerated, transforming into a tidal wave of change. There is once again a significant disparity in available promotional opportunities between Vendor and Seller Central. Seller Central has emerged as the predominant platform, offering both a greater breadth of deal types and superior reporting.

If you have not yet marked your calendars for September 27th, now is the time: this Friday is a key date for both Vendor and Seller-run promotions, marking the submission deadline for inclusion in Black Friday & Cyber Monday deals.

Whether you’re scrambling to execute your holiday plan or seeking to supplement your Q4 strategy with additional deals, ARMR has curated a platform comparison for the deal opportunities on Amazon.com.

 

Promotion Type Seller Central Vendor Central Best Experience
Public Discount Code Yes Yes, Requires Approval Seller Central
Individual Discount Codes Yes No Seller Central
Price Discount Yes Yes, Requires Approval Seller Central
Multi-Buy (BXGY) Yes Yes, Requires Approval Seller Central
7-Day Deals Yes No Seller Central
Best Deal No Yes, Requires Approval Vendor Central
Lightning Deal Yes, Invite Only Yes, Requires Approval Vendor Central
Deal of the Day Yes, Invite Only Yes, Requires Approval Vendor Central
Giveaways Yes No Seller Central
Coupons Yes Yes Seller Central
Subscribe & Save Yes Yes Seller Central
Prime Exclusive Discounts Yes No Seller Central
Discount Codes

Sellers have been effectively using Discount Codes as an effective marketing tool for years. Brands can assert control on the product, discount, visibility, timing, and redemption policies. With options to arrange discount codes as group-claim or single-use codes, brands can limit financial risk. Additionally, discount codes can have display precedence set, or be hidden from detail pages altogether.

Sellers can also create Social Media Promo codes, which can be shared with Amazon Associates members to increase exposure.

Advantage: Seller Central

Price Discounts

While not a true promotion, Sellers have the benefit of adjusting their Sale Price (found in Product Details) to execute a price reduction almost instantaneously. This promotional strategy helps with click-thru rates in search via the competitively displayed price, however there is no indication of a sale price or discount off MSRP, nor does this qualify for deal-based merchandising placements.

This promotional strategy is not recommended, but does serve as a last-ditch effort for brands scrambling to implement promotions during Q4.

Advantage: Seller Central

Multi-Buy Discounts or BXGY

Designed to give customers a buy one (or many) and get one free opportunity – Sellers can use this promotional type to increase sell thru on a given product or generate interest in a new product.

Similar to Discount Codes, Sellers can choose single-use or group codes, adjust detail page display, and select specific purchase parameters for customers to qualify for the promotion.

Advantage: Seller Central

Best Deals & 7-Day Deals

Limited to Vendor Central, Best Deals are multi-day promotions that leverage similar merchandising opportunities to Lightning Deals, but without any merchandising fees.

Best Deals may run up to 14 days, allowing products to accrue sales velocity. Discount expectations are more accessible than Lightning Deals: the minimum discount is 10% Q1-Q3, rising to 15% during Holiday.

Amazon recently launched “7-Day Deals” on Seller Central to provide parity with the Vendor Central. 7-Day Deals have identical discount expectations to Best Deals but have a set seven-day time limit and additional associated merchandising fees, ranging from $300 to $1,000 per deal.

Minimum qualifications apply to products for both platforms for deal eligibility.

Advantage: Vendor Central

Category Specific Lightning Deals (CSLDs)

These time- and quantity-bound deals have been a characteristic promotion for years on Amazon. Available on both platforms, brands can execute offers which will be prominently displayed on the Today’s Deals page, qualifying event and category homepages, and in search results. Amazon levies merchandising fees on Seller & Vendor Central, ranging from $150 to $500 per deal.

The minimum discount is 15% for Q1-Q3, increasing to 20% for Prime Day & Q4. Amazon also levies minimum requirements for products to be eligible for CSLDs: product rating, traffic, and sales thresholds are minimum qualifications to submit a CSLD.

Lightning Deals are ranked according to performance, which can greatly influence the outcome of your promotion. Amazon supports deals that are performing well and suppresses those that have little traction. It's critical to set promotional discounts and available units to maximize your promotional performance to retain visibility.

Advantage: Vendor Central

Deal of the Day

Deal of the Day (DotD) is Amazon's premier limited-time offer. Deals of the Day are plastered all across the platform and featured in customer-facing email campaigns. While technically available to both Sellers and Vendors, Vendors are able to submit or nominate products where Sellers are at the mercy of Amazon recommendations.

In order to participate the featured item must exceed minimum qualifications including product rating, discount amount, sales forecast, and detail page traffic – all of which vary by category. These standards can be particularly challenging on high-traffic days like Prime Day or Cyber Monday.

All submissions must be manually reviewed and approved by Amazon.

Advantage: Vendor Central

Giveaways

Released in 2018, Amazon Giveaways are a sweepstakes deal type available exclusively to Sellers. Brands can use their products, or other eligible items, as the prize for a no-entry-required instant-win contest for Amazon shoppers.

Brands and Authors can opt to include a required action, such as following the author or watching a YouTube video prior to entry, helping to drive brand awareness and product recognition.

Giveaways are setup as instant win based on the Nth entry, but the key is the follow-up promotional opportunity: brands can elect to offer a discount code (up to 40%) towards a future purchase to non-winning entrants.

Advantage: Seller Central

Coupons

There has been parity on coupon integration since Q4 2017. Both platforms offer performance metrics in the form of clips, redemptions and revenue associated with the promotion, however the cost attribution model and timing are different between the two platforms.

Seller Powered Coupons (SPCs) work solely off redemption, with Amazon charging $0.60 per redemption. As a seller you’re only liable to fund the promotional discount and redemption fee. In terms of timing, Sellers can submit same-day coupons.

With Vendor Powered Coupons (VPCs), Amazon charges for both a unique clip fee and redemption fee. Standard fees (Q1 through Q3) are $0.17 per unique clip and $0.08 per redemption. During Q4 Amazon increases the clip fee to $0.21 per unique clip.

If your coupon redemption rate is below 40%, the cost of running a Vendor Powered Coupon will be higher than running the same coupon in Seller Central.

In terms of timing, Vendor Central states "…the start date must be at least 28 days after the current date…" requiring Vendors to submit their coupons nearly one month in advance.

Advantage: Seller Central

Subscribe & Save

Both Vendor & Seller Central offer the Subscribe & Save program. Seller’s need to have a minimum record 90 days of FBA selling, meet performance criteria, and remain in-stock to be eligible.

The difference between Vendor & Seller Central is the accessibility to data. Seller Central provides historical reports and Subscribe & Save forecasts in their Inventory Reports menu.

Advantage: Seller Central

Prime Exclusive Discounts

Amazon’s shiniest new promotional toy. Prime Exclusive Discounts (PEDs) are deals available only to Amazon Prime members, that display strike-through pricing and messaging in search results and on detail pages. During Prime Day, unique badging was applied to product detail pages.

The standard minimum discount is 10%, increasing to 20% for Prime Day and Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

There is a list of eligibility requirements, including offering the lowest price in the trailing 30 days, a minimum 3-star product rating, and of course, Prime-eligible fulfillment.

Advantage: Seller Central

What Should I Know About Funding Promotions?

It’s important to know the promotional levers available to your brand, but equally as important is the financial model that applies to your product.

Selling direct to consumer through Seller Central means that your discount will come directly from your retail price. The Amazon commission associated to your sale is reduced based on the final purchase price to the consumer. Any merchandising fees are then deducted from your account balance before being remitted back to you.

In Vendor Central, the promotional discount on the retail price is reduced from your cost price to Amazon and this is charged back to you in the form of an accrual.

Since Amazon doesn’t share in the funding of your promotion, and doesn’t alter their accruals program – your brand is liable to fund the promotional discount, normal account accruals, and any additional merchandising fees

Have Additional Questions?

Whether you’re new to selling on (or to) Amazon or want additional context on the types of promotions above, a great resource is ARMR’s Amazon Promotion Glossary.

If you have questions about your platform strategy, promotional calendar, or want more insight on how successfully capitalize on increased Q4 traffic, the ARMR team is available to help.

--Anders

Anders Palmquist
Vice President & General Manager
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Amazon Ordering Behavior Changes

Over the last six months ARMR has collected several data points indicating Amazon would make significant reductions in their vendor pool, trimming thousands of vendors down to hundreds.

It seems as if that day has arrived. Some of you have did not receive expected purchase orders Monday (March 4), and threads on multiple vendor forums indicate thousands of other vendors also have not received purchase orders.

We have reached out to Amazon's support staff and received the following response:

"Please be informed that at this time, we are not placing any purchase orders on your products.

To preserve the customer experience, the featured offer will be disabled when the product is out of stock. We will notify you if we choose to place any purchase orders.
I apologize for the inconvenience that caused to you in this regard.
Kindly note that we put a lot of effort and time in getting this provision for our vendors, only with an intention to improve the services."

This is an abrupt shift in Amazon’s behavior and we believe that all or some of the below will happen. Please note that, while these claims are thus far unsubstantiated and speculative, these are our best-informed predictions:

  • This is a hard reset to push all vendors to Amazon’s new platform (yet to be announced) but what we think will be called “Amazon Seller” or “One Vendor”
  • This new platform will be announced in the coming two to four weeks
  • Amazon will introduce their version of a “consignment” relationship
    • A new form of selling on Amazon, where Amazon determines the end-retail price to the consumer, but you [the business] still own the inventory (as opposed to FBA where you determine the end-retail price and own the inventory)
    • If the above is true, this will be a relationship which we wish to avoid
    • Amazon may announce the new platform with “product orders” under the new consignment relationship following not far behind.
  • Amazon will follow up with purchase orders on a select subset of your catalog, seeking the highest demanded products through the new portal/One Vendor program
  • Amazon will further follow up with a bulk-buy offer (at a reduced wholesale cost they will dictate)

This change in purchasing behavior is going to require a significant change in our strategy. Over the next several weeks, our team will communicate and implement updated strategies, built around your business and taking into consideration the new dynamics of the marketplace and platform.

This shift increases the importance of Seller Central (3P and FBA), driving traffic to your detail pages from outside of the Amazon ecosystem (social media and influencers, Google AdWords, etc.), pricing, and high-quality content generation.

You hired us for exactly this situation—an existential crisis on your Amazon business—and we are here to do our job: right the ship and plot a new course into the future.

This shift will open new opportunities and close previously successful pathways. We will do our utmost to research these new opportunities and execute a strategy designed to maximize your revenue in this new marketplace.

Best regards,
Oscar

Oscar Barbarin
CEO
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Photo Credit: Matt Hardy

The Silent Tsunami: Part 1

Risk Versus Uncertainty

Risk is exposure to danger while uncertainty is the unknowing: risks can be evaluated and potential outcomes predicted, while uncertainties are just that—unknown, unpredictable, ambiguous. Risks can be managed while uncertainties are uncontrollable; risks can be measured and quantified while uncertainties cannot.

Throughout my career, I have always found that it’s better to trade risk for uncertainty and one particular example is the decision to work for yourself or for a company.

When you work for yourself, there’s much exposure to danger—it's inherently a high-risk venture. However, there is often relatively little uncertainty: you know how many weeks and months of production are required to sustain your business. When working for others, there is much less risk—the organization may be exposed to danger, but your job is still secure—but there are incredible amounts of uncertainty: did your division just get sold off to another organization? Is leadership considering consolidating your department, leading to a redundancy and ultimate reduction in the work force? Will leadership remain stable and consistent?

Risk versus uncertainty. Many of our clients and vendor partners have developed strong businesses on the Amazon platform where there has been greater risk, but little uncertainty. This is changing. Fast.

Right now, both on Amazon and in ecommerce more generally, there are several forces collapsing down on brands which will force them to either stop participating in e-commerce altogether, or significantly restructure their internal operations to support the new requirements.

Amazon is making a hard course-correction in terms of the company's relationship with vendors, unfortunately at a time when states are demanding payment of sales tax from companies selling via e-commerce channels—a precursor to business and operating taxes. Additionally, Amazon has initiated this course correction at a point in time when we all recognize that e-commerce is the future of sales: millennials are shopping online and this shift in platform has fundamentally changed the shopping (and selling) experience.

With e-commerce, consumers now have the ability to get just about anything delivered directly to their front door, eliminating their need for certain long-standing tools (e.g. cars) in favor of tools better suited to this new platform. Any brand owner who fails to stay relevant will fail to grow as the shift to e-commerce only accelerates.

--Oscar

Oscar Barbarin
CEO
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Shanghai Skyline

An Introduction to Chinese Cross-Border eCommerce: Part 1

Why China?

We all know that China is the world's most populous nation with the largest GDP of any nation and cultural roots dating back millennia. For the past 40 years, China's economy has remained one of the fastest-growing in the world and shows no sign of slowing down: as of last month, China's CCI is on track to reach a 10-year high1. In 2016, China's online retail sales reached US$752BN, with US$79BN driven by cross-border ecommerce sales—that is, ecommerce sales of products outside of China—and last year confirmed the same trend: cross-border ecommerce sales grew by 81% Y/Y with imports, specifically, skyrocketing by 116%.

The data is clear: China is engaging with the internet in a big way. Of today’s top 20 internet leaders, nine are in China (up from just two five years ago ) and China boasts the largest number of internet users in a single country—and they're not just messaging and gaming. In 2017, national online sales accounted for 19.6% of total retail sales, an increase of 32% compared to 2016 .

You may be thinking, "Don't get me wrong, that's all great! …but, what does that have to do with my business?" And you're right—in and of itself, this information probably means little, so let's put it in context.

China is the largest ecommerce market in the world, leading the future of ecommerce and mobile retail. Growth is driven by the penetration of mobile devices, the dominance of digital payment, constant innovations in social media, guerilla, and viral marketing, close engagement of internet celebrities and influencers, and of course, the hot competition between ecommerce start-ups, their investors, and established retailers companies.

The top leaders and innovators within the Chinese ecommerce space, Jack Ma (Founder & CEO, Alibaba), Qiangdong Liu (Founder & CEO, JD.com) and Lei Ding (Founder & CEO,NetEase [Kaola]), are actively recruiting and advocating for global brands to enter the Chinese market by launching products on their respective platforms—and you don't have to be publicly traded to do it.

What is driving cross-border ecommerce? As China's growing middle class is increasing exposed to foreign products via online/social media engagement, Chinese consumers are increasingly focused on affordable imported goods. Chinese consumer equate international goods with overall higher quality products and a significantly lower risk of counterfeiting: 61% of Chinese consumers cited guaranteed product quality as their reason for shopping internationally .

As a result of this consistently increasing demand, foreign/imported products are difficult to find (if available at all) and ridiculously expensive in Mainland China. Accordingly, Chinese consumers are turning to online retail sites, both foreign and domestic, to source overseas products, driving cross-border ecommerce.

What is Cross-Border eCommerce?

Taking a step back, cross-border ecommerce is online, direct-to-consumer sales by a foreign retailer, supplier, or manufacturer, without the need for a Chinese intermediary. How does this differ from a traditional, general import business or relationship?

Much like the US, distributors purchase product from overseas manufacturers in bulk, function as the importer of record (responsible for all taxes, fees, and regulatory compliance) before reselling to retailers. However, Chinese general import businesses must be operated by a Chinese distributor or trade agency with a designated import permit and the overall tax value for this combines import tax, value-added tax (VAT), and consumer sales tax—totaling 30%-100% of declared value, depending on the product category. For example, the overall tax for importing wine is about 60%.

With Chinese consumers' growing demand for more, cheaper, and faster access to high-quality international brands and products, a new business model has emerged: the cross-border ecommerce B2C business. The B2C model facilitates direct-to-consumer sales for international brands and manufacturers who would otherwise be unable to establish a Chinese presence or otherwise reach Chinese consumers.


I'll give you some time to digest all of that--check back later for the continuation of this series.

--Kelsey

Kelsey Ganes
Manager, Client Experience
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com


Sources

  1. The Conference Board, Trading Economics/IECONOMICS Inc.
  2. CapIQ, CB Insights, Wall Street Journal, media reports. Market value data as of 5/29/18. The Wall Street Journey, Recode, TechCrunch, Reuters, and the Information articles detail the latest valuations for Ant Financial (4/18), Xiaomi (5/18), Uber (2/18), Didi Chuxing (12/17), Airbnb (3/17), Meituan-Dianping (10/17), and Toutiao (12/17).
  3. National Bureau of Statistics of China
  4. iResearch 2016/Ecommerce Foundation
CES 2018

Recapping CES 2018

Before we dive in, I'd like to take a moment on behalf of the entire ARMR team to to thank all of the incredible exhibitors we had the pleasure of meeting last week--we are deeply appreciative of your time and were, of course, enthralled by your products, vision, and earnest desire to change the world. We had the opportunity to meet and speak with some truly remarkable individuals and companies, pioneering what we're sure will soon be some of the most popular and influential tech and devices on the market. We were beyond impressed by the individuals and companies we spoke to and we can't wait to see how far each of you--and your products--will go.

CES 2018 in a Nutshell

Where previous years have been a showcase for groundbreaking, industry-changing technology, this year's show was noticeably different--and somewhat lackluster. Instead of a sea of booths boasting the latest tech, there was a profusion ancillary products; products whose sole purpose is to bridge the gap between existing products and augment established technologies to allow for better integration, broader application, or support "off-label" use-cases. From smart watches for every style and OS to VR headsets for a range of devices, industrial drones, and smart clothes which monitor and record your workout--products which expand on existing technologies to fill holes across industries and markets.

One of CES' key features is the opportunity to explore and interact with cutting-edge products in progress: the chance to play with prototypes and daydream about their potential use-cases and applications. This year seemed to take "in development" to an entirely new level and a large number of these products were unable to deliver: software issues, malfunctioning sensors, unexpected errors--the works. While many of these products demonstrated exceptional ingenuity, user-focused design, and genuine real-world applications--but it's difficult to be excited by a product that fails to live up to its own demo reel--and seemed to be lightyears from market-ready. 

There were also a surprising number of derivative products. Though this was especially prominent in the cell phone accessories and toys spaces, even wearable technology was rife with booth after booth of companies and products indistinguishable from one another.

Product Trends

Alexa & Google Home Compatibility

"Smart" technology and devices are becoming ubiquitous but compatibility and connected device "capacity" is a consistent challenge, but maybe not for long. Nearly every product we encountered proudly displayed Amazon Alexa and Google Home logos, trumpeting their compatibility with the two most prominent Virtual Assistants on the market--and it's about time. 

AR/VR

Unsurprisingly, the move towards Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality is accelerating rapidly. In tandem with AR/VR development, motion capture (MoCap) rigs are becoming increasingly refined and accessible to companies hoping to get into the world of AR/VR. Unfortunately, the industry as a whole has jumped into the deep end, investing in a fledgling technology that is still fighting to become mainstream.

The applications for AR/VR are seemingly endless, certainly far beyond entertainment media, consumer accessibility is a persistent problem. No one can deny that AR/VR is the wave of the future, but the systems and options currently on the market are still inaccessible to most consumers: AR/VR systems themselves remain expensive and unwieldy, in addition to relatively sophisticated (read: expensive) minimum system requirements for operation and more than a little know-how when it comes to setting up and installing the system itself--we're definitely not at "out of the box" setup quite yet. 

In addition to CES, there are over a dozen international conferences on AR/VR scattered across the globe this year--who knows what the industry will look like by this time next year.

HUD Units

Heads-up displays have been around for a while, in one form or another, but not like this. While there were more than a few cycling and snow sport helmets, there were a handful of dashboard units which project onto a vehicle's windshield--and beyond. From on-road navigation and destination/location indicators to fuel economy monitoring and speedometer display, these HUD units employ AR technology to help drivers keep their eyes on the road without sacrificing navigation or other essential information. Our favorite: Navion by WayRay

GPS Tracking

It seems like there's a GPS tracker for everything: pets, glasses, keys, wallets, children, water bottles, the development of gas in your digestive tract--no, really. But all trackers are not created equal: location accuracy, durability, and battery life can vary dramatically. Some companies have already distinguished themselves from the pack with additional features that go from "That's pretty cool" to "Holy smokes, Batman, I've gotta get me one of those!"

Wallet gets stolen? Report it as "lost" in the app and the next time someone opens your wallet, the built-in camera in the credit card-sized tracker will snap a photo of the trespasser and send it to your phone. Or, you know that your sunglasses are in the car, but still can't find them: some trackers ring, vibrate, or flash to help grab your attention. Our favorite: Orbit

Personal Environment

Overlapping beauty, medical, and home categories, we were surprised to see dozens--if not hundreds--of products dedicated to augmenting your personal environment. Misters and humidifiers, ionizers, air purifiers--now, there's a device for that, too. There was an especially mind-boggling array of personal misters, some outfitted to disperse essential oils for aromatherapy on-the-go. We're not entirely sure where this trend is heading, but if CES is any indicator, we'll be keeping our eye on the category.

Education & STEAM

Educational, and specifically STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics)-oriented, toys have been around for decades, but the variety of products emerging in this category is incredibly encouraging. While build-your-own-robots aren't new to the scene, we were thrilled to witness some fun and exciting innovations within this category: robots which help kids learn to code. We all know coding, software engineering and computer sciences are soon to be essential subjects in any curriculum, and some companies have already developed products that are perfect for the classroom.

Instead of just learning how to build a bot or use pictogram software to give it a few basic commands, these robots help students learn how to code from the ground up--and in variety of languages. Starting with the time-tested method of pictorial representation, as commands for the bot become increasingly complex, students are able to write code in variety of ways until they're ultimately comfortable working with code directly in languages like Swift, Python, and JavaScript. Our favorite: Root Robotics

We also saw a number of new-to-market products that address behavior and development: from toys that assist with behavioral correction or modification to RFID board games which track development through the child's response time, accuracy of placement, and complexity of engagement, there are products for teachers and educators, parents, counselors, and more.

--Kelsey

Kelsey Ganes
Manager, Client Experience
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Trade Show Best Practices

Trade Show Best Practices

Happy New Year! It's officially trade show season across the US and as our team prepares to attend some of the larger shows this year, we thought it was selfish not to share. Whether you're an exhibitor or attendee, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you stay organized and minimize your post-show follow ups.

Refining Your Elevator Pitch

While we're sure this doesn't piece of advice doesn't come as a surprise, we wanted to provide additional insight into what we've found to be the most relevant talking points to think about when revamping your elevator pitch:

What's the product?

Be clear--it's not always readily apparent to someone new to your field or industry.

Who is it for?

Clearly articulate the product's intended audience or target market. New moms? Kids 8-12? Executives? Professionals? This information can help determine appropriate fit just as much as the product's intended use.

Why would someone buy your product? What purpose does it serve?

What need does your product meet? What niche does it fill? Why did you develop it and why is it important to you? Are there any "off label" or alternative use cases?

Where can consumers purchase your product?

Describe your distribution. Is your product still in development? Are you only selling direct to consumers through your website's online store? Do you work with a distributor? Are you in local, regional or national brick and mortar stores? Are you on Amazon or eBay? How's it going? Are any channels over- or underperforming relative to the rest?

Are you ready to ship?

Is the product ready to ship tomorrow? Are you still prototyping or garnering interest and funding? Make sure this is information is readily available and keep in mind that when it comes to product deadlines, under promise and overdeliver: don't push up the availability date if you're not confident production can keep this promise.

Help us gauge the size of your business: how sophisticated are your operations and logistics? Do you have product in warehouses across the country? Are you packing products by hand to fill customer orders?

Managing Business Cards

For any event where you plan to hand out business cards, label your business cards with the name of event -- whether you stick on a printed label or just write it on the back of the card, this eliminates the post-con game of "When did I talk to XYZ? What was the context of our conversation?" and ensures that anyone who ends up with your card can immediately identify when and where you met.

If you're on the receiving end, the same idea applies: if the name of the show or conference isn't already present, jot it down on the back along with any other notes from the conversation. The next step is following through on these connections as soon as possible--we really can't stress expediency enough. We know how crazy these shows can be and it's not unreasonable to be concerned about getting lost in someone's inbox backlog, but just like thank you notes, timeliness is key.

Making Connections

The old adage of "You never know who you're talking to" is not often more relevant than at a trade show or conference. We're not talking about being kind to strangers--we know you've got that down-- but about making connections in the least likely of places.

Make friends with neighboring exhibitors--even competitors. Yes, even the competition. Whether it's having someone to watch over the booth so you can walk the show for a few minutes or a future co-packer, you never know who has a connection you'll need to leverage down the road.

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Now, go get 'em, tiger!

--Kelsey

Kelsey Ganes
Manager, Client Experience
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com

Platform Parity: Running Promotions on Amazon

It’s a little scary to think about, but the end of the Holiday season is fast approaching. Browsing the front page of Amazon over the last month you'll have seen the transition from Black Friday and Cyber Monday to 12 Days of Deals, curated Holiday Gift Guides, and soon, last-minute deals.

Both Vendors and Sellers are often eager to participate in Amazon's promotional programs but it's not always clear which opportunities are available or how to effectively pursue and execute different promotion types--you may have even built your 1st- or 3rd-Party strategy around the promotional opportunities available to you.

Fortunately, the disparity between promotion types available in Vendor Central and Seller Central has shrunk considerably since 2015, with fewer and fewer gaps remaining as new features are announced throughout the year.

Background on Platforms

If you are new to selling on (or to) Amazon or want additional context on the types of promotions available, I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with our Amazon Promotion Glossary. Traditionally, Amazon reserved premium merchandising, marketing, and promotional tools for Vendor partners: businesses selling direct (wholesale) to Amazon through Vendor Central. Access to Amazon Marketing Services, the use of Vendor-Powered Coupons, Lightning Deals and Best Deals have been Vendor-exclusive opportunities from their respective launches.

This strategy allows Amazon to maintain power in the vendor relationship and continue to dictate the economic terms for products. Because promotions are always Vendor-funded, Amazon maintains item-level profitability, while the Vendor (and Amazon) see growth in unit volume and increased baseline performance from that point forward.

The next You may be asking “If Amazon is able to exercise this level of control over Vendors, why bother improving functionality in Seller Central?” The answer is simple: cash flow. With FBA and MFN, Amazon is able to offer products without tying up funds in inventory. In Seller Central, the Seller retains ownership of all inventory and Amazon's platform commission is only taken when a customer purchases the product.

Analysis of the Current Landscape

Promotion Type Seller Central Vendor Central Best Experience
Public Discount Code Yes Yes, Requires Approval Seller Central
Individual Discount Codes Yes No Seller Central
Price Discount Yes Yes, Requires Approval Seller Central
Multi-Buy (BXGY) Yes Yes, Requires Approval Seller Central
Lightning Deal Yes, Invite Only Yes, Requires Approval Vendor Central
Best Deal No Yes, Requires Approval Vendor Central
Deal of the Day Yes Yes, Requires Approval Vendor Central
Coupons Yes Yes Neither
Subscribe & Save Yes Yes Neither
Discount Codes

A popular choice for Sellers and Vendors: businesses can distribute redemption codes through social media or e-mail campaigns to drive traffic and sales. Seller Central offers additional functionality to create individual (unique-per-customer) discount codes to better control who is eligible to receive the offer (and limit financial exposure.)
Advantage: Seller Central

Price Discounts

Sellers have the benefit of adjusting advertised prices almost instantaneously and Amazon's commission is taken from the new sale price. In Vendor Central, because Amazon owns the inventory, you have almost no ability to influence Amazon's price in the first place, and all promotion submissions must be reviewed and approved by Amazon; funding is based on cost-per-unit and deducted from the wholesale price.
Advantage: Seller Central

Multi-Buy Discounts or BXGY

Sellers have a distinct advantage through the self-service promotion setup workflow. Where Vendors need to submit these promotions for approval, Sellers are able to set them up as little as four hours in advance. In addition to having full control over the setup process and the ability to execute these promotions much more quickly, Sellers are also able to better control the monetary exposure by having full control over the base or non-promotion price.
Advantage: Seller Central

Best Deals

Exclusive to Vendors, these Amazon-sponsored promotions are merchandised on top-trafficked pages (including the Amazon Deals Store) and provide a longer discount period relative to Lightning Deals or Deal of the Day.
Advantage: Vendor Central

Lightning Deals

Both platforms offer the use of Category-Specific Lightning Deals (CSLDs), but Seller Central has far less flexibility. The pricing expectations are consistent between the two platforms, but which products are eligible may not be. Sellers are dependent on Amazon's “Recommended Products” assortment, while Vendors can submit a deal proposal on any product in their assortment. Additionally, where Vendors are only responsible for funding the price discount, Sellers must absorb both the price discount and are subject to fees ranging from $150-$500 simply for the privilege of running the promotion.
Advantage: Vendor Central

Deal of the Day

Deal of the Day is Amazon's premier featured deal-type, promoted across the site and via e-mail. Qualifying for Deal of the Day can be challenging, particularly for high-traffic days and the minimum product rating, discount, and sales forecast will vary by product category. All submissions must be manually reviewed and approved by Amazon.
Advantage: Vendor Central

Coupons

Only just launched in Seller Central (Q4 2017), this marks a significant shift in on-site merchandising and functionality for Sellers. In addition to funding the customer-facing discount, Coupons also incur a "clip fee," which is currently being waived if the coupon is promoted through Product Display Ads.
Advantage: Neither

Subscribe & Save

This functionality is on even footing between both platforms.
Advantage: Neither

So Why Does the Shift in Promotional Parity Matter?

Improvements to Seller Central functionality allows Amazon to showcase a larger assortment of products to consumers and drive additional sales on the platform without tying up funds in retail-owned inventory. Sellers now have the ability to truly compete on the platform, offering the same customer experience as Amazon retail deals.

For businesses, the opportunity to adjust your fulfillment strategy to 3rd-Party selling and improve your profit margin is now more viable than ever. Looking at the economics of a promotion, Vendor Central puts the onus of funding a discount on the shoulders of the vendor. Since the brand owner is selling at a wholesale cost direct to Amazon, the discount is taken from that price which can easily lead to unprofitable situations. Similar to Vendor Central, Sellers also shoulder the burden of promotional pricing--however, Sellers are able to capture the full retail price (with Amazon's commission scaling back accordingly.)

With increased functionality and improved profit margin, Sellers are poised to benefit from increased awareness and conversion through a variety promotional opportunities while still executing the lowest-cost option.

So Many Options! Now What?

As the promotional opportunity gap between Seller Central and Vendor Central shrinks with each passing quarter, you need to focus on the economic implications of the promotions they’re running and determine if your current Amazon strategy is truly meeting the needs of your growing business.

If you haven't already considered leveraging Amazon's 3rd-Party platform and the incredible power of the FBA model, it may be time to re-evaluate your strategy.

--Anders

Anders Palmquist
Director of Client Experience
Have a question? Please reach out to us at info@getarmr.com