July 10, 2023

Do you have Amazon Strategy for 2023?

Do you have Amazon Strategy for 2023?

In this episode, we have Amazon expert Michael Maher, owner and founder of Cartology as he shares his insightful journey in the world of e-commerce. Discover how his path led him to Amazon, realizing the untapped potential and knowledge gap on Amazon as he helps empower others to create successful Amazon businesses. You don't want to miss this episode!

Thank you for listening,

Zahra Cruzan

Founder, The Brand Collaborative And Brand Author

The Brand Collaborative      Brand Author

Transcript

Zahra  

Welcome, everybody. Thank you so much for joining me today, I have a special treat for you. We are talking with Michael Maher of Cartology. And I am so excited to speak to him today, because Amazon is going through some changes, Amazon's always going through some changes, but specifically now Amazon is going through some changes. And with the economic climate shifting a little bit for those of you guys who are Amazon sellers, which is almost everybody listening here, or thinking about Amazon selling, there are some considerations that you need to take into account as you develop your strategy on Amazon. And so I'm really excited to have Michael here today to share some of his genius with us, and then just talk about, you know, all things entrepreneur as we dive into it. So without further ado, Michael, thank you so much for joining me. I'm so excited to have you. 

 

Michael  

Thank you, Zahra, for having me and I need you to put share his genius on like a T shirt or bumper sticker.

 

Zahra  

Right? I've got the perfect graphic team for that. 

 

Michael  

Hey, I know someone who can design it. Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm excited. You're right, amazon is always changing. There's always a new element and it's they're really easy target for the media. So a lot of stuff gets brought up and sometimes it takes someone to decode that I feel like and who maybe knows a little bit more about it. So I'm excited to talk and for anyone who is considering Amazon reselling on Amazon, I hope you get some kind of direction or value from this conversation that you can go and apply in your your real life. 

 

Zahra  

I want to start like I'm just like, 1000 questions. I know, we don't have like tons of time. I'm trying to organize my thoughts here. I had a list of questions and the more we talked, the more like scrap that question, I've got a better one here. But one of the things that I love about what you do with Cartology is that you have an end to end service, like it's from strategy to execution on the Amazon platform. And what I think is so critical about that is that so often, and we do, you know, brand new market campaigns, you know, on on different platforms as well, just overall. And one of the things that we find, not just in CPG, but you know other other products as well, is that a lot of times people who are bootstrapping it, or people who are in the first couple years, they tend to kind of work on their marketing in silos. So like one person over here is working on the listing doesn't talk at all to the person over here who's doing social, who doesn't talk at all, to somebody who's running PPC, who doesn't talk at all, to you know, the person who's doing the photography for the products and so two years... 

 

Michael  

There's two, like they're just separate people, they don't work for the company that work as an outside contractor. So there, they don't even know, you know who that person is.

 

Zahra  

Yeah. 100%, and the crazy thing about that is that two years later, they still don't have any data, because they can't measure a strategy because there was no strategy. There's nothing, you can't really check on how your baby's doing. Because you don't have those markers. Like should they be talking about, I don't know, what are we doing to get them there and so I think that, that we see that all the time. And so early on, when we had the agency, we were very careful when we put our brand guidelines together, like all right, if we're gonna put a brand guideline together, it can't just be colors and fonts and typography like we need to show them how to use it. So that as you're working with contractors, because it becomes more common, you know, to have people come in and understand how to use, you know, the guideline, and it wasn't just a given telephone kind of run amok. So my first question, thinking about what you're doing, what goes into developing a really good strategy for Amazon as a platform overall, instead of just kind of the slapstick like, Amazon, like using your Amazon checklist to get your list to put up as the strategy, right? 

 

Michael  

Yeah. So for anyone that is bootstrapping it, and is wanting to, you know, get up and running, and to the people who have more solidified brands, I think it ultimately like it strategies, sometimes, maybe it maybe it seems like a convoluted word, maybe I'm just in my own head. And I'm thinking that but strategy, I think can be as simple as we're going to have a good product that people actually like and that people actually need. And we're going to make sure that we have a strong brand and a brand story that goes along with it. And then we're going to actually research the right keywords and build copy around that. And then the graphics that we build, it doesn't have to be you know, all the business words and strategically and all that kind of what sounds like made up or fluff stuff. And honestly, I think I was gonna say though, that if you're just getting started, you know, your basic strategy should really just be and this is kind of basic strategy for anyone, there's a lot more that's can go into it and be can become a lot more convoluted and complicated. The bigger you become, the more you want to do but the overall strategy for Amazon I think is super simple. I don't think it's that complicated. It's number one, have a good listing, as in like have good real estate, I kind of liken it to you know, buying or selling a home. You want to have the right media assets. You want to have the right keywords in your listing, I think people are reading less and less and so I would not invest a ton of time in the actual copy. I would try and get your media assets looking good because people are very visual. 70% of people are shopping on their mobile phones, that's what's most prominent on the page. It's not bullet points anymore, Amazon's actively hiding those on desktop and on mobile phones. So create a really good listing great real estate and then you got to send traffic to that real estate, you can send it through PPC advertising on Amazon's platform, you could run influencer marketing, you could run AdWords, I mean, I think you could do a lot of different marketing, or a lot of advertising methods to get traffic to the page. I think the reason why Amazon's advertising platform is so advantageous for most categories is because it's already native to search, meaning it's just going to show up in the rest of the search results. 53% of people go directly to Amazon, to look for products, when they go look for product, they're gonna see your product in search results based on ads. And then there's the whole, you know, as you get more sales, that actually helps boost your organic visibility in search so you're not having to pay for every single placement that you show up. But then it's just reviewing that data and optimizing from there. So good real estate, send traffic to the real estate review and optimize and optimize could mean to your point, oh okay, I noticed that customers are searching for this term. And in advertising, when we look at our search term report, but we're not using that in any of our copy, we need to go and adjust copy, you don't need to just copy every week or even every quarter. But if you notice new things are popping up, you think, Hey, this is a search volume that has a decent amount of volume, it's got a decent number of impressions, we want to have a stronger correlation between the terms that are listening in our advertising, let's make sure that we bring continuity there that I think solves the problem of people not talking with each other and not having a strategy. But overall, you get good real estate, you send traffic to the real estate, and then just make changes and tweaks. The strategy is pretty simple but execution is the real beast. Because you can think, Oh, I'm just gonna get this listing up, it's gonna go great. But what you don't realize is you're in a category that has a lot of products, oppressions, because it's a regulated category, or people make claims or it has expiration date, or whatever the case may be, you don't realize that there's all these barriers and hurdles. And Amazon speaks a different language than you so someone at Seller Support might say, you know, hey, here's this problem, you need to fix it. And you think it's innocent till proven guilty and really, it's kind of guilty until you prove yourself innocent. So you have to speak this whole other language to go to them. And that's why I think people like myself and other agency owners have jobs and have agencies is we've either sold as a brand or reseller, or we've worked at a brand or worked at another agency, and we understand how Amazon speaks. And so we're able to be kind of a communicator for you, between Amazon and you as a brand. And if I'm honest, if you're branding me to deal with this stuff, it can feel really personal and frustrating and so we're a little bit removed from that. We don't take it from you try not to take it personally. Sometimes, maybe you do but we're able to be a little bit rude. And so we can say, hey, here's what Amazon is asking, don't worry about this, let's focus on this and let's get them this thing that they're asking will take care of the rest. And I've heard people multiple times say Amazon's a beast, it's a monster and we help keep that beast and that monster at bay. 

 

Zahra  

And you know, what's funny about that is what you said is 100% true. You can't, from your own perspective, see things you know, even for us that that's what we do is branding. When I mean, as a matter of fact, we have we you know, the software that we that we launched the marketing software that we launched, I had to go to my mentor to get and they're not even a brand expert, but just to get their opinion and their like thought on should this be a sub brand, should this be a separate one, because there's no way to unbiased like to take the bias out you have that myopia you see things you're drinking the Kool Aid. So in your world, you can't see it without bias. And so you can't make those removed situation decisions sometimes and we see it all the time. Like you know, a lot of brands have tried to bring that position in house instead of using agencies, which I think is great. I think it's great that you have somebody who's dedicated to managing brand reputation, but that shouldn't be the last person who looks at your brand, because they're drinking the Kool Aid. They're reading the memos, their jobs on the line, if they say anything that's gonna piss off the CEO too much, right?  And so they're, yeah,

 

Michael  

I just am agreeing with you, you need a critical eye, you need someone, I think if you want to get better, and part of the reason why I seek help from someone else, or you might seek help from someone else's, you're saying, I realize I don't have it all figured out. So I additional help to get better at this thing because I think what I'm doing maybe is not working and that's okay. You may be the person has to go and implement it but you still need to get that additional feedback and determine if what you're doing is right, because otherwise you could say hey, what we're doing is great and just run yourself right into the ground. 

 

Zahra  

Yeah, I wonder if you see that so one of the things I see is, you know, when I get brands, they usually like really overcomplicated right like when I asked for their position, their brand position, their brand promise, their brand standards. I get like a laundry list. It's like a tangled web and you need like a PhD in their brand to like unpack it all right.

 

Michael  

To give the PhD so you gotta go through their class.

 

Zahra  

And I'm like, guys, you got three seconds to make an impression like this, right? But what's crazy about it is that at the end of the work that we do, I've not told them anything they didn't already know about their brand. It's in them, I'm not doing anything other than editing and restructuring, what it is that they're doing to make it easy and accessible to the audience that they want to hit, right? I'm not reinventing the wheel by any means. I'm just, you know, my theory is the reason that happens with these brands is because they geek out on their craft, like they geek out on ours. And so they know all the work and research and time and labor it took to find that fabric blend to find. So everything's hugely important in their mind, because they've put this together, they've created this, they've you know, and so it's hard for them to decipher what their client cares about most, because to them, it all matters, that you know, everything is important, because they've been a part of every piece of that construction of the business. And so it's hard for them to edit out like what, what should we say first, you know, what is it that our customer most cares to hear about? Why does it matter to them and I wonder if you come across something similar when it comes to marketing messaging, and like, you know, what copy should be in there, and what details need to be included and do you see a lot of that? 

 

Michael  

You know, early on, as we were getting started as an agency, I mean, I feel like as you grow, you take on different clientele, maybe a little bit more experienced clientele, people have more budget, you've sophisticated. And some of the some of the earlier people we take on, they were really in the weeds of things like what keywords are we bidding on? What are we doing and we used to cater to that, like, well, we're doing this, we're bidding on this, this and this, we don't talk to our clients about that anymore. We don't say hey, look, these are the 100 keywords or 1000 targets that we're going after, we might say here, like some of your top drivers of business, these things right here, they've got reporting that they can have access to. But when you start getting down in the weeds, sometimes you get lost because you don't even know where you're at like, okay, well, why would it matter? Well, we don't want to bid on that term, yhy would you not want to bid on that term it's, you know, it's getting you a four to one row as and it's generating $20,000 of sales a month. I mean, it sounds like a great keyword, but like, oh, well, we don't think it's it's, you know, perfect for our brand. What does it matter, that's what people are searching, and they find and discover your brand. I mean, there could be a an actual use case for why that might not work. But you start getting down into the weeds and people start caring about things that I think are not important that I've got their hands into much. And I think we have a tendency as humans, but also in our business to overcomplicate because we want our brand to mean something and be impactful. But impactful doesn't mean complicated or it doesn't even mean big. I mean, a brand promise a brand story, it can be very simple. I'm sure big companies get used a lot but like Nike, just do it take action go after genius. There's so many interpretations that you could do there but it doesn't have to be crazy complicated. One of the things I see I feel like when it comes to brand is people overcomplicate and they feel like they need to reinvent the wheel, or it needs to be some kind of tech thing. And I'm like, you don't have to have the newest technology, people just have to have, we have a client who makes really, really nice pens, there's an audience for that. And his pen doesn't have to be for maybe the most expensive people. It's not for the people that are buying, you know, the store brand ones or off brand or Bic or even whatever the case might be. He's making it for a very specific audience so you just need to know what that person wants. And it's like, hey, I want to a weighted pen that feels good and it writes nice. Okay, well, I can create that product for you and it's going to look awesome and you're going to feel amazing as you use it. And people are going to look at you and say wow, where'd you get that pen, I want one of those pens. It doesn't have to be overcomplicated. So I feel like people over overcomplicated and I'm guilty of this as well. Two things, a lot of times we lead with why our product is so amazing. Customers don't care about why your product is so amazing. It's how is this going to help me there might be a fascination with like the look and what catches your eye. But how is this making my life easier? How is this helping me in my daily activities? Am I having to buy a lot less pens? Because I'm writing with this pen? Do I have a better experience when I'm writing with this pen? Do I feel cooler when I write with this pen? Yes, yes to all those things! Okay, well, then, that's something that I'm interested in. And a lot of times we see people lead with, we've got, you know, two pounds and anodized silver, whatever the case may be, there's a focus on very specific product details. But you have to be able to say why does that matter? Why would someone care why it's anodized why was that it's two pounds, you just have to explain to them, here's why, here's why it would benefit you and so you can't just say you know, if you're looking at things sometimes in like beauty products or even food, you can't just say, you know, paraben free, but why should I care about I know I've heard about parabens, but why should I even care about parabens if you can get that to people, I think that makes a better connection instead of complicating it, you simplify it. The other thing I was gonna say is, we have a tendency to focus on all the ways we can help people. And sometimes you just need to focus on one or two, like, what are the core tenants of what you do when we're talking about this pen. It's a really great experience, and it's dependent, you're gonna buy for life. Okay, great well, that's something that can move the needle for me, you may have to toy around with those, but they think there's just an over complication of what your product does, and what you're focusing on and has to be about that user, that end person, how does this impact me and why would I want to purchase this product? 

 

Zahra  

Yeah, I 100% agree. It's so funny that because, you know, there's this interesting conversation, right that exists between, you know, there seems to be two camps. One is, it's all about the design, you know, when it comes to branding, like what trumps right one is like the design and all of that. And then the other is the product, the offer, you know, but I've always been of the opinion. And I've seen through years of experience that it's really both because you can have a stellar brand and that says you can talk the talk. And truthfully, that is what registers with our limbic system, that's what creates the desire, the recognition, the trust, the interest, that gets us to stop our scroll for you, even before we've read all the features, right? So you've got to have that element there but that's just as you can talk the talk, we've seen a lot of beautiful, no name brands that disappeared three weeks later. If the brands that stand the test of time, the Nikes, the Apple, they're the ones the Starbucks, they're the ones that didn't just talk the talk, but they delivered on the promise, they made the promise, and then they walked the walk. And they did that through their offer development, their product, their features, and Chick Fil A is another great example right and they did that by understanding what mattered most to their customers, and then delivering consistently on that promise. And that's what gives you the brand that like, like you say, you know, the the long game, right that the long story because and that's what really makes that difference and so being able to communicate both of those, you know, ideas, what makes us interesting, what's our approach? What are our, you know, core values and so I think that you touched on a really important point that it's really pretty simple. It's less about more pieces, and more about like, what we call the the brand alignment, right? Like making sure that these pieces connect in a way that builds trust, consistency, you know, and repetition so that you just like any, you know, like you're training people, right? And how do we learn through repetition through seeing the same thing over and over again, if the same word was spelt differently, every time you saw it, you'd never know how it's been, right? It's gotta it's gotta be the same and I think that, you know, when we choose what features to talk about, or what, you know, what needs to go on there, you know, when we're developing out brands, we look at your brand pillars, like what is creating your structural DNA that is creating the interest for your brand and then what features speak to that? Because those are the ones that go front and center, right? Those are the ones that they really care about everything else is a super cool cherry on top and comes in five colors.

 

Michael  

That's how I guess that might not be what if your brand and that design is something that gets attention, just like I have a friend who is a CPG consultant for food and beverage brands. And she says, you know, getting your product on the shelf is half the battle, how are you gonna get people elicit people's attention? Does it stand out? Is it striking? Is it different from other things? So that design is what kind of draws people in but what's going to really get people to buy is product efficacy, or does this really work? Like social proof is something that helps determine if there is efficacy or if it's something that I really want, and if it really does work if it stands up to the promises that it makes. But those two things have to work well together. There's something called Occam's razor and sometimes I just look it up to make sure I have it correct. But it basically says that it's always better to go with like to not overcomplicate things to go, but the simplified version of things will be as complex as they need to be. But if something is so complex, that you can't distill it down, is it really working? Or is it really the right fit like and one of the best tests for how well you know anything is having a kid. Now not saying go out have a kid right away but if your kid says what is convoluted mean? You're like, oh, I don't know. I feel convoluted right now, saying the word convoluted. But what is convoluted mean? It means someone kind of makes something bigger than it really needs to be, or it seems like you have to figure out do I really know what this thing means? I only know how to use it in context but do I know what this means and can I distill it down? I think that is if you can, if you can tell. I mean you know, a five year old isn't gonna have the same problems necessarily as a 45 year old for the same product desires. But if you can break it down to someone, get them to explain it in a very easy way that I think like it doesn't have to be smoke and mirrors and overcomplicated. We can do all these in we can cure cancer, this pill and it's a laptop and it will keep you cold. And also it's a car and it like it doesn't have to be all things to all people. You just have to say who is actually going to buy this product. What do they care about and can we make it look good so that they actually want to purchase it and like being seen with the product too.

 

Zahra  

Yeah and good to that. You know, it's funny is, you know, when you said that it's funny, this is like taking a mild tangent, but I'm loving it. So we're gonna go down it is, you know, talking about that that simplicity and how effective I feel like that's one of the most effective sales tools. And it's crazy because it feels counterintuitive to most entrepreneurs, especially in the Amazon space, who are private label, who are inventors, like they've created something, in part or in whole, because they feel like the value is tied to the complexity of it. But really, the story there is that the customer doesn't care how hard it was to develop it. Value is in the transformation, it's in the results, like doesn't get me what I want. It's like, you know, when we hire, you know, when, so we have we switched over to models, unlimited PTO, right. And so I don't care, like I'm paying someone based on if this is the work I need done this is the value that it holds for me and my company, right? And that's what it is, if you can do that in six hours a week, then more power to you. If it takes you the whole 40 then okay, you know, like, that's fine, too. But like, I'm not, you know, and so many people get committed to this, like, well, I'm paying them full salary, I need them there 40 hours, but if it makes sense to you, and the pricing is makes sense to your customer, if it's a good value transaction, then why do they need to take 40 hours to do it, you know, if they've spent 20 years refining that process down to a 20 hour workweek, brains, like show me your magic because I want to be on 20 hours.

 

Michael  

Invested, like you talked about, like how complex something is, we're invested in the energy and effort that we put in to something why I think it's important when we work with a client who Amazon says you can't list this product because of XYZ, they get so frustrated, like but it's not this thing, and we're like we get it, we're going to help you through this, take a couple deep breaths, come back to the phone, we're going to handle all this, you don't even have to worry about it. But it's not personal to you, Amazon's running a business, it's easy to cast Amazon is the demon it's also easy to cast them as the God and I think they're just a unnecessary channel to be a part of, I don't want to glorify them, but I don't want to demonize them either there. And it's as it were 100% of my, my revenue comes from is helping bridge on this channel. But I think when you elevate it too much, or you like, you know, toss it aside, you just get a jaded point of view. But we helped create a little bit separation and so someone who's an inventor who spent, you know, hours upon hours developing something, they're very caught in the product mindset. And for me as a the sales and marketing team, you're looking at him right here for Cartology, this is it, I get very caught up. And when I get sales, coaching or training, you know, I'm being told you need to take off the sellers hat and you need to put on the clients hat, what are the problems that they're actually experiencing and can you help solve that knot? Do you have the perfect solution for them for all the products, we don't have a product but you know, product features or solutions that you offer? That's not really what's getting them to buy, it's, Hey, I have a problem and I don't like where I'm at right now and I want to be somewhere else. And the pain of not being where I want to be greater than the pain of staying stones, I'm actually going to make a decision and I'm going to change. Honestly, that's all in a book called Gap Selling by a guy named Keenan is a great book that I read. And I delve into, and it talks about, like where's the gap for people, but you have to take off your I'm selling you this service hat or as a product creator, I'm selling you this product. And you have to think about what is my consumer was my ICP my ideal client profile actually care about.

 

Zahra  

And the cool thing about that is that a lot of times that lies in just a simple shift of syntax, right? So like one of the actually, we just did one the other day, it was a pilot and they were talking about I help my clients, you know, because I, I do this, this and this and this and that, my fantastic. But by doing that, what did they get? Right? And so then it was a matter of Okay, so this is the this is the promise. And so this is what they get, they don't care how you do it. They don't like what you're telling me is a sausage, this system, this software, this, you know, like 1.21 gigawatts. Like, that's all fantastic. But like people's eyes will glaze you've got three seconds, you got just the syntax. So first, it's this is what they get out of it, I help people resolve what issue and then this is how I do it, I have my proprietary system of lalala, right? And then that that simple syntax ship will change your ability, you know, it's just like sales copy formulas, right? What the content that should be in your header versus your sub header it's sometimes just the order in which you give the information that will tell the story. But if you go right into the complicated, you know, nuts and bolts of what it is, then you sometimes lose it.

 

Michael  

When you're focusing on you you're like, hey, check me out, I'm really awesome and people are like, great, I got a busy day. I don't need to look at my LinkedIn DMS, I don't need to check all my emails. I got stuff that other things I want to do so but if you can get to the point and say, are you like having this problem, if so, that's something I can help you with. Oh, okay, having that problem. Oh, I don't like having that problem. Cool, I'm gonna come talk to Zahra and I'm gonna get an updated brand. And I'm actually have a brand that people want to be a part of because right now people don't care, they don't like my brand, they think it's ugly.

 

Zahra  

I remember when I first started, I was just to say, like, no judgement, two hands up, I did this. So like going into it, that's how I started to sell it was, well, we go through competitive analysis, we do market research, we do historical data intakes, then we use those to create like a positioning statement then from there, you know, and, and that just seemed overwhelming for a lot of people and really overcomplicated. And so it's been a process of like, we will either create a brand strategy for you, or conduct an audit, and then a rebrand strategy for you and as a case, you know, whatever case that is, and like, then let them ask the questions, then go, but like, right off the bat, like, yeah, I can handle that for you, like I can do that. I can rebrand your stuff, I can get you selling on Amazon better, I can rework your unboxing experience, you know, like, that's fine. I don't need to tell them all the things we're going to do to do that starting out, because they don't have the capacity to hear that, I love to talk about that all day.  If they love to talk about that all day, they wouldn't need me.

 

Michael  

That's why sausage makers get together and talk with other sausage makers. I love that you said that's a sausage, like no one cares how it gets made. Does it taste good, maybe some people care gets me, but does it taste good. That's the end result. And if you can make it taste good, you know, as long as you're not violating any laws, I think people are generally generally okay with, however you come to that conclusion. And honestly, that is your magic that is what I don't believe in a secret sauce for Amazon. Like I said, strategy is pretty straightforward, I think you have to have some perseverance and grit to be able to keep going and get past all the knows that you get from Amazon, very often. But I think the secret sauce, if there had to be one, it's what you for myself or even for you. It's what you do, we don't create your brand. But what we do is we help get your brand accessed on Amazon and uncover the value that's already in your brand and in your products, because people need them. Maybe they've sold on your website, you know, there's social proof that people need them. So we help make that accessible to the public on Amazon. That's what we do. We're set I like to tell people in welcome emails, like we're the supporting actors supporting actress, you're the lead role here and so we're here to help make you shine. And what you do is you help people to better understand their brand and why it's important and pull that story out and crafted in a way so that people actually care about it. Like you said, it's all inside them but they need someone to help them to refine it. Honestly, just like I mean, like what do most therapists do? They're not like, you need to do this and you need to this, this, this might give you some advice. But like, what do you think about that? Do you have a problem with that? Is that is that good? What do you think about this? Should you do this like they're getting you to self examining question, but they're good at at hopefully doing that. 

 

Zahra  

That is like running around handing out new personalities here. Bossy version of you. 

 

Michael  

Why could that be a problem? Oh, well, because I don't like being bossed.

 

Zahra  

So I want to play a little bit of Nostradamus here. Yeah so tell me, I want to hear your thoughts on this. So I've been reading a lot about industry trends, you know, as far as consumer packaged goods, products, and like, what are buying trends, especially going into this new economic climate? Like, what are we looking at, right, and we're seeing that people are putting a really high value and importance on value, right? It's got to be a good values worth and we're also seeing that people are less consumer driven, so their frequency of purchases are slowing down. And the other thing that I saw was, Oh, I wish I had brought up the stats, but people are willing to pay more for a product if they feel that the value is there. And so my question, what I've seen a lot of sellers do is it kind of went into reaction mode, so economy's like tanking, so I need to drop my price. What are your thoughts on that? How do you think a smart seller would navigate? What should they be looking for what indicators to make sure that they're still showing up as a valuable brand on the Amazon market? Because you're gonna see a lot of places like drop their pricing, like what shed some light on what you think is happening and what do you think oh, would be a good thing to look out for good strategy moving into the next couple of years here.

 

Michael  

The one metric that I think is a good determiner of performance on Amazon is your your listings conversion rate. You know, Amazon does a unit session percentage, I don't know why they don't just change it because it's conversion rate. But that will tell you how much people like in or trust your product when they get on the page. And Amazon already has a ton of built in trust, which is why we might see conversion rates of 15 20 25 30 35% on Amazon regularly, whereas your own direct to consumer site, I think 3% really is the gold standard. If you're doing more than 3% conversion on your products, then you're not just talking about ads we're talking about in general on your site, then like then your crushing it. And we see that regularly because Amazon has built in trust. But I think if you look over, you know, depending upon the seasonality of your product, if you're looking at past couple months, and you notice, okay, we haven't changed our listings, we haven't maybe done anything super different in advertising. And most of our, if you look at the marketing most of our competitors that are showing up next to us on the same page, kind of relatively doing the same thing as they were before, if you notice that there's a decrease in conversion rate, that can mean that and your product is a higher price point, that can mean that people are more sensitive to price, and maybe they're not purchasing because of that, I wouldn't recommend people just drop their price for a couple reasons. One of those reasons is I'm not saying you shouldn't maybe like experiment with a promotion or experiment with some kind of pricing strategy but I wouldn't just go and drop it right away. The first reason is, let's say you drop your price, just drop your let's say, it's 50 bucks, and you're like, Oh, I'm freaking out, I'm gonna drop the 30 bucks, you drop your price at 30 bucks for a week, you start seeing sales go up, okay, I'm getting the sales that I want. This is great. I'm gonna raise my price back up to where I where I had it before. As soon as you do that, Amazon's gonna remove your buy box and now all of your advertising is going to turn off. And when people go to your product detail page, they're gonna see oh, wait, there's no like Buy Now button. That's weird. That looks kind of sketchy. There's this weird gray see all buying options button. I don't really trust that and it intentionally looks, I think sketchy. So people go back out into search, like, Okay, well, I'm gonna buy. I'm gonna buy something else that I can see a buy now button on. 

 

Zahra  

And that happened to me, I've been that customer who'd been like, what do you mean, buying options like I just wanted and then I back out and I buy the Amazon seller, whatever Amazon recommends.

 

Michael  

Right, the Amazon choice badge or bestseller so there's, if you see people doing that Amazon could could block your listing for many reasons. They could you could, they could also be selling a product on like, walmart.com, their website for much cheaper and Amazon's like, oh, well, your price is not competitive. So we're removing the buy box until you create a more competitive price because they want to compete on price. It's also one of the misnomers of why people who have expensive and more premium brands have stayed off Amazon, they feel like Amazon's not for premium brands, we have people who have $250 items, I have someone who sells a $40 pen, that's kind of a premium, he just does pretty well for himself.

 

Zahra  

So long as it's consistent across board.

 

Michael  

If it's consistent, and people see the value in it. Now if if you think okay, well, maybe I should test pricing and your products at 50. Maybe see like what is 45 or 46 look like and maybe even try raising the price a little bit, one of the things that we've seen is, depending upon where your price is at, people will start like who are they comparing you to? You could sell if you're a pen, and you're you know, you raise, you lower your price to 10 bucks, I mean, you're probably gonna go out of business, if it's 40 out of 10. But you lower your excuse me not raise, but lower, you lower your price to 10 bucks, you might be a lot more competitive with a BIC, but you're losing money. If you start to raise your price point to 100, does it really match up to the same quality of those $100 pen? So I think you have to experiment with price. One thing that I'm seeing is pricing strategies come into play where a software uses a lot of different data points, or I have not personally experiment with this, but to fluctuate price throughout the day. So Amazon changes their price millions of times a day. You know, if you're an Amazon native brand, why wouldn't you fluctuate and adjust price maybe based on certain data points, things like that. So that's something that I'm seeing come in to the space that could potentially influence I think you can experiment with price for sure. No experiments can be you know, perfect maybe you say I'm going to test a lower price on Mondays and Tuesdays and higher price on Thursdays and Fridays because we see greater demand, I guess a lot of things that you could do, and you can experiment, but I wouldn't just go and drop a price because you're worried about people buying or not buying your product. But I think this also brings up another important question or issue, which is you can't polish a turd, I mean, you can only polish it, you know so much. If you have a bad product, no agency, no branding, is going to make that product better if it doesn't work. So this could be a time where you say, Hey, we've done well up to this point. But there's a couple of things that this product needs to be tweaked had to have tweaked in order for us to actually live up to the value that we're pushing our price at. And especially as people become more conscious of what they're spending on. Because I think, you know, to your point, people are willing to spend more on something they feel like is worth it. But I think they're going to be a lot more scrutinizing over, you know, it's not just this one thing, but it's, is it going to last longer? And do I like to fit and XYZ so there's there gonna be a little bit more discriminating and make it down to different, you know, smaller details. So if your product is good, and it's worth the value, I think people will still potentially purchase it. I think some people are probably going to just see a little bit less than demand for their product. And there's probably not a ton they can do at this very moment except maybe say, hey, maybe we don't push as hard on advertising or we don't focus on 10 products. We focus on a couple products we like up inventory those because we know we can move through them. I think there's other things you can do that just straight up dropping your price.

 

Zahra  

Yeah, I agree. You know what's funny about that is like, as a consumer, I'm a much more wary shopper on Amazon than I am anywhere else. Like, if I go to Target, I'll grab something and if it doesn't like, next, I'm gonna Target it'll take me five minutes to return it because the line is never long, it's fine. But on Amazon, it's such a pain in the butt to return to go to my printer and print out a label. I don't want to do it right, and so I don't really like to return on Amazon. So unless I'm sure are pretty sure that it's what I want, I'm not gonna buy it like I just won't right.

 

Michael  

Amazon I think made efforts to make it easier to return. Now you like you can go to most Kohl's and drop off product but you still have to wait in line there, so that it's not, it's not a sure thing. The best one is I think UPS store like no label, you just have a barcode and you say, hey, scan this, okay, got your product, good and we'll pack it package it up that I think is the best. But if you're not like frequenting a store, like Target, it can be a little bit more cumbersome, sometimes give you the product for free, too.

 

Zahra  

Yeah and it's it was kind of depends. So for me, if I'm making a decision, like I'm gonna buy something like I struggled all the time, more than I probably need to admit, but usually I'll either buy from a brand that I already know, because I know the quality. And I know if it's not good, I can return it easily and the customer service isn't going to give me a hassle. It's not like some random seller that I'll never hear from and, you know, whatever. And if I don't see a brand that I recognize then, the next thing that I'll do is I'll look at pricing and review. It's like if there's like the combo, right? If the price is too low that I'm gonna assume it's trash, right? Like, and I'm not gonna want to risk it, I'm like, I'd rather spend $12 and know that I'm getting something good than $7, that probably isn't going to be good. And then I just lose that $ and I stopped to go find it somewhere else, because I want it tomorrow. I need it tomorrow, which is why I'm on Amazon, right? And so like that, for me is kind of like my and so the only saving grace is if it's like a $7. And it's got like 1000, you know, five star reviews like, Okay, well maybe it's just a good deal. But unless I see that combo of an extraordinarily high amount of really good reviews, if it's the lowest price out there, I usually just assume it's trash, like it's some kind of, you know, it's gonna break in two minutes. And so I think that now that people are being a little bit more careful with their spending and like that, they're not wanting to like, oh, well, you know, 20 bucks. If it sucks, then oh, well, they're like, well, if it's 20 bucks, I'd rather just spend the extra six bucks and know that I'm gonna have this for the next year or like, this pen is not gonna break the first time I use it or, you know, whatever that is.

 

Michael  

Yeah, I mean, I think people, one of the things I've seen is your review rating, not the number of reviews, but your actual review rating will impact your conversion rate, or you know, the amount of people that are purchasing your product more so than, you know, having 1000 reviews versus having 10. And I've seen someone's conversion rate dropped by about 50%. So let's say you know, you're doing 50,000 a month in this product, and all of a sudden, you start getting 25,000. It's a big jump, their review rating went from a 4.3 to a 4.2. Now, that seems very drastic but here's why and here's why paying attention this stuff is important. And as a seller, I did not always do this I didn't look at okay, what are people complaining about, caan I fix this? Can I address this issue before it gets out of hand, I just thought, oh, it's user error. Well, it doesn't matter if it's user error or not. If people are perceiving it as a problem, and they're complaining about it, other people are seeing that it is absolutely affecting your conversion rate. But one of the things the reason why this 4.3 to 4.2 dropped by 50% is because the stars only show up half of the time, you don't see a 4.3 versus a 4.2. If the product is a 4.3 4.4 5 6 or seven, it will show up as a four and a half. If it's a 4.2 4.1 4 39 38 it will show up as a four star so they dropped only a point one have a star, but it looked like it was a half.

 

Zahra  

And the other thing is you can filter by stars too so like if you don't make that cut off, then you're not even included in the search results. I filter by by stars that's one of the you know, and I'm like one consumer but you know, so there's that cut off there. You know, it's funny is when we do brand audits, you know, we look at that we look at what are people saying in the comments that we take every single review and we look for common adjectives common requests common like we've had some that it was just the the methodology like the packaging was in one of those like, I don't know what you call them, they have like a hole in the top and you kind of shake it like vinegar, you know, like vinegar dressing, and you just kind of like shake it versus... 

 

Michael  

Like a shaker bottle. 

 

Zahra  

Yeah, but it was it was a different product. It was a skincare product and they were just like it's just it doesn't come out right and like you get too much you don't need that much and if I'm an even spread so like based on all like the kind of feedback that we were taking the reviews we went and we did the packaging, so that was like an even spread like a misting spray and so the reviews trying to put there but like there's so much information there you know, and there was another client, a consulting thing that and they were getting this, this constant review this negative review about it didn't have this, I can't remember what it was like it wasn't organic, or it wasn't grass fed, or whatever it was right? And they were so fresh, like what it is that we've never said it was like nowhere on our packaging doesn't say that it is like, Yeah, but if that's what they're expecting, so let's look at what it is. Because if if somehow they're interpreting this, or they're not interpreting, you know, or they're not picking up something that you are saying that we need to change to how it looks, and we need to make that a focal point. So like, if it's not this, then why isn't it this and what makes it better than that. And then let's lead with that snd so that we can address it so that people understand when they're getting.

 

Michael  

Hit it head on, first of all, like, there was a company who would do like people would talk about like grass fed whey protein, and someone who I talked to was like, by the time you're getting based on like the filtration method of the protein, by the time you're getting down to this level, the grass fed, like additional benefits that you would get, it doesn't matter at this point, because all this stuff is filtered out and literally is just getting the way aspect of it. But people may not know that they see grass, but of course, it sounds better. It sounds more earthy and people are conscious about that kind of stuff. We know that I mean, I think most people know that grass fed meat is tends to be better quality than grain fed, there's sure there's science behind that like higher omega 3 versus omega 6 profile in grass fed stuff versus the more like traditional stuff, but and people may not even know that science behind it, it may just hear oh, grass fed sounds better of course, I want a grass fed packet, or a vegan, vegan mousepad. But like, whatever those things mean, to me, and people just hear stuff. And the interesting thing I think about Amazon and I talked about this a lot with people, I don't know if it I don't know how much it resonates with people. But consumers make really quick decisions on Amazon, like snap judgments. You said yourself, you need to get three seconds to make an impression. But imagine seeing a ton of products and then having to decide why do I like this product best and which one should I go for? There's a lot of subjectivity in it. But there is some data to support, like positioning on the page, certain types of listings, get the lion's share the click and conversion share, typically, the top couple, excuse me of listings get the most of the clicks and conversion, they're higher up, it's less energy. So I think people just, you know, go and look at it they purchase and honestly, I think a lot of people are okay with returning stuff for the fact that it even though it's a hassle to print out a piece of paper, they know that they're going to likely get a return, I would encourage you to try returning something on Amazon here, maybe not intentionally.

 

Zahra  

I'm gonna do it since I got the phone, I'm gonna Google like the return rate of Amazon. I'm so curious right now, because maybe I'm the only it's very likely like, I'm the only person who hates returning on Amazon, it's just so hard.

 

Michael  

Amazon return rates are typically higher than our clients direct to consumer site, because I think Amazon has trained the consumer to know, hey, we got you covered, you know that whole A to Z guarantee, if you have a promise something, we're just gonna refund you or we're gonna replace a product, or it's not gonna be a problem, even if it's a third party. And a lot of the people we work with are third parties, we tell them, hey, if someone reaches out to you, we think you should mirror Amazon's policy of we either offer you replacement or refund it in full like, doesn't matter. We don't want to create a negative experience so we're going to, we're going to do the right thing from the get go. But the return rate is higher on Amazon, because people are trained to know, hey, I can purchase something and and get a return to refund it. And it's not going to be Amazon's not gonna say show us proof like I remember back in the day, I'd say hey, you have a damaged item, like send me an image of the damaged items, I can actually see Amazon is not going to do that anymore. They don't care, it's not that big of a deal for them. And so and they just want satisfied customers. And that's how they literally and figuratively delivered on their promise not just of delivery timing, but we want to be the most customer centric company in the world, we're gonna offer you a refund, it's gonna be no hassle, you're not gonna have to worry about it, you're not gonna have to prove to us that the product is broken. But people are making such quick decisions on Amazon that they they're using, like, I think less and less criteria overall, or they're just spending less time because they they're busy. And they have to make quick decisions on Hey, how are we? How are we going to purchase this product? Why should I purchase this product? Okay, you know what today's kind of price conscious about this thing, I don't care as much about it, so I'm going to go quick to price. And if it's the best price and the pictures look okay, then I'm going to purchase it. But even though people are making more, you know, they're willing to spend more on something that is more expensive, they're just doing things so quick that I don't know that they're getting the full picture. And if you're not impressing upon them why we don't use parabens in our product because like parabens hurts this. We don't use parabens, something like that, if you can equate it to them in an interesting, but also informative way than they get in like, Okay, well, I don't really need to research them. I don't need parabens, I just need to buy paraben free products on you. You offer that to them, but like 50% of people purchase in 15 minutes or less.

 

Zahra  

It's true. I usually add things to my cart in between doing something I run out of something and quickly like the way you run an ad into your refrigerator grocery list, I quickly just add to my add to my cart. So that Friday, whatever has been added gets sent out, you know, where the next time somebody needs something hurry, and they just purchased it. So tell me a little bit about the longer game.com. What is going on with that? How can we and for those of you guys who want to get in touch with Michael, to use his services, we're going to have all of his contact information linked in the show notes, pages, email, and website, all the good stuff. So you can get some help and get some strategy with your Amazon game but tell me a little bit about the longer game.

 

Michael  

Yeah, so back in 2021, I launched a podcast called The Longer Game and it's all about retail, the future of retail, really what's currently going on, and what do we think is going to be happening in the future. And it was something to talk to brands out there about the how I believe that the future of retail is really being omni channel, you're not just showing up in a store anymore, you're not just showing up online, people are often seeing both digital and physical shelf space, where brands are being occupied. And so you have to hit them in multiple touchpoints. I think in order for them to really start to define like, Oh, I just saw this product in target. Now I'm seeing on Amazon, okay, like, maybe it made you trust this brand. But I feel like that's also how people are like shopping decisions are very interesting. The baby boomers are still going into stores and purchasing more whereas Millennials are purchasing way more online, Gen Z actually dropped a little bit. So Gen Z is actually like a percent or more purchasing in store. But the biggest mixture of spend was online and in stores, like people are just changing their purchasing behaviors and I think you have to be consistent. So the Longer Game talks about that and it brings on all people that are part of the retail spectrum so you could be a brand yourself. I brought an other Amazon agency owners, you know, friends of mine, I brought on people who run e commerce to like development and design agencies, I brought on people who have worked in brick and mortar stores and just collecting this, this group of stories talking about what retail is like, I feel like on a more of a ground level, there's a lot of like, this person's worked at this company and for Fortune 500 and all that kind of stuff and that's great. But I also want to hear from like the real people, the people who have been a part of it, or are grinding it out and are helping the brands or are the brands themselves and are traversing the sometimes crazy world of retail. So I bring on people have interesting perspectives and we just have a really interesting conversation about retail and what's going on and look towards, you know, the future. And so I launched that back in 2021 and the new season, I've had to push back a couple times. But as of right now, I'm pretty sure we're going with March 10 so it'll be launching soon. So this comes out after March 10. It's already live, go to longer game.com, that's on iTunes, or you can find it on YouTube, you can find on Spotify, any pretty much any podcasting channel you can find it on but I'd love for you to be here and listen, we got some really cool guests from season one, but also season two as a really new interesting perspective for a lot of different people. I'm trying to bring on as many different people from different realms as possible, so that you can hear you know how wide and sometimes crazy the retail environment is.

 

Zahra  

Well, I can't wait to take a listen. Michael, thank you so much for your time and your expertise. I had a blast talking to you really made me think about some things you know, for even some of our clients and you know what, what the future holds. I love what you're doing out there. incredible work. Yeah, we'll have to have you on again.

Michael Maher Profile Photo

Michael Maher

Founder of Cartology

I am the owner and visionary for Cartology, a Custom Done-For-You Services Agency that provides full spectrum management for brands on Amazon. From catalog optimization to advertising to international expansion, my agency Cartology takes your brand story and translates it into elevated brand awareness, revenue, and profitability on the Amazon marketplace. We're all about impact. We help you play the long game, developing strategies that are custom-tailored for your unique goals so you thrive.