Growth & Optimization

Winning On Amazon - The 4 Parts Of The Iceberg

Bobsled Marketing is a full channel Amazon agency. What does this mean exactly?

Unsurprisingly, this is a question we hear a lot. Amazon is becoming increasingly important for thousands of brands and there is a lot of mystery surrounding what it takes to effectively master the channel.

We thought it would be useful to break down our approach to Amazon management aka “The 4 Parts Of The Iceberg”.


Our Credentials

Before we dive in, here’s a little background about Bobsled:

  • Established in 2015 by Australian entrepreneur and former commercial banker Kiri Masters
  • Headquartered in New York City
  • As of July 2018, we manage the Amazon channel for 55+ brands on Amazon North America, Europe and Australia
  • Our clients include third-party sellers (Seller Central), vendors (Vendor Central) and “hybrid” sellers (Seller Central & Vendor Central)
  • We represent branded manufacturers and retailer private labels across all of Amazon’s product categories
  • Proud member of Amazon’s official Solution Provider Network
  • Accredited agency for the Amazon Media Group  (AMG) display ad network
  • Official Amazon content contributor on

Every Amazon account is unique, and our extensive experience has taught us that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

However, there are specific areas of Amazon management that every seller or vendor needs to be on top of. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling makeup, jewelry or toys; you will simply not succeed on Amazon if you don’t manage certain aspects of the account efficiently.


The 4 Parts Of The Iceberg

A picture paints a thousand words, so without further adieu, here’s a visual representation of how we view Amazon account management: 

As you can see, the iceberg is broken down into four different sections; Operations, Brand Protection & Customer Service, Organic Marketing and Paid Advertising.

In this post we’re going to break down exactly how we manage each chunk.



Part 1 of 4: Operations

Day-to-day operational management forms the backbone of every Amazon presence. This section sits at the very bottom of our iceberg as the tasks involved are typically behind-the-scenes. But such tasks are incredibly vital as they keep the entire account afloat.

At Bobsled we define Operations as maintaining excellent Seller and/or Vendor metrics. This is perhaps the easiest part of Amazon account management as Amazon will help you track all critical metrics, and if there’s an issue you’ll receive a performance alert.

Third-party sellers (Seller Central) have different operational metrics compared to brands selling to Amazon in a wholesale capacity (Vendor Central). Here’s a brief checklist of the main operational metrics we look for on Seller and Vendor:

Vendor Central

  • Incomplete or pending shipments
  • Product Submissions page to track approval status of new products
  • Problem Receive Rate %
  • Vendor Operational Performance alerts for any issues
  • Chargebacks and vendor returns
  • Case Log, assess the status of any existing disputes
  • Purchase Order submissions and confirmed quantities
  • Customer Packaging Ease Of Opening and Protection Ratings
  • Invoicing issues

Seller Central

  • Performance notifications
  • Respond to Buyer Messages
  • Check Account Health status
  • Inventory review
  • Case log updates
  • Incoming-FBA shipments status
  • Stranded inventory
  • Unfulfillable units
  • Catalog review
  • FBA fees
  • Inventory management

It’s important to note that some tasks needed to be completed daily, whereas others should happen on a weekly or monthly basis. For example, Sellers should look for Performance Notifications every day because if you miss an important notification, such as an A-Z Claim, it could lead to an account suspension.

Inventory Is Key

The greatest challenge from an operational point of view is typically inventory management. Ensuring that you have Prime-eligible inventory available at all times is a simple and effective way to grow Amazon revenue.

Sellers have more control over their inventory levels compared to Vendors. This is because Sellers can decide exactly how much inventory to make available on Amazon, whereas Vendor inventory levels are determined by Amazon’s wholesale PO’s (Purchase Orders).

Shoppers love the convenience of Amazon and if your product is unavailable they will likely go with a competitor or an unauthorized third-party seller. Analyzing YOY data and closely tracking sales velocity are two things every brand should be doing to help accurately project required inventory levels and avoid costly stock-out situations.

Here is more information about Bobsled’s recommended inventory management strategies.

Part 2 of 4: Brand Protection & Customer Service

Due to Amazon’s growing market share in the eCommerce space, protecting your brand and providing exemplary customer service is of extreme importance. Once again, a lot of the work is “back-end” heavy, but completely necessary due to the dog-eat-dog manner in which Amazon functions as a marketplace.

We define brand protection and customer service on Amazon as:

Controlling Buy Box Threats

For every unique product on Amazon there is only one product listing. This means that if your product is sold by multiple sellers, they will all be competing for the same Buy Box.

Every brand has a slightly different policy when it comes to other parties selling their products on Amazon. Here are the three most common scenarios:

  • Scenario 1 - brand has complete control over distribution, and no other parties sell their product line across any other channels. Such brands generally don’t have to worry about other parties trying to win their Buy Box on Amazon.

  • Scenario 2 - brand has select authorized resellers who are allowed to sell their product line on Amazon. Such brands need to ensure the authorized resellers respect the MAP agreement on Amazon to preserve pricing integrity across all online channels. It should also be noted that authorized resellers may on-sell large quantities of inventory to other parties who may end up becoming unauthorized Amazon sellers (unless there’s a specific clause in the agreement preventing the authorized reseller from engaging in this activity).

  • Scenario 3 - brand sells to multiple other parties, and has no authorized Amazon resellers. As a result a brand in this situation will likely have to contend with a huge number of unauthorized resellers competing for the Buy Box on the Amazon marketplace.

In our experience, prevention is always better than a cure when it comes to dealing with Buy Box threats. Carefully vetting wholesale partners and creating watertight agreements can save you from numerous headaches further down the line.

This issue unfortunately impacts both Sellers and Vendors. Amazon wants wide selection and fierce price competition on their marketplace so it’s up to the brand owner to control the Buy Box on each product listing.

Responding To Customer Questions & Product Reviews
Promptly With Helpful Information

Failing to respond directly to Customer Questions and Product Reviews can have huge ramifications for your brand.

On your own ecommerce website you completely control the shopping experience. Amazon is a little different. You control the product listing content for your own branded products but customers can leave feedback right on the page. If this feedback is negative or inaccurate it can impact conversion and revenue negatively.

For Bobsled clients we respond directly to this type of feedback in order to preserve the integrity of product listings under our management.


Part 3 of 4: Organic Marketing

Many brands have great content but it’s simply not optimized for the Amazon marketplace. Organic marketing is about giving both the A9 algorithm and the Amazon shoppers all the right information about your brand and product line.

Ensure That All Your Product Information Is Correct

Often times product listings on Amazon have been “hijacked” by other third-party sellers. Or perhaps there are counterfeiters selling fake versions of your product line. There is often misleading information floating around on Amazon, particularly for brands with large catalogs that sell across multiple channels.

It is your responsibility as the brand owner to review the catalog and update any false information.

Are Your Product Listings Designed To Convert?

The first step is starting with the framework of the product listing; back-end search terms and metadata, product title, images, bullet points and product description.

Secondly, Sellers and Vendors should be considering boosting the quality of the product listings with EBC (Enhanced Brand Content) and A+ Pages. These enhancement features offer a great way to differentiate your products from competitor offerings.

Finally, brands should be considering ways in which they can offer more value to shoppers with Promotions. Simple offers include Percentage Off, Free Shipping (if you always Merchant-fulfill) and Buy One Get One promotions. If you want to get more advanced, Product Bundles and the Subscribe & Save program might be ways in which you could edge out the competition. We’ve published a blog post on Amazon Promotions, you can check it out here.

Part 4 of 4: Paid Advertising

In our iceberg graphic we put Paid Advertising at the very top. Once you’ve built an account with solid foundations, you can use PPC advertising to drive more awareness to your brand and product catalog.

Do I Really Need To Advertise My Amazon Products?

Every Amazon marketplace is becoming more and more crowded with each passing month. Therefore, it becomes more of a challenge to rank organically (even for established brands) due to the increased competition across every product category.

By utilizing Amazon’s paid advertising tools a brand can rent pieces of prime real estate across the ecosystem in an attempt to gain more impressions, clicks and conversions. By not investing in PPC you are giving competitors an opportunity to eat into your market share.

How Do I Allocate Spend & Track Performance?

There is no simple answer to this question due to the fact that each Amazon account varies so wildly. Some factors that should impact your paid advertising strategy include; Amazon fees, inventory levels, seasonal trends, state of listing optimization and competitiveness of your product category.

It Starts (And Ends) With Profit Margin

At Bobsled, our starting point for ascertaining the recommended PPC budget is always profit margin on a SKU level. Amazon is a great channel for exposure, but if you’re aren’t turning a profit then what’s the point?

Once we have a ballpark idea of what the ad spend level should be, our advertising team builds PPC campaigns and begins to track performance. Our ultimate goal is to reach the point of diminishing returns across the catalog. This means spending just the right amount on advertising to see the most optimal results overall.

Check out our blog post “How Much To Spend On Amazon PPC In 2018”.

Bobsled Team.png

Conclusion: When We Say Full Channel, We Really Mean It

Bobsled’s full channel Amazon management service is a complete package. In a nutshell; our clients ship inventory, and we handle everything Amazon related on their behalf.

This service overview is just the “tip of the iceberg”. To learn more about how we can help your brand scale on Amazon please schedule an appointment with a Bobsled representative below.

Bobsled Amazon Prime Day 2018 Playbook

Amazon Prime Day has become one of the biggest events on the e-commerce shopping calendar, and at Bobsled we’re predicting Prime Day 2018 will leave past years trailing in its dust.

Prime Day is a global event that will be held sometime around mid-July where thousands of short-term deals will go live on various Amazon marketplaces. Sellers and Vendors are contacted by Amazon in the lead up to Prime Day and are asked to submit for various Prime Day deals (the first deadline is tomorrow, Friday May 18th, more on deadlines below). In order to access the deals, shoppers need to become Amazon Prime members.

Find our recap of Prime Day 2017 here.

  Image Source:   Amazon  .  com

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Amazon capitalizes on the event by gaining more Prime subscriptions and an untold amount of publicity. Sellers and Vendors have the opportunity to capitalize by selling through a lot of inventory and acquiring new customers in the often patchy summer selling season.

Since its inception, Prime Day has been criticized by brands and customers alike for three main reasons:

  1. Duration of deals. In past years, customers have logged on to Amazon on Prime Day and found an attractive deal, only for all units to be sold in a matter of seconds, leaving thousands of disappointed customers.
  2. Lack of value-for-money. In 2017, Amazon suffered some social media backlash in the aftermath of Prime Day from customers who felt the hype of the economic holiday outweighed the actual quality of deals on offer. 
  3. Technical Glitches. Last year a technical glitch on Amazon’s end apparently caused several sellers’ Lightning Deals in North America to be “suppressed” and ultimately “cancelled,” causing them to lose potentially large amounts of money in pre-paid fees and over-stocked inventory.

In 2018, we predict Amazon will address the above concerns in a couple of ways.

Last year, Amazon started spacing deals out around the week leading up to Prime Day. We suspect that they will take things a step further this year with deals start popping up on Amazon in the weeks leading up to Prime Day, giving shoppers plenty of time and opportunity to snag a bargain, increasing overall customer engagement. Rather than a single day or week, think of it more as Prime-Month.

  Image Source:   Amazon  .  com

Image Source:

Secondly, Amazon will undoubtedly be using it’s wealth of historical sales data to ascertain the right price-point and inventory levels for the 2018 Prime Day deals. Amazon uses the event as a tool to get more Prime subscribers, who according to research will spend twice as much on Amazon over the long-term as non-Prime users. However, the trade-off is that Amazon has to provide real value-for-money deals (that actually function as advertised), otherwise the occasion comes off as a PR stunt for it’s Prime service.

As a full channel management agency, we provide our clients with Amazon support across four key service areas: Operations, Customer Service & Brand Protection, Organic Marketing and Paid Advertising. We’ve developed a Prime Day 2018 playbook across each service area in order to help our clients win big on this hugely important day.



Deal Deadlines

In order to participate in a Prime Day deal, the first step is submitting an expression of interest. Here are the various deadlines:

  • May 18th – Deadline for Third Party (Seller Central) Sellers to submit for Amazon Prime Day Lightning Deals.
  • May 31st – Deadline for Vendors (Vendor Central) to submit for Amazon Prime Day Lightning Deals, Spotlight Deals, Coupons, & Category Deals.
  • June 15th – Deadline for Vendors to submit category page merchandising & marketing packages.

The above deadlines may vary based on the Amazon marketplace.

All the different types of deals function in essentially the same way. Amazon asks Vendors and Sellers to provide short-term product discounts that are predetermined by Amazon in exchange for increased visibility and exposure on the marketplace. There is also an obligation to assign a certain number of Prime-eligible units to the deal. Even if a brand agrees to Amazon’s proposed discount and inventory levels there’s no guarantee Amazon will approve the deal, and there is also no guarantee Amazon will actually run approved deals on Prime Day.

In order to figure out the right type of deal, a brand should have an intimate understanding of the profit margin of each SKU sold on the Amazon marketplace. Prime Day is ultimately a pay-to-play experience, and every Seller and Vendor should make an informed decision about how to reconcile profit margin with increased exposure.


Inventory Planning

Perhaps the biggest consideration for sellers and vendors in the lead-up to Prime Day is inventory planning.

In order to qualify for Prime Day deals a brand may have to manufacture more inventory than what’s historically anticipated and ship this inventory to Amazon’s DC’s (Distribution Centers) on a very short turnaround.

Existing levels of inventory will also inform which Prime Day deal to go for. For example, if a brand is planning to eventually discontinue an item, it may make sense to utilize a Lightning Deal to sell through remaining inventory very quickly. In this situation a brand might take a hit on profit margin, however by selling remaining inventory rapidly they may be avoiding future long-term storage fees. 

In addition, it’s extremely important for brands to think about the type of impact Prime Day might have on their entire Amazon catalog. A successful Prime Day typically may result in a huge spike in traffic and conversion, which in turn boosts the BSR (Best Seller Rank) for impacted products. This means that in the aftermath of the event the demand for certain SKUs may be heightened, and therefore you need to ensure you have adequate inventory to capitalize on this surge of interest.

We discuss this ‘halo effect’ in Episode 1 of Bobsled’s Ecommerce Braintrust podcast.


For Sellers this may mean sending in additional FBA inventory, and strategically reserving units that you can decide when to bring back online. If sending more FBA inventory to Amazon is not an option, having the capacity to Merchant-fulfil orders is the next best solution. 

Here is more information about Bobsled’s recommended inventory management strategies

Vendors are a little more constrained as their inventory levels are controlled by Amazon’s Purchase Orders. However, if a vendor is anticipating a serious inventory crunch in the aftermath of Prime Day, it may be worthwhile investigating the possibility of pursuing a hybrid model (operating a Vendor and Seller account simultaneously). By selling in a hybrid capacity, a brand can ensure that even if all Vendor inventory is sold out, customers will still able to find and order Prime-eligible inventory.


Impeccable Account Admin on Prime Day

As experienced Sellers and Vendors know all too well, technical issues can seriously hinder progress, especially on high-stakes occasions like Prime Day. Such problems include product listing pages appearing incorrectly, credit card payment failures and stranded inventory.

Failure to fix such problems in a timely manner on Prime Day can result in thousands of dollars of lost revenue. Therefore it's critical brands allocate resources to ensure everything is running smoothly.

We recommend triple-checking all the crucial moving parts at the start of Prime Day, and revisiting the account every hour to ensure everything is running according to plan.



Post-Purchase Email Sequence

A huge advantage of Prime Day is that your brand and product has the opportunity to get in front of thousands of new eyeballs. Making a lot of one-time sales is great, but turning new Prime Day customers into long-term supporters of your brand is even better.

With this goal in mind, Sellers should be looking at their post-purchase email sequence. At Bobsled we recommend a post-purchase email sequence that satisfies three criteria:

  • avoids negative product feedback
  • promotes positive product feedback 
  • adds extra value for each customer

By implementing such an email sequence Sellers will be doing everything to ensure quality customer service experience for all Prime Day customers. This should result in more product reviews, which will help build your catalog’s BSR.



Prepare For A Higher Volume Of Customer Service Inquiries

For Sellers, more orders generally means more direct interaction with customers. A customer who finds your product on Prime Day is probably ecstatic about the deal and potentially has some follow-up questions, hence a higher volume of inquiries is to be expected. The last thing you want as the Seller is for the customer to be left in the dark if there’s been some type of issues with their order. Poor customer service on and around Prime Day could have lasting ramifications for your brand.

The solution is simple; Sellers should ensure adequate customer service resources are dedicated to their account in order to preserve perfect account metrics.

Vendors, on the other hand do not have any ability to interact directly with customers as this is something Amazon handles on their behalf. 

Another thing both Vendors and Sellers should be watching during this critical period is product reviews. Negative product reviews are often the result of a simple misunderstanding regarding how to use a product or perhaps an issue with the shipping carrier. It’s important for brands to respond directly to any negative product reviews in order to try and find a solution for that particular customer, and also allay similar concerns for any potential future customers.


Monitor The Presence Of Unauthorized Third-Party Sellers

Unauthorized third-party sellers are a huge problem for both Vendors and Sellers on the Amazon marketplace. These sellers compete for the Buy Box on product listings, and could be making a serious dent on your gross Amazon revenues.

During a period like Prime Day, traffic on Amazon will spike, and this surge of customers will be trying to find the absolute best deal for every product on their wish list. If an unauthorized third-party seller is undercutting you on price, or you’re faced with a stock-out, this seller may win the Buy Box and reap the rewards.

Unauthorized sellers don’t merely impact products that are getting boosted with Prime Day deals. A customer may find your product through a deal on Prime Day, and then decide to review your entire product catalog. Therefore a comprehensive brand management approach is recommended.

You can read more about Bobsled’s best practices in respect to Amazon brand management here.


Organic Marketing

Are Your Product Listings Designed To Convert?

A Prime Day deal is designed to generate a huge quantity of clicks, but that’s only half the battle. Ensuring your product listings are optimized for conversion will allow you to reap the full benefits of the Prime Day buying frenzy.

The first step is starting with the framework of the product listing; back-end search terms and metadata, product title, images, bullet points and product description. In the lead up to Prime Day it’s worthwhile to check the traffic and conversion percentage across the catalog to ascertain which listings may require a tune-up.

Secondly, Sellers and Vendors should be considering boosting the quality of the product listings with EBC (Enhanced Brand Content) and A+ Pages. These enhancement features offer a great way to differentiate your products from competitor offerings. 

Summarized, Sellers and Vendors need to ensure their product listings are designed to turn browsing bargain-hunters into buyers on high-reward occasions such as Prime Day.



DIY Prime Day Deals

As mentioned earlier, in order to qualify for Amazon’s official Prime Day deals, a brand needs to accept Amazon’s non-negotiable discount demands and inventory prerequisites. For whatever reason, the nature of the deals are simply not going to work for many Vendors and Sellers.

The reality is that due to the huge amount of PR Amazon will be doing there is going to be a lot more traffic on Amazon during Prime Day. And once a user is on the site, there’s nothing stopping them from finding your products, even if you aren’t running an approved Prime Day deal.

Therefore, brands should be considering ways in which they can manipulate their product listings to provide more value for money for the Prime Day customer. Simple ways to do this include Percentage Off, Free Shipping (if you always Merchant-fulfill) and Buy One Get One promotions. If you want to get more advanced, Product Bundles and the Subscribe & Save program might be ways in which you could edge out your competitors, even if they are running official Prime Day deals.

We’ve published a blog post on Amazon Promotions, you can check it out here.

Prime Day 2018 presents an opportunity for every brand selling on Amazon. If you’re interested in learning more about how Bobsled could ensure your brand is ready for a successful Prime Day you can set up a consultation here.

Using Other Channels To Promote Your Prime Day Deals

Every brand has a different perspective on how they view their Amazon channel, but some Vendors and Sellers are in the fortunate position of being able to send qualified existing traffic to their Prime Day deals.

If you are a brand manager in this position, we’d strongly recommend scheduling email blasts and social media posts for Prime Day, alerting existing customers to your deals. There is going to be a lot of noise on the day, therefore it’s crucial you can reach your existing customer base with your offer before a competitor beats you to the punch.



Test And Analyze Your PPC Performance In The Lead-Up To Prime Day

Whether you are planning to run sanctioned deals, or whether you simply want to capitalize on the event by manipulating product listings on your own terms, the performance of your PPC campaigns will make a big impact on your Prime Day results.

In the lead-up to the event it’s important to closely review your AMS and/or Sponsored Products campaigns in order to gauge performance. Looking for opportunities to add any missing negative keywords and closely reviewing the bid amount and daily budgets for all campaigns can be hugely advantageous, as it will allow you to take stock and establish a baseline.

The existing PPC data contained within your account is hugely informative and will inform how to approach Prime Day from a paid advertising perspective.



Carefully Monitor PPC Performance In The Lead Up & On The Day

Every brand’s Amazon presence differs wildly, therefore it’s impossible to develop a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to Prime Day paid advertising.

In 2018, we’re expecting more total marketplace traffic in the lead up to Prime Day, and as a result it’s important to monitor PPC performance closely in order to capitalize.

In 2017, we noticed a 46% average increase in spend on Prime Day across our clients’ campaigns compared with the average spend from the first 10 days in July, however it was not uncommon for some of our clients’ daily budgets to be spent within just a few hours. Curiously, on average, CPC (Cost-Per-Click) only increased 2.72% on Prime Day, as compared to the days leading up to the event. Just 1 out of 3 clients saw an increase in CPC of more than 50% on Prime Day, versus the period of July 1-10.

Stefan Jordev, PPC Manager at Bobsled, has compiled his main Prime Day takeaways:

  1. Check your account every few hours. Campaigns run out of budget very quickly. 
  2. Get ready with bids and budgets before Prime Day.
  3. CPC rates do not necessarily increase during Prime Day.
  4. Every single account saw increased sales on Prime Day.

If you’re interested in learning more, we have more Prime Day PPC analysis here.


Good Luck!

Prime Day 2018 presents an opportunity for every brand selling on Amazon. If you’re interested in learning more about how Bobsled could ensure your brand is ready for a successful Prime Day you can set up a consultation here.

The Updated Guide to Selling Food & Beverages on Amazon

Amazon is taking big steps forward in the world of food & beverages. Splitting the category previously named Grocery & Gourmet into three categories named Food & Beverage, Organic Products, and Chilled & Frozen Foods to help further define the types of products they will sell.

The splitting of the categories also comes with heightened requirements for sellers that ensures quality and accuracy of origin and ingredients. This is especially obvious in the Organic Foods category, where Amazon is now requiring all of the official certifications to prove the product’s organic status. 


At Bobsled, we suspect that many of these changes were motivated by Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, which is no big surprise. Whole Foods has been the leader in the natural and organic food space for decades, and therefore an extremely attractive target for the market-share focused Amazon.


Documentation & Certification

Requirements surrounding FDA certifications, Order defect rate (< 1%), Pre-fulfillment cancel rate (< 2.5%), and Late shipment rate (< 4%) are still applicable for all categories. There are additional category requirements that we describe in detail in “The Updated Guide to Selling Food & Beverages on Amazon”

In the guide we’ll help you determine what documents and certifications you need to provide to Amazon in order to sell products in each category. We’ll also dive into additional requirements for Organic Products, as this new category holds brands to a high standard to ensure quality.

Previously, a seller, once approved to sell in Grocery & Gourmet could label any product they wanted as “organic” without needing to provide certificate proof to Amazon. That’s definitely changed with the introduction of the Organic Products category.


Packaging & Labelling

The guide will also go over some best practices and requirements for packaging and labelling your food and beverage products. Including proper types of packaging, expiration date limits, and any dietary or allergen related information.

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Chilled & Frozen Foods

Creating this new category will allow brands to sell a much wider variety of perishable foods on Amazon, but it also means that they will need to prove that these products have been maintained within a certain temperature range throughout the entire supply chain.

There are a couple different ways a brand can prove that they have maintained the correct temperature. We’ll present the different processes in our guide.




Marketing Strategies for Food & Beverage Brands

Getting your brand approved to sell in any of the Food & Beverage categories on Amazon is just the beginning. This category is one of the most competitive on Amazon and requires effort from the brand in order to promote products and increase sales.



In “The Updated Guide to Selling Food & Beverages on Amazon” Bobsled presents insider information on how to get your food & beverage products seen and sold. From how to create optimized listings and titles, to PPC campaign ideas, product bundling, and special programs Food & Beverage sellers can take advantage of.

Download the Food & Beverages Guide



Food & Beverage remains a highly competitive category and Amazon’s increased standards mean that brands need to be more on top of their requirements than ever. If you’re ready to expand your market and make your products a success on Amazon, Bobsled is here to get you started on the right foot.

Is your vendor central account "asleep at the wheel"?

Having your brand on Amazon’s Vendor Central platform is exactly the same as any other wholesale relationship with a retail outlet. Or is it?


While some elements of the vendor relationships with Amazon look like they would with brick-and-mortar retailers, there are some differences that actually put more control back into the hands of the brand. Your brand may be surprised to realize that VC is not just a set-it-and-forget-it situation, and that’s a good thing.

If you suspect that your Amazon VC account has been “asleep at the wheel”, there are a few things to look out for to confirm if that’s the case. You can also use these tips to start managing your VC account more actively, and ultimately, drive more sales.

How optimized are your Amazon Marketing Services campaigns?

Vendor Central brands have access to Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) and will want to take advantage of the platform to help promote their listings. If your brand hasn’t even touched AMS then you’ll want to keep reading.

AMS gives brands the ability to create paid advertising campaigns to help promote their product listings. Sponsored Products, Headline Search Ads and Product Display Ads can all be created and managed through this platform. AMS also provides powerful reporting to see how shoppers are finding your products, so you can use that data to create even better campaigns (and product listings).

AMS is a powerful tool that Bobsled recommends all Vendor brands use in some capacity. You can learn more about the platform and ad types in our previous blog post. This should give you a good idea of where to get started on the path to better promoting your product listings on Amazon. There’s no need to be intimidated by AMS, because your brand has total control over all campaigns at all times.

The more sales you can generate through AMS will help improve both the Best Seller Rank and total number of product reviews, which in turn will drive more organic sales (sales generated without any paid advertising). Therefore, at Bobsled Marketing, we recommend brands try and reach the point of diminishing returns with their AMS campaigns; speculating just the right amount on PPC advertising to achieve optimal total results.


Are you using Promotions?

While Amazon determines the selling price of items sold through VC, brands can create promotional offers and bundles to drive awareness and sales. 

It’s likely that your company already runs promotions across some sales channels. If there’s an existing offer that’s generated profitable results in the past, you can attempt to replicate that offer on Amazon. For example, if your product sells well in bundles, you can create offer that right on the detail page and make it easy for customers to ‘buy more, save more. 

Many brands have had success with Flash Sale-style promotions on websites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Did you know you can run similar short-lived promotions on Amazon, which creates the same sense of urgency? Amazon calls these types of promotions Lightning Deals.

The trade-off with many of Amazon’s Promotions is that they can squeeze profit margins, therefore they may only be suitable for a select subset of your product catalog. If your brand hasn’t tried using any of these tactics, now may be a good time to investigate further.


Are your product listings optimized?

Just like with ranking algorithms on popular search engines, Amazon also has its own ranking algorithm called the A9 which is constantly being tweaked and updated. If you created a product listing months (or even years) ago and haven’t kept track of any updates, you could be missing out on sales because of poor listing optimization.

In this Bobsled blog post you can find some tips on how to build your listings to ensure they are set up for success within the Amazon ecosystem. You’ll want to be as descriptive as possible in your titles and descriptions, without misleading shoppers. You’ll also want to keep track of your sales rank and make periodic improvements to stay ahead.

If you’ve been looking at your product listings and thinking they could use a boost, they probably could. Things like poor quality images, uninspired product copy or limited keyword usage could be hurting your sales, so these things are better dealt with sooner rather than later.


Who is taking care of operational tasks?

Running an Amazon store isn’t all advertising and algorithms. There are also some operational elements that often get neglected. You should be on top of PO (Purchase Order) status compliance, product submission status, case logs, promotion recommendations, reviews, inventory, and reporting. 

In some ways, Amazon will do a lot of the work for you, by suggesting opportunities for promotion, items to add to your catalog, and detail page aspects that should be improved upon, such as more images. However, it’s ultimately your responsibility to sift through and implement any recommendations.

Amazon may also charge you a penalty called a chargeback if you fail to meet their compliance standards. You can fight these charges if you believe they have been unfairly given, so you’ll want to watch out for them and assess each situation to determine whether you want to fight the charge or make some operational changes to avoid similar charges in the future. Chargebacks are one way Amazon brings inefficiencies to a brand’s attention, so it’s in the best interests of both parties to fix the issues they highlight.


Does your brand negotiate with Amazon?

Amazon is in the business of helping shoppers find what they want and need. They are also in the business of turning a profit. This means that they are not particularly loyal to any brand and are prone to asking for a better deal from vendors (just like any brick-and-mortar retailer out there). 

You, the brand, need to be prepared for Amazon to ask for discounted bulk orders, and then you need to push back! As a vendor, you do not have to simply agree to the terms and prices that Amazon has put forward. You can negotiate, but you need someone that is familiar enough with your brand and how it fits into Amazon’s landscape in order to do that negotiating. Without that person you’ll likely be stuck with whatever price and terms Amazon presents.

Every year Amazon sends updated terms to the vendor. With Amazon's ever advancing technology, they are increasing MDF (Marketing Development Funds) at a higher rate than ever. It will help you in your negotiation tremendously to understand the reasons behind the increase and request a meeting to discuss terms. Leveraging Bobsled’s negotiation tips will help prepare you for for a successful, and mutually beneficial partnership with Amazon.


Are unauthorized resellers beating you to the buy box?

If you’ve just been letting your VC account run itself, then you may not be on the lookout for other sellers promoting and selling your products. If you have authorized third-party resellers selling your products on Amazon, then you probably have this covered.But if you don’t,and another seller is undercutting you or simply promoting their listings first, they could win the buy box without you even knowing it.

Some Vendors are not even aware that certain products they do not wish to be listed on Amazon are being sold by other third-parties. Often times there are issues with the product listing content and price-point of such products, creating serious brand-perception issues.

Considering the sheer volume of loyal Amazon customers, it’s in your best interest to stay on top of unauthorized sellers and authorized resellers that list your products before you do or sell at a sharper price. We’ve developed some tips on how to handle this brand management process.  


Is there someone in the driver’s seat?

If your Amazon VC account is suffering from some (or all) of these issues, it could be that no one in particular is in charge of them. If your brand is selling on Amazon through Vendor Central, but no one is really paying attention to what’s going on, you are likely losing out on a lot of potential sales.

In order to get things moving a little better, you’ll need to put someone in the driver’s seat. Someone who understands your brand, product line, and the marketing and operational elements of an Amazon vendor account. 

As a start, there are great resources in your Vendor Central account you may not even know exist. Once signed in, under “Help,” you are able to browse various topics for more information and even watch short videos that provide an overview.

In addition, we’ve developed a free Bobsled Marketing Vendor Central training course.

It’s time to wake your Amazon VC account back up and start making the most of this booming sales channel!

How National Brands Can Compete With Amazon’s Private Labels

National brands have competed with private labels from the beginning of retail history, and the emergence of a digital retail giant like Amazon doesn’t mean brands should cower and run for the hills. 

Here’s how companies can compete on the giant retailer’s turf when Amazon is already ahead in the game. 



Jason Goldberg, SVP of Commerce & Content at SapientRazorfish, called the new wave of private labels an ‘owned-brand’ strategy on a recent episode of his podcast. His advice is to avoid making “a carbon copy of the national brand and just put it on the product detail page.”

Instead, he says, the strategy should be to “create a product that has its own value proposition, and in many cases has competitive advantages versus the national brand. And then let’s market the hell out of it and make people want it.”

Goldberg’s podcast co-host Scot Wingo, Executive Chairman at ChannelAdvisor, agrees. “If you’re a brand, and you don’t believe your brand has enough value to stand out against a private label, then why are you even a brand?” 

In order to compete, national brands need to focus on building brand equity and make themselves a more trustworthy option than other labels, including Amazon’s private labels. One way to do this is to provide value-driven or comparative content to show why consumers should choose your brand over the competition.



By selling in their own marketplace, Amazon gains advantages that no one else has, including:

  • The ability to rank their own products higher than other brands in search results
  • Using competitor sales data to drive their own strategy and determine what’s popular
  • Developing their own product lines to compete with the top contenders
  • Getting valuable insight into buyer’s behavior that other brands don’t have access to

Since Amazon has access to an incredible amount of raw competitor data, they watch what national labels do, and then use this advantageous perspective to turn around and do it even better. 

The strongest way for national brands to compete is by promoting their brand story. 

Take Burt’s Bees for example. Their story began with a couple who turned their love of candle making and beekeeping into the iconic natural skin care brand it is today. By harnessing the power of their brand story, Burt’s Bees increased revenue to more than $153 million in 2017. 

This success was fueled by the brand’s commitment to natural ingredients and premium product quality, which customers know about and may choose over competing labels like Amazon’s ‘Beauty Bar’ cosmetics.

Thanks to the constant promotion of a congruent brand story, when potential customers search on Amazon for quality skin care products with natural ingredients, they’re more likely to type in ‘Burt’s Bees’ instead of more generic terms such as ‘beeswax lip balm’ or ‘natural hand salve.’ 

This renders much of Amazon’s private label power irrelevant in the niche that Burt’s Bees operates in. Other brands can leverage the power of their brand’s story in their own niche using this success as an example.



Do you remember when Amazon ONLY sold books?


Believe it or not, it’s been 20 years since Amazon first expanded their offerings and became ‘The Everything Store’ before growing into a massive Ecommerce giant with products competing in nearly every space imaginable.

Many national brands respond to Amazon’s encroaching presence by running a promotion - hoping it will drive sales. In response, Amazon uses lightning deals, coupons, and snags valuable advertising spots and preferential placements in search results to compete with even the most successful competitor promotions. 

Amazon makes sure their products are seen first, and they offer the best deals as often as they want to. In order to compete against this advantage, make sure your brand name is as visible as possible by reaching for top search results with the tools already provided by Amazon. 

For example, Amazon’s PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising platform allows brands to run sponsored products and headline search ads. This means you can pay to be in the top search spots so consumers find your brand first when they’re looking for specific products.

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Brands should also make sure they understand how Amazon’s search algorithm works, and then target the highest volume keywords within their budget.



Some national brand owners make the mistake of abandoning Amazon completely to avoid proprietary data sharing. Unless you’re an exclusive name with high-end products that most people can’t afford, chances are someone else will post your brand on Amazon and they’ll obtain your sales data anyway. 

The truth is that people want to shop on Amazon. Taking your label off Amazon will not only lose you sales, but you’ll also relinquish control of your image and reputation to third-party sellers who may not set the correct standards when listing on Amazon. 

Instead, accept selling on Amazon as part of your larger strategy so you can control your content. 

For example, some products are categorized by Amazon incorrectly, which can affect the number of shoppers that see your listing. Make sure you check your listing categories carefully so you can control how your content appears on both Amazon and in the search results.



According to Goldberg, “if you’re in a world where the only way you can survive is if no one else competes with you, you’re at the end of your life.” 

Your name has survived (even thrived!) against strong competitors before, and Amazon is just another contender.

With these key strategies in mind, staying competitive becomes much more manageable and you don’t have to accept crippling drops in sales. Not only will a solid, targeted strategy help boost your national brand’s potential, it also helps maintain the brand equity you already have. 


3 Ways To Improve Profit Margins On Amazon

The top brand managers know that in today’s competitive world of online retail, promoting a national brand across multiple channels is pivotal to any successful marketing strategy. In fact, many brands balance their own Ecommerce store with traditional brick and mortar retail partners and other online marketplaces like Amazon or Shopify. 


In 2017, Amazon customers totaled over 300 million, making it one of the most popular online retail marketplaces. Their Prime program provides incredible reach and exposure, making the marketplace a goldmine for many national brands across various industries. 

However, a growing multitude of selling and fulfillment fees are narrowing profit margins, making selling on Amazon more and more costly. 

Fortunately, the top national brands have found ways to increase their profit margins when selling on this mega-retail channel. 

Relative to a national brand’s own Ecommerce website, selling on Amazon can be expensive, especially when using Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA). Amazon’s fees include commissions, pick & pack costs, inbound shipping, labor, and more. 

One way to prevent these fees from eating away at profits is to identify which fees can be reduced or avoided altogether. Here are 3 ways brands can reduce fees and other costs to increase their profit margins.



One of the easiest ways for brands to increase profit margins is to identify inaccurate charges by making sure Amazon is charging correctly for shipping costs. For example, FBA shipping fees vary based on package sizes, but automatic categorization or human error can dramatically impact Amazon charges. 

For example, there are cases of one item having two shipping weights simply because an order was filled at different Amazon fulfillment centers. Sometimes, a color variation on identical products results in disparate descriptions because the weight information is input separately, also leading to variable shipping costs.

It’s up to brands to check the size, weight, and description of their Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) regularly so they don’t waste money on inequitable charges. Brands that discover inconsistencies should contact Amazon and ask them to re-weigh items, saving substantially across multiple orders.



Slow moving products on Amazon dip into profits, making inventory another critical area to examine. 

How much inventory is stored with Amazon and how long does it stay there? 
A shocking number of national brands don’t know the answers to those questions. 

Experienced brand managers know that storage costs are substantial if product turnover is drawn out too long. In fact, Amazon recently changed the way they structure inventory storage fees, making this an even costlier expense in 2018. 

They’re now discouraging inactive product inventory by increasing storage fees and changing their long-term storage fee structure from billing every 6 months to every single month. By moving from a semi-annual assessment to a monthly basis, fees have increased by a whopping 6% on average.

The bottom line is that Amazon has fulfillment centers, not warehouses. 

Amazon doesn’t want to store your products a second longer than they have to, so they use penalization fees to motivate brands to move inventory quickly. As a result, brands that take up valuable real estate in their packaging centers risk a higher loss on profit margins. 


National brand managers need to identify sluggish items that leach into profits and then discontinue them on Amazon. 

A far better strategy is to promote a diverse catalog of SKUs on a brand’s company website, and keep only the most effective SKUs on Amazon. 

If a brand already has hundreds of listings on Amazon in an effort to maximize reach and exposure, then start by optimizing the best performing items through advertising and quality reviews. Increased visibility on profitable items can offset the extra cost from listings with slower activity.



As any national brand worth their salt already understands, profitability and sales tell two different tales. The main concern for most brands is profit, but measuring success based on this number alone is a mistake. 

While profitability is undoubtedly important, it may not be the main focus for a company 100% of the time. For example if a brand is working towards other growth objectives, such as developing their brand equity or customer loyalty, then additional variables will need to be considered. 

To see the true measure of profitability and success when selling on Amazon, companies also need to consider: 

  • Brand equity - Some customers prefer certain brands and will seek them out on Amazon, regardless of promotional or competitor prices on the same type of product. If a brand isn’t available, they risk losing those preferred sales to the competition.
  • Market share - If brands want to stay competitive and maintain their market share, they need to perform in every arena - including Amazon. Brands should remember that competitors face the same challenges, so dropping out in this major retail space counts as a loss in the overall market. 
  • Acquisition costs - The way a brand earns a customer’s business differs across every sales channel - from Amazon, to their Ecommerce store, to their brick & mortar partners. This variability makes customer acquisition costs a vital component to consider when looking at profitability. Lower costs to earn new customers may justify smaller profits per item. 
  • Customer lifetime value -  CLTV refers to the frequency of purchase, multiplied by the profit of each purchase (CLTV = Purchase frequency x Purchase Profit). This means that brands need to track CLTV across different purchase channels. While Amazon doesn’t report this data natively in its dashboard, brand managers can cobble together their own system to calculate CLTV using a combination of Amazon reports and their own tracking spreadsheets. By comparing this data across various sales channels, brands will be able to offer consumers the choice of shopping on their preferred channel. 

As you can see, overall profits tell only one part of a larger equation. Brands need to remember that profitability comes in numerous forms, which can be harder to measure. If they can adjust their thinking, they’ll be better equipped to handle selling on this retail marketplace. 



The cost of selling on Amazon often leaves national brands questioning the ROI of directing more resources to this marketplace. What brands need to realize is that, unless they want to risk losing a major portion of Ecommerce sales, neglecting Amazon isn’t a viable option.

A better solution is for brand owners to approach each sales channel uniquely and shift their views on marketing, customer acquisition, sales, and profitability appropriately for each marketplace. 

For example, traditional Ecommerce sales leverage email campaigns as part of their marketing strategy. However, that methodology doesn’t translate well to Amazon since brands aren’t allowed to remarket to their consumers. 

Once brand owners adjust their thinking, they can develop tailored strategies to maximize profits for each marketplace appropriately. 

Part of the strategy for brands to improve profit margins on Amazon is to verify all listing descriptions and check for inaccuracies. Brands should only keep items with fast turnover times in their Amazon catalog and remove sluggish inventory. 

Along with maximizing profits, it’s also important for brands to expand their understanding of profitability to get the full value of selling on Amazon. In the overall picture of a brand’s success, immeasurable elements like reach and exposure can far outweigh profits alone.


Special programs that bobsled has participated in - fashion accelerator program & luxury beauty

Amazon is no stranger to branching out, and doing it with precise intention. That’s why they have created a whole host of programs to attract and assist brands on the platform. From programs to help market your products, to new marketplaces, and programs designed for specific categories; these programs indicate where Amazon sees opportunity in the market, and as a result, opportunity for sellers.

Bobsled has a unique viewpoint on these programs, as we help our client brands navigate the choices and make use of programs where there is a match. As a result, we’ve had the opportunity to learn more about and harness the features of several programs, from beauty, to fashion, and more. 

This landscape is an ever-changing one, and we make it our business (quite literally) to keep up with what’s new, what’s changed and what Amazon has decided to shut down. In this blog post we’ll dive a little further into a few of Amazon’s special programs and our experiences with them in the hopes of making more brands aware of the opportunities available to them.


The Fashion Accelerator Program

Fast fashion is a term we’re hearing more all the time, so it’s no surprise that Amazon is a big proponent of this trend. When you look at the ease of adding new products on the Seller Central platform you can see why it’s such a great avenue for testing new products quickly. As a result, Amazon has approached the fashion industry very intentionally with the Fashion Accelerator program.

Amazon invites fashion brands to the program and helps them identify the types of products they should be testing on the platform. The brand can then create styles, size runs and quantities based on Amazon’s provided data and advice and start selling them on Amazon. This program allows fashion brands to test new products and then react to results by quickly creating larger runs of successful products.

If a product is successful in the Fashion Accelerator it could then potentially be sold as a part of Amazon’s private label. So, Amazon is essentially using the Fashion Accelerator program to feed their private label, but the brand can also maintain their own listing of the product through SC.

Amazon shows they are serious about making this program work as each account is assigned a rep to help move the account through the different phases of setting up product. A wealth of tools are shared with accounts to help them optimize pages, copy, and their Seller Central account, and Amazon handles so many aspects of this program, from product photography all the way through to marketing, making the Fashion Accelerator a very different kind of program for sellers who are already familiar with Amazon’s selling ecosystem. 

Photography is extremely high-quality, but can take weeks to complete, once Amazon receives product samples. Marketing is exceptionally good, with high-value placements all over Amazon, but no data is given to explain how that marketing is performing, which - for anyone who has used the advertising portal in Seller Central - will feel like a disadvantage. 

The good news is that the marketing help and tools unique to this program can drive much higher sales than a seller might be used to. The bad news is that these higher sales can lead to stock-outs. Amazon will try to help sellers keep inventory levels high, but it helps to stay on top of this as early as possible, and to identify which styles are really taking off, as part of the test and react model. Finding those early bestsellers, and then using those as templates for additional styles, is a key to success for future iterations of product within Fashion Accelerator.


Luxury Beauty

The beauty market is a multi-billion dollar opportunity, and Amazon is pursuing a good chunk of those dollars. That’s why they have created the Luxury Beauty category, to operate alongside the standard beauty category.

Bobsled has been learning about the Luxury Beauty category a fair bit in recent months, as it has changed the way that different types of brands sell on the platform. Amazon is pursuing large beauty brands to feature in this category, alongside many high quality, niche products. Brands like Stila and Dermablend set the tone for the kinds of brands you find in this program.

Here at Bobsled we have the opportunity to work with several beauty brands that produce high quality (often on-trend, natural) beauty products. These products are a great fit for the Amazon Luxury Beauty program, because they cater to a higher end market. 

With average CPC among our beauty brands brushing a relatively high $0.80 and ACoS averaging out at just over 25%. There are no free rides in the beauty category, but there is also a lot of opportunity to be had here. One of our beauty brands increased sales by 1551% same week Year Over Year (YOY). January 2017 (sales $879.69) - January 2018 ($14,527.61).


While Amazon’s Luxury Beauty category has long been an exclusive group known to be “invitation-only”, Bobsled recently learned that this may be changing. Bobsled works with a brand that focuses on high end face moisturizers and is currently in the Beauty category. We opened a case with Amazon to request consideration for admission into the Luxury Beauty category based on the brand’s placement as a high-quality, niche product. Instead of the expected Amazon response that we must wait for an invitation to the coveted Luxury Beauty category, Amazon responded with the following: 

"I have investigated the issue with our internal team and they have informed us that for this restriction their is no invitation process you need to go through the approval process.

To seek approval to sell in Amazon Luxury Beauty category, please follow the below mentioned process:

> I would request you to send all the proof to this team via email: this team deals with Luxury Beauty category restriction.

>I have reviewed the screen-shot which you have provided as a proof I would suggest you to submit in PDF format.

> The manufacturer has to write an email to this team: approving you to sell this product."

Instruction on how to apply for the Luxury Beauty category was not expected as, at this point in time, Bobsled had not seen official instruction on a change in this process. Application to the Luxury Beauty category is currently in progress for this brand, based on Amazon’s instructions above and this can be a game changer for other beauty brands that seek admission into Luxury Beauty. 


Vendor Express

The Vendor Express program is a program that Amazon has now phased out, but while it was still live, it served brands wanting to have a wholesale relationship with Amazon without needing an invitation.

This program allowed any brand to hand over their product and have Amazon fully manage the listing, selling, shipping and customer service. You could say that this program operated somewhat like a junior version of Vender Central; handing over control of a product to Amazon, but wasn’t a fully fledged wholesale situation.


We’ve never been huge fans of this program as it seems to contain the cons of both the Seller Central and Vendor Central platforms. As Kiri mentions in her recent commentary on Forbes “It was a halfway house with all the cons of both models - unlike with the full Vendor Central platform where brands are assigned a real human being to negotiate wholesale terms, pricing, and to workshop other issues - brands on Vendor Express were relegated to algorithmic pricing of their products and no human support. And unlike on Seller Central, brands on Vendor Express couldn’t access many of the new promotional tools and programs like Brand Registry 2.0.”

It seems that Amazon has learned its lesson with this program, as it has now been taken offline. This shows that they are pushing to have two defined platforms (SC and VC) and that a halfway program like this was not beneficial for Amazon or for brands.

Amazon has also implemented a hiring freeze on representatives for VC as they work to push more brands towards SC, with the addition of marketing tools previously only available to VC and Vendor Express members. This indicates that Amazon is looking to grow their revenue with less human capital by encouraging more of a self-serve environment on the more fully-featured, SC side.


Find the Right Amazon Program for Your Brand

Amazon continues to expand their variety of programs and capabilities for brands wanting to sell on the platform. If your brand has been hesitant to try this selling channel the Bobsled team can say for certain that opportunities exist for all kinds of products. Contact us to learn about how we can optimize those opportunities for your brand.

How long before I start seeing results on Amazon?

It’s a good question. A legitimate one that we hear from prospective clients now and then. How long will it take for my brand to start seeing results on Amazon?

If you’ve already launched on Amazon and are struggling to reach your sales goals, or you haven’t launched yet and want to get started off on the right foot, Bobsled can help you reach your goals, and in less time than you might think. How much time, exactly? While we can’t see into the future and predict exactly what is going to happen with each brand we work with, we can use data and experience to give you a good idea.

The majority of brands Bobsled works with will see results, in the form of Amazon sales, in the first 2-3 months after starting to work with us. Some elements (like PPC advertising) will start seeing results sooner, and some harder to reach goals (like a healthy flow of buyer reviews) will take a little longer.

The time it takes to reach your sales goals is partially dependent upon the category your product falls into, but with the right strategy, you can drive towards those goals, potentially faster than you think.



Reaching Sales Goals on Amazon

Brands that Launch on Amazon with Bobsled

Once a brand begins to gain traction on Amazon, growth becomes a little more predictable, but how long does it take to gain that initial traction? Bobsled clients that partner with us to launch on Amazon typically start seeing significant results on Amazon within the first 3 months after launch, with several of our brands reaching halfway to their targeted average monthly sales volumes by that point. 

By the 6-month mark? Many brands can expect to see their sales volume double what it was at the 3-month mark.



Let’s Be Specific

So you want to know what your sales could look like on Amazon? Let’s look at a specific example of a Bobsled client that went from zero to $63,000 in monthly sales in an 8 month period.

By month 2 the brand had reached half its current average sales volume and continued to climb for the following six months to the month 8 average. This brand is positioned well in the sporting goods category, which is a competitive category, but has also seen sales growth of 11% year-over-year.


This brand took advantage of Bobsled’s industry expertise to launch their brand on Amazon with A+ content, optimized product pages, professional images, a comprehensive promotion strategy, and inventory forecasts to make sure their product inventory was meeting demand. The brand continues to see excellent PPC performance with ACoS levels typically less than 2.0%. 

Because of this success, the brand confidently expanded to Canada in month 7 and the United Kingdom and Germany in month 8. Now this brand is bringing in an average of $63k in monthly sales that didn’t exist before they launched on Amazon.

Reaching Sales Goals on Amazon

Brands Already Launched on Amazon that Partner with Bobsled 

Brands that are already established on Amazon may ask, what is it that Bobsled can offer that you are not already doing in your account?  The answer is that we bring our extensive industry expertise to the table, with a team comprised of prior Amazon brand managers and PPC experts. Our full service offerings further develop the front end, back end and all PPC aspects of your account. Below are the results that our clients experience after partnering with Bobsled to optimize and manage their brands on Amazon. 

After partnering with Bobsled, our clients see on average over 100% increase in average monthly sales by months 4-6. 

  *Baseline is average monthly sales in the three months before partnering with Bobsled

*Baseline is average monthly sales in the three months before partnering with Bobsled

The above data includes analysis of 13 account management clients. We exported Amazon sales volumes and first calculated the average client sales during the three months prior to Bobsled partnership (“baseline”). We then calculated the average sales growth we saw of the subsequent three month periods relative to that original baseline value. 

From our analysis we show that Bobsled sees over 10% increase in our brand’s average monthly sales in the first three months and over 110% increase in sales in the four to six month period.  This growth continues throughout the first year of our partnership as we refine our strategies and we learn what works best for you and your brand. By the year and a half mark, we typically see further leaps in growth as our brands succeed in the marketplace.


An Established Brand’s Results After Partnership with Bobsled

Let’s look at a specific example of the monthly sales increase that one client, who was already established on Amazon, saw after partnership with Bobsled.  We will consider the average monthly sales before partnership with Bobsled to be the baseline. Baseline is 1.0. In the one to three month period immediately following our partnership we saw average monthly sales increase by a factor of 1.6x baseline. In the next three months we saw sales increase by a factor of 3.2x baseline.  

How did we do this? Every brand faces different challenges and opportunities within their categories on Amazon and determining exactly where we could add the most value really paid off.  In this example, this brand had operations difficulties related to manufacturing as well as an overall lack of Amazon ‘expertise’ (including challenges with communication with Amazon.) Originally sellers on Vendor Central, we helped this client launch on Seller Central to compete directly with Amazon’s MSRP offer on their original product. 

So, in addition to the critical product page optimization, advertising strategies, inventory management issues, etc., we addressed where this client could specifically make the strongest gains on Amazon. 


The Most Competitive Product Categories on Amazon

While Bobsled prides itself on producing great results for clients, you may be wondering if these numbers are attainable for any type of product. The answer is that there are some categories that tend to be more competitive than others.

If your brand falls into one of these competitive categories it may take you a little longer to reach sales goals, or your ACoS may be higher than that of a brand in a less competitive category, but we still believe you can reach your goals with the right strategy.

Some of the most competitive categories on Amazon are Health & Personal Care, Grocery & Gourmet Food, Beauty, and Sporting Goods.


How much can my brand make by selling on Amazon?

I’m glad you asked. Amazon is a huge marketplace with an even bigger following. Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of the market your brand can reach on Amazon, “Amazon now has 90 million Prime members in the U.S. alone.” This means that 90 million American shoppers are invested enough in buying on Amazon that they pay for an annual membership to make that shopping even easier.

Amazon was responsible for about 44 percent of all U.S. e-commerce sales last year, or about 4 percent of the country's total retail sales figure.” The areas that gained the most of this 44 percent market share were luxury beauty, pantry, grocery and furniture.

There is an increasingly large number of people looking to Amazon to sell and ship them the things that they used to drive to their nearest big box store to purchase. Programs like Amazon Prime and Subscribe & Save are making this easier than ever. The great news here is that a smaller, less established brand can show up in an Amazon search next to a brand that’s been sold in retail stores for ages. This gives smaller brands a leg up when it comes to competing with the big guys.

As a brand, if you compare setting your brand up on SC with selling to retail outlets like Walmart or Target, you can see why Amazon has become such a popular sales platform for brands who want to expand their market. Sales don’t happen by accident on Amazon though, there’s still work to be done, but with a partner like Bobsled you’ll be on your way to reaching your sales goals in no time (i.e. three to six months).


Be the Next Success Story

Here at Bobsled we love seeing our clients reach their sales goals on Amazon. It’s a great avenue for brands, big and small, to reach new markets and create loyal customers. 

We pride ourselves on helping brands navigate Amazon. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of launching your brand on Amazon, but you also feel it could be a huge win for your company, let’s talk! Request a consultation with our team

6 Ways To Tell if Your Resellers or Distributors are Properly Representing Your Brand on Amazon

Many brands choose to sell their own products on Amazon, but others may choose to allow resellers or distributors sell their products. Allowing another company to sell your products on Amazon opens up another stream of income for you with very little effort, but it isn’t without its potential downsides.

If your brand has authorized a seller or distributor to sell your products on Amazon, you could be faced with a variety of pricing inconsistencies, customer service mishaps, and product misrepresentations, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you see deficiencies in your seller’s strategies (or lack thereof) it may be time to sell your product directly. But how will you know what to look for?

Unfortunately, a brand who doesn’t sell directly on Amazon does not have access to the data available to sellers, but there are some outward signs you can watch out for to make sure your products are being presented in their best, most saleable light. If you think your product listings are looking a little “meh”, but you’re not sure how they could be optimized, here are a few things you can watch out for.



1. Are the product descriptions and headlines optimized for search engines and shoppers?

This is step number one, because it greatly affects the experience for shoppers and can be detrimental to products being found in the first place. Product titles should be accurate and as descriptive as possible. 

If you sell throw pillows the headline should contain as much information about the product as possible while still being easy to read. For example, instead of the product being named “Yellow Throw Pillow” it could benefit from being called “15” Square Yellow Corduroy Throw Pillow”.

The product description and bullet points should also be optimized to include as much relevant copy as possible. If you read a product description and you find information to be missing, you know that your seller is not presenting your product as best as they could. You know your product better than anyone, so you’re probably the best person to point out holes in the listings and how a product could be described better.


2. Is there a good selection of images?

Images are a very important element of the online shopping experience. Shoppers need to see the overall product, colors, textures, and details, as well as the product in use in a relevant setting.

Amazon has some pretty high standards for seller images, which is a large part of what keeps the quality of the shopping experience consistently high. Unfortunately, Amazon does not always enforce these requirements well and it falls to the seller to make sure they are presenting quality images. 

The shopper needs to see your product in as many ways as possible, in clearly lit, high resolution photographs. This helps to replace the in-store experience with many products. If your product listings only show one or two images you are losing out to more thorough and descriptive listings for similar products. Read more about effective product images in our previous blog post.  



3. Are the products consistently in stock?

If your seller has managed to gain control of the buy box, you’re in a great place to further optimize your product listings. One of the things that can quickly destroy this is when a product is consistently out of stock.

If you’re finding that there is a new level of demand for a product (thanks, buy box) then you need to respond to that demand as quickly as possible to avoid stock shortages. Maybe it’s time to communicate with your seller about the size and/or frequency of their wholesale orders.

4. Are the prices consistent with your brand’s pricing?

Many online shoppers these days are pretty savvy; capable of searching the internet for the best deal once they’ve found the product they want. So, if your Amazon seller is trying to get an extra few dollars out of a product it may be detrimental to sales.

The opposite problem is also possible if your brand sells online through multiple venues. If a seller on Amazon drops the price in order to attract more shoppers (beyond a special promotion period) it may hurt your business on other platforms and lead to ‘channel conflict’ with other retail partners. 

5. Are there a good number of reviews available and is the Question & Answer section being utilized?

Opinions from other humans are one of the most important factors in the buying decision process. Online reviews have gotten a bad rap in recent years, with a lot of them being called out as fake, but thankfully, Amazon has a good handle on the review trolls, by only allowing reviews from verified buyers. This means that brands and sellers need to encourage more real reviews from more real shoppers. In other words, what the review platform was designed for in the first place. 

Sellers should also be responding promptly to negative customer reviews. While some negative product reviews are to be expected, oftentimes a customer can be satisfied if the seller or brand reaches out to make things right. A large number of negative reviews without responses is damaging to your brand. 

The Question & Answer section can also be a really good way to interact with shoppers and bring a personal touch to your brand. If your seller is neglecting either of these elements it could really hurt your listing position and sales.


6. Are the listings optimized for mobile?

From a sampling of 1000 US shoppers in February 2017, 25.4% bought through the Amazon smartphone app and 22.6% bought on the mobile version of That’s almost 50% of shoppers making purchases on their mobile devices, rather than a desktop. 

The shopping experience is different on a smaller screen, therefore product listings need to shrink a little bit, while still being informative and relevant. Product descriptions should be distilled down to their most accurate descriptions and sellers should be sure to feature images that give a clear view of the product on a smaller screen.

The relationship between a brand and a 3rd party seller can be a complicated one when it comes to making the most of an Ecommerce platform like Amazon. More sales benefit both the brand and the seller, but if your reseller seems to be on autopilot, it might be time to take control of your products and start selling them yourself on Amazon.

If you’re considering taking the reins back from your distributors or resellers and you want to optimize your sales, Bobsled can help you do that. We’ll let you know where your resellers were falling short and make sure you avoid the same pitfalls. Contact us for more information.

Could enrolling your products in Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program help your brand sell more?

The early days of online shopping were reserved for specialty items and non-essentials, like say, books, but that’s all changed. Now shoppers are going online for everything from their weekly grocery shop to beauty products and cleaning supplies. If they need it, they can (most likely) get it.

Many ecommerce platforms have already taken it one step further by offering subscription programs. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program is one of them. Subscribe & Save is a great option for products that need regular replenishing, such as shampoo, supplements, household items, office supplies, and health and personal care items.

Subscribe & Save customers select the product, the quantity, and the frequency of delivery. A 5% discount is given per subscription, but if a customer receives products from 5 or more subscriptions in a given month, the customer will be given a 10% or 15% discount per subscription, depending on the product category. For example, customers receiving 5 or more subscriptions in the Beauty, Grocery or Health and Baby Care will receive 15% off, whereas 5 or more subscriptions in Kitchen, Office Supplies or Outdoor will only receive 10% off. 

  Above: a Subscribe &amp; Save product on Amazon.   

Above: a Subscribe & Save product on Amazon.

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program facilitates repeat purchases and builds brand loyalty. It allows shoppers to put their essential shopping on autopilot, so they’re never doing a last minute run for diapers or toilet paper. Did you know Amazon even has a subcategory to Subscribe & Save called Family for young families regularly buying items such as diapers and baby food? I’m guessing this program has taken a chunk out of diaper sales at stores like Walmart and Costco.

Subscribe & Save can also be a great convenience option for brands selling in Gourmet & Grocery. It’s a great way to get unique food products in front of a new audience. A shopper is more likely to try a product if they know they can place it on repeat order if they like it, and this encourages them to move away from buying at the supermarket. For loyal consumers who know which brand they want, Subscribe & Save makes it easier for them to stay in stock. On the flipside, it lowers the chances of a consumer shopping around, thus increasing retention rates. 

Some shoppers even put small consumables, like energy drinks, on Subscribe & Save to lower their per unit cost and still get their caffeine fix every day. This blog post also breaks down a few other items that are worth buying with Subscribe & Save, like deodorant and shampoo.

Subscribe & Save Success Stories

Bobsled is working with a few brands that have tried the Amazon Subscribe & Save program, and we’re happy to report that we’ve seen success. The recurring revenue that it brings to brands is undeniably beneficial if they can get a decent uptake among shoppers. Customers who are buying from you on a subscription basis may also be inclined to try other products you have on offer. 

If your brand sells a consumable product that a household could replace their current brand with, Subscribe & Save is a great opportunity to build strong brand loyalty.

One client enabled Subscribe & Save on their whole catalogue of grocery replenishable items in late November 2017 and has seen a steady increase in the number of subscriptions each week. This client started with 299 subscriptions in mid November 2017 and by 12 February 2018, subscriptions were up to 966, an increase of 223% in just 3 months. 

When we translate this to a proportion of revenue, we can see healthy growth. Between 12th December 2017 and 11th January 2018, revenue generated from Subscribe & Save orders represented 11% of total revenue for the period. Between 12th January 2018 and 12th February 2018, Subscribe & Save revenue represented 14% ot total revenue for the period. 



When is the Subscribe & Save program not effective?

For every success story there is not-so-successful story. In fact, some shoppers have become wary of Amazon brands overpricing in order to compensate for the Subscribe & Save discounts. Of course, the convenience aspect of the program (and Amazon in general) cannot be underestimated, but brands need to ask themselves if they have the margin to offer a 5-15% discount to subscribers. Is the shopper loyalty valuable enough to offer attractive discounts? 

Furthermore, if you can determine a high reorder rate for your products and your margins are slim, you may decide it’s not worth losing that 5-15%. In any case, shoppers are smart and are easily turned away if they feel they’ve been overcharged for a deal. Maintaining consistent pricing is an important component in building consumer confidence.  

From our experience, we’ve discovered that luxury products do not sell as well on a subscription basis. Perhaps they are items that shoppers splurge on from time to time, or buy when they’ve gone on sale. Whatever the case, the Amazon Subscribe & Save program can be difficult for luxury products or big ticket items in general. These types of products are better off creating product bundles or limited-time promotions in order to increase market share.

Seasonal products likely won’t do well on this program either, because a good part of the country doesn’t care to receive shipments of sunscreen all year round. Once again, it’s best to make yourself known to shoppers during a time when they’re most likely to buy.


Alexa and Subscribe & Save

Ordering Amazon Prime eligible products through Alexa is pretty easy, as long as you get the name of the product right, but ordering it on a Subscribe & Save membership is not quite as easy.

It makes sense that an order placed through Alexa would not default to Subscribe & Save, because shoppers could very easily order themselves a year’s supply of something they only meant to order one of. So, while ordering through Alexa is possible and convenient, shoppers need to manage their Subscribe & Save orders and settings through a computer or mobile device.

  Image Source:   Amazon  .  com

Image Source:

Amazon Pantry or Subscribe & Save?

Amazon has so many different programs at this point that it’s understandable where shoppers and brands are getting confused. These two different programs serve a slightly different purpose and are not available to all sellers on Amazon.

While Subscribe & Save allows shoppers to put a product on automatic reorder, Pantry allows shoppers to group together a variety of different items from different sellers and brands into one box for easy shipping. Prime Pantry products are shipped and sold by so third party professional sellers are not able to offer their products on Prime Pantry. 

Seller or Vendor

Previously only vendor products were eligible for Subscribe & Save, which makes sense, considering Amazon needs control of shipping and customer service in order to make this program work. 

As a vendor you really have no control over what Amazon adds to the Subscribe & Save program because they choose what gets sold where and for how much. As a seller using FBA you can decide what products to list on Subscribe & Save, create special bundles and offer special discounts. This allows you, as the seller, to test different discounts and product bundles to find your best-selling options.

If your brand is already offering product bundles with FBA, why not give Subscribe & Save a try to see if you can build that automatic brand loyalty?


Optimize your Subscribe & Save Offers

If you’ve decided to give the Amazon Subscribe & Save program a try, you’ll obviously want to know how to create offers that will hook shoppers. You can do that by:

  1. Taking a look at your shoppers’ history. If you have repeat customers, how often do they order and how much? You can also estimate how much an average household would use your product and base your bundles/sizes off of that.
  2. Create bundles that make sense. If you sell laundry detergent and fabric softener, you may benefit from creating bundles with a special discount just for Subscribe & Save orders. Same with shampoo & conditioner, cat food & litter; you get the idea. Listen to our podcast episode about creating product bundles for more tips here.  
  3. Shop your competitors. Take a look at the discounts offered by other brands on Amazon or in retail stores. Track retail store flyers over several months to determine how often your type of product goes on sale and by how much. If shoppers realize that they can just stock up at their local supermarket when something goes on sale instead of subscribing to your product, they’ll be less likely to order from you. This is especially true considering most Subscribe & Save products are non-perishables.
  4. Try gearing some of your non-Amazon advertising towards the convenience of having your products delivered to shoppers’ doors on a regular basis. For busy families, especially those in urban areas with less storage space, the convenience of having a constant supply of something without having to lug it home or store it for months at a time will be worth it regardless of minor price differences. This kind of advertising may bring shoppers from elsewhere on the internet to your products on Amazon, hopefully creating a repeat customer in the process.


Ready to try it?

Before you enable Subscribe & Save on your items, you must have a professional Amazon seller account that is in good standing, has a feedback rating of 4.7 and has been selling with FBA for 3 months or more. You also must maintain an in-stock percentage of at least 85%. If you want to see what Subscribe & Save might do for your brand’s sales you can try it by:

  1. Logging into your Seller Central account, going to Settings > Fulfillment by Amazon > Subscription Settings and enabling Subscribe & Save.
  2. Add your offers.

You can monitor the success of your Subscribe & Save offers by looking at the reports under Reports > Fulfillment and under Sales > Subscribe & Save Performance, or under Inventory > Subscribe & Save Forecasting.

If your brand is unsure of whether the Subscribe & Save program is right for you, the Bobsled team can help you determine if you should give it a try and how you can make the most of it. Contact us to find out more.