Venturing into eCommerce: The Biggest Step for Businesses in 2018

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Why sell online?

Last year, for the first time ever, online sales exceeded in-store sales. The 2017 shopping season reached a four-year high in sales, according to FirstData, with eCommerce outranking brick and mortar growth by nearly 7%. For those in the digital loop, these statistics are unsurprising; the internet is steadily becoming the strongest shopping center, forcing many large retailers to shut down physical locations. Macy’s, CVS, and even Walmart have taken to bolstering their online presence by cutting their losses and evolving with the market.

The convenience of 24/7 availability and one-click ordering, as opposed to taking time out of a busy schedule to navigate a physical store during their open hours, makes online shopping an easy choice for the average American. Retailers also enjoy the convenience of shipping straight to the consumer as opposed to allocating product to brick and mortar stores, where they risk losing profit due to theft and in-house damage.

Large and small businesses alike benefit from entering the eCommerce arena. With unlimited customization of things like storefronts, advertising opportunities, and multi-platform sales, a new company or startup can expect higher visibility than simply existing on a shelf.

Where to begin?

Amazon is an eCommerce giant. The CEO, Jeff Bezos, recently set the record for holding the largest individual fortune since 1982, reaching over $150 billion. His company accounts for over 45% of all eCommerce sales currently, and is projected to reach 50% in 2021. There’s no question it is the best platform for businesses to utilize when starting their eCommerce journey. Amazon’s high traffic means more customers have the potential to become familiar with your brand, and the established reliability means customers will feel secure in their purchases as opposed to shopping on a lesser-known website.

Amazon makes it simple for businesses to set up shop in their marketplace, with easy-to-use tools to create and customize listings. They provide space for product information in both quick bullet points and longform description boxes. Additionally, Amazon’s A+ pages give businesses a broad field for all sorts of content, from infographics to in-depth usage information.

In fact, not taking advantage of setting up your product online opens the door for third-party resellers. These retailers will sell your product online for their own profit, seeing an opening in the market left by your absence. This can devalue your brand right out of the gate, as the product could be tampered with, expired, or otherwise divergent from your brand’s quality or message. The internet is rife with these kinds of rogue sellers who can do great damage to a brand without consequences.

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How do I get started?

Before you can tackle the larger problem of controlling your brand integrity, you have to establish an online presence in the first place. Creating product listings is only one step in crafting your brand’s online presence, and certainly isn’t the first. The first step is converting your existing branding, product images, and overall mission into a format that can be found easily on Amazon’s large marketplace.

When your product is in a physical store, you have full control over how it is viewed. What the customer sees is your complete product in a natural environment, and they are able to instantly determine things like dimensions, usability, and quality. When sold online, these things have to be established as close to real-life standards as possible. This means high-quality images, in-depth product information, and targeted answers for common questions posed by online viewers. This goes the same for your brand overall. From your storefront page to the headers and language used within individual listings, you want your brand to stand out as authentically as possible.

Once listings are established and your storefront is as close to your company’s vision as possible, the next step is to price your listings. Calculating sales tax, establishing potential coupons and offers, and measuring yourself up against your competitors requires a nuance that is quite different from selling in a brick and mortar store. The online market is constantly fluctuating, so it is important to stay on top of changes when they happen.

Another layer of pricing security comes in the form of MAP agreements. MAP stands for the Minimum Advertised Price that your product can be sold for online. This is usually below your MSRP, and incentivizes online sales and traffic. Many times, a consumer will see or test a product in-store, but purchase it online for less. When this happens, it is important that the final sale still goes to you or your authorized sellers at the price you agreed upon. It is important that your MAP agreement corresponds to local and federal laws, so having an open line with a legal entity is supremely useful.

How do I protect and promote my brand?

When it comes to halting rogue sellers before they can damage your brand, Amazon provides a useful tool. Amazon Transparency creates a label for your products that can verify where it was manufactured and when, as well as additional information that can be customized by the seller.

Utilizing a 26-digit, alphanumeric code called an Authenticity Identifier (AID), Transparency provides an extra layer of security when retailing your product. It connects with applications that the customer can download to easily scan their purchases. This protects your brand from negative reviews that are based unfairly off of fake or damaged product, and gives customers the confidence that their purchase will be secure. Additionally, it gives insight into where the product came in from, so a brand can know if it was an authorized seller that leaked the fraudulent product and cease selling to them.

Amazon also provides multiple ways for sellers to advertise their products. Headline Search and Sponsored Product ads target keywords related to your business or product and displays advertisements on relevant pages, ultimately driving business to your brand page. They also have a section for “Lightning Deals” that change on a weekly basis, which provides maximum exposure for a new product launch.

Outside of Amazon, however, are opportunities to advertise on social media and use social media influencers to reach a wider audience of potential customers. The more online platforms that a business advertises on, the more traffic they will direct to their site. Using both traditional marketing, as well as seeking these influencers with a large following, establishes both an audience and credibility for your brand.

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Is it easy?

This sounds like a lot of work, and it truthfully is. To safely and effectively set up your brand on Amazon, many factors need to be taken into account. The business of eCommerce is not identical to traditional, brick and mortar marketing. In fact, 90% of online startups fail, the chief reason being a lack of good mentorship and domain-specific knowledge. It’s easy to list products on Amazon, but it’s not easy to list them effectively.

Establishing a brand that will stand out online requires a comprehensive, creative approach that is aware of trends and what is considered palatable for the online consumer. From developing Enhanced Brand Content to determining effective ad campaigns, businesses find a higher level of success when they have a dedicated creative team working to elevate their brand. This also ensures that the text within product listings contains quality writing that is consistent with your brand’s overall message.

Additionally, staying afloat in the Amazon marketplace requires constant vigilance. Trends change quickly, and it is important to dedicate attention to when they do and how to address them. Not only that, but Amazon’s entire marketplace changes quite frequently. Site algorithms, how listing information is displayed and coded, and how products are classified are all susceptible to changing at any moment, and can require a major overhaul in a short amount of time. As a 24/7 business, eCommerce needs around-the-clock availability from retailers to address customer questions and concerns in a timely manner, as well as resolve logistical issues.

How we can help.

Top Shelf Brands bridges the gap between you and the consumer. Without face-to-face selling that you find in brick and mortar stores, online shopping can seem automated and inauthentic. We have an extensive line of services, such as establishing brand presence through well-designed storefronts and advertisements, optimizing listings for keywords to increase visibility, and customer service. We actively respond to every customer concern within 24 hours, and have received 100% positive feedback over the lifetime of our business. In addition, we use marketing analytics and advanced tools to establish email correspondence with both active customers and potential buyers who may have viewed or put your products in their online cart. To us, eCommerce is more than just advertising and selling. It is creating a positive experience for both buyers and sellers by taking advantage of the convenience and innovation of online retail.

Top Shelf Brands represents over 100 premium retail brands in all product classifications, and is consistently ranked in Amazon’s top 50 US sellers. Our company has seen 2000% growth in our industry since 2014. We have established successful eCommerce campaigns for both large and small retailers, and focus on promoting high-quality products with our marketing, logistics, and creative teams. We also have been selected for 2018’s Inc. 5000 list, which showcases America’s fastest-growing private companies.

Our reach extends across all major online platforms, from Amazon and other eCommerce websites like Jet, to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. We use time-proven techniques to establish your brand as a profitable, high-ranking contender in the marketplace. Our expertise starts at brand conception and follows your eCommerce journey all the way to distribution, with over 50 remote warehouses across the globe.

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