January 20, 2021 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In the past year many online merchants and retailers have experienced a dramatic uptick in sales as global lockdowns and a surge in remote working kickstarted an online shopping boom.
According to an October forecast by Smart Insights, global retail had been initially projected to expand by 4.4 percent in 2020, but this estimate was revised to 18.4 percent as the current health crisis sent e-commerce sales soaring. Moreover, e-commerce retail sales now account for almost 30 percent of all retail in the UK and 16 percent of sales in the U.S. — reaching record numbers in 2020.
This growth has been seen across practically all verticals, with the food, home, beauty, and electronics sectors, in particular, seeing striking growth this year. And with the world continuing to embrace digital technology and more than 2 billion people now shopping online, the trend looks set to continue well into the future. Retail e-commerce sales are slated to grow by 20.2 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) in some countries between 2020 and 2024.
Related: E-commerce Is Booming. Here’s How to Take Advantage
For Amazon sellers, this means more customers, more sales and an incredible opportunity for growth — doubly so when capitalizing on the latest trends. As has always been the case, fortune favors the prepared, which in the context of your Amazon business, means leveraging the latest frontiers on online retail to help leapfrog the competition and maximize your success. Here’s a look at how to stay on top of marketing trends for 2021 and beyond.
1. Get creative when driving traffic
As with all retail, the number of views you get is proportional to the number of sales you will achieve. This is Marketing 101 — drive views to drive sales.
But the way successful Amazon businesses achieve this is changing. While the vast majority of merchants rely on Amazon’s internal pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution to drive traffic to their products, more daring merchants are beginning to turn to more unorthodox methods to drive traffic to their listings.
“If you ask five different people, you’ll probably get five different answers,” says Chase Alley, CEO of Push AMZ, a company that builds and manages automated Amazon stores. “We noticed that paid traffic always performs better once the product has organic traffic, unit sales and reviews,” he says.
Related: How an Amazon Store Can Increase Shopper Engagement
To achieve organic growth, Alley claims to rely on Amazon search engine optimization (SEO) rather than Google or Social Media SEO. “That means researching extensively, setting target keywords and adjusting your product listing content accordingly,” Alley says. “Once you have your goals set, move to optimize your product listing title, your seller name, Amazon backend keywords, your brand field, and product description and bullet points.”
Another rapidly growing sector is micro-influencer marketing. This is essentially the practice of leveraging smaller influencers on popular channels, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, to promote your products to their small, albeit loyal following. Two key players in this space are the micro-influencer platforms Cameo and myFanPark (formerly Starsona).
The benefits of micro-influencers over larger, more established influencers are two-fold. For one, they’re far cheaper. You can expect to pay just a fraction of the cost-per-engagement compared to macro-influencers, and you can often score free promotions by simply sending out review products to target influencers. But more than this, there’s a chance to form a brand ambassador relationship with the influencer, securing a more favorable, longer-term arrangement.
2. Embrace automation
“Automation” is a huge buzzword in e-commerce. According to Ralph Boddicker, a top-ranked Amazon seller and CEO of the Amazon-focused e-learning company Private Label Squad, it’s also a synonym for losing out on profit. “There is a lot of hype around ‘Amazon automation,’ which basically means you have to forfeit a large portion of your profits to let someone else manage your Amazon business,” he says. “People need to understand that Amazon FBA in general is already very much automated. How? Amazon will pick, pack and ship your product to the customer and also handle most customer service issues and returns. This leaves you to manage your advertising and reorder inventory.”
Related: The 3 Telltale Signs That It’s Time for You to Automate
Besides investing in e-mail-marketing automation software, Boddicker says that most conventional automation applications are not worth your while. Instead, he is looking at a closely related development that is now disrupting the automation niche: artificial intelligence (AI).
Although it is most commonly used as a digital assistant in 2020, an increasing number of online retailers are beginning to leverage the power of AI to boost efficiency, increase performance and gather insights on their target markets. As an Amazon customer, you may have already seen that the online retail giant already uses AI as a first-layer of customer support with its virtual assistant and also uses AI-driven insights for product recommendations. It even uses AI for route planning in its logistics operations.
But as a seller on Amazon Seller Central, you can also begin to leverage AI and machine learning to your advantage. “A couple things on the horizon that I’m anticipating for Amazon sellers,” Boddicker says, “are AI for inventory management, better retargeting to your customer base, and voice search for product orders and reorders.” The platform’s future AI options could be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as optimizing your pricing strategy based on seasonal changes in demand, handling basic customer support queries, and analyzing the performance of your competitors.
As it stands, the industry surrounding AI-powered tools for Amazon Seller Central is still relatively underdeveloped. This is both good and bad. There are currently few options available commercially, but this also means you benefit from a first-mover advantage and can take action on insights that few others can access.
Related: Here’s How Customer Experience and AI Are Driving the Next Gen of E-commerce Industry
Splitly is one such firm that offers AI-powered tools for automatically adjusting prices and tracking your ranking on various keywords. Feedvisor offers similar services, allowing you to automatically balance your advertising budget, harvest keywords and more. Both of these options require a somewhat costly subscription plan.
But if you’re in it for the long-haul, consider commissioning something that better suits your needs — it could pay off in the long run.
3. Go for sustainability
Sustainability is en vogue. The current health and economic crisis has forced billions of people worldwide to consider their impact on others with movement restrictions, stock shortages and a massive upheaval in the way we go about our daily lives. This has brought about a renewed focus on sustainability over the past year.
With an increasing number of online shoppers looking to purchase only from environmentally friendly, sustainability-oriented retailers and more customers than ever before placing sustainability over pricing, savvy Amazon business owners can quickly and easily target this rapidly growing demographic with just a few simple changes.
For one, consider the type of packaging you use. If you produce your own products, consider using eco-friendly materials in their construction and packaging—such as recycled plastics (e.g., polyethylene terephthalate) and cardboard, steel, aluminum and glass. If you want to get extra creative, consider using sustainably-sourced alternative materials, such as sunflower husks and bioplastic granules which are either compostable or biodegradable.
Related: How to Make Sustainability More Than a Buzzword
Research by Accenture Strategy finds that more than half of customers in the UK want companies to take a stand that aligns with their personal values on sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices. Moreover, it found that 62 percent of UK customers prefer to buy from companies that are committed to cutting down on waste.
With that in mind, many online shoppers are savvy and will quickly see through an inauthentic approach designed to simply clickbait or drive views. Instead, focus on making sustainability a core part of your brand story, weaving it into your product information pages and core design ethos. This might include committing to ethical sourcing, implementing a buy-back or recycling program, and building your marketing strategy around sustainability keywords.
This won’t just help you score more customers, it’s also good for the planet — a real win-win situation.