Archive for September, 2020

Top Three Questions to Ask an Amazon Consulting Agency

Top Three Questions to Ask an Amazon Consulting Agency

Finding the Key to a Mutually Successful Partnership

Amazon’s exponential growth is no secret. There are currently an estimated 2.5 million active sellers on the marketplace, with more joining every day. Naturally, increased competition makes it harder to distinguish your brand. This has created a growing demand for agencies and consultants who can help businesses optimize and grow their Amazon channel quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, not all can deliver results – not necessarily because they are unqualified, but because the agency and the client are mismatched. The key to success is to find the best Amazon partner suited for your business. This is not always easy. To help, we’ve compiled the three most important questions you should ask an Amazon agency or consultant.

What distinguishes your agency from the rest?

The first thing to know is that not all Amazon agencies or consultants are the same. Some are large organizations with many departments while others can be a one-person operation. Size does not necessarily matter, but experience and qualifications do. With this in mind, the first question to ask is: what is unique about your agency or consultancy? If they have trouble answering, consider this a red flag. For example, Channel Key prides itself on three primary distinctions that have taken years of hard work and results to achieve:

  1. Our Pedigree
    Channel Key has a decade of direct strategy management and successful execution on the Amazon platform with a quarter billion in cumulative sales. Our data-driven Amazon strategies and tactics are tested and proven. In other words, we walk the walk.
  1. Our Boutique Approach
    Every business is unique. Customizing a successful Amazon marketplace strategy begins with learning and understanding the particular and often changing needs of your business.
  1. Our Proprietary Process
    Channel Key has developed customized processes to create alignment and maximize results, including our very own proprietary algorithms and technology available nowhere else.

What type of business is your agency best positioned to help succeed on Amazon?

This is one of the most important questions that agencies and consultants will often avoid. A common answer is we can help everyone. This is another red flag. The truth is all agencies and consultants are best suited for clients with particular needs. For example, a small consultancy likely won’t have the bandwidth to build and launch an Amazon storefront for a manufacturer with new products in high-maintenance categories. On the other hand, these consultants may be perfect for managing the day-to-day operations of a small business’s Amazon channel. It just depends.

Channel Key specializes in helping businesses that are brand owners and/or manufacturers and currently have a presence on Amazon. We focus on maximizing sales. This can’t happen without winning the buy box, which is only eligible to brand owners. Registering your brand with Amazon opens the door for exponential growth by providing a host of benefits and tools not available to other sellers, including:

  • Greater control over your product listings
  • Amazon support for case management and resolutions
  • Exclusive search and reporting tools
  • Proactive brand protections
  • Access to A+ content and Enhanced Brand Content
  • Exclusive visibility options like Sponsored Brands, the Early Reviewer Program, and Vine

With these opportunities comes more work. There are many moving parts, levers, and strategies that all need to be fine-tuned and closely monitored to work together. When done correctly, sales can skyrocket. Channel Key’s unique infrastructure includes a wide range of specialists who are experienced and trained in these key areas to provide a comprehensive and holistic approach that is most conducive to success for brand owners.

What can your business expect regarding growth and performance?

Last, but certainly not least, you should always ask an agency or consultant what to expect in terms of results. This will tell you a lot about your prospective partner – especially if they project numbers that sound too good to be true. Beware of agencies that promise exponential growth in a short amount of time. The Amazon marketplace just doesn’t work that way. One of the best ways to get a sense of the kind of results an agency or consultant can provide you is to vet what they’ve done for previous clients. Agencies with proven track records will happily offer case studies detailing not only the results they’ve produced for other businesses, but how they’ve achieved them.

With more than 30 years of combined experience, Channel Key has helped complete more than 4.5 million e-commerce transactions, managed more than 145,000 SKUs, and generated more than $250 million in Amazon sales. We routinely detail the results of various campaigns, tactics, and strategies that have elevated sales and are measurable by data-driven key performance indicators such as conversion rate, return on ad spend, organic search ranking, total page views, advertising cost of sale, and more.

FINAL THOUGHTS | Core Values

A partnership between a business and an Amazon agency or consultant is a big decision that both parties should carefully consider. The most important factor is whether your Amazon partner is the right agency for your business, and vice versa. Channel Key has a successful track record because we are selective about the brands with which we partner. We understand that not every business will be a good fit, and that’s okay. While being a brand owner is a strong criterion, other factors are equally important to us. A successful partnership requires a strong foundation. To help secure this, we work with brands who share our core values:

  1. OWN EVERYTHING – High Standards and Ultimate Accountability
  2. POSITIVITY IS A CHOICE – Be Aware and Control What You Can Control
  3. PASSION FOR GROWTH – Reset Your Bar Personally and Professionally
  4. ROOT THE PROBLEM – Solve the Root Case, Don’t Band-Aid the Problem
  5. ADAPT DAILY – Growth Mindset, Mental Nimbleness and Flexibility
  6. HONEST COMMUNICATION – Open, Effective and Honest Communication

At the end of the day, success for our clients means success for us. As a business, you should seek an agency or consultant that follows this guiding principle, aligns with your company values, understands your particular needs, is open and transparent about how they can help you, and has the record to back it up. If you are interested in learning more about whether Channel Key is the right agency to help elevate your business on Amazon, contact us today for a free consultation.

How to Overcome Amazon Inventory Challenges for the 2020 Holiday Season

How to Overcome Amazon Inventory Challenges for the 2020 Holiday Season

First, the good news. This holiday season will be great for e-commerce. It’s no secret that online shopping has soared during the pandemic. The Department of Commerce announced in August that U.S. e-commerce sales jumped 31.8% from Q1 to Q2 this year, accounting for 16.1% of all retail sales (estimates for Q3 are scheduled for release on November 19, 2020). From a broader view, this is a 44.5% increase in digital sales from Q2 of 2019.

By all accounts, this accelerated growth will continue into the holiday season – largely due to COVID-19. Social distancing, stay-at-home mandates, in-store capacity restrictions, and fear of contagion have all contributed to the rise in e-commerce. With fewer people visiting brick and mortar stores, more brands are shifting their focus to online sales. For the first time in years, many retailers have announced they will be closed this Thanksgiving, including:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Best Buy
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Foot Locker
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Kohl’s
  • Sam’s Club

All of this points to a promising holiday season for online shopping. Unfortunately, this isn’t the full story.

Amazon Fulfillment Challenges for this Holiday Season

While COVID-19 has helped create new digital customers, it’s also created new challenges for brands. As the largest e-commerce platform in the country, Amazon is experiencing more demand than it can handle. In response, they’ve implemented new sanctions that restrict both the quantity of items and the volume of inventory space allotted to many FBA sellers. The company announced in July that FBA sellers need an Inventory Performance Index (IPI) score of at least 500 (increased from 400) to avoid potential storage restrictions and additional fees in Q4 of 2020.

It’s also harder to get inventory into Amazon fulfillment centers. Increased volume, staff shortages, and social distancing guidelines have caused significant delays in both shipping and receiving. According to reports, it’s taking retailers an average of 1.5 days longer to fulfill orders since the outbreak of COVID-19. Once the orders are finally in transit, delays continue. FBA shipments can now take up to six weeks to be received instead of the typical two-week timeframe. None of this is good for Amazon FBA sellers – especially during the most anticipated shopping season of the year.

The Benefits of a 3rd Party Logistics Backup Plan

Channel Key recommends that brands consider a Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) backup strategy that will ensure you don’t lose sales due to FBA inventory challenges. This will enable you to continue selling ASINs that are unavailable in FBA by fulfilling these orders yourselves. High-volume retailers with their own warehouse and logistics network can rely on themselves, but smaller companies or those that depend solely on FBA might consider partnering with a 3rd party logistics (3PL) provider.

For a quick overview, 3PL providers offer logistics services such as transportation, warehousing, cross-docking, inventory management, packaging, and freight forwarding. Keep in mind, there are many types of 3PL providers. Some provide only basic warehousing and distribution, others offer additional value-added services like branded packaging, while turnkey providers essentially serve as the logistics arm of your company.

Choosing the right 3PL provider for a long-term partnership depends on a lot of factors and warrants its own discussion. For the purposes of securing a backup fulfillment option for the holiday season, the most important factor is the ability to streamline orders so that you meet Amazon delivery and tracking requirements. If your brand has a lot of volume, Channel Key recommends partnering with a 3PL provider that utilizes an Application Programming Interface (API) that can connect directly to your Amazon account. This will automate the process of updating inventory, sending orders, and updating tracking. Without an API, you may have to send orders manually to your 3PL provider, which requires more work and increases the opportunity for mistakes. Too many violations of Amazon’s shipping and tracking protocols can lead to your account being shut down.

Channel Key Takeaway | Preparing for Uncertainty

This holiday shopping season will be unlike any other. There will still be plenty of commerce, but it’s certainly not business as usual. While COVID-19 has accelerated online shopping, it has also introduced an element of uncertainty that can bring business to a screeching halt. You may remember back in March when Amazon abruptly suspended inbound shipments to its fulfillment centers for non-essential items. The company resumed shipments three weeks later, but it caused a brief panic and underscores the need for sellers to prepare for unforeseen challenges. Partnering with a qualified 3PL provider can serve as a safeguard against unexpected FBA setbacks during the holidays. To learn more about the pros and cons of different 3PL providers, as well as other strategies that can help protect your Amazon business against the uncertainty of COVID-19, contact us today for a free consultation.

REFERENCES:

https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2020/06/01/coronavirus-drives-innovation-in-fulfillment/

https://www.census.gov/retail/mrts/www/data/pdf/ec_current.pdf

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