Setting Your E-commerce Business Apart From the Rest on Amazon

Top Sellers on Amazon work hard, constantly innovate, and persevere.  Each month brings new challenges that require quick decisive action in order to survive and thrive on the platform. Competition grows by the day and the cost of doing business on Amazon is only going up.  It’s one of the reasons why Rick Cesari and I wrote The Amazon Jungle- The Truth About Amazon, The Seller’s Survival Guide for Thriving on the World’s Most Perilous E-Commerce Marketplace. We believe that Amazon would not be what it is today without the hard work, grit, innovation, and capital of hard-working Sellers and small businesses.  So Rick and I decided to share our battle-tested plan to lay a solid foundation and stay in the game to navigate “The Amazon Jungle” for success.

In the next 10 blog posts, I’m going to share some key messages from the book. As a supplement to the book, Rick and I also recorded several videos for new sellers to walk you through best practices for Amazon sales success.

Does branding matter?  Uh…yeah!

A key foundational element outlined in the book is branding.  Rick lays out the importance of branding, like only he can, based on his twenty-five-plus years of real-world success building billion-dollar brands.  On today’s Amazon, there are numerous ways in which Third Party Sellers can shape their brand messaging and control the narrative about their products and service.  In the old days, we had none of this, but today resellers can control the look, feel, and pricing of their brand.  Rick taught me years ago that “Features Tell and Benefits Sell” and it’s as true now as it was when he was creating the billion-dollar George Foreman Grill brand.  Before I met Rick, when I was selling air hockey tables, my listings were awful.  We had only one image and were entirely focused on features, like the size of the blower, or the thickness of the wood on the table legs.  However, when Rick taught me the importance of benefits, we created a lifestyle message around bringing family and friends together.  This simple change, along with a really great product line, created a 400% increase in engagement as well as a 25% jump in sales.  With one change, we stopped selling sturdy, quality tables and started helping families make memories.  What better consumer product benefit is there than that?

In today’s world, consumers want so much more than just products.  They want to know the story behind today’s brands.  Rick and I both believe that an authentic origin story is a critical first step in developing a 21st-century brand and that each individual product within a brand has a unique story as well.  This is why in Chapter 2, I share my deeply personal story about how I turned my life around and the vital role that family played in my success.  Overcoming a learning disability, remembering painful childhood memories, and identifying an alcohol addiction was part of my authentic story – warts and all.  It was painful to relay that message, but the reason I did so was to show brands that it’s OK to be who you really are.  Be authentic and tell the true story behind your brand and what makes you tick.  Your customers will connect with you on a much deeper level, and they will feel compelled to support the uniqueness of what you are creating.  My natural inclination was to share a watered-down version of my story, but I knew that readers would see right through it as inauthentic.  I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me who are working through or have themselves overcome similar struggles.  They all mentioned that they felt more connected to me, and I felt more connected to them.  A 21st-century brand strengthens itself when it makes a human, emotional connection with its followers and consumers.  It’s key to long-term success, and it also creates a lens through which all business decisions can and should be made.

My entrepreneurial journey started when my brothers and I, all avid Laker fans, started selling basketball hoops online at SuperDuperHoops.  We pledged to create a brand of fun products that reflected our family values.  Our mission statement was simple:  Instructions:  Play.  We quickly grew from $100 thousand in sales in 2002 to $1 million in sales in 2003.  That is when Amazon called, and the rest is history.  Ricks’ journey included building several billion-dollar brands, many of them long before I started my first business.  He pioneered the type of branding tactics, including that every product has a story worth telling, that still rings true in today’s digitally driven world.  Rick’s process starts with an amazing ability to listen and connect with his clients.  Then he finds a founder’s authentic story and tells it in a way that creates lasting trust between brands and consumers.

How do you set your product apart so that when people think of that product, they choose yours?

There are millions of products being sold on Amazon with the number growing every day.  As I’ve outlined, establishing an authentic unique backstory is the first step.  An authentic origin story will set you and your product apart from others.  Sharing your brand’s origin gives it meaning and a pulse.  Next highlight the true “end-user” benefits of each individual product and detail how that product’s story fits within the overall brand story.  In our case, we never launched a product that we did not feel brought friends and family together. Making sure each product fit met that need helped elevate the entire brand.

Over the course of two decades on Amazon, my brothers and I reinvented our sales strategies repeatedly to keep up with policy changes, growth, unforeseen amazon changes, and upgrades to the platform.  Many of the ways in which we drove traffic to our Amazon listings and our website changed as well.  However, our commitment to our brand story never changed and it laid the groundwork for our success. 

Once your authentic story has been established, you are ready to sell.  Selling products with winning potential is important.  In Chapter 3 of Amazon Jungle, I walk you through my method for identifying winning products and selling them to their full potential.  One concept that has stood the test of time is that if you know what you are doing, it doesn’t matter how big Amazon gets, there will always be an opportunity.  The next chapter, and blog entry, will explore where to look for this opportunity.  To read more and get a free copy of this book and order the videos, go to our website.