Possibilities and Pitfalls
I love the juxtaposition of those two words. Align those words with selling your products outside of the Amazon Marketplace, and it becomes especially intriguing. Entrepreneurs love possibility thinking but don't always embrace the pitfall(s) consideration.
That presents a potential minefield for Amazon Sellers who forge their own way off of Amazon. The possibility of building a recognizable brand, owning your own customer data, and enjoying richer margins (among a few perceived benefits) can cause a preliminary rush into off-Amazon advertising that can leave Sellers disappointed, or at the very least, disillusioned.
Recently, I was asked to appear as a guest for the second time on Norm Farrar's podcast, "Lunch With Norm." If you don't know Norm, he's a popular figure in the Amazon Seller community for his well-produced podcast. His content will keep you on the leading edge.
The episode we recently recorded was a ton of fun and a must-listen for anyone considering moving to market off of Amazon with Google Ads. It's appropriately titled "Google Marketplace Possibilities & Pitfalls." For those averse to podcasts or who prefer quick takeaways, here are my recommendations to make the most of the possibilities of advertising off-Amazon while avoiding the potential pitfalls.
Each week I speak with one to two Amazon Sellers interested in diversifying their traffic and sales outside of Amazon. They usually explain that they don't want to have "all their eggs in one basket," or a similar idiom. They also see how Amazon has recently hidden its customer data, and they'd like to be in control of who is purchasing. They would also like to use similar audiences and customer match tools that can be utilized with Google and Facebook Ads.
As FBA fees have increased, 3PL options have also increased. It's now easier than ever to ship your own inventory outside of FBA. Off-Amazon sales enjoy an increased margin of 10-30%, depending on the product. It's easy to see that as an attractive possibility when considering your brand's potential for scale off-Amazon.
Finally, depending on a wide variety of factors, you're at a lower risk for inventory disruptions and/or account suspensions when you're in control of your own Shopify store (for instance). It seems we're talking to a client each week who has some suspension or disruption on Amazon. Before writing this blog today, I spoke with a potential client who had his top product unjustly suspended for failure to have FDA approval. However, his product is cleared by the FDA universally and doesn't require FDA certification. The product has been "under review" by Amazon for weeks, while the Seller has been losing over $1500 per day in usual sales volume.
At this point, if you’ve previously been averse to advertising off-Amazon on the Google Marketplace, you might be intrigued by the possibility of testing an off-Amazon strategy. Before you jump into the dark waters, let’s first do a little fishing.
When it comes to branching out from Amazon and getting started within the Google Marketplace, you need a solid strategy. You need a solid game plan that checks a lot more boxes than you may be thinking before firing up your Google Ads account and starting to drive traffic.
It's important to know that, although Amazon is a huge marketplace, Google is still one of the top places that shoppers go when searching online for product information before making a purchase. Now, some recent studies do show that Amazon has caught up to Google in that regard. In addition, product searchers on Amazon are generally further along in the buying process, whereas Google searchers are earlier in the research phase. That's where you have to know the differences in the marketplaces themselves. Those nuances can be pretty big on Google.
I recognize that this view is from a high level, and many will say that Amazon is simply a demand capture marketplace. Here's where we go fishing. One of my greatest memories as a dad is taking my son, Brooks, fishing. We lived in a small farmhouse on five acres. It was surrounded by ponds full of largemouth bass. If you've never been fishing for bass on a farm pond, it's actually pretty easy. For this illustration, let's call this the Amazon Pond. On this Pond, you can grab a lure out of your tackle box, tie it on your line, and as the sun gets low in the sky, you can reel in 15-20 bass pretty easily.
Google, however, is much like deep-sea fishing in the ocean. To succeed in the Google Ocean, you need a boat with a motor; you need to stop by the bait store and load up with live shrimp. You'll need great technology like a GPS with a depth finder and sonar to read the bottom. Once you arrive at your spot, you might think you're in the right area, but then you drift a bit, get a bit off target, and suddenly the fishing isn't that great.
What does this really mean? Well, it means that your trophy fish are on Google, not Amazon. It also means that you need to come prepared because there is so much more to selling successfully off-Amazon in the Google Marketplace. We see this all the time at my winter home in Florida. We see the hopefully energized, but mostly clueless tourists heading out into the Gulf of Mexico. They don't have the right tackle, they don't have the right bait, and they don't know where the best GPS locations are to catch the lunkers. At the end of the day, we see them motoring past our home, sunburned and spent.
To succeed, you'll need the skills and experience to know where the fish are and have the right bait to attract them. You can also hire an experienced guide who can help you fast-track your success. With that as a backdrop, you might have succeeded with demand capture on Amazon by ranking or advertising for searches where the consumer is searching with purchase intent.
Searches like gluten-free bread or gluten-free prime, or build your own deck, or furniture that have purchase intent behind those queries, whereas, on Google, you can't pay for those kinds of queries, you've got to find the queries that have a purchase intent. When you do find those queries, you're going to discover that everyone else in your niche is targeting those queries as well. That's where you have to make sure you know the right gear will be, among other things, a well-built Shopify site. You're also going to have to pay attention to how fast that site loads, something you never had to think about on Amazon. We've researched prospect sites that have good potential. Still, they're loading in seven or eight seconds. This has the potential to kill their quality score in Google Ads and potentially hurt the opportunity they might have for organic SEO.
Finally, what is your brand story? Does your brand “show well?” What makes you different? Why should I buy from you? What’s behind your brand? Who’s behind your brand? Where are you located? Can I easily return my product? Can I contact you by phone? Those are just a few questions that searchers on Google will want to be answered in a few seconds when they arrive at your home page or product display page.
Those are just a few considerations that brands off-Amazon should make sure are addressed earlier, not later in the process. We see this so many times with Amazon brands coming to us. They want to launch on Google, but they're too preliminary, and there is a big potential to waste much money with an unprepared launch on Google.
At OMG Commerce, we’re happy to have a conversation with you about your move to the Google Marketplace. If you’re in the preliminary stages, we’d be happy to connect you with developers, page speed specialists, and branding experts who can help set you up for success. If you believe your boat is loaded up with the right bait and ready to increase your haul with Google Search, Shopping, Display & YouTube ads, we’d be happy to find out if we’re the best guide for your next expedition.