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Managing Cross-Border Amazon sales

Managing sales obtained on Amazon sites outside your home country is much the same on all Amazon sites, however there are some additional factors to consider:

Customer service

Customer service should be in the native language of the site. There are companies to whom it is possible to outsource international customer service, however from experience, it is possible to get away with using Google translate.

Returns

Amazon expects sellers to have a local return address, or alternatively refund order without a return.

There are several companies providing a return address service internationally.  These include

  • EZI returns
  • ZigZag international

Delivery

Shipping internationally takes longer than domestically and it is best to under promise and over deliver i.e. set delivery times on the generous side to allow for delays.  Delivery times can be set when creating delivery zones on shipping templates.

Accepting payments

Payments on international Amazon sites are in the local currency i.e. Amazon.com in USD, Amazon.fr in Euros etc. Amazon will remit the payment into a bank account of your choice, but the bank account must be in the currency of the country in which the account is based i.e. a bank account based in UK can only be in GBP, France in Euros etc.

If you are a UK company making sales in Amazon.fr you have two choices.

  • Allow Amazon to convert the funds into GBP and transfer into your UK GBP account
  • Pay in Euros into a bank account based in the Eurozone.

You cannot transfer Euros into a bank account based in the UK. 

Amazon’s conversion rate is not very good, so it pays to use the service of a currency international payment provider.  Payoneer, for example, can provide sellers with a foreign bank account for the purposes of accepting foreign currency payments.  They will then convert the funds at a more favourable rate and deposit in your bank account.

How to select keywords for your Amazon product listings

For a product to appear in the Amazon search, the product listing must contain the searched keyword. Without it, the customer will not see your product. Include all the relevant keywords on your product page.

A listing contains many content areas and we will be discussing how to create an optimised listing later on.

When searching for keywords for your Amazon listings, use the following sources

  1. Use your head. Spend some time thinking about when they would buy your product, what kinds of questions they would have – even what kind of items they would buy instead of your product (either as a replacement or from a competitor).
  2. Amazon Autocomplete. Amazon itself can even be used for keyword research. If you tap a few letters in the search box, products automatically appear as suggestions. This autocomplete function is not arbitrarily generated, rather, Amazon displays the terms search for most. So, it makes sense that autocomplete actually provides you with a set of legitimate keywords.
  3. Related items. Look at products which are shown as Customers who viewed this item also viewed’
  4. Competitor products.  In the title and the product information of other products are keywords which you haven’t thought of, but your competitors have!
  5. Keyword research tools. Tools such as Sellics Sonar will give you a list of popular keyword by category and ASIN

Keywords tools include:

As a result of your research, you should have a list of keywords that covers all relevant queries from customers. Among that list should be, on one hand, your top keywords that are frequently searched for and reach as many customers as possible.

How to Manage Amazon returns including Safe-T Claims

Returns are a fact of ecommerce life and Amazon is no different. Stay on top of returns to maintain good feedback and metrics. Also, customers may start returns when there are problems with an order.

Return settings

Returns setting are managed from Settings > Return Settings.  This includes:

  • Authorisation of returns.  Options to authorise each return separately, or to auto-authorise returns.  According to Amazon’s policy, some returns are automatically auto-authorised e.g. SFP orders
  • Return postage labels.  Select whether to provide a free label of not.  Note this is not obligatory.
  • Return number setting.  Chose whether to let Amazon generate a Returns Merchandise Authorisation number (RMA) or provide your own one
  • Refundless returns.  Specify circumstances under which an item return is not required
  • Return message settings.  Messages sent to customers when returns are accepted
  • Returns address settings. Amazon requires local returns addresses for international orders

Manage returns

Any requested returns will appear in Orders > manage returns and an email sent to a specified email.  The following options are available for each return

  • Authorise/deny.  Valid return requests should be authorised.  Requests outside the return window can be denied
  • Issue refund. If there is a problem with the order it may be better just to refund the order
  • Contact customer.  Frequently customers use the return option when they have a problem with an order which needs fixing

Safe-T claims

Amazon gives itself carte blanche to do whatever if like customer service wise.  It can refund a customer for any and all reasons. 

If you feel that a refund is not justified e.g.

  • An item was sent back outside the 30 day return window
  • A refund was given for an order which was recorded as delivered

The file a Safe-T claim to try and reclaim the money.

Expand Globally with Amazon’s Sell Globally Tools

Under Inventory > Seller Globally there is a tool which assists with international expansion.  This section has tools which help with the following:

  • Launch international accounts.  By opening seller account for other Amazon countries through this tool, these accounts will be linked and then be available though the same login
  • Training.  Help with aspects of international trade such as tax, importing and product compliance
  • Build international listings.  This finds matches for inventory which on your domestic site on international amazon sites, help you build your inventory fast.

How to create Amazon shipping templates

The Amazon Shipping template sets the shipping destinations available for each product.  These are set up under Setting > Shipping settings > Shipping templates.  Each seller can have a maximum of 20 templates.

Price Calculation

Shipping templates calculate shipping in two ways:

  • Per items/weight based.  Fixed price per items and then a price per kg
  • Price banded.  Shipping based on the order price range

Note: Items weight for shipping is set under Manage inventory > Edit product > more details.  This can also be specified in bulk using the inventory loader file.

Setting zones

In the shipping template the merchant specifies delivery rules Domestic and International Standard and expedited Shipping. 

  • Region. Split into Domestic and international regions.  The merchant will select the region e.g. Dometic > Scotland or International > Austria
  • Address type.  Street must be selected but PO Box is optional
  • Shipping time.  Delivery timescale
  • Shipping fee.  This is set from Item + Kg or price banded as mentioned above

How to win at Amazon Search

In effect, Amazon is one of the world’s biggest search engines and rivals Google as a first port of call for consumers researching products.

As Amazon search has become more and more important to merchants, a new discipline of Amazon Search Optimisation has emerged, focused specifically on improving performance in the Amazon search

What is Amazon Search

When a user performs a search on Amazon, Amazon will try an generate a list of results most relevant to that query.  The Amazon search algorithm is called A9 and has two equally important ranking factors:

  1. Keyword optimisation – In principle, a product can only be found with the Amazon search if the product page contains the keyword(s) a customer is looking for. Keyword optimization ensures that a product can be found for all relevant keyword searches.
  2. Listing performance – How well a product ranks for these keywords in turn depends on its performance metrics. The performance metrics are traffic and sales, as well as click rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CR).

Keyword optimisation

For a product to appear in the Amazon search, the product listing must contain the searched keyword. Without it, the customer will not see your product. Include all the relevant keywords on your product page.

A listing contains many content areas and we will be discussing how to create an optimised listing later on.

When searching for keywords for your Amazon listings, use the following sources

  1. Use your head. Spend some time thinking about when they would buy your product, what kinds of questions they would have – even what kind of items they would buy instead of your product (either as a replacement or from a competitor).
  2. Amazon Autocomplete. Amazon itself can even be used for keyword research. If you tap a few letters in the search box, products automatically appear as suggestions. This autocomplete function is not arbitrarily generated, rather, Amazon displays the terms search for most. So, it makes sense that autocomplete actually provides you with a set of legitimate keywords.
  3. Related items. Look at products which are shown as Customers who viewed this item also viewed’
  4. Competitor products.  In the title and the product information of other products are keywords which you haven’t thought of, but your competitors have!
  5. Keyword research tools. Tools such as Sellics Sonar will give you a list of popular keyword by category and ASIN

Keywords tools include:

As a result of your research, you should have a list of keywords that covers all relevant queries from customers. Among that list should be, on one hand, your top keywords that are frequently searched for and reach as many customers as possible.

Listing performance

How well a product ranks for these keywords in turn depends on a listing’s performance metrics. These include the listing’s customer rating (product reviews and customer questions) as well as the sales performance of the listing.

  • Sales Rank. More sales = higher rankings and higher ranking = more sales!
  • Customer reviews. The number of product reviews you receive, and the quality of these reviews are important ranking factors.
  • Price. As well as being one of the most important Buy Box factors, the price of your products also strongly influences conversion rates and sales
  • Click through and conversion rate.  Amazon will look at the historical sales performance of a listing when ranking search results

Gathering Reviews

An important way in which can increase your listing performance is by encouraging product reviews.  You can increase your number of reviews in various ways.

  • In general, a customer’s willingness to submit a review increases with excellent customer service. You could also use parcel inserts to prompt customers.
  • Amazon also offers vendors and sellers it’s a fee-based programs for generating reviews: Amazon Vine (vendors) and the Early Reviewer Program (seller).
  • Use Amazon’s request review button
  • Send a review request via email.  This can be automated using tools such as Feedback 5

****Always make sure you stay within the review guidelines of Amazon***

Managing Reviews and questions

If you are the manufacturer of a product, it is best practise to:

  • Answer any negative product reviews.  This helps to mitigate the impact of negative reviews
  • Respond to any customer questions

Setting up Amazon Business

Amazon Business is Amazon’s business focused offering.  Registering for the programme allow merchants to:

  • Offer business specific pricing
  • Provide invoices for business from within the Amazon system

Registering for the programme

It is free to register for Amazon business and this is done from Setting > Account Info > Your Services

Business Pricing

Once registered merchants can set specific business pricing.  The merchant enters the gross price (price including VAT) and Amazon will display this along with the net price (price excluding VAT) to business registered customers.

Note: the default VAT rate is set via Settings > Tax settings.  A VAT rate per item is set at the inventory level.  This can be set in bulk using the inventory loader upload file.

Business pricing and discount can be seen from the Manage inventory screen.  If you can’t see this then change the columns which are selected. 

Click on add quantity discount to specify the discounts on a product.

Discounts

Discounts can be set based on a quantity which is purchased.  This is based on:

  • % discount based on the quantity of item purchased
  • Fixed price based on the quantity of items purchased.

B2B Central

B2B central is the landing page for Amazon Business.  The page has the following information

  • Links to business resources
  • Reporting on business sales

Product opportunities

The product opportunities report shows product opportunities for business sellers on Amazon.  It can be accessed from B2B central > Product Opportunities. The report shows:

  • Product opportunities for items already on amazon e.g. items without a business offer
  • Products which are not on Amazon, but which Amazon thinks there will be business demand

Manage Quotes

Amazon business customers can request quotes for specific items e.g. I want 100 items at £50/piece.  These requests can be seen under B2B Central > Manage Quotes.

In order to be considered for these quotes, you can change the discounts available on your items directly from this screen.

Managing Invoicing

By opting into managing invoicing, Amazon will manage invoices to business customer on your behalf.  In order to do this a business must enter its VAT registration details. If you have a combined EU account and have a registration in multiple countries, you should do this for each country. 

How to set up an Amazon seller account

Amazon account levels – differences

There are two different levels of Amazon account

Individual (Basic) Seller

This account levels of for individual with only a few items to sell every month

  • No monthly fee
  • No listing fees
  • £0.75 per item sold
  • Referral fee on sold items (standard 15%)

Professional Seller

  • £25 + VAT/month
  • No per item fee
  • Referral fee on sold items (standard 15%)
  • Create products in bulk
  • Set you own shipping rates
  • Buy box Eligibility

Note that new sellers are only eligible for the buy box after three months of trading activity.

The buy box is a very important concept which will be discussed in a later lecture.

Combined EU and NA accounts

In Europe and north American a single account allows you to sell across multiple countries, along with several other benefits

Combined EU account

The Amazon Europe Marketplaces account allows sellers to:

  • Share inventory levels across EU marketplaces
  • Combined order screen for EU + UK orders
  • Fulfil through the European fulfilment network
  • Pay a single monthly subscription fee
  • Shared account information

Combined North American account

This is similar to the EU account except focused on the North American

  • Share listing information and manage your inventory consistently across Amazon’s U.S., Canada, and Mexico marketplaces
  • Combined order screen for NA orders
  • Single monthly fee
  • Shared account information

Amazon referral fees

Amazon charges a referral fee on each sale. There is no fee to list an item.  The referral fee is charged on both the sale price and any shipping charged.

For many categories the referral fee is 15%, though this varies by category and by amazon country

EU + UK fee schedule: https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/external/200336920

US fee schedule: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200336920

Note: For professional level account there is a monthly subscription fee. 

Many sellers chose to gain additional exposure for their product by buying advertising.  Amazon’s advertising programme is called Amazon sponsored products and is charged on a cost per click basis.

Account opening requirements

In order to open a professional level account, you will need the following information

  • Business trading details
  • Owner details
  • Valid credit card
  • Bank account details

Account setup

Some things to bear in mind

  • Only one seller central account per region
  • Addresses should match
  • Set a seller name to identify your account
  • Set business policies
  • Add a logo

Enabling single sign on

If you have multiple Amazon accounts in different Amazon countries is it possible to access them via a single login. Very convenient when selling across multiple sites.

To enable this go to Inventory > Sell Globally

Or Setting > global accounts

Understanding Amazon’s product listing page

Mystified by Amazon’s product listing page? Help is at hand! The Amazon listing can be split into several distinct sections.

  1. Title. The product title is a maximum of 200 characters and you should aim for at least 80 characters. Include your top 5 keywords and capitalise each word
  2. Images. Aim for at least 5 high quality images (min 1000px on longest side). For the main image the product should be on a white background and be 85% of the image.
  3. Variations. Such as different colours, scents, or sizes
  4. Bullet points. Short, descriptive sentences highlighting key features and benefits. Use all 5 bullet point available. Use sentence fragments. Should be skimmable. Capitalise first word.
  5. Featured offer. (“Buy Box”) The featured offer on a detail page. Customers can add to their cart or “Buy Now”
  6. Other offers. The same product sold by multiple sellers offering a different price, shipping options, etc
  7. Description. Min 250 characters. Can use HTML to structure. Clear precise informative
  8. Reviews. Customer reviews of your products
  9. Questions and Answers. Customer questions
  10. A+ Content. A rich content area available to brands which can be used to give more information about the product. Amazon says using this feature increases conversion
  11. Additional product information. Additional information can be entered for each product, for example about material, weight, or energy efficiency class. Fill in this information as thoroughly as possible: The filter navigation in the sidebar of the Amazon search uses it, as well as specialized product finders.
  12. Search term fields. Use this field to include other keywords which for some reason you could not include in the product description. No need to repeat keywords.

Amazon Performance Metrics – Feedback, A-Z Claims & Order Defect Rate

Amazon is serious about its performance metrics and getting on the wrong side of them can get an account suspended or even permanently closed.

Merchant Feedback

Once an order has been placed, a buyer can leave feedback for the seller.  This is distinct from reviewing the product. 

A score of 1 or 2 is counted as a negative, 3 is neutral and 4 or 5 is positive.  The feedback score is a percentage of the buyers who left feedback so gives a rather inaccurate picture of the performance of a seller.

Amazon’s Feedback policies – feedback removal

Amazon will remove feedback under very specific circumstances

  • The feedback includes words commonly understood to be obscene or profane.
  • The feedback includes seller-specific, personally identifiable information, including email addresses, full names or telephone numbers.
  • The entire feedback comment is a product review.
  • The feedback refers to delivery when the order was delivered by Amazon FBA.

The product review policy is a particularly important one of know about as frequently buyer review the product and so the merchant can request feedback removal.

Feedback best practise

It is important to keep on top of negative feedback as too many negative can lead to account closure.  You may get a tsumani of negative feedback due to a product or delivery issue and so keeping on top of feedback before this point may save your bacon. Best practise:

  • Check all feedback to ensure it is within Amazon’s policies.  If not request a removal
  • Respond to all negatives
  • Contact customers who leave negatives asking if there is anything you can do to help

Requesting feedback revision

Amazon has a slightly confusing policy when it comes to revising feedback.  Merchants are not supposed to offer refunds for removing negative feedback and this could in the extreme get an account suspended. Amazon suggest that merchants and customer work together to resolve the issue.  What you do if the customer is satisfied with a refund is not clear!

Best practise:  Be careful when offering customers refunds in exchange for removing feedback.  You should broach it is flowery language like: “If that resolves the situation to your satisfaction, we would be grateful if you could consider revising your feedback” and not “We’ll give you 10% off but please revise your feedback first”.

A-to-z Claims

Amazon promises that orders from marketplaces sellers will arrive on time and in the condition specified.  If they don’t then customer can put in an A-to-z guarantee claim where they can ask Amazon to set in.  The order to place an A-to-z guarantees the buys mush have:

  • You’ve contacted the seller through their Amazon account.
  • You’ve waited two days for a response.

A-to-z claims can be made for the following:

  • The seller failed to deliver the item by 3 calendar days past the maximum estimated delivery date or 30 days from the order date, whichever is sooner.
  • The item received is damaged, defective, materially different.
  • A returned item has not been refunded or the refund was the wrong amount.
  • For international deliveries the Seller does not (1) provide a return address within the UK, (2) provide a pre-paid return label, or (3) offer a full refund without requesting the item to be returned.
  • The buyer has been charged extra (e.g. by customs authorities for a shipment to EU) in addition to the purchase and dispatch price you have paid, and the Seller did not cover those costs.
  • You have waited no longer than 90 days from the Estimated Delivery Date to file your claim.

In my experience merchants almost never win A-to-z claims unless it is about delivery and proof of delivery is available.  If a order is over 90 days old and delivery has not been recorded then the A-to-z claims will be automatically awarded to the buyer.

Order Defect Rate

In many ways, the Order Defect Rate (ODR) is the one which merchants need to pay most attention as falling below target (1%) on this metric can get your account suspended.  The ODR is made up of the sum of

  • Negative order rate
  • Filed A-to-z claim rate
  • Customer chargeback rate

The assessment window is the last 60 days.

The A-to-z claim will be counted even if it was closed by the customer or awarded by Amazon to the merchant. For this reason, it is best to try and resolve issues before they get to this stage.

Note: each order will only be counted once i.e. if there is an negative feedback and an A-to-z claim on the same order then only one of these will be counted.

Managing your ODR

If you ODR rate gets too high, it is best to try and reduce your score.  The only way to do this is to try and get any negative feedback on your account revised.  From experience offering these customer a full refund is the best policy.  Once an account is suspended it is a faff to get it reopened.

Other metrics

Amazon is constantly adding new metrics by which to monitor sellers.  These include:

Policy compliance

This covers listing policy issues such as suspected trademark infringements and other listing policies.  Serious infringements can get an account suspended.

Delivery performance

Delivery based metrics.  The won’t get your account suspended but can impact buy box percentrage.

  • Pre-order cancellation rate
  • Late dispatch rate
  • Valid tracking rate
  • On-time delivery rate

Voice of the customer

Looks at product with negative customer experiences e.g. wrong item frequently sent.