The Current State of Selling on Amazon
It’s almost hard to believe how big Amazon has become. But for those of us that have been paying attention, it is even harder to believe how much selling on Amazon has changed. But first, a little background on me.
I started shifting my attention from Google to Amazon back in 2013 because even back then, it was obvious (to me, at least) that Google would never disappear, but that it was a mature market. The opportunities were all there that had always been there. But there were very few easy roads to success in Google. Yet, I remembered the “good old days” of 2003 when Google AdWords (now Ads) clicks were five cents and we could easily get e-commerce sales worth hundreds in profits from them. Those were good times. But Google Ads are an auction, and it all evened out. You can easily still succeed with Google Ads, but you need to know what you’re doing, you need a good product, and you need patience.
Google SEO is not much different. I feel strongly that the last ten years have pushed SEO marketers to polarize. Most have listened and obeyed Google. They have gone almost completely “white hat” and obeyed. They “create good content” and they “get natural links”. This works, in general. It is also safe. You don’t get banned (usually). But you also can’t win at the really competitive markets. That’s where the polarization comes in. The really big money is in the competitive stuff. The competitive stuff is where the black hat marketers live. By the way, if you have a negative attitude toward “black hat marketers”, you need to rethink that. These marketers generally are not doing illegal or immoral stuff. Google likes to paint it that way, but it’s not necessarily true. They just aren’t obeying Google. As such, they find the tricks, they exploit them, they make a lot of money, they eventually get banned by Google, and they do it all over again, and again, and again.
Don’t worry, this post is about Amazon. Hang with me here.
Google is now a mature platform. Facebook is getting there, too. Ask any marketer in the know, and you’ll realize that Facebook Ads are not as cheap now. In fact, similar to Google, they are actually providing LESS ad options which drives the price up even more. This requires marketers to be more skilled and patient to succeed. What about Amazon?
Amazon is in the adolescence stage in 2018. The easy organic stuff of 3-4 years ago is over. The Paid Ad clicks are still relatively cheap and the options there will likely continue to grow… a lot! For example, I imagine Amazon ads eventually showing up all over the web, not just on Amazon as they are now. If you are an old time marketer, you will remember when Google opened up their search ads to offer display advertising (AdSense) and it changed everything. I see Amazon doing that someday and if they do it right, it will work very well.
So how do we work with and succeed during this stage? What are the opportunities on Amazon during this “adolescence” stage? You just can’t do what we did 3 or 4 years ago. Back then, if you found a phrase that people were typing in and there was only one or two cruddy products there, you could make a good product, rank it easily, do a very simple launch, and beat the other cruddy products. Honestly, it was like taking candy from a baby. But now, we can’t. Most of those opportunities are gone, or will be VERY quickly. I say the opportunities are disappearing far faster than they ever did on Google or Facebook.
Here’s two reasons why… The “new entrepreneurs” are jumping in and trying to sell on Amazon in massive numbers. We all know it. But it is far worse than most realize. I’ve never in my life seen any craze as powerful as this one. It seems as if everyone wants to “start selling on Amazon”. The tools and training are out there and they are good. But the real credit goes to Amazon itself, in fact, maybe even Jeff Bezos himself. He has always been a supporter and promoter of entrepreneurs (think S3 for example). But he has built a platform that has not only made it easy to start selling on Amazon by simply giving $39.95 a month for a “Professional” seller account. He has also provided the open market, keyword data, and even what sells best (BSR) data. This means everyone has the metrics to try to figure out what people will buy. It’s genius! He built a platform and made the metrics available. Everyone now thinks they have the tools & ability to find the next winner.
The other reason? As big as that last one was, this one is even bigger. The myriad of minions all trying to get something from China, put a label on it, and sell it on Amazon are not the real challenge to selling well and making good money on Amazon. They all compete against their own type. The true challenge is beating the guys that really know what they are doing. Unlike Google, the really smart and big money Amazon players are not underground hacker “black hat” type. They may keep what they are doing fairly quiet. But they are doing it all the way Amazon wants them to, for the most part. They have perfected the product selection, creation, and launching. They’ve got money behind them for inventory. They have a finely tuned team. They monitor their stats like a hawk. They are darn good at making products and launching them. They are the best of the best and learn from each other. There are not many of them. But they will (and already do) rule Amazon. Amazon likes this. Of course they do.
So what’s next? What should the majority of sellers or wannabe sellers on Amazon do?
My best advice to those just starting is this: “don’t quit your day job”. Please don’t think you can devote all your time to Amazon and come out winning right now. It’s like throwing a dart at a dart board. You might hit it the first time, but it’s unlikely. The more skill you grow and the better you get at throwing darts, the better your chances. But don’t expect to hit the bulls eye on your first try. It will take time and it will take money. More importantly, it will take skill. If you have absolutely no skill in online marketing or product creation, you are at a severe disadvantage. You can succeed, but please, please, don’t quit your day job or expect miracles. Many are. It is dangerous. Do Amazon on your spare time until you really know what you’re doing and finding success.
What if you’re already selling fairly well on Amazon? That’s where my business is at. We got in early and have a good mature product line. For us, the time is now to decide if you want to sell the business or hang on it it. If we want to hang on to it, just keep an eye on all things Amazon and make sure you take advantage of all the opportunities that are provided. At the same time, decide now if you want to push hard at learning to source, create, and launch new products or not. You will not be able to be average at this. We’ve either got to get great at it, or just let what we have ride. Average skills at selecting, creating, and launching new product won’t cut it. Take note: You need marketing skills outside of Amazon to succeed on Amazon!
Whenever any great opportunity arises, it has a lifetime. Take the “California Gold Rush” as an example. This is not limited to online opportunities. The ones that jump in early may get an advantage. But as the opportunity matures, skill is required. I’m sure somewhere there are still a reasonable amount of companies mining for gold in the United States somewhere. But they know what they are doing, for sure. It’s not much different in working with Google or Amazon. The rush and easy stuff is over, my friends. I’m sorry. It’s now time to improve our skills. More accurately, it always has been time to do that.
So what will we do next? I’ve got several businesses that do different things. I’ll still consult for those that want it. My heart has always been in learning and teaching all things Internet marketing. My Amazon business will continue to sell products there and a little even outside Amazon. I also have a business that I share with a few others that creates unique food items designed by a professional chef that can be sold at Amazon, off Amazon, and even to brick and mortar stores and partnerships of all sorts. But we’re also starting to get back into e-commerce and drop shipping via Google rankings. It’s very early yet, but our early tests reveal that this is still a viable opportunity on the web that can be managed and owned and not solely at the discretion of Amazon, at least not yet.
What will you do next, now that Amazon is a “adolescent”? Do you see things differently?