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Navigating ecommerce on Amazon
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Author and business strategist Betsy McGinn is so passionate about businesses succeeding on Amazon she wrote a book about it. In the lead up to her online Amazon masterclass in October, McGinn explains why the ecommerce platform holds so much potential for Australian food and beverage companies.

Back in 2007, when ecommerce was new to consumer products companies, I was working as eco-store Seventh Generation’s first ecommerce channel director and I wondered: would people buy laundry detergent online?

It turned out, they would – and did – in huge numbers.

In my role, I had the privilege of pioneering this new retail landscape on Amazon (and other ecommerce partners), andwitnessing first-hand the explosion of consumable categories online. In the process, I experienced both the vast opportunity and often daunting challenges of this ever-evolving retail channel.

My success with both is what eventually inspired me to launch my own business – McGinneComm – where I help brands unleash their Amazon potential, with a special focus on food and beverage.

I’m a true evangelist for the opportunity Amazon offers brands – especially nimble brands not bound by traditional retail models, and international brands seeking an entry into the US market. According to research firm Mercatus, online grocery sales in the US are expected to grow to US$250 billion by 2025, a substantial increase from a pre-pandemic forecast of US$196 billion.

And brands truly are reinventing the path to market, with many launching for the very first time on Amazon.com instead of in retail stores.

Some of the most successful new brands have built multi-million-dollar businesses on Amazon before even sticking a toe into any retail outlet.

This makes sense for so many reasons. Amazon represents nearly half of the online sales in the US, with US$469 billion in revenue, 148 million loyal Amazon Prime Shoppers who spend exponentially more than non-Prime shoppers, and an unrivalled third-party retail marketplace. The latter enables brands to control their own destiny by selling ON Amazon without selling TO Amazon, bypassing that traditional retail model that often takes away the control a brand has on its growth path.

Additionally, by offering Fulfillment by Amazon, brands get the best of all worlds – managing the trajectory of their own brand while Amazon takes care of the often-sticky operational elements of ecommerce, like fulfillment and shipping.

To date, no other retail platform has been able to replicate this hugely successful model.

I have worked  with food and beverage brands from dozens of countries including Australia, New Zealand, Namibia, Finland, Bulgaria, and Brazil.

You can see why this business model works extraordinarily well for international brands entering the US market. On Amazon, brands instantly have 24/7 national distribution, without the need for a retail distributor or the challenges of pitching to store buyers for space on the limited retail shelf.

The Amazon shelf is limitless – there is no gatekeeper to decide a brand’s fate, and every brand has the ability to control their own pricing, marketing and content.

It is an environment where brands who know their Amazon ropes can truly thrive. But if you don’t understand the platform, well, just ask any long-time Amazon seller and they’ll tell you tales of more Amazon irritants than you can imagine!

This is where education, preparation and a best-in-class ecommerce strategy come into play. To lay the groundwork for this important strategic work, my colleague Phil Segal and I authored the book, The Amazon Roadmap: How Innovative Brands are Reinventing the Path to Market. We had both seen too many sellers launch on Amazon naively believing that the Amazon that is so easy to love as a consumer would provide the same intuitive experience for sellers.

Unfortunately, that’s not true. In fact, the most important part of your Amazon journey is getting all the upfront work done before you launch.

First you have to know what that work is, and secondly, you have to embed that knowledge in your company, and develop the strategy that ensures both initial success and long-term growth.

This methodology works with brands already on Amazon whose businesses are growing, as well as with brands whose Amazon business is struggling.

In fact, because the Amazon marketplace is always changing, the ability to step back and rethink strategy is a necessary pause for everyone who wants to achieve ongoing success on Amazon. Because the bottom line is that selling on Amazon is not just an online version of brick and mortar retail.

From whether you have the right products in the right packs for Amazon (which, for food and beverage brands, is rarely the existing unit sold on a retail shelf) to understanding how the variables in unit economics are different for ecommerce – knowing exactly what works for the consumer and will be profitable for the brand is essential.

Marketing and communications on this platform are different, too. Because your consumer is not physically in front of your well-merchandised product in a store, able to pick it up, read the label, and see it in the context of its category, best-in-class content and marketing are as essential as a well-developed pricing strategy in your plan.

But Amazon strategy and execution aren’t one-size-fits-all. Your best strategy is tailored to your brand and your company. It’s an all-hands-on-deck commitment and can’t be relegated to a single person within your company to manage. This is what makes the opportunity so exciting – the chance to embrace this leading retail opportunity and guide the success of your brand.

My online Amazon Strategy Masterclass (20 October and 24 January 2023) provides an Amazon deep dive and overview of the fundamentals for success on Amazon US. It is tailored to brands that are thinking about launching or already have a launch plan in mind or are currently selling on Amazon and seeking an opportunity to optimise their business.

As follow-up there will be a limited number of individual, customised audits and strategy sessions.

I am not an Amazon evangelist simply because I love Amazon but because I love to see brands succeed in a way that was not available to them until this brave new retail evolution.

I’m looking forward to bringing Amazon US to Australia.

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