Ecommerce sales are expected to increase by 12% this holiday season. Can you afford not to focus on maximizing your online sales?
However, in today’s jittery economy, it’s not quite as straightforward as it was. To save money, an increasing number of shoppers are becoming ‘channel agnostic’.
They’re not sticking to the same platforms that they’ve always known. Loyalty is out and shopping around to find the best deals and lowest prices is in.
According to software provider ShipStation, sellers ‘have to react to changes in consumer values… if they are to maximize revenues and maintain profitability’. The biggest change must come in the form of new sales channels.
If you’re currently selling products via your own ecommerce storefront, it’s time to branch out and start selling across new channels, and on more marketplaces.
The obvious starting point? Amazon.
Amazon welcomes more than 200 million shoppers per month, making it the biggest ecommerce platform in the US.
Worried about getting started with Amazon? Don’t be. With product feeds, it’s easy.
What is an Amazon Product Feed?
An Amazon product feed, also known as a data feed, is the simple and straightforward way to achieve two very important things.
First, to share your inventory with Amazon.
Second, to translate your product data into a format that Amazon understands and can use to promote your products to the right audiences.
A product feed is essentially just a spreadsheet – in Amazon’s case, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. It gives you a space to list all the products you want to sell or advertise through the Amazon marketplace. By uploading this information into your Amazon seller account, you’re giving the platform everything it then needs to promote your items.
There is another way to start selling on Amazon: to build all your product listings individually. And for small retailers with zero online presence, this method can work well. However, if you’re already managing an online inventory through your own ecommerce store, it’s much easier and much quicker to use product feeds to export this existing catalog directly into Amazon and bulk upload your products all at once.
How it Works
The Amazon product feed works by using the information you provide directly in the feed, and by connecting to the URLs in the feed to pull product data such as images directly from your ecommerce store. It creates a link between the two.
When this link is formed, Amazon can match your own product identifier (SKU) with Amazon’s own unique identifier, or ASIN. Or assign an ASIN if the product is new to the platform. It transforms your product into an ‘Amazon product’ that’s in the correct format to be both listed and advertised within the Amazon ecosystem.
The process of forming this connection basically means that Amazon understands what you’re selling, so it can promote and sell your items in the best possible way.
The benefits of creating, using, and maintaining an Amazon product feed are clear. By connecting your existing ecommerce store with the biggest and most prolific online marketplace in the country, you can generate new opportunities to…
Reach more leads
At a time when shoppers are looking to discover new brands, making your products visible on Amazon is the best way to reach a new pool of new-to-brand buyers.
Grow trust levels
Amazon is trusted by buyers. Much more so than less familiar, small businesses. Selling on Amazon enables you to leverage the power of this reputation for your business. It’s a win-win.
Improve your RoAS
Amazon’s advantage over other platforms such as Google is the huge amount of first party data it holds. You can use this data to get more value from your marketing.
If you’ve been thinking about dipping a toe into the world’s biggest online marketplace, Amazon product feeds are a quick and easy way to start exploring.
With Amazon, your advertising efforts can reach even more people, resulting in more conversions, more sales, more repeat business, and ultimately stronger profits.
Opening an Amazon Seller Central Account
The first thing you’ll need to do before even thinking about creating an Amazon product feed is to ensure you have a valid Amazon seller account. If you don’t, you’ll need to register for one. The good news? It’s pretty straightforward.
There are two types of seller accounts that you can sign up for through Amazon Seller Central. The first is the individual seller account. However, if your aim is to build an Amazon product feed, then we don’t recommend taking this option.
The individual account comes with no upfront fees, which is a bonus. However, there are a few downsides. Firstly, sellers are charged $0.99 for every sale, which can add up quickly. Secondly, individual account holders do not have access to inventory file templates, which play a huge role in creating an Amazon product feed in the easiest and most effective way. Instead, we recommend opting for a professional seller account which is better suited to building product feeds.
A professional account charges a recurring monthly fee of $39.99, but there are no additional per sale charges. This means that if you sell more than 40 items per month, then this account works out to be the most cost effective anyway. And it comes with the added bonus of being able to access Amazon’s pre-built data feed templates.
When you’ve decided what type of account you want, simply follow the steps to creating the account in Seller Central.
You’ll be asked to fill out your details, verify your email address, input business information, and upload identification documents. You’ll also need to register a credit card for paying seller fees, and provide bank account details so that Amazon knows where to send your profits.
Once your account has been verified, you’re good to go!
Creating a Product Feed for Amazon
If you’re asking yourself ‘why can’t I just use any product feed, why do I need to create one just for Amazon?’, the answer is simple: Amazon has a very specific format.
Your product data needs to be in that format if it’s to be usable by the system. It’s not just Amazon having these little quirks: absolutely any marketplace that you advertise and sell in will have specific requirements for product data.
But don’t let this worry you. Amazon offers templates that you can download which have the format all there in front of you. All you must do is fill in the fields.
Once it’s all done, you can log into your Seller Central account, navigate to your inventory page, and upload your populated inventory file to provide your feed to Amazon.
Required product feed data attributes
There are a few mandatory fields that will need to be completed. The exact number depends on the template you use, but you’ll typically need to add:
- Product title
- The URL for your product page
- Product category
- The URL for your image
- Brand name
- A barcode number (In the US, this is typically the UPC)
- Product description
- Shipping cost
- Bullet points
- Height, length, and width
- Number of items in the package
There may be more fields which are optional.
Submitting product type
In some Amazon templates, the ‘product type’ will already be automatically filled out. This is typical when using a category-specific template where Amazon already understands what the product is.
In other templates, there won’t be a product type field at all. But in some, you’ll need to add this to the file manually.
If you do need to add product type manually, don’t worry. There will be a drop-down menu with a pre-set list of accepted values. Simply choose the option that most closely matches your product to provide Amazon with the best data.
Choosing Amazon inventory template
As we briefly mentioned above, the fields that need to be completed will be different depending on the type of template you choose.
For example, for fashion items, there will be a field for ‘size’ which isn’t relevant to many other categories. Therefore, selecting the correct inventory template is a very important task.
In most cases, you’ll need one of two templates: a product category template, or the Inventory Loader template.
If the product doesn’t already exist on Amazon, you’ll likely need to use the relevant product category template. This allows you to add your product into the Amazon inventory under the correct classification.
If the item *does* already exist, the Inventory Loader template will do. It’s a simpler spreadsheet because Amazon will already hold core information about the item.
What is Amazon Inventory Management?
If you’re thinking about expanding your ecommerce store and selling your products across more channels, managing your inventory is key to success.
Amazon inventory management is a way of creating, managing, and optimizing your product feeds to ensure that your Amazon inventory is handled in an optimal way.
Product information management plays a critical role in this. As your business begins to grow beyond your own store, it’s essential that your product data is not only relevant and up to date but is relevant and up to date across all channels.
Trying to sync all this data manually is not only time-consuming but also prone to errors. That’s why product feeds are the recommended method for multi-channel retail efforts.
Amazon Feed Specifications Program
Back in 2018, Amazon launched the Amazon Feed Specifications Program, inviting a limited number of select sellers to try out some exciting new features and functionality.
One of the most interesting features was an automated feed, which would make it much quicker and easier to share data between sales channels.
Other marketplaces, such as Google, are beginning to embrace automation in product feeds.
Today Google is using website crawling methods to automatically extract data from ecommerce websites, and pull that data seamlessly into its own marketplace.
It’s anticipated that, through the Amazon Feeds Specification Program, Amazon will shortly be in a position to roll out its own automated feeds.
Tips and Advice
Amazon product feeds are remarkably simple. However, we can share a few little hints and tips that can help you to derive even more value from your data feed:
Complete optional fields
For time purposes, many sellers fill out the mandatory fields only. However, there are benefits to completing the inventory templates as fully as possible.
By filling out the optional fields, you’re giving Amazon as much information as possible about your product, enabling the platform to promote your items in the best possible way.
In the templates, click on the +/- symbols to expand the collapsed optional fields.
Be ready to adapt
It’s important to remember that the way you organize your own product data may be different to how Amazon organizes theirs. Therefore, it’s important that you’re ready to adapt and make changes as necessary.
For example, Amazon requires all titles to be under 250 characters. If your product title is longer, you’ll need to cut it down.
It’s worth taking a little time to get to grips with Amazon’s requirements.
Keep an eye on the processing report
When you submit a completed inventory file, your products don’t automatically go into the Amazon system.
Every file is checked prior to approval. Keep your eyes peeled for the processing report that’s sent through. If there are any errors, you’ll need to rectify them before Amazon can approve the product feed.
The report will clearly highlight issues, so it’s usually quite easy to make necessary changes.
Update as needed
Your inventory isn’t static. Your product feed shouldn’t be static, either.
As your product range grows, as you change your prices, as stock levels rise and fall, you’ll need to update your Amazon product feed.
Luckily, you don’t need to go through the entire process of creating a new product feed again every time something changes. Amazon has specific templates that are designed just for minor updates.
Get rid of poor performers
Keep in mind that the bestsellers on your own website might not be bestsellers on Amazon.
Different products perform differently on different channels, depending on the primary demographic using those channels. If a product isn’t performing well on Amazon, don’t be afraid to cut it from your product feed.
This way, you can ensure you’re focusing your advertising budget on products that are likely to sell.