If the retail sector can dwell on one silver lining from this crazy, pandemic-powered wringer we’ve all been through, it’s that online selling is bigger than ever.
So, with our physical HUB CP get-togethers on hold, we asked ourselves how we could still bring entrepreneurs together to inspire and energise each other. With content that would boost their businesses. Here and now.
HUB CP Live Lounge. The guests? Eddie Latham & PJ Scott, Founders of Velocity Commerce.
By giving brands a strategy to attack online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, Eddie & PJ have taken their business from a part time job, to £30m turnover and 30th on the Fast Track 100 list. All in just seven years.
So, we had a chat with the guys (which you can watch back here), the audience asked them questions, and we all left thinking, “Yep, these guys know their stuff. And then some”.
But what’s knowledge if not shared?
One article. Five minutes. Driving new revenues and flying in the online space. With Velocity.
Choosing your marketplace
“If you want to get your products found online, you need to appease some sort of search algorithm. When we talk about selling physical products, there are three main search algorithms in the UK that you’re reliant on for traffic. Your own website, Amazon or eBay”.
Velocity specialise in helping brands with optimisation on Amazon and eBay – which in this case, simply means getting your products found, noticed, and ultimately, bought.
Why those two?
It all comes down to their customer bases. And their loyalty.
“Broadly speaking, eBay will have a set amount of customers. Amazon will have a set amount of customers. There’s not that big of an overlap between their customer bases. So, if you want to appeal to a broad market and the most people possible, you need to be selling on both of those platforms.
“Amazon gets a lot more traffic than eBay, but it’s designed for selling very homogenous, relatively simple products. It’s much easier to sell bespoke products on eBay, because it’s there to give you a point of difference and help you sell personality, which goes back to its roots as a marketplace for individuals and their belongings.”
The numbers for both platforms are astonishing. Research has revealed almost 90% of Brits are Amazon shoppers. 40% of Brits are Amazon Prime members. And last year, eBay announced they’d had 1,300 new businesses generating sales of over £1m through the site in the 12 months prior.
Your product. Their ecosystem
The guys are seeing more and more people start – and end – their shopping journey on one particular platform.
“They’ll go to the platform they always go to, or the one they associate with buying that particular type of product, and they don’t ever leave that ecosystem.
“Often, for impulse buys – sub-£30, in particular – they go on Amazon and never leave. They don’t shop around for that product. And some customers are so loyal to Amazon, they’re hellbent on getting the most out of their Prime subscription, and they’ll buy anything from there. So, unless you’re selling on Amazon, you don’t have a chance of winning that sale. The only way to catch them is through the Amazon funnel.”
eBay has a similar ecosystem, which brands like Superdry and Argos have tapped into, to outstanding effect.
“Superdry are one of the biggest sellers on eBay. They use it as a non-market disruptive clearance channel for any overstocks they’ve got in their stores. They don’t want to discount the product too heavily. They want to go out to mass market and clear the stocks in the quickest time possible. And they execute that very well.
“Then, you’ve got stores like Argos that sell on eBay. Fantastic channel. Multi-million-pound sales every month. All new products. They’re not discounting them. They’re listing the products as they appear in the catalogue or online, just on eBay. That gives you a sense that those customers have chosen to go with eBay and not Argos. And it reinforces the point that eBay has a very strong customer base.”
So, you’ve got a product you want to sell
But selling through Amazon and eBay isn’t a case of just doing it. Even for Nike. There are a few things you need to understand to have a shot at success.
Firstly, what is your item actually called?
And how are people going to find it?
“You need to know the generic search term that will lead people to your product, because for the vast majority of items outside of clothing and a couple of other categories, people type a word and buy whatever comes top. Those top products are well-optimised, well-priced and well-reviewed for that specific search term.
“So, you need to sell something that’s got a name. Because there’s no point having the best product in the world, if it’s not surfacing in search.”
Research your blueprint
Eddie & PJ are firm believers in the power of data. And to crack Amazon or eBay, you’ll have to be, too.
“We’re not saying to a brand we think rucksacks with waterproof coverings are going to be really big next season. We’re saying rucksacks with waterproof coverings are already getting 10,000 searches a month. The best seller is £15-16 every month. And the spec of that item is this.
“We’re effectively giving brands a blueprint, saying if you can match this price and this spec, you’ll be guaranteed a decent share of this amount of sales. And that’s black and white.”
Paint words. By the thousands
“At least 50-55% of customers mainly look at the images of products. They don’t look at the spec. So, try and incorporate some of the spec into the images.
“If it’s a portable boombox, you want to make sure your customers know they can use it outdoors, as well as through the mains in the kitchen. So, have a picture of a toddler carrying it outdoors in the garden. Instantly, the customer looking at that knows, without reading the specification, that the product can be used with batteries outdoors.”
Nail down one product
“Don’t try and sell 100 products from day one. If you can get one product on the first page of results that’s catching 90% of traffic for that search term, you’re onto a winner. So, just do one product properly. Invest all your time and effort into getting that right. And then expand from there, because the volumes are massive.”
Move forwards. With feedback
“Go through your reviews to find out what people want and make sure the content is on point when it comes to answering those questions. And if you’ve got 1,000 reviews, look for the repetitive words in those reviews. That will tell you about what’s good and bad about the product and enable you to move quickly and base decisions on facts.”
Plan ahead. Way ahead
“Think of a long-term online strategy. Don’t worry too much about COVID. In fact, if anything, don’t overcommit to what I would refer to as a bump for any business that plans for a linear increase. Online migration until now has been quite linear. I think we’ll reset at a higher level, but don’t look at the short-term. Don’t put a plaster on it, get a crap website up, or put some rubbish listings on Amazon.
“Use the time we have now to focus on building a strong online offering. And think about what it looks like in a year or 18 months’ time when we reset. Maybe change your product range to suit an online customer more.
“You can get a product selling on eBay tomorrow, but to get a product selling well on Amazon – even if you’re good at it – can take up to six months. It’s about knowing that. And once you know the volumes you’re going to be achieving and how you’re going to get there, it’s really easy.”
Which is where Velocity’s blueprints come in.
Remember, this is not a normal demand curve
“There are spikes and changes in peoples’ buying habits every day, and we need to err on the side of caution when we’re forecasting stuff so we’re not overcommitting to things.”
Right now, the top five most searched things on Amazon are (in order): face masks; hair clippers; resistance bands; sun lounger; and paddling pool.
This time last year, that top five read: wireless headphones; garden furniture; Game of Thrones; Bluetooth headphones; and headphones.
The world has changed more than any of us could have ever anticipated. But the power of online is constant. It’s only going to get more important for businesses in the future. And by carefully planning a route into your customers’ minds and ecosystems, with some specialist guidance steering the way, the rewards are yours for the taking.