4 Reasons Why You Need to Do Ongoing Amazon Market Research
If you’re following most Amazon schools of thought as a current Amazon seller, you’ve likely set up your business and now have it running with your initial products. You may also have expanded to several more products, if your strategy led you down that path.
Whatever your situation, you now have your product(s) live on Amazon. You do your due diligence by managing your inventory, responding to customer inquiries, collecting reviews – the whole nine yards. You watch your sales numbers (hopefully) go up over time as you study and adjust to how your customer base responds to your product.
At this point, I’m sure you’ve already spent a lot (if not most) of your time doing research, probably long before you even considered placing an order for inventory from your supplier.
Of course, if you’re not yet live on Amazon and still currently entrenched in the product/market research phase, you know firsthand the sheer amount of work involved.
One pitfall many Amazon sellers make, however, is stopping the research shortly after launch.
Think about it: you spent all of that time perfecting your plan and studying your market, so why let that fall to the wayside once your product is live?
The reality is that the market doesn’t suddenly stop evolving once you’ve launched your product (successfully or not), thus the need to know your product space also doesn’t stop.
Let’s discuss five reasons to keep sharp and stay on top of your market research post-launch.
1: Your competitors aren’t sitting still
Perhaps most important to consider is that your competitors aren’t sitting still. Since business is too often a constant scramble to come out ahead (and only more so in ecommerce), don’t be caught twiddling your thumbs.
If you’re a current Helium 10 user, you might already be using the Alerts tool to keep an eye on your products’ Buy Box so you know if your competitors come along to hijack your listing. But, handy as that is, competitor activity goes far beyond simple listing hijacking.
Think about it. Early on you likely studied your competitors to develop an understanding of your target product and market. You entered some short and long-tail keywords into the Amazon search box and combed through pages of listings to know exactly what you’d be up against. You needed to know what your would-be competitors were doing, how they were doing it, and what their audience (aka, your future audience) thought about it.
Now, fast forward to after launching your products and gaining momentum. You’re hopefully continuing to respond to customer feedback and improve your product and services accordingly, right?
The thing is, if you are, your competitors are, too. At some point, it becomes a case of who can move and evolve faster than the other(s).
So, will that someone be you?
Don’t be left dead in the water. You need to continue to stalk your competitors – both your existing ones, and new ones that enter the market. Watch how they tweak and improve their products. Keep an eye on new reviews they receive, and how they respond to those reviews. This might allow you to identify weak points in your competitors’ strategies and conduct, which only means an advantage for you. It’ll also allow you to improve yourself in ways you might not have considered before.
And, instead of seeing your competitors as annoying thorns in your side, strive for a more holistic approach. Think about how you relate to the entire body of your competitors and their success, not just individual sellers. It’s you versus them, and once you start to understand the larger-scale war over individual skirmishes, you’ll have the long-term advantage.
2: It’s too easy to get tunnel vision
How are you doing relative to the rest of your space?
As I mentioned previously under the first point, you want to expand beyond your echo chamber.
Let’s be honest, we all get tunnel vision, and not just about our Amazon sales. When we get so entrenched in a specific task, especially one that involves as much number-crunching as an Amazon account does, we can lose sight of the bigger picture. We’re so focused on bidding just the right amount on PPC campaign keywords, or optimizing our listings with the golden standard of character count and keywords-to-text ratio, or creating THE perfect Manychat funnel to get those product reviews and build our email marketing lists.
Basically, we get so wrapped up in our bubble that we forget to look beyond that. It’s like Piaget’s child development theory on stages of psychological development: we get bogged down with the egocentrism characteristic of the preoperational stage, aka the inability to understand that others aren’t thinking and feeling the same way we are.
Don’t let yourself get stuck in that preoperational stage! Remember: even as you work on your PPC campaigns, your listing copy and photos, and your product reviews, you’re still just a ripple in the pond. No, we’re not trying to be Nihilistic here. We’re reminding you to step away from Seller Central for a sec and go explore whatever is happening out in your market.
Take a realistic look at what other products are making – not just how they’re ranking on page one for x or y keyword string. How much of the market share are they taking up? How much does that leave you?
Hop onto X-Ray to glance at the estimated monthly revenue of other products in your space, so you know you’re doing in comparison to the greater market. Skim through other products’ reviews using Review Downloader to see what your target audience suggests you can improve on.
Or, check out our new Market Tracker, which does all of that and summarizes it into tidy easy-to-read charts for you, all in one place.
3: Related products that you didn’t even consider might enter the market
If you’re on top of your game, you’re already monitoring your competitors and their products, at least in some form. You constantly watch out for copycat products and become aware when new or underdog products start climbing the search results.
For example, I’m an entomology enthusiast. For those unfamiliar: have you ever seen those shadow boxes or display cases full of pinned butterflies and beetles? I like to make those – not for any academic research purposes, but simply because it’s a relaxing and satisfying hobby that produces a beautiful piece of art through a rather unique artistic medium. That, and I personally love creative activities that require fine manual dexterity and a lot of patience.
One of the main pieces of equipment you need for spreading insects is a spreading board. They come in various designs, but typically are made of wood and include enough horizontal space to pose the insect’s legs and wings, as well as a groove down the center to nest the insect’s body in. The fancier boards are adjustable, so you can change the width of this groove.
So, hypothetically if I were selling these boards and only these boards, I’d keep an eye out for competitors who decided to sell insect boards too. I might continually check up on keyword strings like “insect spreading board” or “butterfly pinning board” or “entomology board.”
I’d look out for product improvements as well – maybe produce an adjustable instead of stationary board, or change the composition of the wood surface to better accept and hold pins. Maybe I create variations with different sizes, adjustable/stationary options, or even colors.
But maybe I’ve gotten such bad tunnel vision that all I focus on are the boards. I completely miss the other related and very relevant items to my audience: the forceps required to handle the insects, the glassine paper for pinning the wings down, the pins themselves, the shadow boxes to display them in – even the little cards for labeling the specimens, or a desk-mounted magnifying glass for ease of use.
Here comes that tunnel vision again, only this time it’s about the product opportunities! And to use a favorite business-world buzzword: that’s leaving money on the table – especially when your competitor launches those related products first.
So, don’t forget to be patrolling for products beyond your wealth of targeted keywords.
4: The world outside of Amazon is always changing
Now that we’ve been talking about ‘outside the box,’ let’s think even bigger: outside of Amazon. The world beyond is constantly changing too, after all, and that will inevitably affect our ecommerce bubble in ways both big and small.
The most obvious and current (if somewhat drastic and unusual) example we’re seeing is, of course, the COVID-19 situation. Almost overnight, Amazon’s landscape rapidly changed to adapt to the needs of consumers forced to shelter in place in face of the coronavirus.
In the US, we’ve seen it all on Amazon, from an incredible amount of price gouging on sanitizers, disinfectant, and toilet paper (with some products reaching an insane triple digits); medical supplies going out of stock in the blink of an eye; and demand for other essentials like dry foodstuffs drastically increasing.
We’ve also been impacted by Amazon’s response to the needs of its customers. The temporary shipping suspension Amazon enacted the other week was one of several large-scale attempts to increase efficiency in getting essential products to customers, prioritizing that over ‘leisure’ items. This was good news for those sellers in essential product spaces like groceries, pet, or baby (until they ran out of stock, that was), and not-so-good news for those in spaces like jewelry and apparel.
Of course, now with social distancing forcing most to remain indoors, interesting upward trends have been seen in item categories like exercise equipment. These are the kinds of things that perhaps nobody would have initially foreseen – but they make a lot of sense in hindsight, since the majority of us non-essential workers remain restless and cooped up.
Other recent world event examples include the US/China trade war, which directly impacted tariffs (and by extension, the bottom line) for those of you with China-based suppliers.
Basically, events outside of the framework of Amazon can and will impact our market as sellers. It’s important to remain aware of what’s happening in the world – both inside and out of the ecommere bubble.
At the end of the day, you have to stay sharp. Successful selling on Amazon isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ formula – ever. Don’t get complacent with your product(s). Even if you choose to stick to only one or two ASINs for the entirety of your Amazon career, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to actively work to defend and improve upon its status and reputation.
That work means “constant vigilance,” in the words of Harry Potter’s Professor Mad-Eye Moody. Stay one step ahead of your competitors, remain aware of how you figure into the bigger picture, and always be adaptable to change.