BizSugar’s SmallBizFluence virtual event will be taking place Wednesday November 10th. And if you have any interest in learning how to sell more of your products and services online – or to sell even more if you already are doing so – then I invite you to check out this free event. You’ll hear from folks that have built successful online businesses going from ground-zero to over $10 million in sales, sharing their wealth of experiences in order to help you avoid some of the potholes they fell into on their way to success.
As part of the event, I will have a live Q&A with Claire O’Donnell, Director at Amazon, where she currently leads Amazon’s Selling Partner Communities and Small Business Empowerment organizations.
Leading up to SmallBizFluence, Amazon recently held its Accelerate event which focuses on helping sellers using Amazon’s platform with new programs and services to help them build relationships with customers and increase their sales and profitability. And I had the opportunity to speak with Dave Nadel, Amazon’s Director, Selling Partner Trust, to learn more about how the new tools and services announced during the event will help SMB sellers move to the next level selling on Amazon.
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. Click on the embedded SoundCloud player to hear the full discussion. And also join us on November 10th for the SmallBizFluence virtual event by registering ahead of time.
Defining trust and loyalty
Brent Leary: Seller loyalty and trust. What does that mean to you and Amazon?
Dave Nadel: The first thing I’ll say is that maybe my title, and obviously my team thinks a lot about that, but so does every other team that works on seller tools. I think building trust with sellers and ensuring we are the most helpful partner we can be in their business success is all of our goals. For my team specifically, we focus on a couple different areas of the seller experience that we think are particularly important to building trust. One area we focus a lot on is the account health experience, which I spoke a little bit about at Accelerate. We actually host the Accelerate conference. That was my team that organized the event this year. We do a number of other things throughout the seller journey, just to make sure that Amazon is the best partner we can be.
Account Health Rating
Brent Leary: Could you fill us in about the importance of account health to the sellers? What kind of things should they be aware of to make sure they’re in good standing?
Dave Nadel: Account health at a high level is essentially a seller’s adherence to Amazon’s policies. So from a customer perspective, adhering to our policies ensures customers have a great experience, they come back and shop more, sellers continue to grow their business. And from a seller perspective, maintaining great account health and monitoring it on a regular basis ensures that they have more time to focus on building their business.
Brent Leary: What were some of the announcements that were geared towards the branding aspect of the business?
Dave Nadel: So we talked about a lot of different things at Accelerate related to brands. There was part around a brand referral bonus that we mentioned where brands can drive traffic to Amazon. We had a number of brand building tools, like A+ content was talked about. Brand follow, which enables customers to follow a brand on Amazon and receive updates. We’ve also launched a number of new tools around increasing brand’s ability to engage with customers, to build that lifetime value and ensure that brand recognition continues to grow.
Product Opportunity Explorer
Brent Leary: One of the things that came up, one of those new product announcements, was around the Product Opportunity Explorer. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that.
Dave Nadel: The Product Opportunity Explorer provides sellers with anonymized data to help them identify demand that is unmet at the moment with the current selection we have on Amazon. So basically, ideas for new products they can invent. And the idea is based on what a seller is already selling and what we see customers are looking for, we can use both of those sets of data to identify where there may be gaps, and a opportunity that a seller can capture that relates to their brand that helps build their selection and their catalog and enable their long term growth and success.
Brent Leary: That’s one that I think is in beta right now, but it’ll be available at some point next year?
Dave Nadel: Yeah. We’ll continue to expand as we learn more and we tweak it to make sure it’s as helpful as it can be. It’s one of the many ways that we just try to make sure that we can help small businesses and entrepreneurs scale and grow on Amazon. The Product Opportunity Explorer is a great tool for someone just starting out, looking to invent their first product or their second. But it’s also a great tool for someone who’s well along that road and just looking for the next opportunity.
Search Analytics Dashboard
Brent Leary: It’s all about being able to leverage and understand data and make decisions about it. One of the other announcements that came out was around the Search Analytics Dashboard. Maybe you could talk about that and how that could help folks be a little bit more efficient and effective at what they’re doing.
Dave Nadel: In a similar way to the Product Opportunity Explorer, we have this anonymized data that we can provide to sellers and they can see the customer journey from end to end. Where do they start? Where do they end? Where do they drop out, most importantly? And they can then use that information to optimize their marketing, their listing information, the products they have on Amazon, to maximize conversion and ensure that customers, when they’re looking for a product, find that brand’s product and can successfully purchase it.
Setting expectations for customers coming into the holiday shopping season
Brent Leary: When you talk about customer experience, there’s so many pieces to the puzzle, but discovery and delivery are two incredibly important pieces. Maybe you could talk a little bit about some of the things that folks may need to be aware of, in this particular season, when it comes to making sure that their customers understand things may be a little different this year because of some of the developments that are really out of their hands.
Dave Nadel: It’s obviously a unique and novel time for all of us. I think we’re all learning as we go in understanding customer behavior, understanding our own behavior, how to run our companies effectively. I guess what I would say, one thing that Amazon has started to do this year that we’re encouraging many folks to do is to smooth out demand throughout the holiday season to alleviate some of the supply chain concerns that are affecting the industry. Start marketing deals now ahead of the holidays, and that way, you can ensure that you have the inventory on hand to meet any customer demand throughout the holiday season. So I’d say that’s one part of it. The other part, it applies now, but it applies all the time, quite honestly, is just to make sure that you’ve optimized your listings and your products on Amazon. That you use the tools we have available to make sure that customers, when searching for a product, can find yours, can understand what it is, understand the value proposition, and make an informed purchasing decision.
Brent Leary: I also looked at some of the things that were announced around local selling. Maybe that actually helps as well with that regard.
Dave Nadel: The local selling announcements were some of my favorite announcements throughout Accelerate. I just think it’s such a cool way to think about an end to end seller business, right? The short story is it’s an exciting opportunity for sellers to connect Amazon with their physical stores. We’re enabling sellers to do things like allow customers to buy online and pick up in store. So if you have a local outlet, a brick and mortar store, you can actually target customers in that area and offer them an option during the purchasing workflow to say, “Yeah, I’ll go to my local Main Street and pick this up from the business themselves.” It avoids some of the issues with fulfillment. It also allows sellers to sell and fulfill products that may be difficult to do with traditional fulfillment, whether those are fragile or large, et cetera.
There is a compliment, a separate announcement, that came out at the same time outside of buy-online-pickup-in-store around local delivery. So sellers can now elect for customers in certain regions to actually use their own fulfillment capabilities, whether that’s their vans or trucks, what have you, to deliver items to customers directly. Again, avoiding some of the pitfalls with the larger fulfillment options, particularly around large items, fragile items, what have you.
Brent Leary: Folks could start applying for that now, right?
Dave Nadel: I believe so. Yeah. I believe they’re also rolling out as we learn more, so they’re not in full availability. But we’re continuing to add more sellers as we learn and go.
Brent Leary: Absolutely. So local selling is one thing, but there’s also talk about global expansion. A lot of smaller sellers would love to be able to do that and they don’t know how to do it. So how does this help them with that?
Dave Nadel: We have a suite of global selling tools, many of which were announced at Accelerate, that do exactly what you said, allow sellers big and small to expand their business beyond the US, sell globally, reach a larger audience. From the start of the journey, we have the Marketplace Product Guidance Tool. What that allows you to do is it helps sellers understand of the products they’re selling, which would be good ones to go and sell elsewhere in the world. So it’ll say, hey, there may be demand in the UK for product X or what have you, and sellers very easily with a couple clicks can then expand their selection to those new stores.
As you get down the funnel, we have things like the Global Inventory Viewer, which gives sellers a single place in Seller Central to view all of their inventory globally and make sure that they have the right amount in stock to meet demand across the globe. And as you get further in the funnel, we have things like the Customer Service by Amazon, which is a new service rolling out. And the idea is, hey, customer service is hard to do in general and it’s hard to do well. Especially when you’re selling globally, you may have language barriers or hours that you need to be available to support customers in their various locales. We want sellers to be able to expand globally without having to invest in that infrastructure, so they can now actually partner with Amazon to leverage our customer service capabilities for their business.
Customer Support as a Service
Brent Leary: A lot of folks don’t think about customer support right off the bat. They think about creating products and selling products, which makes a lot of sense. But when those products get out there and people start to love those products and they order them a lot, eventually some things are going to happen. And if you don’t have a support process set up that will make it easy for folks to find the help and for you to deliver the help, you get, I don’t want to say bogged down, but you spend way more time and effort in that one aspect of your business, which keeps you from focusing on how do you drive growth and be more efficient and effective.
Dave Nadel: That’s absolutely right. It’s incredibly important. Not only, to your point, to ensure that if you do it right, that you have time to invent new products and build your business, but companies that have great support, their customers come back and return. It’s a great way to build a strong brand reputation, drive awareness and trust in your brand and your business, and make sure that those customers turn into lifetime customers.
Brent Leary: That customer experience, it goes through every part of the business and every interaction that the customer has throughout sales, marketing of course service even. A lot of customers would love to see their feedback integrated into the product or service that you’re delivering to them. This is just another way to make sure that it is support, but support is a part of your overall experience that a customer has with you. And so it feels like a lot of sellers may not focus on that at the beginning, but it becomes so much more important as they get off the ground and they start growing, and they want to grow both more customers and deeper relationships with customers.
Dave Nadel: That’s exactly right. As we all know, as a business expands, the functions that one needs to take on increase. Those functions are very different from one another and it’s hard to be an expert in all of them. It’s just another way Amazon wants to ensure that small businesses and entrepreneurs can grow and succeed, is by leveraging the expertise we’ve gained in this industry and sharing that with sellers and helping them benefit from our scale and our capabilities to grow their business.
Brent Leary: Can we just touch more on global selling? I think because of the pandemic many of the interactions that were traditionally face to face, companies had to figure out ways to digitize those interactions. And when you’re able to digitize those interactions, that actually opens up your potential customer base beyond your local to pretty much the whole world.
Dave Nadel: It’s absolutely true. You can open up very quickly, especially when you leverage some of these tools that we’ve been talking about. One other tool that I’ll mention that’s related to your comment that I didn’t before is we also announced and talked about at Accelerate a global listing experience that we’ve recently launched. That enables sellers to take the selection of the products they’ve already listed on amazon.com, and with a couple clicks, begin selling those elsewhere. It’s, to your point, another way to just make it easier to ensure that wherever there’s demand, we help sellers meet it.
Brent Leary: And then you could tie it with that product exploration, being able to help them not just reach global markets, but reach them with a better idea of what product or service should we offer to these markets.
Dave Nadel: Exactly. We want to make sure that not only sellers are expanding globally, but just like everything else they do, they’re doing it so efficiently and in a cost effective manner. And if we can provide guidance that helps them do that, we’d love to do so.
Brent Leary: What are the big takeaways you want people to have from the event?
Dave Nadel: I guess the take home message for me, and what I thought was quite apparent throughout a number of these sessions, was that Amazon is not a self-service interface that offers no value in return for what a seller does. We do see this as a partnership. We see this as a two-way conversation, a two-sided relationship, and we want to be there to support and grow with sellers over time and succeed together. For me, that was the big takeaway. This wasn’t a conference or an event designed to only educate sellers on what’s available or show them the tools that they can use. We wanted to show that we’re also working on their behalf, investing on their behalf, and that their successes is our success. It really is accelerating to the next level together.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it’s an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.