2017 was a busy year for Amazon, sellers, and Seller Labs. Per the usual, Amazon made lots of changes along with plenty of acquisitions (its purchase of Whole Foods being the retail story of the year). Through it all, our mission here remained the same: understand the needs of Amazon sellers and provide them with the software to help them succeed. We created, developed, supported, informed, and innovated with sellers small and large in mind.
Here’s a recap of some of the big news and changes affecting Amazon sellers during 2017 along with a review of our year in the space. Perhaps you’ll find some items you might have missed during the year and this recap will give you a chance to circle back for and grab some new info and tips and tools.
Scope and Ignite Released: Two New Game-Changing Solutions for Amazon Sellers
We kicked off the year with a biggie, the release announcement for Scope, Seller Labs’ reverse-ASIN tool for keyword research and discovering profitable products and niches. Much like how Feedback Genius quickly became the industry standard for reviews, Scope became the Amazon sellers’ go-to tool for all things ASINs and keywords. It’s an absolutely amazing tool that can literally turn $177 into $4,400 by harnessing the power of data to better manage keywords.
Not long after that, we released Ignite for Sponsored Products ads management. For us, the writing was on the wall: Sponsored Products ads was big business and it would take more than a little luck and the tools within Seller Central to leverage the power of SPAs and consistently win those top placements. We went all in on Ignite and we’re glad we did. As the year progressed, competition surrounding Sponsored Products ads heated up and it became nearly impossible for sellers to succeed at SPAs without using features like intelligent keyword and bid suggestions, single-click ad-group moving, integrated user search term reports, and ad scheduling within Ignite and integrated directly in real-time with a seller’s Amazon account. If you haven’t gone all in on Ignite, or at least tried it, grab a 30-day free trial ASAP so you can roll into 2018 with SPA superiority on your side.
Content and Communication Turned Up to 11: Gold Nuggets Galore from Some of the Industry’s Established Experts and Emerging Voices
Early in the year, we also extended our reach via regular Facebook Go Live events hosted on our page and within our group. Running weekly, these events featured heavy-hitters in the industry as our guests and tons of interaction and Q&A between experts and sellers. If you missed any of these, you can catch them again at our Facebook video archive or on our YouTube page. There is some serious gold here in these video interviews with:
- Seller Labs staffers Brandon Checketts, Jeff Cohen, and Edward “PPC Ed” Ruffin
- E-commerce powerhouses like Ezra Firestone from Smart Marketer, Peter Kearns from 180Commerce, Abe Ortolani from Seller Tradecraft, Chad Rubin from Skubana, Robyn Johnson from Best of the Nest, and Dr. Ben from Ecom Docs and Startup Bros
- Industry skills experts like Karon Thackston from Marketing Words, Jennifer Dunn from TaxJar, Cynthia Stine from eGrowth Partners, and Rachel Miller from Moolah Marketing.
And if we’re talking gold nuggets, there’s plenty from this year’s guest bloggers and all that they contributed, including:
- James Thomson (Buy Box Experts) on the Amazon Marketplace dilemma
- Chris “eCommerce Chris” McCabe (Amazon Insiders) on obstacles faced by global sellers
- Ian Lurie (Portent Inc.) on possible Amazon algorithm changes
- Liran Hirschkorn (Amazing Freedom) on the Amazon Early Reviewer program
- CJ Rosenbaum (Amazon Sellers Lawyer) on Seller Suspensions
It really was an embarrassment of riches in terms of guests. contributors, collaborators, and content. Do definitely hit the Seller Labs Resources page and our fully searchable blog to gather amazingly helpful information, answers, advice, and so much more. And while you’re at it, visit the In Case You Missed it archive. ICYMI was a 2017 addition we made so as to keep sellers informed on all things Amazon news related (of which there is no shortage).
About That Content . . . Here Are the Issues that Mattered to Amazon Sellers and the Seller Labs Community in 2017
The Increasingly Complicated Task of Getting Reviews and Dealing with Feedback Issues—All While Looking After Your Product/Seller Ratings and Playing By Amazon’s Rules
We addressed a lot of the Amazon-imposed changes regarding reviews—the biggest of 2017 being allowing buyers to opt out unsolicited emails, a heavy blow to incur not long after October 2016’s policy ending the practice of incentivized reviews.
We did much of this by providing sellers with policy updates in as close to real-time as possible. We also dug deep into the policy changes and some ways to use information and education to adapt to the changes as they happened. Some of those articles included:
- How to Get Consistent Amazon Product Reviews for Your Private Label Products
- The Amazon Early Reviewer Program: A Solution for Private Label Sellers Coping With the Loss of Incentivized Reviews
- Getting Reviews Without Getting In Trouble
- Don’t Get Busted for Amazon Review Manipulation
In tandem with our education efforts, we did a lot of behind-the-scenes programming within Feedback Genius in order to help sellers use technology to execute communications in ways that garnered reviews without falling afoul of Amazon’s rules. Some of those updates included:
- Messages Page Updated in Feedback Genius
- Setting Up Message Forwarding in Gmail for Feedback Genius
- The New Global Blacklist Feature in Feedback Genius Avoids Sending Emails to Opted Out Amazon Shoppers
- How to Use the Return Filter in Feedback Genius
- Feedback Genius Product Update: September 2017
Product Listings, Keywords, Optimization Efforts for Relevance, Conversions, and Rankings—Finding Your Edge
These are perennial topics we address as every seller is looking for ways in which to get ahead of the competition, get his/her products ranking higher and selling more, and find keyword gems that illuminate holes in the niche or product listings. Scope proved invaluable there for sellers of all stripes, especially with regard to the big story here, an Amazon policy change, namely the clarification that the A9 algorithm indexed up to (and no more than) 250 characters worth of backend keywords. Here’s what that meant for merchants.
A Deep Dive Into the Amazon Ecosystem
We touched on keywords and optimizing product listings in almost everything we discussed in 2017. Why? Because that’s how critical and far reaching those components of seller success are. You’ll find plenty throughout most of our posts and videos from the year, but a really consolidated and thorough source about optimizations and keywords resides within one of the eBooks we put out this year: Sellers Moving the Amazon Flywheel: Maximize Your Roles and Rewards in the Amazon Ecosystem.
This free download explains Amazon (and how to succeed there as a seller) in ways that will change the way that you approach selling and help you reap the benefits of the big-picture Amazon flywheel to which you contribute. You’ll get serious info on how to write killer listings that appeal to both shoppers and Amazon’s algorithm, but that is just one component of a much bigger picture.
Amazon’s Big Bet on Brands
Sellers Moving the Amazon Flywheel wasn’t the only 2017 eBook we released addressing maximizing product listings and detail pages. We also dropped another freebie goodie, Using Enhanced Brand Content, to explain to sellers how to use this powerful page creator that takes detail pages from just okay to super professional, the kinds of pages that stand out by looking great and telling shoppers that your product is the one to be and you are the brand and the seller who has your business together.
Enhanced Brand Content was a hot topic this year. Not only did we write the eBook, we examined the larger EBC strategy Amazon seems to be employing (brand-building and storytelling) and how that ties in with Brand Registry and why and how it can benefit you.
As hot as EBC was, it was only one piece of the much-bigger Amazon undertaking, namely Brand Registry 2.0, which was a serious update and stated very clearly that brands, brand ownership, and brand recognition was a big deal to Amazon, and not only in the fight against counterfeiters.
We outlined big news outlining Amazon’s statement of intent and plan for brands and we looked at BR2.0 with regard to the case of one of the biggest brand’s of all, Nike. We also looked at Amazon’s revamped Storefronts as an extension of its commitment to all things brands and brand integrity. If this issue piqued your interest as it did ours, check out “How Brands Maintain Control and Create Profits on the Amazon Channel Webinar Recap” and “Amazon Storefront Gets a Much-Needed Makeover, But Not All Sellers May Partake.” These two pieces, along with our In Case You Missed It coverage of Amazon’s increasing private-label holdings, will give you a sense of the bigger picture and why Amazon is betting big on brands.
The Advertising Explosion
2017 was absolutely the year of the Sponsored Products ad. SPAs became so much a part of the Amazon experience for shoppers, sellers, brands, and Amazon that these ads accounted for 82% of Amazon’s advertising. We touched on other Amazon advertising opportunities (the other 18%), including Product Display Ads and Headline Search Ads, the latter of which became available in Seller Central after being available only in Vendor Central and Vendor Express previously. This was one of the signs of the increasing overlap between Seller Central, Vendor Central, and Vendor Express.
But again, I cannot overstate the importance of Sponsored Products ads in 2017. They absolutely changed Amazon’s revenue stream, changed the search experience for users, and changed how sellers competed in the marketplace. We wrote a lot about SPAs and Ignite this past year, including an eBook on all things Amazon PPC and SPA. If you missed this, definitely take a moment now to grab your copy of Mastering Amazon PPC: Using Ignite to Save Time and Make Money with Amazon Sponsored Products Ads. It’s free and it will help you run SPAs like a boss.
Some more articles of note regarding Sponsored Products ads, Ignite, and thoughts on where Amazon is headed next with advertising include:
- Understanding Keywords and Search Terms Within Amazon Sponsored Products
- How to Organize Your Amazon Sponsored Products Campaigns
- Amazon Tests Changes to Ad Space on Search Results Pages—Could This Impact Your Sales?
- Questions and Answers About Amazon Sponsored Products Tactics, Strategies and Best Practices
- How Ignite Lowered ACoS Percentages & Ad Spending for Amazon Marketplace Agency Quiverr
The Elephant in the Room: Sales Tax Amnesty
A topic that came to really dominate Q3 and work its way well into Q4 was one that actually had nothing to do with a tool for sellers or an innovation or policy change from Amazon. Seemingly out of nowhere in August came the Multistate Voluntary Disclosure Program (colloquially known as tax amnesty for online sellers), something no one expected to mushroom into an all-encompassing, ever-changing discussion about what to do with and for Amazon FBA sellers when it comes to collecting sales tax and reporting that.
What started with 14 states offering various solutions and opportunities for sellers became half of the states in the US offering some kind of past tax amnesty for Amazon sellers as well as a way forward when it came to collecting and reporting. Needless to say, an already complicated, fragmented, confusing set of rules and practices became even more so as sellers scrambled to better understand the slippery concept of nexus and who was responsible for what or even who was considered the retailer in a transaction.
Everyone in our industry has seen these issues coming over the last several years and the piecemeal hodgepodge of regulations has been far from satisfactory. But no one expected tax amnesty to take off as a snowball rolling downhill picking up speed and size on its way. This surprise story of the year left experts of many minds and advising sellers differently. We did our best to cover the doings of the program as well as the opinions and advice of experts (Chris McCabe, Jennifer Dunn, Scott Letourneau, Paul Rafelson, and more) and options for sellers.
As sales-tax issues are not going away anytime soon and we still do not have one single law for the entire country, you may want to brush up on some of these posts in an effort to be better positioned for any changes to come in 2018:
- Amazon FBA Sellers Can Take Advantage of a New Sales Tax Amnesty
- Sales Tax Amnesty—What Do I Need to Know?
- 5 Ways to Prep Your Amazon Sales Tax for Q4
- An Uptick In Interest In the Amazon State Sales Tax Saga—What Sellers Can Do
- The Multistate Tax Commission Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program–Take It or Else
- Making Sense of the Upcoming Sales Tax Amnesty: A Diversity of Opinions Webinar Recap
Closing the Door on 2017 with Thanks and Good Wishes
As you can read, 2017 was crazy busy and full of excitement and surprises. I can’t stand the thought of wrapping up the year that was on the subject of sales tax. Instead, I’d like to once again thank our community of amazing Amazon sellers. With their help, we donated more than $111,000 worth of toys to Toys for Tots, wrapping up the Seller Labs Cares holiday campaign having more than doubled our goal of $50,000! What a way to close 2017 and look forward to 2018. Happy New Year to everyone.