Case Study: Product Launch & Promotion in an Ultra Competitive Niche – Part 1

Launching a new product in an ultra competitive niche on Amazon is hard work and requires a well crafted marketing strategy.

Get it wrong, and you can easily wasted a lot of money on product development, inventory, and marketing.

Get it right, and you’ll have added another steady cash flow producer to your product line.

In today’s post, I’m going to share with you a case study for our top selling pet product, along with all the nitty gritty details of what it’s taken to get our product to where it is today.

Market Research

The key to creating a highly successful product listing on Amazon is to find a product that is already in demand, and understanding demand starts with a study of what is already selling well.

Being as we owned a dog that loved to bark (which drove me nuts), the idea of an anti-bark collar was something that I’d already been considering.

When we first decided that we wanted to create our own electric dog training collar, the very first thing we did was to perform some market research.

Ideally, we were looking for a product that:

  • Had significant existing demand
  • Was relatively easy to manufacture
  • Didn’t have an overwhelming level of competition (as measured by product reviews)
  • Wasn’t seasonal
  • Had a long shelf life

Assess Demand

In the image below are the Amazon search results for the term “bark collar” and as you can see, 8 of the top 17 products are generating at least $40,000 per month in revenue.

bark-collar-report

Based on this report, it was fairly safe to assume that there is plenty of demand for this type of product.

Just as important as demand is breadth of sales. What we like to see are sales that are not concentrated in just the top few listings. Instead, we prefer to see plenty of sales across the top ten search results, and as you can see above, that is precisely the case for this product.

Assess Seasonality

When looking at demand, it’s important to determine if the data you are looking at is showing a seasonal trend.

In our case, we looked at one of our competitor’s products that had a large number of reviews (plenty of reviews is a barometer for product age) and were able to confirm that sales have been relatively steady throughout the year.

bark-collar-seasonality

You will note the graph spikes up in May. A spike up in sales rank like this is generally the result of a vendor running out of stock, so we checked a few other competitors to confirm this spike was limited to this one product, and not the category as a whole. (Note: when sales rank is high, sales are low, so downward trend in the green line is desirable)

Assess Competition

When we assess the level of competition, there are a number of things that we consider, including:

Number of reviews: we like to see at least one of the top 5 listings with under 200 reviews. In this case, two of the top 5 listings are under 200.

bark-collar-reviews

Number of average stars: As important as the number of competitor reviews is the average rating. As you can see, two of the top 5 products are 3.5 stars or less. This is another good barometer for demand because if a product with just 3 stars can still sell well, people must really want/need it.

Number of competitive product listings: The number of total product listings is not nearly as important as the reviews and average rating, but it was something that we considered, just the same.

If there are too few competitors, that could be a sign of a lack of demand or market breadth. If there are too many, achieving a high enough rank in the organic search results could prove to be rather expensive. (There was lots of competition in this case, and we were still able to rank… more on how we did that in part 2.)

Product Launch

Successfully launching a product on Amazon requires that you follow a proven process that consists of:

  1. Creating an optimized product listing
  2. Getting product reviews
  3. Running PPC advertising campaigns

Optimized Product Listing

Creating an optimized product listing is simple to explain, but not as easy to do if you don’t know what you are doing. With that said, there are a few key factors that you must get right.

Keyword Optimized Headline: If you have been thorough in your keyword research, you will know which keyword you should be sure to include in your product headline. In our case, we chose to include the phrase ‘bark collar’ in our product headline because keyword research told us that this phrase is searched for approximately 83,500 times per month on Amazon.

High Quality Images: Amazon lets sellers include up to 9 product images in each product listing, and I strongly recommend you use as many of them as you can. Even more important than the number of images, however, is the quality of your images. Nothing will kill your conversion rate faster than lousy images.

Descriptive Sales Copy: Every product listing allows up to 5 bullet points, plus an additional product description. These are both areas where you want to write for humans, while still doing your best to add in additional keywords that you are targeting.

Keyword Targeting: Within the administrator portion of every product listing, Amazon allows sellers to enter up to 1000 characters for the keywords that they hope to rank for. Filling as many of these 1000 characters with relevant keywords is absolutely critical to the long term increase in sales that you are shooting for.

Getting Product Reviews

Product reviews are the social proof you need to convince buyers that your product is worthy of their attention (and money).

When launching a new product, it’s critical that you run a promotion to generate product reviews. It’s also critical to the health of your seller account that you don’t run afoul of Amazon’s terms of service in the process.

As of late, Amazon has been ultra-vigilant with outright review manipulation and they have gone as far as filing lawsuits against sellers that have taken things too far.

So, what is acceptable, and what is too far, you ask?

At the last conference I attended in August of 2016, one of the speakers was Rachel Greer of Think Cascadia. Rachel is an ex-Amazonian, and she shared that Amazon will let you get away with a small amount of review manipulation for about 3 weeks after you launch your product. She also informed us that Amazon’s own research concluded that anything more than 17 product reviews added no significant lift to conversions.

In other words, in your first three weeks, your goal should be to get 17 reviews via a promotion and then stop.

After these first 3 weeks (and 17-ish reviews), Amazon expects that just 2-3% of purchasers are going to leave a review, so if you continue to bring in a number that is higher than that, you are getting on a radar screen that you don’t want to be on.

So what did we do after getting our first 17-ish reviews? We set up an email auto-responder system that asks every ‘regular’ buyer to leave a review. Using this system, our product, which was launched on May 24, 2016, accumulated a total of 28 customer reviews as of August 23rd, 2016, with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

bark-collar-review-count

Running Advertising Campaigns

Advertising campaigns are a crucial part of both the product launch as well as the ongoing promotion of your product, and when it comes to running campaigns, there are a lot of details to get right.

This blog post is already long enough, so be sure and check out part 2, where I will go into detail on how we used advertising campaigns within the Amazon platform to launch and promote our dog collar on an ongoing basis.

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