Talking to another writer and thought this might be an interesting little topic.

One of the things about Amazon (as it is currently developed) is that much of the information we have about it, and what sells, is conjecture and analysis via results, rather than explicit statements on their methodology. Which results in some confusion about certain aspects. 

Conversion Rates

Now, before I get into that, let’s talk about conversion rates. Conversion rates are basically the number of individuals who arrive on a store (or product page) who ‘convert’ (i.e. complete a checkout process) and buy a product.

Conversions are one of the major metrics any e-commerce company tracks, and there are numerous ways to increase conversion rates. Everything from reducing the number of clicks a customer needs to checkout (you lose roughly 50% of each visitor each time they click); to e-mails for abandoned carts, coupons and limited time offers, etc.

Anyway, it’s worth remembering the term. On-store product page conversions is hard to talk about, but the average is around 2.35% while the top 25% are at 5% and the top 10% are converting 11% or so. Of course, this varies so much by company and industry. 

Other things to note – industry conversion rates from FB ads clicks to sales is around 9.21%. So, 1 in 10 of people who click through your FB ad should be buying (except maybe not? benchmark yourself is the best option. We’ll talk about benchmarking another day).

Anyway, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Selling More on Amazon

 – The Product Page

The thing I’ve noticed (and other authors) is that to sell more on Amazon, you are almost purely reliant on them to do so. You can’t change (very much) the design of the product page (your cover, blurb and sometimes, if you’re lucky, things like reviews/etc if you had access to the old author central account) outside of your blurb and cover.  As such, you’re almost at the mercy of Amazon. On the product page and Amazon, the things that affect your sales the most would be:

– page design (untouchable mostly)

– image & blurb (under your control)

– price (under your control, mostly. Amazon does discount your books).

– reviews (sort of in your control. More reviews, more realistic – (i.e. not all 5 star) reviews help.  In fact, there was a study that just in general more reviews (5 star or 1 star) increase sales overall. 

– also boughts (not in your control mostly)

– also viewed (not in your review) 

– and all the other product scrolling sections (mostly not in your control or completely out of your control).

– category ranks (only mildly in your control in terms of being able to sell more, though categories are within your control).

 – General Visibility

Now, backing off – you also have to think about how people get to your product. There’s really only 3 major ways to get to your book:

– via search results for a term (so optimising for the right keywords that fit your product is good)

– via listings in your category (top 100 of X category). Usefulness varies since it really depends on how big the category (i.e. how many browsers there are for that specific category. It’s not much use getting top 10 of ‘Stargate books’ if no one actually browses that category. Though getting the yellow sticker can be useful for conversions. Not so great for user experience overall though.

– via also boughts and other listings on the product page. 

However, it’s worth noting that ranking in any of those (for the most part) depend on your sales. The more you sell, the higher you’ll be ranked by Amazon’s algorithim. Because they know that books that sell well will likely sell well to new customers, so they’ll promote those books further.

There’s really not a lot of ways to skip this other than to….

Amazon Marketing System (AMS) Sponsored Products

This is the major complaint from indie authors. If you aren’t listing well / selling well initially, you can’t get on also boughts, you can’t get on the category lists or search results. The only way to shortcut that method is to pay for your listing, pushing you upwards.

And it works. I did that for Grayson Sinclair’s Hive Knight  in the initial periods to get him further onto also boughts. By being on the also boughts of other books, he gained more visibility which meant the book sold more (not to say that he wasn’t selling well before, but this added to it).

It’s also the reason why people run promotions ($0.99, Free, etc.) to help push up their rankings and get spotted.  Because if you don’t have a lot of also boughts, Amazon still counts ‘bought’ free books as legitimate purchases which put you on a whole new slew of books also bought lists.

The Initial Impetus

Problem is, all this means that for the most part, you can’t rely on Amazon (other than using AMS which has its own issues) to gain that initial big boost in sales to get your rankings. 

That’s why external marketing systems are so important. Because you need to drive more readers to your work from an external source (FB ads, newsletters, mentions by readers on a social media basis) to drive you further up the listings.

Without that, you can’t trigger their algorithms, you can’t get on the listings and you can’t sell well.

And it’s why people who sit at the top of listings already who say they don’t need to do much to increase their sales are missing the point, because Amazon is geared to support them. 

You need to build external marketing systems to help send potential customers to Amazon to generate additional sales. 

A Cynical Thought

The cynic in me wonders if Amazon is purposely holding off other tools that would help you convert people on your page (coupon codes for your product, the ability to run specific promos to tap into their e-mail system and database for your own products to goose abandoned product rates, etc.) because they know this.

After all, the more people you send over to Amazon, the bigger their customer base. And the more advertising you do for them, because your advertising is driving their customers (if they already are customers) back to Amazon, they’re winning out.

In effect, they’re tripling or more their budgets.

In Conclusion

Anyway, something to think about when you are launching. You need to build up your fan base off-line from Amazon to tap into their systems. There’s very little you can do to help push you up within Amazon itself (AMS has only limited effects due to the way they show ads).

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