Things to learn from your competitors

A lot of the time, when you start out as an Amazon vendor, or when you introduce a new product, you’re reinventing the wheel.

It’s not like you’re Elon Musk and you’ve invented something completely new. You’re selling something that already exists – maybe you’ve got a better version, with more features, but it does already exist. So you don’t need to wrack your brains about what category you should sell in, for instance – your competitors have already done that for you.

That’s actually a very good example. If you have any doubt what categories and keywords you should be using, find products that look like yours (and are selling well) and find out what they’re using. Chances are you should be focusing on similar keywords, if not exactly the same.

But you can learn a lot of other things from the competition. For instance, check out the customer questions. What are the questions that get asked all the time? For some consumables it will be “how long will this refill last”, for instance. If customers are asking, then it’s something that’s at the top of their mind when they’re buying. Address that in your product page and you’re answering the question before they need to ask.

One vendor noticed that a big question on small dehumidifiers was what happened if they filled up – would they leak all over the room? The vendor stressed the automatic cut-out function in their features and  guess what… sales went up!

Check out the one-star reviews. There may be a genuine grievance that comes through pretty often- a craft kit that doesn’t come with all the things you need in it, for instance. Or you may find that the product page gives customers an unrealistic expectation of what the product actually is. That’s a warning to you – be really clear about what customers are actually getting. For instance, if your product is intended only for small dogs, and isn’t strong enough or big enough for breeds like Great Danes or St Bernards, make that really clear in the description.

Look at the one-star reviews and find out what customers really love. Is it style, functionality, quick customer service response? Or is there a little thoughtful addition to the bundle that customers appreciate, like a matching facecloth with a travel towel, or a packaging bag that doubles as a tote? Again, this can give you great ideas for improving your own offering, often at relatively little cost, or for bundling your products.

Also, look at the photos. In particular, look at the packaging. How does it compare to yours? Are there any special features for product protection, such as interior packing, or silicon bags for humidity control? How is it branded? (If you see a lot of negative reviews on products arriving damaged, by the way, check out whether the packaging is a likely cause.)

Are the photos good quality? What particular aspects have your competitors singled out? Have they all shown exactly the same views of the product? Now, where you need to do some thinking is whether, for instance, if they all show a three-quarters view of the product, that’s because it’s the best way of making it fit the ‘box’, or whether this is a chance for you to be a bit different.

Finally, don’t forget to check your competitors’ prices – and keep doing so from time to time. Because they can and will change their pricing in response to market trends – and you need to keep up.

You may even learn from a rival to one of your products something that, while not useful for that particular product, gives you a great idea for one of your others, or even for a completely new product. So go right now and take a good look at the competition, notepad at the ready.

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