Amazon HQ Visit & Update
What did Liran Hirschkorn learn at his recent visit to the Amazon Headquarters in Seattle, WA? We give you an inside look at that, as well as some of the rumors floating around in regards to Amazon changes that might be taking place.
How did you end up connecting with Amazon that allowed you to visit their headquarters?
Liran: I have a rep at Amazon. And this month Amazon does these quarterly what they call “Brand Fish Bowls”. Where they bring in different brands usually 2, 3, 4 brands. So, they put you in a panel in front of a bunch of people from different teams in Seattle. They ask you questions and you can provide feedback. One of the focuses for this month was about brands that are giving back. And one of my brands has a charitable mission and my brand gives back. So, they invited me to come out to that “Brand Fish Bowl”.
And so the day was split up between the first half and second half of the day. The first half of the day myself and 2 other brands were in a board room. Members from different teams would come in and did a 30-45 minute discussion about their specific area. And then the afternoon was this “Brand Fish Bowl”, sitting in a room with a whole bunch of different people from different teams.
So as I’m waiting downstairs to get my visitor pass, you see people coming in to work with their dogs. And that’s kind of a really interesting culture that Amazon has. They wanna make it a place that’s fun and accommodating for employees to come to. A place that you wanna come to work. Amazon has different names for different buildings there. The building called “Amelia” was where my rep is. I walked by people that had these glass offices with huge white boards with like algorithms on them. When I asked if I could take a picture of the boards, it was like “No way!”
You learned about Amazon’s SPARK program, right?
The first person that came in was a guy that’s working on Spark. For those that never heard of SPARK, SPARK is basically Amazon’s social media product discovery tool. It’s sort of like a shoppable Instagram feed. Amazon’s social platform is called SPARK. If you are Prime customer and you look on your App under programs and features, you can actually see the Spark program there. They talked about some of the things that are coming into that program.
Amazon’s SPARK program exists so that influencers can apply and be part of their influencer program. Where Amazon will actually pay them, compensate them for posting. They’re definitely trying to court influencers and make it bigger right now. It’s available on mobile. I think they mention they’re just starting to actually make it available on desktop. Where customers can actually go on and post on desktop and also discover products on desktop. Anybody can post there, you can post, I can post and influencers are posting there. People can comment on products that are posted there.
The cool thing about it is that if you post something there like a product, let’s say you post, you wearing a new shirt you got that’s on Amazon. Well, when somebody clicks in on that image there’s a little yellow button that pops up and basically takes you to the product on Amazon. And shows you the review. It’s kinda like a shoppable instagram feed. Its really cool, it’s right now only on IOS, they’re coming up with an android version. They’re coming out on desktop. So I think it’s only gonna grow and as Amazon courts influencers and brings them to the platform, it’s only going to get bigger.
Usually with these types of social media platforms sometimes it’s hard to know what’s gonna be the most profitable strategy to utilize it. Does it involve reaching out to influencers yourself? What’s the way that you see it going from a seller’s standpoint?
Liran: I think there could be a few ways to really maximize it or take advantage of it. First thing is, if you’ve never posted there, try posting your own product. And if you have a cool product or if you have a cool image or lifestyle image of a product. Maybe you have a video. Right now, you can’t upload videos but you can post YouTube links things like that, it will show a thumbnail image of it. I think you could post your own products there. I’ve posted my own products there, I’ve gotten reviews, I’ve got likes, comments on it.
One thing you don’t wanna come on there and just like spam all your products only. So, you know if you’re going to use a strategy of posting or hire/use a VA to post, have them post like a mixture of stuff. Some of your own products, some other people’s products that are cool. In that way you can actually gain a following, right? Where people don’t just see you as like spamming your own products there. So, its kinda like a stealth way to get your products out there, but also be a value to other people by showing cool and interesting products.
The other way is you can actually see other people there on the platform who have a lot of followers. You can look up their name try to reach out to them. A lot of them will have websites or they’ll have an Instagram or somewhere else where you can private message them. Try to get the your product where they’ll do a sponsored post for you and show it to their audience. And if they like it fits in with their niche. I know I posted products there, and somebody commented “I’m definitely getting this as a birthday gift for somebody”. If you can build up followers there, then you can sort of become your own influencer in the space and promote your own products.
We’re always telling our course members that it’s really important to stay ahead of the curve. One of the ways you can do that is by anticipating changes that are going to be happening within Amazon platform, right?
Andy: For me, and for most Amazon sellers, anytime that you can actually meet an Amazon representative, it’s always beneficial. Sometimes it can be really hard to do. In fact, the three of us were at a conference a few months ago and Amazon employees were at that conference. But, they actually were undercover and so on their badges they didn’t have that they were employees of Amazon. They basically wanted to go to the conference to see and hear what Amazon sellers were saying. And I found that to be my experience a lot of times. Amazon has a very tight lid on what their employees can say about the company. And so for the most part Amazon employees tow that line.
The Boost conference was the first conference Amazon has ever put on for third party seller like ourselves. It was really refreshing to be able to talk to actual Amazon employees. Because most of the employees there work in the third party marketplace so they are very friendly, very helpful. If you ask them questions, some of them would give you their business cards. Not a lot would, in fact a lot of them don’t carry business cards for that reason. So, you know questions that you may not be able to get answers to, when you actually see them and meet them in person. It’s a lot easier to get answers to those questions and so yes it’s very beneficial.
Liran: Yup you know, I think if you get an opportunity to go to one of those events, one of the rumors I’m hearing is they are planning on another boost event. I don’t know where and when it’s going to be. Last time they did was in June in the summer, so I imagine if they did another one it will be around 2018 around the same time. I would recommend if you have an opportunity to go, go because there’s nothing like networking. Especially when you can get to meet and make contact with people at Amazon.
What are some of the other things that sellers have to look forward to?
Liran: And so let’s talk about some of those other Amazon changes. Next meeting that we had was with the deals team, like lightning deals and variety of promotions. Some things that are cool that are coming to that are sponsored ads. It’s already available to vendors that sell directly to Amazon, but sponsored ads for lightning deals. So what does that really mean or look like? Well, you know right now if you’re on a lightning deal the chances are of your deal being on page one of the today’s deal page are kinda slim. Because there are thousands of deal that are running and you know, only one, page one.
One of the things that you’ll be able to do is actually do a sponsored lightning deal. Where it’s kinda guaranteed to show up on the first 3 pages and every time a customer clicks on it, you’re gonna pay “Pay Per Click” just like with sponsored ads but you’re lightning deals gonna go up more visibility.
Some things that are also gonna come are if you are running a deal, it will show up higher in the search results. Because it kinda make sense if you’re product is on page 3, a barbecue glove but you’re running a lightning deal, more customers should see that right? Since it’s a great offer, it’s an opportunity for them to get a better price. And also gives you more visibility to your deals. So those are gonna start showing up higher up in the search result. Those are some really cool things that are coming. Amazon giveaways starting to show up at the bottom of the deals page that’s a beta program. I’m actually in that program, I’ll be testing that over the next week or so.
Overall, what did you learn on your visit to the headquarters?
Some of the things that I learned, are for example I had an opportunity to run a deal of the day recently. And some of the things I have learned are around what goals those teams have. One example, is they have goals of getting new to deals customers. So customers that have never bought a deal before, to buy a product on a deal. And also customers that have always bought in one category or 2 categories to buy a deal in a new category. So if you’re only buying your electronic products on Amazon, Amazon would love for you to buy grocery items.
For example, there’s a lot of people who go to the today’s deal page. It’s the second most traffic page on Amazon but it’s mostly repeat shoppers. So one of Amazon’s goals are to get more new customers that have never bought from the Today’s deal page. So kinda like having a diverse mix of deals and lightning deals and ability to drive more traffic of more customers to those pages. The guy who runs the entire deal of the day program used to have his own deal site. It was bought out by Woot and then Woot is now part of Amazon subsidiary. Now he works for Amazon, so the guy has tons of experience with a deal of the day type of program.
Liran: One of the issues that myself and a couple of other brands brought up was the fact that Amazon does not show enough data with us. Amazon has all this data but they don’t share. If they share a little bit more data, you know, it could be a win win for both sellers and Amazon. Definitely think that they’re looking to move a little bit more in that direction. There’s a team working on that external traffic. They told me its going a little bit slower than they expected. But I would think sometime in 2018, something should happen with knowing your conversions from external traffic which I think will be huge for Amazon, too.
What is your thought process on the need for a new approach to product reviews?
Liran: Yeah, I mean myself and other brands brought up this very issue. Because I do feel that Amazon can probably do more in this area in terms of review manipulation. And this is not an area that I play games with. I don’t pay pal people after they buy something from me and write a review and get verified purchases. I don’t really play around with because one, it’s against terms. But it’s also illegal FCC guidelines and that’s something I don’t wanna mess with.
Nathan: Liran, the temptation though is that you see these other people who are doing it. And appear to be getting away with it. And it’s tough to compete with them, right? I know specially a lot of people who it’s there first product to market. And they see their competition getting this reviews that they feel like have an unfair advantage. tThe temptation is there, right, to go after those methods?
Liran: Yeah, the temptation is there because Amazon is sort of allowing you to get all these spam emails in your inbox. Even if you’re somebody who never even knew this existed right? You’re some kinda brand or seller out there, you don’t even know if it’s allowed or not allowed. There are ways that Amazon can combat this. If somebody has a very high review to order ratio, 30-40%, something is going on that should be flagged. Maybe that person is really doing a really good job or some kinda special campaign to get reviews and it’s all legit. Then maybe not and a lot of times probably not. And those accounts should be flagged.
I think Amazon will be taking more action because the whole platform is built on the integrity of the review system. It’s one thing Amazon has that you don’t see other platforms that have it. So, I think Amazon does take it seriously and that they’re working on ways to make it better and take more action against sellers.
Do you think sellers would welcome review changes on Amazon?
Nathan: If you’re playing this game, just know that it is something that Amazon takes extremely seriously. In the past they’ve gone after other types of review manipulation. Even brought legal suits against people. I know there’s a big case with a lot of fiverr people. Fiverr.com which is like a cheap way that you can pay for small tasks. And a lot of fiverr people were offering these services to leave fake reviews basically. And Amazon went after a lot of them. You might not even realize how big of a deal the review system is, and right now it seems kinda lax right? But usually when Amazon comes down on something, they kinda come down hard. It’s kinda sweeping change like was made around this time last year actually, 2016 October. They made a big change where they said,” No more incentivized reviews!”
Liran: The worse case is your listing will get suppressed and you can’t fix it right? And then there are some things like review manipulation. Which I can see people being banned and not being able to come back to Amazon. If there’s enough proof there that it’s very outright, I think more serious action could be taken. You just wanna be careful with it because I do feel that Amazon will be taking more action on it. I think for sellers that have not done it and that are trying to get reviews in more legitimate ways through customer follow-ups and inserts, this should be welcome news.
A lot of sellers are frustrated that you see your competition getting all these verified reviews really quickly. It’s sort of not a fair playing field. So I think it will be a welcome news for a lot of sellers when Amazon does remove a lot of those reviews. All it would really take for Amazon is to start flagging high review-to-order ratios and I think it would quickly spread that Amazon’s just taking it more seriously.
Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Amazon Seller Podcast where we discussed a recent visit to the Amazon Headquarters as well as some possible upcoming Amazon changes.