As COVID-19 continues to disrupt business as usual, we want to help other Amazon Sellers here in the United States by sharing actionable tips and strategies. Our goal is to help you and your business continue operating as responsible and efficiently as possible while positioning you for a great comeback.
#1 – Do not panic.
Realize you are not alone in this unexpected but necessary move by Amazon to limit incoming inventory to its warehouses and fulfillment centers. In 2019, there were close to 3 million active sellers on Amazon marketplaces worldwide, with more than 85% participating in the Amazon FBA program. Amazon is working to relieve the pressure on its network of fulfillment centers by hiring approximately 100,000 employees. Calmness, patience, and a positive attitude will help you make better business decisions.
#2 – Play by the rules.
Amazon has zero-tolerance for sellers who violate their policies and procedures, especially those sellers who violate the law. Do not make false or misleading claims about your products. Do not recategorize your products from a non-essential category to one of the five essential categories (Baby, Health and Household, Beauty and Personal Care, Grocery, Industrial and Scientific, and Pet Supplies) in an attempt to bypass the temporary shipment limitations. Excessively pricing your products during a crisis is not only unethical, but price gouging is against the law. Amazon Sellers who engage in these types of activities will have their seller account suspended and may also face legal action.
#3 – Check your pricing strategies.
All Amazon Sellers need to be aware of and understand the Amazon Marketplace Fair Pricing Policy. This pricing policy should be at the foundation of your pricing strategy for the Amazon marketplace. Set an acceptable min and max price for all of your products in Amazon Seller Central. For sellers using a repricing tool, adding a min and max price in Amazon Seller Central will provide an additional layer of protection should your repricing tool go rogue or your competitors make an adverse attempt toward your business.
#4 – Be optimistic and avoid negativity.
Your greatest weapon in any situation is a positive mind and an optimistic attitude. As with any industry, some will attempt to spread false information and negativity. Misinformation and negativity have become quite evident in the Amazon Seller Forums. Always check the facts before making a business decision. Do your research. Avoid the “What Ifs” with your business. F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) is an absolute business killer. Focus on everything that is working for your business instead of dwelling on the things you cannot change.
#5 – Watch for scammers and seek legit professional advice.
Seek professional advice from an experienced Amazon seller. A true Amazon professional/consultant has years of real-world experience selling on Amazon, is upfront and honest, works to understand your business processes and product lines, recommends tools to help you run a lean and efficient business, sees the bigger picture, and thinks long term.
Unfortunately, situations such as the COVID-19 outbreak will bring out the scammers and those falsely claiming to be an “Amazon Consultant.”
#6 – Talk with your lenders.
No doubt, Amazon Sellers will experience an uncomfortable disruption in cash flow. If you foresee any potential problems meeting your financial obligations, be proactive and reach out to your lenders. Most lenders are willing to work with you. A couple of things you may want to ask about include skipping a payment or adjusting the payment date. Now would also be an excellent time to ask about lowering the interest rate or refinancing your business loan.
#7 – Cut or reduce expenses.
Determine the absolute must-haves for your business and eliminate frivolous expenses. For recurring software subscriptions, does the subscribed plan make sense for your business, and are you using the software. Consider asking your software provider if a temporary hold may be placed on your account. Be aware of any upcoming annual renewals and ask providers for a temporary delay. If you are leasing office or warehouse space, speak with your landlord about delaying rent payment. Take an inventory of your on-hand supplies related to shipping and prepping your inventory for Amazon including shipping boxes, product labels, polybags, etc. You should consider pausing or canceling any auto-replenishment programs set up for these types of supplies. Reorder only the necessary supplies. As consumer spending declines, you should consider reducing your advertising budget or pausing advertising campaigns on Amazon and other digital advertising platforms such as Google, Microsoft Advertising, Facebook, etc.
#8 – Explore your fulfillment options.
Consider temporarily switching to Amazon’s Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) program for inventory not already at Amazon fulfillment centers. While there are more risks associated with FBM, it could be a quick and short-term solution for your most profitable and high-velocity products. For high performing Amazon Sellers, consider applying for Amazon’s Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) program. You can find additional information about these programs, including online training courses inside Amazon Seller Central.
#9 – Protect your account health.
Amazon has high expectations for sellers and requires a high level of performance, which is reflected in your overall account health. To protect the health of your Amazon account, Amazon suggests canceling previously placed orders that you are no longer able to fulfill, setting your account in vacation status, or taking additional steps to manage your inventory. To keep your Inventory Performance Index (IPI) score healthy, consider a removal order for excess inventory, close listings for out-of-stock products, address any stranded inventory issues, and explore creative ways to improve your sell-through. Those are the top influencing factors used in determining your IPI score. Sellers with poor account health will find themselves limited on the amount of inventory they can send to Amazon, imposed storage limitations, and reduce Buy Box ownership.
#10 – Optimize your product listings.
For inventory already at Amazon fulfillment centers, you need to keep inventory moving. Moving your inventory will help increase your revenue and reduce your storage fees. Consider optimizing your product listings using SEO best practices to help move your inventory. Optimized listings are critical in reaching your target customers. Consider expanding the product title and description using relevant keywords. Additional product images or a short video clip are also helpful. Your ultimate goal is to have your products rank as high as possible in Amazon’s search results while improving the Best Sellers Rank (BSR).
#11 – Anticipate delays.
When Amazon resumes “normal” operations, Amazon Sellers should anticipate long delays with the receiving of inventory to Amazon fulfillment centers. You should be preparing to send Amazon your most profitable and out of stock products, which will allow your business to return to a profitable status much quicker. You will want to evaluate the market demand for your products and adjust your replenishment numbers accordingly. Replenishing your out-of-stock inventory will give your IPI score a boost. Typically, Amazon Seller Support Associates respond to most messages in less than 12 hours. You can expect this to take much longer as support continues to work through a backlog of messages.
You can indeed anticipate significant changes in the way businesses deliver their products and services. You have undoubtedly invested a great deal of time, financial resources, and effort in building your e-commerce store or Amazon business. Do not let this situation bring you and your business down. Now is the time to be proactive and position your business for a fantastic comeback.
We are all in this together, and those who stick it out will make it out. Stay well – physically and mentally! If I can be of help, please reach out.