It’s not just the FTC, through. Attorneys General from 17 states have joined in the civil action, bringing cases that allege Amazon’s formidable presence represents an anti-competitive entity that is harmful to both competitors and consumers. Though Amazon strongly denies the charges, you’ll want to understand what’s behind this development.
Amazon.com is light years from its humble roots as an online bookseller. Founded nearly 30 years ago by Seattle’s Jeff Bezos, it garnered negative press along with disapproval from fans of brick-and-mortar book stores alike. In what turned out to be a fait accompli, Amazon essentially led the charge of a burgeoning presence of ecommerce vendors weaving their way into the new normal for shopping in the 21st century.
Only Amazon went much farther. Discovering the power of Internet commerce, the company grew in unfathomable scope and began selling a wide variety of products. Fast forward to 2023, when there are few items consumers can’t locate on Amazon, thanks to a complex strategy that has increasingly involved third-party sellers.
Bezos goes Prime Time
Billionaire Jeff Bezos is mostly mum on the government’s lawsuit. After success with the Amazon platform, he’s branched out (bought the Washington Post newspaper) and is a mere figurehead of the Seattle ecommerce entity.
Once the iconic Amazon Prime program launched, a star was born, and the ability for sellers to get goods faster (even same-day delivery in some markets) and to take advantage of other benefits (digital content, streaming, music, and discounts at the other Amazon-owned ingenue, Whole Foods). Prime has spurred its own headaches, but that’s another story. A lucrative contract with the US Postal Service and UPS haven’t kept up with demand, and now Amazon uses contracted delivery drivers to pick up the slack. The result is mixed; delivery reliability is suffering in many cases, and some customers cite a reduction in product quality and difficult return policies from third-party sellers.
In what the FTC and states are characterizing as a “self-reinforcing cycle of dominance and harm,” the business model of Amazon does raise eyebrows. It’s no secret that the big players tend to apply pressure to stay on top, Amazon is accused of luring both sellers and buyers to its kingdom with underhanded and monopolistic techniques. Once sellers hop aboard the Amazon train to tap into a vast universe of eager buyers, the governments allege, it locks in contractual stipulations that set and raise fees, even punishing sellers who offer their inventory in other venues for a lower price.
Again, Amazon vehemently defends itself against these claims. It believes it serves both consumers and merchants by allowing them to tap into a massive marketplace where nearly limitless goods are available for mostly free shipping and quick delivery, and ecommerce sellers enjoy an audience reach it could only dream of in the past.
As Amazon suggests that regulators seem to misunderstand the nature of retailing, plaintiffs stand strong, citing negative impacts on other giants such as Walmart, Target, and the iconic Internet star, eBay.
Yet to be determined is whether the FTC and states envision a breakup of Amazon, separating its currently bundled functions to relieve the monopolistic impact they believe is continuing to the detriment of practically everyone. The lawsuit sits in a Seattle Federal courthouse, awaiting the arduous trail of motions and responses – or perhaps a settlement. Stay tuned.
What may be a surprise to most is that content generation is only a fraction of AI functionality. It can be controversial if not managed properly. But the more technical aspects of Artificial Intelligence will peak your interest.
Do you want to increase sales? Are you aiming toward better understanding your customer base? Of course you are. So take some time to explore the possibilities afforded by Artificial Intelligence.
For online merchants, AI is particular useful in the following ways:
As time goes on, the full range of possibilities AI presents will avail themselves to those who are interested. Choosing to transact business online proves you’re already amenable to all of the options digital innovation has to offer. Harnessing those that best fit your business is as easy as a web search and a bit of time to better understand how AI will fit your commerce model. For more information on AI and its reach into ecommerce, hit up this tutorial from Hostinger.
Here are some great ways to kick off the holiday shopping season:
Ecommerce Giant Amazon Launches New Social Media Tool
And taking the pulse of the younger generation of buyers has inspired Inspire – an Amazon quasi-social media app designed to mimic the popular TikTok. Not surprisingly, it’s an early hit.
Amazon Inspire began a rollout phase in early 2023, offering a downloadable app that in fact resembles the TikTok platform. TikTok is a video-centered app popular across a range of demographics, though it is mostly used by those under 40. That’s where the dollars are, say experts in ecommerce. And that’s where the Amazon future is headed.
This intriguing and nuanced app offers so much more than just a small photo on their main website. Amazon shoppers can log in to Inspire directly through their phone-based Amazon app by launching a light bulb icon. It promises personalized content (made possible by a collection of prior shopping choices and probably a bit of data collection from social media use).
Users may choose from more than 20 areas of interest such as gaming, beauty products, clothing, pet care, recreational pursuits, and beyond. Browsing the returns that pop up after you’ve chosen a sector, shoppers scroll through buttons to further customize a collection they may find interesting. The experience is similar to TikTok feeds, with engagement buttons and swiping actions that lead to promoted or favored items.
This customization feature is perhaps the key selling point of both selling and buying on Inspire. It doesn’t require typing text into a search window. Product categories appear in launchable buttons, and they are diverse. Amazon hopes they will lead you to what you’re shopping for.
What Amazon has not disclosed is how the app generates recommendations, except to say that it requires at least two recommendations before it appears as a promoted product.
Content creators may enroll in the program to upload media, including video and photos connecting to thumbnail photos of Amazon listings they fancy. These contributors may earn commissions, depending on volume. Customer reviews, always a key element in online sales, are welcomed.
Amazon Inspire is now available for use by all US consumers, and the jury is out on how this new, creative approach to a hybrid influencer/advertising function will play out. For now, it appears to be an ingenious method of following the lead in cultural and consumer trends as they develop on the internet.
Interested in buying or selling on Inspire? Get more info here.
The Who, What, Where’s, and Why’s of Business SmartS
That softens the blow of what we’re about to discuss. As long as you’re dealing with digits, start examining the core of your business by figuring out who buys what, and how often. In the trade, it’s referred to as “customer segmentation,” and it is a critical way to make your store thrive.
Customer segmentation works best when you pin down stats and demographic data from the top 20 percent of sales. Not of customers, of sales. If you have repeat customers, that’s great, but if their volume of purchases is not especially high, it’s not a helpful measure for future performance and growing a consumer base. We all know about customer conversion, or turning lookers into buyers. The conversion rate among all ecommerce sectors in 2022 was 3.65 percent.
Studying the shared attributes of those buying across your site will guide you toward marketing more prospective customers. And unlike other strategies for growth, it can happen quickly.
Targeted marketing in the 2020 decade is about as easy as it gets. Social media platforms are practically designed for this. Facebook (Meta), for example, provides an easy breakdown of the basics – age, location, ideology – but increasingly it allows businesses to gather data about their interests based on company sites and pages they have visited. With this knowledge in hand, your task is to match your product mix with those most likely to be intrigued.
Facebook Ad Analytics Guide is one tool to help you dive into the art and science of zeroing in on potential customers. Its data reach is admirable: available are customer-reported statistics such as income, buying habits, buying likelihood, and other measures useful in figuring out who may be receptive to outreach.
Kick off your segmentation efforts with these basics:
How to Assess Sales Tax Obligations in Ecommerce
The first reality to absorb is this: if you sell merchandise over the Internet and you have a physical presence in a “nexus,” or state, you are required to follow that jurisdiction’s sales tax laws – but only from customers who are subject to sales tax because of their residence in that state. Sounds pretty simple until you understand that there are 50 states to keep track of. Add to that the wonky official rule that if customers do not remit sales tax payments to sellers, they are technically required to pay them directly to their state. Don’t ask how that enforcement mechanism would work; truly, it’s anyone’s guess. Mostly only very high-end purchases would come to the attention of each state’s tax collector.
We’ll make it easy for you. Only five U.S. states do not impose a sales tax. They are Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Delaware, and New Hampshire. Now you know.
But what is your obligation in terms of making sure your customers pay up? That’s more confusing.
If you’re committed to avoiding future problems and doing the right thing at the outset, here are steps to take that will keep you in the clear:
One reason newbies might let items sit in your virtual cart? Reluctance to sign up for an account. We all know building an identified account roster is a win-win for both sellers and consumers, with easy options for a quick checkout, and the ability to target promotions. But not everyone is eager to divulge tracked info including email address, phone number, or even a name, to a vendor that they don’t know well. The answer is to provide a seamless guest checkout system. Offer clear opt-in choices to be “remembered” by your site even in the absence of a formal sign-up. A subtle trick like that can work wonders for skeptical buyers.
Here are other ways to turn abandoned shopping carts into sales:
So, what should ecommerce vendors (and their service providers) be looking at with respect to security? Much of it is out of your hands, but if you entrust a third party to handle payment transactions, you have the right and the obligation to observe best practices. Look at it this way: they are aware of their high burden, and your constant inquiries will keep them on their toes.
Smaller online merchants should build a rigid threshold of in-house and exterior policies and procedures, say cybersecurity experts. Irrespective of compromised customer or internal data, the more down time a small vendor experiences, the greater the hit they take.
So what exactly are the secrets to protecting your data to the best of your ability? How about tighter access control and data security software? Both will vest more confidence and safety in your business. Business News writer Jeremy Bender reminds merchants that the big kids such as top-tier credit reporting agencies have fallen victim to mass data breaches, but they aren’t alone. The idea is to limit who may have a path to reaching your data using UTM (Unified Threat Management). Here’s a useful read on steps to take to protect your treasured business.
Whether you go all in with a deep dive, or just take cursory steps to ensure your security, your first priority is to be prepared for a cyberattack, however unlikely that is. Ransomware – the pernicious method of a nefarious party blackmailing your very access to your own data in exchange for a payoff – is not common among small sellers, but never say never. Develop an incident response plan to be ready for whatever comes. That means keep whatever backup data you can on a separate server. Your customers will love you for this, and your business may experience less costly down time.
It's a New, Scary World.
Your E-Commerce biz can use all the tech tools it can get when it comes to expanding ease and access for your customers. If you’ve visited a website for a store or even a service and been greeted in a separate window by a “chatbot,” you’ll know what we mean. These personal assistants give the perception of a real time pal, and that is impressive. The degree to which each is truly staffed by a human who is able to assist at every level varies by proprietor, and you may find yourself at the low end of that spectrum. But even offering extra information that doesn’t appear on your home page or landing pages will be an exceptional benefit to shoppers.
While major utilities and mega corporations are most likely to avail actual staffers for receiving chatbot requests, don’t immediately dismiss their ability to offer specialized help. A database of inventory can easily translate to a searchable body with which the chatbot suddenly becomes a personal shopper by responding to search criteria. If your customer asks whether you sell faux leather covered ottomans, your search string is fashioned for you, and programming follow-up questions (including style, color, etc.) refines the process.
Analysts estimate that the global chatbot market may reflect almost $4 billion in just over six years, so maybe it’s time to at least familiarize yourself. An engaged response policy may cement a sale in real time, but at very least, highlighting information in a setting that feels comfortable and customized to a shopper is a win-win. Intercom is a perfect place to start with respect to learning more about AI, and finding an appropriate service level in chatbot functionality. Zendesk is an AI provider already to help you explore the technology with a free trial.
The key to an effective chatbot system is to let potential buyers in on its limitations in advance. Make sure they know they may not be interacting with a real person as they type into that window. Tell them the bot is their second-tier personal shopper who can ease the search process.
But if you’re able to tap the real thing, there are also expectations among consumers that you should meet. Long timeouts, inaccurate information, and a failure to reconcile the shopper’s purpose for visiting will probably ensure no further usage. Like a lot of aspects of technology, it’s as good as its feasibility. But play it right and it could be a valuable addition to your team.
Are you attracting the right crowd?
When it comes to creating content and driving consumers to your site, the SEO strategy and keywords you choose are important. But where does one even start?
In this guide, we start with the simplest of SEO keywords and work our way to the more advanced keyword types.
Keywords can be short and generic or long and detailed. A short-tail keyword is often two search keywords that cover a broad topic or product, such as “platform bed.”
However, a short-tail keyword is often not enough to help customers find the precise type of product or item. If you want to include an even longer description, a mid-tail keyword (3-4 words) such as “upholstered platform beds” hones in on the style.
But let’s say you really want customers to find the exact color or style of upholstered platform bed you are selling. Then you can create a long-tail keyword (5-8 words) using more descriptions such as “contemporary” and “black velvet.” Long-tail keywords can also be phrases or questions, such as “how to style a contemporary black platform bed” and so on.
As you might suspect, longer keywords are less competitive because they are a more narrowed down version of a broader, all-encompassing generic keyword or short-tail keyword. This means that your item or content will rank easier, allowing a greater domain authority and for customers to more readily find your products.
Keywords by Role
Let’s talk about keyword roles.
First, you have focus keywords that are essentially the primary keyword or phrase you wish to rank for. Extending on this primary focus keyword are secondary keywords, also known as supporting keywords. Think of secondary keywords like a subtopic related to the focus keyword, creating a phrase related to the main topic.
For example, if your focus keyword is “how to style a bedroom” your secondary keywords might be “how to style a guest bedroom.” Styling a guestroom is a more specific description than just any bedroom. Furthermore, you can create an article focused on styling a bedroom, with additional tips on styling a guest bedroom with an H2 or H3 heading and a paragraph or two.
Semantic keywords play another role in SEO. Like synonyms, semantic keywords can be two focus keywords that mean the same thing, if not at least closely related.
“How to Style a Master Bedroom” and “How to Style a Main Bedroom” are, basically, one in the same. Just different keystrokes for different folks. Some of us use different language to convey a search, so having semantic keywords in place is a good SEO strategy.
Search Intent Keywords
From informational keywords to transactional keywords, search intent plays a huge role in your SEO strategy. Let’s look at several types of search intent-related keywords.
Informational keywords are essentially what someone types in when searching for educational articles and content. Furniture and decor brands will find it fruitful to create articles with educational tips and tricks that build a certain level of trust with their consumer base. And tucked neatly away in these education-based articles are certain informational keywords with long-tail keywords, and so on, that create brand awareness. Think “how to” articles and “what is” searches.
Commercial intent keywords are an important piece of the puzzle too. Commercial intent keywords focus on brand and product reviews, with specific information to help steep consumers into a final purchasing decision. For example, keywords that compare two or more items feature a “vs” and/or “or” search. They might also search keywords like “reviews” and “best.”
Transactional keywords are in place for buyers who already know what they want. They’ve got their wallet out and are ready to hit that purchase button. Transactional keywords can come in the form of “buy” or “shop” and, if looking for a deal, “coupon” or “sale.” A branded keyword is necessary too (more on that below).
Other Targeted KeywordsThere are many more different types of SEO keywords you can target. Here are a few more you should be aware of when you create a content strategy or aim to attract certain buyers and customers.
Market-specific Keywords – These keywords are highly focused on a specific industry or niche. Instead of “bedroom furniture”, your brand might sell specific “Mid-Century Modern bedroom furniture.” Or, in place of “interior lighting” you can hone in on “energy-efficient lighting.”
Branded Keywords – A branded keyword is pretty much what you imagine. It’s the keyword plus the brand. For example, an “Uttermost floor lamp” is more direct and will pull more specific results that buyers are searching for.
Product-related Keywords – These keywords are closely related to branded keywords. They might be the name of a certain style of lamp, such as “torchiere floor lamp.” Yet, they can also be product or collection name specific like “Huxford floor lamp.”
Customer-defining Keywords – This defines who might use the product. For example, “lighting for eco-friendly homes” or “rugs for baby nurseries.” It focuses on the type of customer’s age, gender, job, and other important demographics the item is typically made for.
Location-specific Keywords – As implied, these keywords simply focus on the city, state, country or region. For example, “lighting retailers in Northern California” or “eco-friendly furniture brands in the USA”. Note: Location-specific keywords are not to be confused with navigational keywords, which are simply a website’s navigation and pages (think “Login” or “Contact”).
How to Find All These Different Types of SEO Keywords
Ready to get started on your keyword research?
If you’re interested in basic short-tail and long-tail keywords, simply begin typing in a few words into Google and see what it suggests as it autocompletes your search. You can also use the People Ask and Related searches section to find more topic ideas.
However, that’s a pretty basic method. It helps to also use a keyword research tool like SEMrush and KFinder that will offer more filter options such to help you discover long-tail keywords, low-competition keywords, and keywords based on search intent.