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Reaching your ideal customer base as a small food brand can be tricky at the best of times, but throw in a global pandemic and many businesses have had to completely overhaul their sales strategy. For some independent brands, that has meant making the most of Amazon.
But what spurs on brands to sell through one of the world’s biggest e-commerce platforms? And what does this mean for independent retailers?
Particularly during these difficult times, companies that have already been using the service are now relying on Amazon to help push their food products to the front of the queue. On the other hand, brands that perhaps never considered selling through Amazon have begun doing so in an effort to reach new customers that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
“We launched on Amazon in January of this year as it allowed us to fulfil D2C requests alongside our own website shop,” explains Anushi Desai, founder of popped lotus seed brand, Plant Pops. “That said, we only really kicked Amazon fully into gear in March, when it became clear that our D2C sales would need to form a critical part of our strategy for the year. D2C will form a bigger part of our strategy post COVID-19, too. It was always part of our plan to launch on Amazon, but we didn’t expect it to be as important as it is now.”
Amazon certainly has its benefits and drawbacks, but one thing it does offer small brands in particular is a wider scope when it comes to getting their product in front of customers.
“Amazon has been fantastic: it gives us a national reach, and customers love being able to order products to arrive the next day,” Anushi says.
“It was an easy decision for us to launch our product on the site because of its unrivalled reach. For that reason, we’ll continue to sell on the platform after Coronavirus.”
For Sanjay Aggarwal, owner of Spice Kitchen, choosing to establish a shop on Amazon was an obvious one. The brand isn’t new to selling through the platform, having initially set up shop in 2015, but after some initial hiccups, the decision has certainly paid off: “Amazon is clearly an extremely successful platform and has grown in popularity, with many people using it as one of their main shopping channels. It therefore offers an excellent route to market and an opportunity to get your products quickly in front of the masses. It has a complicated backend, it isn’t very user-friendly, and there are a number of ways you can list, which are quite confusing to figure out without some assistance. After years of doing this badly, we’ve now used an Amazon specialist to rebuild our store, sorting out issues and getting us selling on Prime.
“During the Coronavirus pandemic, we’re continuing to invest in Amazon to ensure we’re driving sales as much as possible today, so that we’re also in a good position when the lockdown is over.”
Similarly, Lucy Mackenzie, founder of Lucy’s Dressings, admits that selling on Amazon was in the pipeline for some time, but it was a case of doing it properly: “We’d been planning an Amazon launch for a while, and had previously tried a few different techniques; we put a deadline to launch before summer, but put a lot of effort into making sure the launch was as quick as possible when we knew the lockdown situation was happening. At the beginning of the year, we decided to hire an Amazon consultant to help up get set up correctly, and to ensure that we had the best chance as possible on the platform. We knew we had to be on Amazon, but it was about working out the right capacity and the right bundles that work for both us as a brand and also the consumer.”
Whilst some food companies may be toying with the idea of selling through Amazon, Sanjay recommends taking the step. He notes that Amazon offers opportunities for B2C as well as B2B, especially as many bulk products do equally as well as retail-sized ones. Particularly during difficult times like this where many brands are having to rethink their business strategy, it could be another key consideration to help diversify.
Lucy adds, “Selling through Amazon is a lot of work. It’s a great way to get your brand out there and reach a whole new customer base, but it needs to be the right time for your brand, and you need to have the resources available.
“The main benefit for us is the exposure an Amazon listing gets you – we now have the potential to get our products into the hands of millions of customers up and down the country. But the drawback is the competitiveness of such a site, and the challenge of making your offering as attractive as possible without devalusing your core brand.”
If small food brands get on board with selling through Amazon during the Corona crisis and beyond, what does this mean for indie retailers? Are they set to lose out to such a huge platform? Not necessarily, as many food brands are quick to point out that Amazon isn’t their sole sales channel, with companies like Spice Kitchen and Plant Pops also selling through smaller retailers.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has created a greater sense of community, too, with many people opting to support their local retailers, from farm shops to neighbourhood delis. If this should continue, brands will still be looking to sell through such retailers to reach a customer base that isn’t shopping online.
Sanjay adds, “We’re keen to get our products into as many retailers as possible, and we’ve found that some smaller retailers sell as much as larger retailers if they get behind our brand and push it in the right way.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Lucy, who adds that whilst they plan to continue selling on Amazon even after the lockdown, they still have a soft spot for smaller retailers: “We love our local independents! We love working with them to help them with rate of sale such as putting our dressings in the salad fridges or with a fab display of asparagus. With our new leafy design, we’ve also found a great new market in garden that are looking to expand their offering.”