The Great Debate: Driving Traffic to Amazon or Your Website
Listen in as Andrew Maff and Gina Milazzo debate the highly controversial topic, whether e-commerce sellers should drive traffic to their own website or their Amazon product listings.
This is a debate that has been going on with e-commerce sellers for years and these two are determined to figure out the correct answer. Do they finally answer the question everyone has been asking?
Andrew Maff: Okay, what we're doing today is we're going to have an argument, or I guess a debate, a more friendly debate, about whether you should or should not be driving traffic to your Amazon listings or if you should be driving it to your own website, the benefits, the pros and cons of both.
My name is Andrew Maffetone. I am the director here at Seller's Choice.
Gina Milazzo: I'm Gina Milazzo. I am a content editor and copywriter.
Andrew Maff: We're going to start this off with taking our sides and stating our case, and then we're going to have a little back and forth of why we think the other is wrong. So, to start us off, I'll go ahead and start us off here. I'm going to be taking the side of not driving traffic to your Amazon listings and driving it to your own site. My argument is you don't own the customer on Amazon, so an Amazon you're going to drive traffic to the Amazon page, your listing page, your BSR's going to improve and maybe is the theory, and you're going to get these sales, but if I start driving traffic through Facebook ads or Google ads or anything like that, I can't tell if I actually got the conversion on Amazon. You can't do any kind of pixel or any kind of conversion tracking, so you don't own the customer so you're not getting their email.
If you do own the customer, you have your own Shopify site, you now have the option to A, continue to remarket them if they don't purchase, B, if they do buy, you now have their email so you can retarget them in the future. You can run ads to them in the future. It's significantly easier to launch a new product because you already have a customer base to go after, whereas on Amazon you get the sale on Amazon and then they're gone and that's it and that's the end of it, so I don't see the benefit of pushing to Amazon if you're only going to rely on Amazon especially when Amazon can suspend you at the last minute and all of the sudden your whole business out of whack and you have no money anymore and you're screwed.
I would prefer having sellers be pushing to a Shopify site or whichever site they prefer and directing people there and then maybe giving them the option to say, "We are also on Amazon," because I know there are consumers out there that just prefer Amazon.
Gina Milazzo: All good points, Andrew.
Andrew Maff: Boom.
Gina Milazzo: I'm arguing the side that you should be pushing your traffic to Amazon, and I think it really boils down to three things. The first one I would say is the fact that, while you don't own your customer, it's a great way to increase brand recognition. If you already have a lot of brand recognition, you have people that are searching for your brand name or for your product specifically, that's great. If you don't, which is I think the case most of the time, I think it's a better idea to be driving to Amazon for the sole purpose of building out that customer, building up a little bit of traffic, getting yourself established in your category.
Say, for example, you sell athletic socks. If nobody knows your brand name, you want to be there competing with the other people selling for the items in that product category. The second thing I think, even though Andrew doesn't really agree with this, it does help with the Amazon algorithm. If you are making the algorithm happy, which is usually the case if you are driving external links to your Amazon listings, your BSR will increase, Amazon pays you back for that external traffic.
If your links instead were driving your Shopify, you're not really getting that turnover on to Amazon, you're not going to be building that traffic. You're losing that edge, and I think the third thing, and I like to argue that I'm a little bit of a new fresh face here. I'm still on the consumer-facing side, that I don't really trust websites as much as I trust Amazon, which is really a good thing that Amazon has done so far on their part to make their consumers feel a little more comfortable. If I'm on a website and I only see positive reviews, to be quite honest, I don't trust it. I think the reason is that I know that they're controlling the content. It's very carefully curated to show only the best aspects of their brand, of their products.
If you're on Amazon, it's no holds barred. Everything goes, negative reviews, positive reviews, people that received a damaged package or if it didn't work as well as they thought it would, if the size was different. You get a more honest review, and I'm more likely to trust another consumer than I am trust a brand.
Andrew Maff: Okay. So, you said driving traffic to the Amazon listing helps your BSR. I don't disagree with that. I think that is true. Now, there is no proof that outside traffic is part of Amazon's A9 algorithm, but there is proof that driving traffic to a listing, even internally through Amazon, does help your BSR, so clearly, if they're not tracking, if it's coming from within Amazon through their search or if it's coming from off, then chances are the traffic is helping the BSR, so I don't disagree with that.
You get the purchase, and then the customer's gone. You can't remarket them. So now, let me ask you, new product launch. How do you launch a new product on Amazon successfully without using any of the crazy black hat stuff that a lot of people claim they're not using but they're using? How do you launch a new product and reach a customer base to alert them of a new product that you now have on Amazon if you're not driving traffic to your own site and gaining emails and gaining the audience as opposed to just the transaction.
Gina Milazzo: That's a good point. Really think at all times we talk about this all the time how important it is to build out your email list. I think if you're doing that you should already have an established base of people that you know are either loyal to your brand, interested in your brand, have purchased from your brand before. We actually, as one of our services, we offer the product review generation emails. I think that's a great excuse to build out your email list. It's the first people you should be reaching out to.
There's so many statistics out there that repeat customers are much more likely to buy ... that initial customers are more likely to buy and be repeat customers, so if you already have their email from them purchasing once, it's the easiest [crosstalk 00:05:50]
Andrew Maff: But how are you getting the email? If you're driving traffic directly to Amazon, you don't gain the email. You can't get the email
Gina Milazzo: No. Post-purchase email.
Andrew Maff: So, if they purchase after Amazon, that email is blocked. You don't get their actual email. You get the at Amazon crazy code thing that they send out.
Gina Milazzo: Throw it into your sequence, "Hey, here's this new product we have." Drive it to your blog, make a blog post, and if there's other ways to be getting that information out there aside from pushing to your website.
Andrew Maff: So, you still think you should have your own site.
Gina Milazzo: I thinK you could have a site. I don't know you necessarily need a transactional site. I think they obviously work hand-in-hand. I mean Amazon has storefronts now. You can make it essentially do everything your website would do, show your whole product range, show pros and cons, comparisons, all those kind of things. People are a little skeptical to leave Amazon sometimes. I know I definitely am. I think it's a little easier to keep them on there than it is to get a sale on an external website, to be honest.
Andrew Maff: Okay, so I'm a little stubborn. The last time we had this conversation, we started talking and go, "Okay, you're just wrong, and that's fine," but what we started to talk about was you took the consumer side, so that's interesting because most of the time we're taking the seller's side, and we go, "Okay, yeah but you want to make your money here, you want to do this, you want to have your audience, you want to be able to retarget," blah, blah, but you mentioned something about that you prefer to shop on Amazon because you always have Amazon backing you up if something goes wrong as opposed to on Shopify.
Gina Milazzo: That's true too. Yeah, definitely. I think especially in the case ... like, for example, if you're advertising on Instagram, there are so many shady brands out there, not to imply that anyone's brands are shady, but I mean you don't know if something's a scam or not, to be honest. You could put your card information in on the website and never hear from them again. At least you buy something on Amazon, it comes with the wrong thing or it's the wrong size, whatever, you have someone there behind you that is standing up for you in a way.
Even if you pay to return it, at least you can return it and you're not stuck with something you don't want. I mean also now for nothing, people are scathing on Amazon reviews. They're not lying. I would imagine most brands aren't going to leave super negative reviews on their website. They're more likely to reach out to the customer, try to make it right, maybe slide the review off the radar. I think I've a little more belief that Amazon is a more reliable source of information.
Andrew Maff: Now, is that dependent on the brand?
Gina Milazzo: I think for new brands you want to be seeing that there's something standing behind them instead of just, "Wow, look at this pretty website. I don't know anything about their products."
Andrew Maff: That's on newer brands. What about solidified brands? You're a big-
Gina Milazzo: Okay, no, listen.
Andrew Maff: Hold on. Here you go. You're a big Gymshark fan-
Gina Milazzo: I am a big Gymshark fan.
Andrew Maff: ... and you only shop on Gymshark.
Gina Milazzo: Yeah.
Andrew Maff: Now, Gymshark's not available on Amazon, correct?
Gina Milazzo: It's not.
Andrew Maff: If it was, would you ignore the site and go to Amazon, because I know they do all those flash sales and they continuously retarget you through email, which is keeping you every time, and I know, every time a Gymshark sale is happening-
Gina Milazzo: He's not lying.
Andrew Maff: ... you're immediately on there, and it's because you're getting that email because they had your email, and I'm sure you're getting ads. I'm sure you're seeing their stuff all the time with some new flash sale or whatever they're doing.
Gina Milazzo: Fair.
Andrew Maff: But if they were on Amazon, would you not go to the site anymore?
Gina Milazzo: Probably, but you're missing important part. The only reason I ever bought it in the first place is because somebody recommended it to me, so would i have gone to their website and bought blind? Probably not.
Andrew Maff: Okay, so you were convinced from word-of-mouth.
Gina Milazzo: Yeah.
Andrew Maff: Which essentially-
Gina Milazzo: They have great social presence. I mean that was convincing enough, but would I have pulled the trigger? No, probably not. I think it's hard, especially with the apparel industry, to have any idea what size you should be buying, concerns about returns if you buy more than one size. What do you do with it if you buy it and you're stuck with it? They're a UK-based company, so I'm not going to ship it all the way back there. I'd probably just sell it.
Andrew Maff: It sounds though like you still ... I'm still getting you. You know I can do it. So, it sounds to me like it depends on the size of the brand because if the brand is-
Gina Milazzo: Not really.
Andrew Maff: If the brand is large enough though, so you mentioned they have a very large social following, and obviously, you're getting emails and things like that right now, so they have a very large presence to the point where people are talking about them so now they have-
Gina Milazzo: There's hype.
Andrew Maff: Yeah, they have the hype. They have everything off online, I guess, where people are still coming in. I'm trying to figure out at what point does that switch because now you've gone, "Okay, well they have-
Gina Milazzo: I don't know if it ever was.
Andrew Maff: ... the large social following clearly says that people are happy with them because most of the time you're not going to follow a company that you're not happy with, and you're staying on their email list because you want to stay up to the sales. Now, we're trying to argue people who are both on Amazon and possibly off Amazon. They're a bit of a special category because they're not on Amazon at all, but you mentioned having people go to the site and it not being transactional and those product pages link to Amazon.
How are you still retargeting them? Besides your basic pop-ups and things like that, as soon as they clicked the ... instead of the Buy Now button, they now have the Available on Amazon button, so they clicked that, they go over to Amazon. That traffic is probably helping your BSR, and it's all that stuff is happening great, but it's a lot more difficult to get that email, unless you have a pop-up or if somehow you can start to target them into a newsletter.
Gina Milazzo: I think the thing too that it is a benefit of a website, to be honest, that you can run promotions that you maybe wouldn't run on Amazon, offer free shipping, things like that, but essentially you have to sweeten the pot on your website to get people to buy on your website instead of buying on Amazon. I think if you're thinking as a consumer, it's not as great for you as a seller, but if you're trying to build sales and build your brand, you want to be doing what's better for the consumer, right?
Andrew Maff: Mm-hmm (affirmative), but at a certain point, doesn't, A, the branding as I mentioned, and then B, the customer service side of these other sites comes into hand. If you want to return something, you're like, "I didn't like this," and you can get it to them and they immediately issue a refund and say, "We can send you a new product or we'll give you a refund," or anything like that, and there's no issues, and they're competitive with Amazon or at least close where maybe it's not two-day shipping, maybe it's three or four day shipping, and it's not something you need right now, like your Gymshark-
Gina Milazzo: No, I need everything right now. No, but really it's instant gratification that if you do have a problem, I want somebody to answer me in 24 hours. I feel like that's the standard. That's been established for me. That's what I'm used to, so if it doesn't happen, it's not the norm anymore. That's the par that's been set.
Andrew Maff: On a consumer level, you're happy with Amazon's immediate response because they're very consumer-based. A lot of sellers will even agree, they'll do everything for a consumer, but they don't give a crap about the sellers.
Gina Milazzo: No, it's true.
Andrew Maff: With the consumer base, so you have basically Amazon consistently responding, so what about if you have someone with a brand with good enough customer service that you're getting consistent quick responses. There's brands with big social followings that have Facebook Messenger where they have a customer service person 24/7. Twitter is basically a customer service platform now.
Gina Milazzo: True. Yeah. There's pros and cons to Twitter. You can feel different ways about it. I do think that it doesn't matter where you answer as long as you get an answer, but I really don't think most brands have the sheer people in their office to be constantly answering things. It's tedious, it's time-consuming. You have to be a certain amount of empathetic to get people to not be annoyed with the fact that something went wrong. I think the easier thing with Amazon is that if something comes broken, they're like, "Okay, it was broken. That's a fulfillment issue. That has nothing to do with the brand. Let us make it right."
Andrew Maff: Okay. So the great thing about debate is that I get to go, "I disagree," but I think that's probably good for now. We might have to pick this up again one day, but I appreciate it, and you're wrong.
You're going to do all your sales on your own site. Why is this still going? Why aren't we doing a part two?
Gina Milazzo: That's still [crosstalk 00:13:46] that's still [crosstalk 00:13:47] on your website.
Speaker 3: What do you think I'm doing? I'm recording it.
Speaker 4: Andrew's still funny.
Gina Milazzo: [crosstalk 00:13:53]
Andrew Maff: No, but the problem is if they click away and they shop on Amazon or if they shop ...
Speaker 3: That's fadable.
Andrew Maff: You're [inaudible 00:14:00] customer retention.
Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:14:02]
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Gina Milazzo: You can run so fast. [crosstalk 00:14:05]
Speaker 4: [crosstalk 00:14:04]
Speaker 3: Yeah, we should mention that one.
Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:14:12] it's a new thing.
Andrew Maff: I'm done here.
Speaker 4: It's anti [inaudible 00:14:15]
Gina Milazzo: Andrew's still wrong.
Andrew Maff: [inaudible 00:14:16] I'll have to use it too.