Bringing new products to customers successfully can be just as challenging as building them.
That’s according to Amazon’s VP of EU Seller Services, Francois Saugier, and it’s a challenge that many startups and small businesses around the globe are facing today.
There’s a massive number of up-and-coming and exciting ideas out there, but the truth is that many of us never get to see or experience them.
Not because they’re not viable ideas, but because of the sheer amount of effort that it takes to get products from new SMEs or largely unknown brands in front of the right eyes at the right time.
Using sales platforms like Amazon can help. But even when businesses participate in the Brand Registry programme, it’s still not easy to compete against bigger organisations with a more significant following, more resources, and an established foundation to build on.
That’s where Amazon Launchpad can help.
What is Amazon Launchpad?
First rolled out in 2015, Amazon Launchpad is a scheme designed to achieve two things. First, it sets out to support new business growth. Its second objective is to build a collection of innovative products from startups worldwide to bring new ideas all together under one roof.
Xavier Flamand, Director of EU Seller Services, says that Amazon wants to become “the destination for innovative new products from small businesses” through Launchpad.
Amazon Launchpad partners with companies like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and Shark Tank to bring together products from over 30 different selling categories. The categories supported vary by Launchpad region but typically include the following:
- Clothing & accessories
- Beauty & health
- Food & drink
- Toys & baby
- Sports & outdoors
- Pet supplies
To date, the scheme has helped to launch 6000+ products online successfully. It does this by helping programme participants in three vital areas of growth and development:
1. Customer engagement
Even the biggest brands can find it challenging to engage with their audience. It can be even trickier for small businesses. Amazon Launchpad offers several customer engagement tools to help new startups build a pool of potential leads.
- Video storytelling
- Customised brand content
- Translation services
Building up an audience pool is just one part of the equation; small businesses must also be able to promote their products in a way that motivates these potential leads to convert. Amazon Launchpad helps to get these products in front of the right people.
- Products in dedicated storefronts
- Reduced fees for participation in Amazon deal events
- Possibility of invitation to Amazon PR and marketing events
3. Strategic Support
There’s much more to successful online selling and product launches than meets the eye, especially with the digital landscape evolving so rapidly. As a result, even established firms are continually educating themselves. Amazon Launchpad helps with training and learning.
- Listing creation
- Account optimisation
- Online webinars, workshops, networking, and training sessions
Amazon Launchpad invests in small businesses by offering these opportunities. However, it also provides financial investments under certain conditions. For example, an innovation grant is awarded to two promising brands each month, while the annual Amazon Launchpad Innovation Awards provides a top reward of €100,000 and runner up prizes of €10,000.
Amazon Launchpad is not to be confused with the Amazon Small Business Accelerator. While their names suggest both elevate small businesses, the Small Business Accelerator scheme offers free training materials for all companies. In contrast, Amazon Launchpad offers promotions on the Amazon website for select participants.
How Exactly Does Amazon Launchpad Boost Visibility?
While there are many obstacles facing small businesses, there are usually two big ones: brand visibility and product visibility. So how exactly does Launchpad help with those?
There are five primary ways that Amazon Launchpad can help you get seen:
1. Dedicated Storefronts
Dedicated storefronts are essentially like the standard Amazon homepage, except they exclusively feature products from brands participating in the Launchpad programme.
If customers navigate to these storefronts, they’ll see products from small businesses only, so these items aren’t getting pushed aside by products from more established brands.
2. On-Amazon Promotion
Brands that participate in the Launchpad programme benefit from several on-Amazon promotions, accessible for a reduced fee.
Currently, Launchpad brands can run one 7-day Amazon Deal or one Lightning Deal for free each week.
This means that buyers can purchase the products at a discounted price to boost sales and that products feature in dedicated listings for shoppers searching for deals.
3. Off-Amazon Promotion
In addition to on-Amazon advertising, Launchpad can also help to promote products from small brands across other channels.
For example, some products may be selected to feature in category-focused email campaigns, while others may be displayed on banner ads across Amazon-owned sites such as IMDb.
This type of promotion can raise awareness of products outside the platform and draw in audiences from across the Amazon ecosystem.
4. Google Search
An increasing number of shoppers actively want to support small businesses. And while Amazon is undoubtedly the King of eCommerce, Google is still the place where most product searches begin.
As shoppers search for unique or innovative gifts from small brands, they’ll be presented with Launchpad in the search engine results pages. This means more traffic to the Launchpad homepage and more visibility for your brand.
5. Amazon Visibility
Even if a brand signs up to the Launchpad scheme, listed products can still be found through the Launchpad homepage and the standard Amazon homepage.
So, just like any product from any Amazon seller, these items can be found organically through search or via any ad campaigns you choose to run. Discovery through search is the same for both Launchpad and non-Launchpad ASINs.
Getting Started With Launchpad
Unfortunately, Amazon Launchpad isn’t available to everyone. There is a strict set of criteria that must be met, in addition to having Amazon assess individual applications.
To be considered for the scheme, a business must:
- Be brand registered on Amazon
- Be a new Amazon seller (4 years or less)
- Earn under $5 million in gross merchandise sales on Amazon per year
Companies that meet these criteria can use the online form to apply to Amazon Launchpad. Amazon states that decisions are typically made within 7-10 days.
Are There Any Downsides?
Let’s be clear. Amazon Launchpad can – and does – work. There are many, many success stories to come from the programme.
For example, Date Lady – a small business specialising in sugar alternatives – saw sales grow by 67% after joining Launchpad. Similarly, app-connected trainer Plankpad increased sales fourfold in just 12 months.
However, Amazon Launchpad isn’t for everyone, and there are some things to keep in mind when thinking about whether the scheme is the right fit for your growing startup:
- Cost: Sadly, Amazon Launchpad isn’t free. While there’s no upfront cost, participants are required to pay an additional 5% referral fee on each item sold in addition to the standard charges for selling on Amazon. Brands that surpass $1 million gross in 12 months in the scheme may have the referral fee cut to 3%.
- Criteria: Even if a business is accepted into the programme, strict standards must continue to be met, which may be challenging for some small businesses that are just getting off the ground. For example, all products must maintain at least 3.5 stars. Dropping below may be grounds for termination.
- International Selling: Some brands join the programme to help them expand globally. However, only participants in Europe have guaranteed access to other markets (within Europe). Brands from other countries (and European countries wishing to sell outside the continent) will need to reapply for each locale.
- Commitment: Unfortunately, it’s not possible to ‘give it a try’ as Amazon Launchpad requires a minimum 12-month commitment from the very start. Following 12 months, businesses can cancel at any time with a 30-day notice period. This means you need to be very sure you want to go down this path.
Does Your Business Need Amazon Launchpad?
That’s a difficult question to answer. There are obvious advantages to signing up,
especially as it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd as a small business on a platform as big as Amazon. However, the cost, the commitment, and the restrictions are things that many small businesses can’t bring themselves to overlook.
The truth is that if you have the financial resources, the ability to ensure your account is kept in high standing, and aren’t afraid of committing for 12 months, then it’s worth a try. First, however, it must be noted that Amazon’s Seller Central platform also has a wealth of selling tools and features that can help small brands make a significant impact.
Startups shouldn’t automatically assume that they can’t thrive on Amazon. There are many ways to promote new and innovative products from unknown brands, especially with features such as A+ content, Sponsored Products campaigns, and good SEO practices.
At Clear Ads, we’re here to help brands extract the most value from Amazon’s features and get the best possible ROI from their online efforts.