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Launching Apparel Items on Amazon with Rachel Greer, Cascadia

May 25, 2018

Socks. Pants. Shirts. Dresses. Underwear. They’re all part of the apparel category and there are thousands of options for them on Amazon. Actually, if you search “socks” on Amazon, you get 100,000 results. So, if you’re a sock seller, or pants or shirts, or any clothing item, how do you stand out? Also, how do you launch an apparel item into such a crowded marketplace?

That’s what we’re going to be covering in this episode. Developing a process to launch and then creating a way to compete. Plus, how to help you stand out.

“The thing that I like about apparel is that there is always a market for it, that’s the thing that I personally like about it. The challenge with apparel is its such a crowded space, so crowded,” says former Amazonian Rachel Greer.

Rachel used to work on some of the Private Label brands at Amazon. Now she helps clients build up their own brands using the Amazon Marketplace through her company, Cascadia.

If apparel is what you’re wanting to get into or where you’re already selling, there are a couple things that you should know. First, and we’ve talked about this already, but it’s competitive. Second, it’s great for seasonal items. Ok, let’s go over both those things, at greater lengths.

First, the competition.

“So there are certain products in apparel like compression socks, that one’s just a terrible one because there are only two ways to say that compression socks and compression hosiery and that’s it,” says Rachel, “Those keywords are really high bids.”

This is where it’s crucial to have a strong brand. If you think back to the keyword “compression socks,”there are several brands that come to my mind pretty quickly. If you can create a strong brand, that can help you resolve the lack of keyword issue. This is also something we’re going to look at more later in the episode.

Now let’s go over the seasonal problems with apparel. People buy clothes based on the season making it hard to compete and be successful because you have a limited time period to ramp up and gain organic traffic.

“You’ve got a bunch of products that you have to get out there and if you totally boost it then you’ll drop right after you start boosting it and you’ve spent all of this time and money boosting it that may or may not help,” Rachel says.

To combat that problem, create something that works all year round. Let’s say you’re wanting to launch dresses. Dresses are something that can be purchased year round but the color will change during the year. To compete, have a dress designed that works year-round and launch it in a couple colors. Then each season you can add new colors or fabric patterns in the same dress style.

“Then each season or each year, add new variations to the same listing that way you’re always rotating through the main listing, it maintains the listing reviews on it, it maintains some history on it, it maintains some rank. You can always add new styles and new colors,” Rachel says.

So let’s say you have products that work year-round and you’re launching something brand new. First, get your product trademarked, remember if you can create a strong brand recognition, that will help you stand out from the competition. Trademarks also enable you to be brand registered so that you can have a storefront.

“Then start driving traffic to your storefront to get people interested to rank it on Amazon while you’re also driving traffic elsewhere,” Rachel says.

The second thing you need to do is get your product on a model or at the very least on a mannequin. You can hire a model through Craigslist, it might cost you a couple hundred dollars, but it will be worth it.

“Having something on an actual model makes such a big difference in terms of people converting because they can then imagine it on themselves and to that point make sure to put your model’s measurements on the bullets,” Rachel says.

Also, don’t forget to have them sign a model release form.

So you’ve trademarked your product. You have an Amazon storefront. You have your product photographed on a model and the listing is ready to go. Next, you need to get reviews.

“Anytime you launch a new product on Amazon the best way to get reviews quickly, the way that Amazon will let you is to have very low cost and high advertising budget. For the first thirty days just basically throw money at it and sign up for the Early Reviewer Program so that Amazon is sending out emails to everyone who bought saying, ‘Hey do you want to review the product?’” says Rachel, “That way in the first month or so you can get five reviews and move forward with a better advertising strategy.”

That means that it’s a least a month before you start making progress. So, if you’re launching a product right now, you’re in June before you start gaining reviews and traction in the rankings.

This is why it’s a good idea to have an item that has seasonal variations but stays the same design year-round.

If you have a clothing product that you are passionate about, that you feel very strongly about, you’ve spent a lot of time creating and designing it, you need to think of Amazon as only a logistical center and focus your efforts to social media.

“If you’re just starting out, you’re doing designed apparel not something people are searching for but designed apparel that’s unique and different and I always recommend that people use Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook and then they can fulfill through Amazon,” Rachel says.

Instagram says that a third of their users end up purchasing a clothing item that they first saw on on the photo-sharing site. I want you to take a look at one example. Take a look at a men’s short shorts company called, Chubbies. They advertise and use Instagram heavily to tell their brand story. It’s the type of product that isn’t going to be as searched for on Amazon, but when there’s a brand creating awareness and a need on social media suddenly it becomes a searchable term. The need and brand awareness created on social media, makes it stand out on Amazon.

“People learn about products from someone else and then go to Amazon to buy it, so you always want to have things on Amazon but focus your time and effort and attention for clothing off Amazon because it is just so darn busy,” Rachel says.

When it comes to clothing, off-Amazon marketing and Amazon listings work together. Amazon gives legitimacy to the products. People feel that they can trust buying a product from Amazon instead of just a random website, plus shoppers know they’ll be able to make easy returns, but that can also be a big problem.

The final thing we’re going to discuss in this episode is helping shoppers figure out how your product fits before they buy it.

“Making sizing really obvious and making sure people know where to measure themselves. So that is absolutely worth investing in a designer to do a measurement that shows here’s the measurement at the waist, what are the critical measurements for that product,” Rachel says.

Most people won’t read the sizing chart but the shoppers that do can avoid any potential returns or fit issues before they buy. You want to make sure you include your sizing chart and direct shoppers to that instead of to Amazon’s. You can also make it really easy by creating a measurement video for shoppers then you can use the website gen.video. You can connect it right to your ASIN so you have a video on your listing.

Amazon is now charging more in referrals for shoes and clothing plus there are hefty restocking fees. So preventing returns is a key part of being successful in apparel.

“I was doing an investigation on a client in apparel and found there were multiple sizes where they were paying Amazon to list it because of the restocking fees, they were really profitable on a couple of the sizes but on other sizes, they weren’t just unprofitable but widely unprofitable,” Rachel says.  

Thank you to Rachel Greer for her insight on launching a clothing product. If you’d like her help, you can find her at thinkcascadia.com.

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