Why ‘Amazon Stores’ Is the Digital Equivalent of a Shelf in the Back of the Store

Microsites offer perks, but will shoppers find them?

While Amazon Stores give brands more control over product displays and video content on Amazon, the visibility of these pages remains a challenge.
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While Amazon Go—a sans-checkout shopping experience in Seattle, Wash.—has already been making waves, Amazon Stores has been flying under the radar. The free self-service offering from Amazon Marketing Services allows brands to create pages at Amazon.com/brandname and, theoretically, own more of a branded experience on Amazon—if shoppers can find them.

The option became available in the summer of 2017, and since then, brands like Maybelline, Lego and Samsung have built Amazon microsites. Lego’s page, for example, allows consumers to shop for toys by age and calls out specific Lego collections, like Duplo, Juniors and City. But while Stores give brands more control over product displays and video content on Amazon, the visibility of these pages remains a challenge.

The idea is solid in theory: Stores allow brands to retain customer focus in a way not previously available on the site as search results—even for specific brands—include competitors. “A key part that was missing from the brand experience was that brands didn’t have a chance to show the full range of their products,” said Nathan Grimm, director of marketing at Amazon-focused agency Indigitous. “They were just kind of trying one at a time to get products to surface.”

What’s more, brands were beholden to Amazon for their ranking in on-site search results, and they couldn’t display related products.

“Now, there’s an opportunity as a brand to construct a micro Amazon experience to control what you want to show consumers,” said Ryan Sullivan, evp of performance solutions at marketing agency Performics.

After working with brands like Gu Energy and Therm-a-Rest, Grimm said Stores have been effective at cross-selling by positioning complementary products next to one another. They’ve also helped to introduce new products; previously, there was a waiting period for new products to accumulate sales and reviews before ranking within Amazon search, making Stores a “low-investment way to get something started on Amazon and give it that initial visibility.”

However, Grimm would liken Amazon Stores to the digital equivalent of an in-store shelf … if the shelf were located at the back of the store.

“It’s easier to navigate if you know they’re there,” Grimm said. “So far, I haven’t seen them in search results … I heard that might be coming … [but] at the moment, you’re still going to get a small fraction of traffic on Amazon to see those brand experiences, with the exception being [that] you can send traffic from headline search ads to the brand store or drive from off Amazon.”

Amazon is encouraging brands to avail themselves of products like headline search ads to promote these pages, but Grimm said most traffic to brands’ Stores pages still comes from consumers clicking on the brand name on product detail pages. Amazon recently released a set of dashboards allowing brands to see traffic and sales performance data for these pages. (Maybelline declined to comment, while Lego and Samsung did not respond.)

Grimm, however, said one mid-sized client has had approximately 30,000 pageviews to its brand Store in the last 30 days—roughly one-third of which came from headline search ads, while the rest came from organic sources.

Sullivan agreed navigation is an issue, as other than the aforementioned tactics, “the only way to get to these Stores today is [through] very deliberate searching, knowing the URL or navigating through Google search, and that brand Store page is optimized with organic search technology.”

Added Todd Bowman, senior director of Amazon and product marketplaces at marketing agency Merkle: “The challenge exists because Amazon customers tend to have more loyalty to factors like low price or strong reviews and less to actual brands. Similar to traditional shelf space, brands need to use additional opportunities, such as paid ads on Amazon, to promote their Stores page.”

An Amazon rep said that Stores are in the early days. “We’re certainly spending a lot of time learning more about the Stores experience itself and understanding feedback from advertisers, and visibility is one of the things that’s important,” the rep said. “We don’t typically speak to future plans, so I can’t speak to what we might do [and] all the other things we’re looking at to continue to evolve.”

In addition, Grimm said he has not yet seen Amazon Stores impact search ranking on a broader level, but Google is indexing them, so nothing is preventing these pages from ranking for a brand name. At the same time, the pages are new, and it will take time for them to acquire links to potentially rank higher.

That said, David Hutchinson, national director of auction-based merchandising at digital marketing agency iProspect, warned Amazon has huge authority among search engines. That could mean an Amazon Store could potentially outrank a brand’s own online store, which generates higher margins and lifetime value.

The Amazon rep noted Amazon’s goal is to provide a great experience for brands and customers.

“We hope [Stores is] good for brands regardless,” she said.

In an email, Grimm added: “Enough customers see it that it’s worth building and maintaining a Store, but it doesn’t get enough visibility to be a core part of the marketing strategy. This could easily change in the future, but, right now, the product detail pages are still the most important real estate for brands on Amazon.”