Taking control of your products and your brand on Amazon with Steve Honight from Pukka Teas (episode 231)

Steve Honight is the eCommerce Lead at Pukka who sell organic teas and food supplements. They’ve been in business since 2001 and now over 2 million cups of Pukka tea are drunk globally every day. You’ll find their products on supermarket shelves around the UK, and they also sell via their own website and on Amazon. A big part of Steve’s role is managing their brand and performance on Amazon – so that’s what we’re going to be getting into today.

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About the Business

  • Based in Bristol
  • Locally produced UK product sold globally
  • Distributed on several channels
  • Currently Replatforming from Magento to Shopify
  • On Amazon, using first-party vendor model

About Stephen

Stephen’s first foray into eCommerce was over a decade ago and since then, he’s been involved in several different eCommerce journeys with a variety of product types. His Amazon expertise grew steadily and 12 months ago, he started consulting with Pukka to help bolster their Amazon strategy.

The gig eventually turned into a full-time job and now he focuses full time on running the eCommerce arm of the company. According to Stephen, Amazon is misunderstood and he says that a lot of companies are missing out on the benefits of using Amazon.

He points out that it can be a complementary platform, used to help drive market share and brand awareness. As many as 50%-70% of research now has a genesis on Amazon and customers are using it as a search engine, similarly to how they use Google. 

Team

Pukka’s marketing team is sizable and Steve says that the eCommerce is managed using a Matrix Management model. 

Ways to sell on Amazon

  • First Party: Brand owner selling directly to Amazon
  • Second Party: Brand owner sells to wholesaler and then wholesaler sells directly to Amazon
  • Third-Party: Brand owner listing directly on Amazon—Fulfillment by Amazon is also included in this category. 

Protecting Your Brand on the Amazon Platform

Counterfeit items tend to be a bigger problem in sporting goods and fashion, but Steve says that it can present some challenges for everyone. FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) struggle less with this overall. What is more important is how a brand is positioned and marketed on the Amazon platform.

For businesses who have a reasonable distribution outside of Amazon, it can be a challenge to dedicate resources to making their brand look as good as it should on the Amazon platform. Steve says that even if it seems painful, it’s a crucially important part of your eCommerce strategy. 

Taking control of your listing

The biggest step a business can take toward controlling their brand and making Amazon work for them is to register with Amazon’s brand registry. From the registry, brand owners can register their brands IP and unlock extra controls on the platform.

When a business has multiple third-party agents selling their brand on Amazon, there will likely be duplicate listings. When a business registers, they can request that Amazon merge those listings together to get rid of duplicates. In cases where the listings can’t be merged because of misspellings, different images, etc. brand registry gives brand owners the upper hand to take care of rogue duplicates.

While it ultimately ties back to growth, Stephen says that it creates a much better consumer experience overall. If consumers see the same product being sold with different details, it can make the journey to purchase more confusing. 

For Brand Owners Who Want to Gain More Control of Their Brand: How do you deal with existing resellers? 

Stephen’s opinion is that first, unauthorized dealers should be shut down through a legal route. For legitimate resellers, it’s important for brand owners to ask themselves whether or not they had a set plan with their resellers about how they were going to sell products on Amazon.

If the reseller was never tied into that conversation, they are likely using Amazon to add incremental sales to their existing business. Stephen says that in these cases, you can ‘manage them out’ easily enough. Coming down on them with a heavy hand is unnecessary.

The Hardest Thing About Amazon

The biggest challenge with Amazon is actually how fluid the platform is. To be successful, businesses have to be willing to evolve alongside the platform. Images, text, and listings change all the time.

Steve says that shop monitoring tools become important to maintaining a consistent presence on the platform. 

Steve’s Favorite Shop Monitoring Tool:

  • Sellics: Offers both vendor and seller option and has modules that help optimize all parts of your Amazon listing

How Long Will it Take to Make Amazon Work for a Brand Owner?

Changes made to your Amazon presence can take around three months to see results from Amazon listing optimizations.

Steve points out that a lot of that work is going back and forth with Amazon, but he says that businesses will see an uplift in sales. 

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Getting search and display to work together. Use sponsored products and run search ads. Like Google PPC, businesses are bidding on search terms for their product to show at the top of specific searches. Amazon has a programmatic display platform, which was until recently a managed service but has been opened up as a self-service platform. Handled correctly, these two elements can work effectively together. Spend more on the display/awareness side to juice up search results.

Tool Top Tip

  • Trello Board as To-Do list. By creating a Trello board for each day of the week, Steve said it has greatly reduced his day to day anxiety.

Growth Top Tip

  • Sellics – Find ads that are working for you—where the ROI is gross margin positive— and invest heavily. Reinvest all ad-driven revenue back into those same ads. If it’s continuing to grow, keep scaling until you hit a plateau.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • Newton Running’s Steve Honight $1m+ turnover using licensed products for wholesale and eCommerce
  • The TeaShed’s Jules Quinn on the power of team-brand-product in growing a B2B business into an eCommerce business
  • Passion, customer service & the Oscars in subscription eCommerce Pat Callwood, True Serenity Tea

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