Although Amazon is often viewed as a controlling and increasingly dominant e-commerce entity, brands are shrewd to consider it a fruitful retail opportunity. Amazon has become a popular destination for shoppers during the pandemic, and more companies are partnering with the marketplace to protect their brand.

Oars and Alps, the premium men’s skin-care brand. launched on Amazon in June 2018 to protect the brand as it was expanding into Target. Amazon currently makes up 15% of Oars and Alps sales. Amazon’s overall sales have jumped during coronavirus, with revenue growing 26% year-over-year for the first quarter according to earnings.

Coronavirus has delayed Amazon shipping, and Oars and Alps has experienced the impact first-hand. For approximately 14 days starting on April 1, some Oars and Alps products, such as face wash, experienced a four-week shipping delay, and the conversion rate for its marketing spending on Amazon dropped by 50%. Cost-per-impression through Amazon advertising decreased by 26% in the first quarter, according to a report by search engine marketing company Tinuiti.

Oars and Alps is now taking a more active role in shifting its Amazon marketing spend every few days after examining what is working and not working. The team focuses on the return on investment and the conversion rates on product pages to evaluate overall success. It also takes a quarterly analysis of its performance on Amazon, looking at the lifetime value of its Amazon customers. The brand is able to see repeat purchases and average order value, although Cox declined to comment to share those numbers.

“Outside of our dot-com, Amazon is our most important channel,” said Cox. “Amazon will take over our dot-com at some point, based on the sheer [volume of sales] it drives, and we are doing out best to develop the brand experience on our Amazon page so that is aligned with our e-commerce.”

Oars and Alps plans to move out of Amazon’s Premium Beauty section within the next 12 months, in order to have more control over updating content, offering different iterations of a single product and eliminating price changes, because Amazon does price-match against other retailers. When Oars and Alps make the transition out of Premium Beauty and into Amazon’s vendor central program, which requires selling products wholesale to Amazon, it will have a different customer-facing page as well as a different backend to access, although the brand will still be in charge of its product pages and managing its advertising campaigns, said Laura Meyer, Amazon agency Envision Horizons founder and CEO. Amazon charges brands 15% of every sale to sell through Premium Beauty, but the costs as a vendor are more on a case-by-case basis for each brand, she said.

“I believe you can grow a brand faster and better on seller central,” said Meyer. She said seller central is akin to DTC, where Amazon simply acts as a transaction platform. “At the end of the day, Amazon is a large shopping search engine.”

Prior to 2020, Oars and Alps’ entire marketing budget had been aimed at conversion, but this year — with a marketing budget of less than $2 million, not including its sampling program —  it is shifting to focus 30% on brand awareness to respond to its growing retail distribution. Since early 2020, it’s signed on with retailers including Grove Collaborative. To aid in understanding how well its brand awareness ads (like Hulu ads) are working, Oars and Alps uses a metric from their Amazon agency called Share the Voice, to understand how the brand is trending on Amazon, said Cox.

For example, when Oars and Alps shifts from a lower-funnel conversion strategy to an upper-funnel brand awareness one, the team can view the performance of branded keywords across Google and Amazon as a way to measure the campaign’s success. When Oars and Alps began running connected TV ads on Hulu in Oct. 2019, it could view the efficiency and impact of branded keywords within specific geographic markets. Branded keywords could be one type of product (like deodorant) to show how Oars and Alps stacks up against competitors, or they could compare two different fragrances descriptors so the team knows which one to market more heavily. Oars and Alps has consistently changed the titles of its products selling on Amazon to more closely match what people are searching for on the platform. Its “Power cleansing face wash” on Amazon would ordinarily be referred to as “Power cleansing face stick.”

Oars and Alps works with Amazon agency Flywheel Digital.  and Oars and joined Amazon after four months of research because there are several ways for a brand to sell on the platform, spanning drop-shipping to third-party selling.

“Google and Amazon keyword databases are a goldmine, if you know what to look for and how to interpret the data, and have really clear questions,” said Cox.