NEWSLETTER AMAZON WORLWIDE 12/2019
We sat down with Sophie, co-founder of Un Air d’Antan, to learn about her Amazon seller journey and her Amazon best-practices. The French fragrances and toiletries brand Un Air d’Antan, which was inspired by timeless French songs and culture, started as a family business.
Un Air d’Antan is now sold in Amazon’s European and North American stores and continues to grow, while staying true to its image: France and family. The business, which now has a team of marketing and Amazon experts, is run from the busy family home that Sophie shares with her husband and five children. "You should see how busy it will be once you leave and we start packing all the products to be shipped!" she says.
Q: What was the main inspiration for your business?
We created the brand about three years ago. Un Air d'Antan is the first French beauty brand to be inspired by vintage French music. We choose the most popular vintage French songs; and by listening to them, we create different perfumes. Production is in the south of France. We have perfumers based in Grasse, who create perfumes made out of some complex notes that are then transformed into skincare lines.
For example, the rose range has been inspired by a famous song from Edith Piaf. It’s a love story, so we created a romantic blend of rose, peach, and patchouli. The way we work allows us to create story-telling products - that's why we call them emotional cosmetics. They all tell stories that we appreciate. We speak about joy, love, happiness, travel, childhood memories, nostalgia and in this way we created a small, cute, vintage French world.
Q: Do you have any professional expertise in perfume making?
The three co-founders of the company all had some previous experience in the cosmetics industry. We all worked in marketing within house-care and hygiene products. My husband, who is one of the co-founders of the company and designed the original brand graphic, spent 15 years working for some of the biggest companies in the cosmetics industry. Using that experience helped us to set up our business. We knew exactly what cosmetics we wanted to produce and which factories we wanted to work with. We were entering a room that was already familiar to us.
Q: Who is your main target group? Who are your customers?
It depends on the channel and location. 80% of our business is on Amazon. In terms of customer base, we discovered a behavioral pattern. Usually people start by buying one product, often as a gift. Then their second purchase will be a multiple purchase. They mix product types and perfume lines. We have around 20% of loyal customers coming back to us. Our customers like trying new products. Each time we launch something, it's pretty easy to sell because we have a loyal customer base that will be keen to try it out. With that said, you have to remember that our variety is quite broad. Some of our scents are very fresh, some are more romantic.
The gifting part of the brand is very important, seasonality, 30-50% are for sales and gifting, for gifting people prefer buying a range of scents. So as a tip for other Sellers, the broader the portfolio the more you will sell.
Q: How do you develop new products, do you use customer feedback?
We have a list of all fragrances we would like to launch in a lifetime. We try to stick to it, but it would be a big mistake not to adopt to customer feedback, especially on Amazon. Amazon gives you feedback every day of a year, so we use it very frequently when working on new launches. For example, the line could be inspired by a particular song, but we might include a new product type just because customers ask for it. Specifically, customers asked for shampoo to compliment the product range. At the beginning it wasn’t something we wanted to do. We are not a haircare brand, we though we needed additional technology to produce it. But the customers were asking so much that we just decided to add it. This was three months ago and we are almost ready to launch. You need to be quick!
Q: How do you make your Brand stand out on Amazon?
When we launched the brand, it was meant to be sold to major retailers and sit on a shelf. That is why we designed the product to be colorful, to make it impactful, to stand out on a shelf. On a shelf you can tell the story of the product very easily. However, it was quite difficult to get retailers to notice our brand, so I convinced my co-founders to give Marketplace a go (I had some previous experience with my own baby product brand on Amazon). On one’s own website, it is quite easy to tell your brand story. But Amazon comes with its own rules - you need to accept that you are selling on a website that is owned by someone else. However, Amazon now offers so many features to show your brand ID. We used every feature Amazon gave us to tell our brand story little by little. My tip is: Use all the tools available to you! It is free! Experiment with them.
For example, images - we started from having just two or three. Now Amazon encourages you to provide seven. Do it, images are key! People nowadays usually buy on a mobile, so when they scroll through images taking a full screen, it's even more impactful. Same with text. We embed our world of emotions into all of the spaces we have on a page - the bullet points, the description, and A+ content. The title needs to be focused and efficient, but with the rest you can express just as easily as on your own website. A+ is very important, it's quite new, but it helps to communicate who you are. Maybe it doesn't impact the conversion rate straightaway, but it's still worth it. You really have all the space that you need. Video is also very impactful to give customers a feeling and to tell your story (Launchpad Seller have access to video) and so is Store, which has its own link that you can then share on other platforms. We welcome every new brand-owner feature as a gift!
I think Amazon is now changing the process of how new brands emerge on the market- until now only big Retailers were able to establish big brands, so these brands had to be chosen by a single purchase team. Amazon is doing the opposite, they let the customer decide on what they want to buy and from whom. Amazon gives them all equal access to tools and features and then the customer will decide.
Q: In which Marketplaces do you sell?
We first launched in France and the UK, nearly two years ago. Shortly after, we expanded to wider Europe with the Pan-European program. We then launched US and Canada a year ago. And we just launched Japan.
Q: How do you adopt your products to the different locales that you sell in?
Being customer obsessed is the key. The majority of sales comes from France, UK, and Germany. Most of the time, we offer exactly the same product selection, same brand image. However, learning from the difference in cultures we learnt how to adopt our listings to different countries.
For example, keywords are a big differentiator. If you want to succeed on Amazon you need to work a lot with your keywords. You cannot rely on a simple translation. For example, to sell a gift set in France you need to call it "gift set idea;" however, that wouldn't work in the UK or Germany, where people look for just a "gift set." This part you really need to nail, as the main battle for attention between competitors happens at the keyword level.
Also, sometimes customer expectations regarding the product information available on the product page differ. We got a question from a customer in the UK asking whether our product is "cruelty free." Since we produce in France, where animal testing has been forbidden for 20 years, we know that the product isn't tested on animals. However, an English customer expects this information to be displayed not only on the page, but also on the package. These kinds of insights are crucial.
Another example, we launched our verbena shower gel in the UK and it was very successful, so we decided to launch it in the US too. However, we quickly learnt that "shower gel" is not a common keyword in the US. You have to call it a "body wash;" otherwise, it won't be searched for on Amazon. You need to remember basics like this!
Lastly, we also started translating images recently. We noticed that German customers prefer to see images with German words on them, instead of English, which worked well for the UK and France. Also indoor vs. outdoor image preferences differ. We test and observe everything. Our choices are based on our own experience from the past two years, no research needed!
Q: Looking back at your Amazon experience, would you do anything differently?
In terms of our strategy, we would do everything the same way. I would make some small changes to the product though. The way we decided on the shape of some of our products, for example our soaps. Because we use FBA, it's very important to think about how the product will be stored. We really value the FBA service, it allows you close-to-perfect customer service, it's so easy! However, to ship this product, it needs to fit within a certain package size. If our soap exceeds 3cm it won't fit in an envelope. So, you need to switch from a £2 fee to £3.5, which can make your product unprofitable if it’s at a low price point. So, if I were to do it again, I'd just ask my manufacturers to produce the soap thinner and wider, which would impact my margins. My tip is, if you haven't developed your products yet, have a good look at the pricing and fee structure and then make your adjustments.
Q: What is the next big challenge for your Amazon business?
Our key objective is to reinforce our position in Germany. Then, we are planning about 10 new products coming next year, including a completely new product line, the shampoo business. The US is also an important objective for next year.
To succeed with all of these goals we have one rule - be obsessed with details and be customer-centered. When you create listings, pay attention to everything - take all spaces Amazon gives you. Otherwise, it's a waste. Same with the package, you need to think how to protect the product but also bear in mind that customers may prefer an ecological package. When you have an unhappy customer, make sure to follow up with them. Talk to them, find out what went wrong, try to find a solution that works for them. If you put them in the center, you will succeed.
Q: Any last tips?
"Feed the Beast" - don't launch everything at once, make sure you keep the portfolio fresh and you increase it gradually. However, remember that you need your "Team of Best" - your chosen group of 3-5 best-sellers that you need to give extra attention. Use all available tools (A+ content, promotions, outside traffic) and invest more in those products to make them stand out. Nourish them like your babies, and then the entire family will follow.
A seller community is important. It makes you a better seller and consequently, create a better customer experience. I share Amazon best practices with other sellers, and in return, they do the same with me. We learn from each other, we do not only share what went wrong, but also what works really well.