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eCommerce Intelligence: How to Segment Amazon Best Seller Categories (and Sell Even More)

March 30, 2015
Ryan Jepson
Written By
Ryan Jepson

A Profitero Insider Insight Post — One in a Series

When shopping for big-ticket items, do shoppers demand more validation from positive reviews? When buying less-expensive household products, do shoppers look for convenience first? The answers, it turns out, aren’t always clear-cut. Lower-priced categories tend to rely more on Amazon value-add programs like Prime, but not all higher-priced categories are heavy on customer reviews.

In this post, I analyzed 28 high-level Amazon categories’ best sellers from February 2015 in order to determine actionable category segments that can help you improve your sales on Amazon.

Here’s what I found:

  1. The relative importance of reviews, Prime, and Subscribe & Save is category-dependent, and you should leverage these characteristics to propel your products into the best sellers lists;
  2. Reviews are important in every category; in some low-involvement categories, however, best sellers are characterized more by value-add programs like Amazon Prime;
  3. Retailers can leverage Amazon’s best sellers’ characteristics to manage their own categories, perhaps by adding value in the form of lower free shipping minimums for Prime-dependent Amazon categories

Which matter most: free shipping or reviews?

Categories’ best sellers ranged from an average of 173 reviews per product (Appliances) to 4,989 per product (Electronics). In terms of eligibility for Prime free shipping, categories ranged from 5% (Shoes) to 100% (Prime Pantry).

Clearly, shoppers in these categories have different priorities and expectations.

Review counts can be a proxy for shopper involvement in a category. Program eligibility—% Prime eligible and % Subscribe & Save eligible—indicates the value Amazon adds to, and shoppers expect from, these categories.

Together, these two factors help characterize how shoppers interact with categories, and four segments emerge:

  • Low Shopper Involvement, High Amazon Value-Add (Prime and S&S) Categories, characterized by high program participation and relatively few reviews*
  • High Shopper Involvement, Low Amazon Value-Add, characterized by many reviews but low levels of Prime and S&S
  • High Shopper Involvement, High Amazon Value-Add, characterized by both high program participation and many reviews
  • Low Shopper Involvement, Low Amazon Value-Add, characterized by low program participation and relatively few reviews

* Compared to the median number of reviews (944) and the median program participation (% Prime + % S&S = 74%)


Next, let me dive deeper into each segment and provide tactical guidance to improve sales within these Amazon categories.

1. Low Shopper Involvement, High Amazon Value-Add Categories                                              Arts – Crafts – Sewing, Automotive, Baby, Office Products, Prime Pantry, Toys & Games

To win in these categories, focus on enrolling products in Amazon’s Prime free shipping   program (average: 79%) and keeping prices low (average: $18.05).

Although review counts were lower than in the high-involvement Amazon categories, your products should aim for the segment’s average of 529 reviews with a star rating of 4.4.

2. High Shopper Involvement, Low Amazon Value-Add Categories
Clothing, Computers & Accessories, Electronics, Home Improvement, Shoes, Sports & Outdoors

Your products in these categories require a large number of reviews (average: 2,183), as shoppers look for reassurance before committing to these higher-priced items (average price: $62.73).

Shoppers in high-involvement categories also expect slightly more images—3.9 vs. 3.2 for the low-involvement, low Amazon value-add category.

3. High Shopper Involvement, High Amazon Value-Add Categories
Beauty, Books, Cell Phones & Accessories, Grocery & Gourmet Food, Health & Personal Care, Home & Kitchen, Kitchen & Dining, Movies & TV, Pet Supplies

Products need to be eligible for Prime free shipping (average: 85%) and have a large number of reviews (average: 1,884) with high ratings (average: 4.4) to crack the best sellers lists in these demanding categories.

Although just 16% of products were eligible for Subscribe & Save, the program’s importance should not be dismissed: these categories were more likely to be eligible than any others we studied.

4. Low Shopper Involvement, Low Amazon Value-Add Categories
Appliances, Camera & Photo, Industrial & Scientific, Jewelry, Musical Instruments, Patio – Lawn – Garden, Watches

These categories had fewer reviews (average: 427) and lower program participation (Prime: 46%; S&S: 1%) than the typical category studied.

As more shopping moves online and Amazon expands its reach, it is important to remain at the forefront of these categories’ development with excellent product images, value-add programs like Prime, and positive reviews.

Where does your category fit?

Individual category-level analysis remains important for understanding the nuances of each category. To see results for your categories, sign up for your free monthly Amazon FastMovers report.

Request FastMovers Report

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