In the world of e-commerce, no one has more influence than Amazon. The platform generated more than $232.9 billion in revenue in 2018, and now carries upwards of 12 million products. As Amazon’s popularity rises, the marketplace is becoming saturated with sellers, big and small, trying to claim their piece of the pie.
While this is excellent news for shoppers, and for Amazon, the crowded nature of the platform makes it nearly impossible for small businesses and startups to establish themselves. That’s why Amazon has introduced Amazon Launchpad, a supplemental program that highlights products from emerging brands and supports brand owners by providing marketing, expertise and global infrastructure.
What is Amazon Launchpad?
Think of Launchpad as a marketplace within a marketplace. The program works on two levels to create value for both Amazon shoppers and up-and-coming brands. New companies get the time and guidance they need to fine-tune their business and generate greater visibility for their products while shoppers enjoy early access to innovative products from “today’s brightest startups.”
Launchpad is designed to give eligible sellers a bit of a leg-up over the rest of the Amazon marketplace. Since startups tend to have limited time and resources, they often need additional support to drive traffic to their products and get their business off the ground.
In its effort to support these startups, Amazon has brought on several crowdfunding companies to help run Launchpad. By partnering with the likes of Y Combinator, Indiegogo and CircleUp, Amazon can glean valuable insights into the kind of support startups need most. The platform also uses these relationships to filter emerging companies into the Launchpad program.
Through Launchpad, Amazon provides support in three areas:
- Onboarding support to guide sellers through account setup, troubleshooting and marketing.
- Marketing support to help sellers get their products in front of more shoppers and make more sales.
- Brand support through exclusive access to education, training, customized consultations and other resources.
Who is eligible for Amazon Launchpad?
Any business with an innovative and unique product and an active seller account is invited to apply for Launchpad. That being said, Amazon is rather selective about who it accepts into the program. Right now, Amazon seems to favor startups funded by crowdfunding platforms, venture capital firms and other startup accelerators.
To apply, businesses are asked to complete an application and ship a batch of products to an Amazon fulfillment center for evaluation. If approved, participating sellers must ensure that their product listings meet the following criteria before they can unlock full Launchpad benefits:
- 3.5+ stars with 5 reviews
- Spelling and grammar checked
- Descriptive title that clearly and succinctly describes the product
- Main image on a pure white background with no text/logos/watermarks
- Enhanced Brand Content
- 5 bullet points (written in fragments with no end punctuation) that highlight the top 5 features customers should consider
- Product description
If a brand would like to be considered among the featured Launchpad products on Amazon’s homepage, it is subject to additional requirements:
- Cannot violate internal policies which include products that may embarrass, upset or make medical claims
- Must have at least 5 reviews and 3.5 stars or more
- Sufficient inventory to last 4+ weeks
- Complete product detail page
These criteria are put in place to help create the best possible shopper experience. More importantly, they put startups in the best position to be successful on Amazon and take full advantage of Launchpad’s marketing benefits.
What are the costs of joining?
Amazon Launchpad offers two different program structures, or “stages,” based on your company’s annualized revenue.
- Annualized revenue: $0 to $1M
- Cost: 5% premium added to referral fee
- What you get: Tools to build your brand from the ground up with a dedicated marketing/merchandising package, onboarding support, retail education and advertising/deals participation
- Annualized revenue: $1M+
- Cost: 3% premium added to referral fee
- What you get: Enhanced features including access to Amazon Insights, unique internal and external partnerships, global movement and additional marketing support
It’s important to note that these premiums apply to your entire Amazon account, not just the product(s) enrolled in the Launchpad program.
So, with these costs, what are the benefits? To start, Launchpad provides the support and resources you need to launch your product(s) and optimize your listings for customer traffic and conversion. Amazon’s onboarding team will guide you through account setup, FBA and the Brand Registry, if you are not enrolled already. Once your account is up and running, Amazon will provide additional recommendations on Enhanced Brand Content (EBC) and detail page optimization to ensure you are putting your best foot forward.
Launch Marketing Package
Once your account is set up and your product detail pages have been optimized, you will be eligible for Launchpad’s Launch Marketing Package. This is a starter pack of marketing tools available to new Launchpad sellers. The package includes:
Placement on the Amazon Launchpad home page within the “New Releases” section, as well as featured placement on the New Releases page
Placement on a featured Amazon Launchpad category page (e.g., Kitchen, Pet Supplies, Toys, etc.)
Placement in a Launchpad email driving to your product page
Additional Marketing Support
In addition to this initial startup package, you will have ongoing access to extra support and unique marketing tactics to help drive greater consumer awareness and conversion. Here’s a quick overview of the available marketing options:
Eligibility for Launchpad gift guides and ad-hoc promotions
Placement in corporate Amazon events, including Holidays, Prime Day, Dads & Grads and Back to School
Product and/or brand features during Amazon PR events
Access to incremental marketing campaigns and product placements on the Amazon home page, Launchpad storefront and Launchpad carousels
Buzz-building social media campaigns via Amazon Launchpad Facebook and Instagram
One of Launchpad’s most valuable seller resources is Brand HQ. This hub is your key to all things Amazon Launchpad, unlocking exclusive access to:
Customized consultation services
Quick Start Playbook
Launchpad updates and announcements
Partnerships (both on and off Amazon)
In-person Brand Cafes
Regardless of your stage, Brand HQ provides comprehensive business insights to help you grow and develop your brand on Amazon and beyond.
A Word of Warning About Amazon Launchpad
While all of these benefits sound great, there are two important caveats we want to address. One, Amazon has made it very clear that none of the marketing resources mentioned above are guaranteed to any Launchpad seller. The platform has complete discretion to choose what products it wants to highlight, where and when. At the end of the day, Amazon reserves Launchpad real estate for products that are already performing well and that the platform can help boost into orbit.
This brings us to caveat two: despite the misleading name, Launchpad isn’t there to launch your product for you. Amazon wants new, unique and interesting products, with proven demand, that it can help take to the next level, not businesses it has to build from the ground up. This means that you cannot rely solely on Launchpad marketing tools to propel your business. You must conduct your own marketing efforts, such as driving traffic on and off Amazon, using social media and optimizing your product page, to be truly successful and remain eligible for Launchpad.
Weighing the Pros and Cons:
Most crowdfunding companies have a solid, but limited, base of loyal consumers. By selling their products on Amazon, startups can enjoy instant access to billions of potential customers from all over the world. The opportunity to reach a broad audience, and quickly, is a big draw for many young companies.
On top of that, Launchpad gives startups exclusive access to services and tools not available to other Amazon sellers. All of the onboarding, marketing and Brand HQ benefits mentioned throughout this blog are uniquely reserved for Launchpad businesses.
Startups new to FBA, or Amazon as a whole, will discover the additional benefits of having Amazon handle inventory management, order fulfillment, customer service and other day-to-day tasks. Shifting these responsibilities to Amazon allows brand owners to dedicate more of their time and resources to developing their emerging business.
Finally, if you choose to join Launchpad, you are not committing yourself to the program forever, nor are your committing yourself exclusively to Amazon. If you find that the program has done all it can for your brand and you are not seeing any additional support or benefits, you are free to exit the program at any time and free yourself from that extra referral fee.
That brings us to our first con: the costs associated with participating. As we mentioned above, sellers are subject to a 3-5% referral fee bump across their entire account. This is nothing to scoff at, especially for startups that are trying to grow a new business.
It is also important to keep in mind that some products sell better on Amazon than others. If you are not an existing Amazon seller, we recommend that you conduct an Amazon audit, or work with a consulting company to do so, to see how products like yours are doing before committing yourself to the platform. As a general rule of thumb, consumer goods like toys, electronics and clothing tend to perform the best.
Depending on how new and how innovative your product is, publicly broadcasting it on Amazon for the whole world to see can be a risky move. While Amazon requires Launchpad sellers to trademark their products and register them with the Amazon Brand Registry, this does not guarantee protection for the concept behind your product. The onus will be on you to watch out for counterfeit products and be proactive about reporting any infringements.
How do I get started?
If you feel Amazon Launchpad is right for your business, you can apply for the program here. After completing your application, you can expect the Amazon Launchpad team to respond within 7-10 business days.
If your application is approved, an Amazon representative will walk you through the registration process and help you optimize or create your product listings. From there, you can scale and develop your business using Launchpad’s marketing support features and Brand HQ.