By Kathryn Johnson, Account Manager at One Click Retail

At last month’s Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, Amazon was a regular topic of discussion. According to most brands in attendance, the eCommerce giant’s increasing influence in the candy space will ultimately be good for the industry, but will also create new challenges for manufacturers.

Between November 2017 and April 2018, Amazon’s sales in the Sweets & Snacks product group grew by 22% year-over-year, and that’s not including one of the industry’s biggest annual sales events: Halloween. Last year, Candy sales in October grew by 46% YoY and 100% MoM. This year, Halloween Candy is on track to set a new record on Amazon.

Like any other sales event, brands need to position themselves to capture Halloween traffic well ahead of time. Last year, Halloween had already begun to impact search behaviors by the beginning of August, and capturing that initial wave of traffic reinforces a brand’s sales and search performance and widens the gap between them and their competitors.

This is why brands can’t afford to fall behind. Halloween is a tent pole event on Amazon for Candy brands. Now is the time to begin optimizing product content, introducing seasonal items, tracking inventory and prepping promotions in order to capture that initial wave of traffic and drive sales all the way to the end of October.

 

Get Ready: Halloween 2018

 

2017 Recap

  • Last year, Amazon’s total candy sales in September and October grew by 38% compared to 2016. Unsurprisingly, most of that growth occurred in October.
  • Chocolate Candy is both a bigger seller than Non-Chocolate and experiences a larger “Halloween bump”: Chocolate sales were 170% higher in October than in September.
  • Non-Chocolate Candy is growing more rapidly YoY than Chocolate, closing the gap between the two subcategories.
  • MARS produced the top four bestselling Candy items during October 2017, all of them variety packs and three of them calling out “Halloween” in their titles.

Prepping for Halloween

  1. Start Early

The top five relevant search terms during Halloween 2017 were:

  • Halloween Candy
  • Bulk Halloween Candy
  • Halloween Candy Bulk
  • Halloween Snacks
  • Halloween Chocolate

What’s remarkable is that the top keyword, “Halloween candy”, began to be searched with frequency at the end of July, three full months before the event. It remained the highest-ranked Halloween-specific search term through the entire three-month period, with significant increases in rank in late August and again in mid-September (these increases are marked by the green arrows in the graph below). Shortly after the second of these, the other leading keywords began to appear with frequency, with both the #2 and #3 highest-ranking search terms including the word “bulk”.

This keyword search data reveals that many consumers are buying their Halloween Candy early and in bulk. It’s important for brands to ensure their keywords are optimized by August 2018 in order to capture early Halloween traffic and earn a lift in sales ahead of the competition.

Additionally, the timing and frequency of search terms should be taken into account when investing in Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). Brands need to bid on the seasonal keywords that are most relevant and most valuable. It’s worth investing in search terms earlier in the Halloween season: even though the search frequency is lower, there is less competition for keywords and generating an early lift in sales can improve organic search rank and create a positive feedback loop, driving even more sales as the season ramps up in September and October.

Get Ready: Halloween 2018

 

      2. Cater to the Season

Update content to be seasonally relevant. Well in advance of any online sales event, brands should be asking what they can do to improve their portfolio to appeal to the specific interests of consumers during that time of year.

Over 90% of purchases on Amazon start with search and a majority of the bestselling items during Halloween 2017 had been updated to be seasonally relevant. Our data shows that when items are updated with seasonally relevant titles and content, they experience a greater lift in sales compared to items with static content. Keywords that appear in titles and in the top left of the product detail page carry more weight in Amazon’s search algorithm than the rest of the content, so making an explicit callout to “Halloween” in these two places will drive search performance.

Brands should also work to optimize their portfolio by offering a variety of product variations and pack sizes. Many brands in the Candy space have introduced new formats and multi-options to better serve Amazon shoppers, resulting in a lift in sales. Seasonal-specific releases have a good track record during Halloween as well – two of the top 10 Candy items of Halloween 2017 were only released in September of that year – but  items that have strong sales year-round will always have an advantage.

3. Manage Inventory

The promise of Halloween traffic and sales allows Amazon to draw more Candy consumers to the platform and allows brands to generate a long-term lift in sales which is likely to stabilize at higher weekly average after the event is over.  But brands that aren’t prepared for the spike in traffic could risk stocking out, causing sales to fall while other brands pick up the slack.

Year-round Candy sales on Amazon are growing rapidly, and that growth is steepest in October. Brands need to use last year’s sales to determine a baseline and scale up their inventory to match Amazon’s category growth. For example, last year Chocolate sales in October grew by 43% and Non-Chocolate grew by 52% YoY. Brands need to assume another 50-plus percent increase again and check that projection against the Amazon provided forecast in Vendor Central. If the forecast isn’t high enough, brands can try to influence Amazon to increase orders ahead of the event. The chart below depicts the consequences of an item stocking out during a high sales period in mid-2017, causing weekly sales to plummet.

Get Ready: Halloween 2018

 

Halloween is one of the year’s tent pole events for Candy brands. To succeed on Amazon, brands need to get ready for Halloween by the end of July or risk missing the initial wave of traffic and letting better-prepared brands widen their lead. By capturing the earliest Halloween sales, brands can generate an initial lift in sales which will feed back into organic search rank and performance, driving more and more traffic as the holiday approaches. By investing in high-quality content, seasonal keywords, and a strong product assortment, Candy brands can use Halloween to generate a long-term sales lift that will last well into 2019.

About One Click Retail

One Click Retail is the industry’s most accurate source of sales data for the world’s top eCommerce marketplaces. Using a combination of website indexing, machine learning and proprietary software, OCR estimates weekly online sales figures with market leading accuracy in order to deliver the best insights, analytics and strategies to their brand manufacturer clients. To catch a glimpse of how OCR gives brands critical edge on online platforms with our unique data and expertise, subscribe to our weekly eCommerce insights blog, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you are a brand manufacturer who would like to learn more about how you stack up to the competition—or would like to see your market share and category growth insights—email us at info@oneclickretail.com for a free capabilities demo.