Prime Day 2020 – Last Minute Preparations

Prime Day is finally here, but it’s looking a little different this year. How to you manage your brand successfully during Prime Day 2020 (PD for short)? First let’s cover what PD is, how it’s different this year, and then how to navigate the challenges.

What is Prime Day?

PD is an Amazon created shopping holiday. The first PD was held July 15th 2015 and has been held that same week of July until this year. While it originally started as a single day, it grew to 36 hours in 2017, and as of last year it now spans 2 full days. Why did Amazon create Prime Day? There’s the obvious reason, to drive sales during the retail slump of the summer. The slightly less obvious reason is that Amazon also wanted to create a new event to sell advertising packages. And lastly, the added product velocity let Amazon take advantage of warehouse space that wasn’t being utilized outside of Q4. The first PD went as expected, and after 5 years it’s a normal part of the eCommerce calendar with other retailers also running large events to compete.

How is Prime Day different this year?

Since 2020 has changed the lives of nearly everybody, it’s not surprising that it changed PD as well. From my time working at Amazon, I know the planning process around PD starts in late February and the few weeks leading up to Prime Day are just as hectic as the weeks leading up to Black Friday. So, when COVID hit the US in Q1, it seriously affected the planning for Prime Day. Along with the uncertainty of COVID, it didn’t make much sense for Amazon to hold a retail holiday in the midst of a pandemic. While there was uncertainty around PD, it’s now officially happening October 13th-14th. This has some serious implications, and that’s what we’re going to talk through.

  1. COVID effects on Prime Day
  2. Inventory constraints throughout Q4
  3. Prime Day + Q4 Promotion Schedule

COVID Effects on Prime Day

The biggest way this will affect you and your brand is through inventory and promotions, which is why we’ll cover those separately. But what else? The pandemic has changed up everybody’s sales goals and 2020 planning, so everyone will be swinging for the fences in Q4. We would expect to see deeper discounts than normal to sell excess inventory as well as to claw back revenue. This will also be supported by increased ad spend. Translation? This will be the most competitive Q4 we’ve seen in a while, so you need to be prepared increase your marketing investment to keep pace with your competition. The great thing about advertising on Amazon is there’s relatively no lead time, so if you haven’t thought about a PD marketing strategy there’s still time! At Pitted Labs, our PD marketing strategy means increased bids, and budgets for PPC campaigns. For Amazon DSP, costs are based on impressions so there will be some increased spend but it’s most important to set up additional PD audiences that cater to PD shopping behavior. And we’re monitoring everything in real time during PD to make sure bids are competitive, and budgets don’t run out early.

Inventory Constraints Throughout Q4

Unlike advertising, inventory for PD and Q4 has a significant lead time. We’ve seen FBA shipments take a month longer to receive than they normally do. Why? This is probably the biggest factor of PD being in October. Normal Q4 inventory puts Amazon warehouses at capacity in early November. Even if PD happened in July like usual, we would still expect Amazon warehouses to be at higher capacity due to the better deals and extra inventory we discussed in the last section. The inventory limits Amazon has placed on new products is an easy way to see how constrained Amazon is. By having PD 6 weeks ahead of Black Friday however, Amazon added that much more pressure to their already constrained warehouse network.

Any inventory to support your PD strategy should already be in the warehouse. But what if it’s not? There’s still work to be done! The gap between PD and Black Friday is so short that you should already be planning your shipments to support normal Q4 shopping. The worst-case scenario is your products going out of stock for PD, but then staying out of stock for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc. because those shipments didn’t get out in time. If you’re going to remember one thing from this section, remember this: Send the max inventory possible for high velocity products ASAP. But what if your products have inventory limits?

The inventory limits are calculated to allow 6-8 weeks of cover based on current sell through. In the example above, we would recommend to sending in the max of 154 units as quickly as possible. Then once those units are live advertise and sell them as quickly as possible to have your inventory limits increased. Being passive with your inventory limits will make it very difficult to increase those limits.

Prime Day + Q4 Promotion Schedule

Every retailer’s favorite strategy during Q4: deals, deals, deals! This year will be a marathon from October 13th until December 20th (or around there, depending on fulfillment options), not a sprint from Black Friday until December 20th. Worst case scenario is an aggressive promotional strategy during PD that leaves you without inventory by the time you reach December. Being out of stock is never good, but you also risk selling through inventory at promotional prices and then being out of stock with demand for your products at regular price. That can have serious impact on your bottom line.

So, what do we recommend? Treat it like a marathon! If you have inventory to support your most aggressive forecast than by all means be aggressive. But if your inventory is in a questionable position, we recommend focusing on advertising during PD to ensure inventory down the home stretch of Q4. And you can still run promotions after PD as well if you have the inventory to support it. One last factor, if your competition is going out of stock and is treating Q4 like the normal sprint that it is, then your advertising will be more efficient and you can benefit from their traffic while they’re out of stock.   

GTIN Exemption: What it is and when you need one

You’re reading this post for one of two reasons: You saw the title and thought to yourself, “What is a GTIN Exemption? And do I need one?” or you’re stuck dealing with Amazon support trying to set up your new product and they’re telling you that you need a GTIN exemption. So let’s get to the point! 

What is a GTIN and how do I get an exemption?

GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number. Some products have a specific GTIN number, but for Amazon’s purposes, a UPC can also be a GTIN (and in some cases you use them both, but that’s a different blog post). Basically, it’s an ID number for Amazon to use when you create your listing, ties it to the Amazon ID (or ASIN), and ties all the systems together. But not all products have a UPC number, or any kind of ID number. Amazon realizes that not every product is going to have a barcode, with an ID number, that quickly identifies the product. Many private label products don’t have UPCs or other GTIN and so Amazon gave us the GTIN exemption process. 

Applying for an exemption is a straightforward process. Amazon wants to make sure you have a legitimate product that doesn’t actually have any ID (to avoid buybox scams, etc.). To prove these things, they ask for a letter from the brand owner or photos of all sides of the product. 

Support Letter

The letter needs to confirm no GTIN is provided for their products, with contact information. This is usually the easiest support to send Amazon, especially if you’re the brand owner yourself. When I went through this process for my own listings, I was able to write the letter myself as a brand owner. Here’s an example Amazon provides as a template:

Support Images

The images need to show all sides of the product/packaging. This is pretty straightforward, but if you can’t see all sides of the packaging your exemption won’t be approved. 

Once you have one of these support items ready, you just need to upload them through the GTIN exemption portal with some additional information like brand name and category. Submit, and with the correct support, your approval will be on the way!  

Now I have an exemption, but how do I add these products to my catalog? 

Remember earlier when I mentioned Amazon was trying to cut back on scams? That’s also why they ask for the brand name and category when applying for an exemption. When you’re exempt, it’s only for that brand in that specific category. If you need exemptions for additional brands/categories, or accidentally asked for the wrong category just submit another request! You can have up to 10 exemptions tied to your seller account. 

When the time has come to finally add your GTIN-less product, the process is identical to adding a product with an identifier. Once you reach the setup page asking for the UPC, the input field will no longer be marked as mandatory to fill out! Add the rest of the information for your product, and when done successfully your product will be assigned an ASIN. 


If you have issues creating your listing after getting an exemption, don’t forget to make sure:

  • The brand name is already entered. This needs to be spelled exactly as it was in the exemption request.
  • The category is the same category from your exemption request
  • The exemption was granted more than 30 minutes prior. Sometimes it may take a few hours for the update to propagate in Amazon’s systems

With no ID on the product or packaging, all products will have to be labeled if you’re selling them through FBA. These labels are provided when creating an FBA shipment, and can be applied by you or by the FBA warehouse (for a fee).

Amazon Sponsored Display Ads vs. Amazon DSP

What’s the difference? How should your brand use both effectively to grow your business?

The first thing to cover is the definitions of both options. Something Amazon loves to do is title their advertising options as confusingly as possible. So, what is a Sponsored Display Ad you ask? This is an advertising option used to reach relevant audiences both on and off Amazon. With 3 targeting options to choose from (views targeting, product targeting, and interest targeting), Sponsored Display allows advertisers a quick and easy way to target shoppers with display advertising. The only requirement to create one is that you are the brand owner of your product (through Brand Registry). Amazon DSP on the other hand, stands for Demand Side Platform (Amazon’s tool for managing programmatic advertising). DSP can only be used via Amazon’s managed services (with $35k+ minimum ad spend budgets), or through an agency like Pitted Labs (without hefty minimum ad budgets). DSP advertising is serviced through a separate portal from the rest of your Amazon PPC campaigns. You really need someone with experience to run successful DSP campaigns!

I know we’re taking a look at the differences, but let’s first talk about the similarities. Both options allow you to reach audiences outside of and they let your products be shown outside of search results or product pages. Those are pretty much the only similarities. But like most things in life, advertising is all about control. The DSP option gives you very granular control over your campaigns while Sponsored Display Ads (SDA) just get the job done. If DSP is a banana split with all your favorite toppings, then SDA are a scoop of vanilla ice cream you wish you had 10 minutes ago before half of it melted. But, half melted ice cream is better than no ice cream at all! Let’s take a deeper look at both with more detail.

Sponsored Display Ads

Why does this exist in both Vendor and Seller Central? (check out our blog post on each platform and how to utilize them). It opens up different advertising slots than sponsored brands or sponsored products campaigns. Another benefit is the ability to target “audiences”, instead of keywords or products (but you can still just sponsor products here). Audiences are possibly the most valuable way to target customers, as you can surface your products to them multiple times. Ever considered buying a mountain bike?  Most of us spend time googling them, research, browse different models for sale, and then for the next week all you see are mountain bike ads everywhere you look/scroll/read? That’s audience targeting, and maybe you’ve even bought something due to it before.

How do you set this campaign up? It’s very simple! Like other campaign options, you have to fill out some basics, like campaign name, run dates, and budget. Then, choose if you want to target products or audiences (for audiences, skip to the next paragraph). If you choose product targeting, you’ll have to do slightly more work. First choose your products to advertise, how much you want to bid per click, and choose what categories or products to target. That’s it, you’re done!

If you want to target audiences, it’s even easier. It should be noted though that only audiences show up outside of, so if you want to utilize both locations, you’ll have to create two campaigns. After you choose audiences, you just have to choose what products to advertise and how much to bid per-click. No need to choose anything to target, as the campaign will automatically target customers who view your products.

Well that seemed easy, so what’s the point of using DSP? Read on:

DSP (Demand-Side Platform)

Remember how I just introduced audiences as “possibly the most valuable way to target customers”? That is true, but the key is finding the right audience. Maybe when you searched for mountain bikes, you got an ad that day for the bike you wanted at a really good price, and you bought it. Great! But maybe you’re not quite ready to buy, and now the ads are just annoying. DSP gives you the ability to manipulate audiences to target exactly who you want to. That way, you can maximize every penny in your budget. Since Amazon DSP is only accessible through Amazon-managed services or agencies with their own direct access, there’s no need for step by step instructions (but if you’re interested, reach out to us at Pitted Labs about our DSP access!).

There are two main benefits to DSP: Customizing your audience and customizing your creatives. Unlike the self-service portals, DSP allows you to customize what customers see (aka, the “creative”). It could be an ad calling out the great reviews your product has, an ad showcasing a promotion you’re running, or even a custom image (as long as it fits within style guidelines). It also allows you choose the size of your creatives, and track them based on metrics. This means you can see how your 300×600 placement performs against the 320×50 banner. You can choose what creatives are included in each campaign, giving you more control over your ad efficiency.

The other benefit, audiences, isn’t even comparable. Want to target customers who looked at your detail page? In the last 60 days? Yes, you can do that. But, what if they purchased your product already? You can exclude customers who have purchased your product in the last 30 days. What if you’re selling toilet paper and customers will run out? We can create an audience that purchased your toilet paper in the last 75 days, but exclude the customers who have purchased it in the last 27 days, no problem! What if they’ve just looked at your product in the last 8 days? Make sure they remember to check out! This makes DSP a powerful tool to retarget customers and drive brand loyalty. Also, you can retarget potential customers to impact their purchase decision.

You can also create audiences based on product categories, competitors’ products they’ve viewed, demographic data, location, and proprietary Amazon data. For example, do they listen to Amazon Music? Have they viewed certain Amazon Prime videos? All of these tools help you focus on awareness by getting as many impressions as possible. This brings up another difference in DSP and SDA, which is billing. SDA are pay per click model, where DSP charges for impressions. This makes DSP a very affordable and efficient way to spread awareness about your product.

Hopefully this gave you more context to the different advertising options available! As always, a hybrid approach works best with Amazon advertising. An effective advertising strategy uses all advertising levers to drive as much value as possible for your brand. If you’re interested in learning more about DSP, reach out to us today to speak with one of our advertising experts!

Selling on Amazon: The 3 Pedals of Success

If it was easy to sell on Amazon, everyone would do it. But wait you say, “Everyone does sell on Amazon! There’s so much competition!” This leads you to believe then, that selling on Amazon is easy! The hard part of course is selling effectively on Amazon. 

There are so many variables in play that managing them all effectively is no small effort. You have to do them in the right order, at the right time, and expect about a million hiccups along the way with Amazon blindsiding you (we’ve all seen the “your labels are wrong, pay us to put them on”, “your inventory is stranded”, or of course “we can’t give you a reason why, but your beautiful variated detail page has been split into 7 different pages and there’s no way we can help you guess you’ll have to start all over again”). But at the core there’s a few simple things you can do to set yourself up for success. We’ll relate these to 3 pedals in a standard manual transmission car: clutch, brake, and accelerator. 


Maybe you’ve never driven a manual transmission car, maybe you have no idea what a clutch pedal does (we’ll assume everyone knows what the other two pedals do). Without using the clutch pedal however, those two pedals are worthless. You can stomp on the gas all day and not go anywhere. If you don’t have the core listing requirements down with Amazon, you could spend $100k a week on PPC campaigns and you won’t sell a single unit. 

So what are these pedals and how do you use them effectively? The clutch is the basics of the listing: everything you need in place before taking off on the journey. The brake pedal is operation: staying in stock and making sure customers have that Prime 2-day shipping badge. And the last pedal is the accelerator: the advertising portion of selling on Amazon. 


The clutch pedal is how you put the car in gear. If you want to actually go anywhere, you have to use this pedal. So what is the Amazon equivalent? The basic check boxes for a listing you have to check before putting effort into fulfillment and advertising. The nitty gritty listing setup. Catalog quality. Making sure the listing is ready for customers to see, and then make them think, “I should click add to cart.” 

Sure you’ve set up the listing with your product IDs, you’ve uploaded a picture or two, and have a title in there, but we’ve all seen product detail pages on Amazon that look so bare bones or like the photo came from a Nokia phone camera circa 2005 that don’t exactly instill confidence into customers. The best retail comparison for a great detail page is having the product on the shelf, price tag easy to see, at eye level so that customers don’t have to work too hard to make a purchase decision. What’s the Amazon equivalent? 

  • Descriptive, non confusing title (we want customers to know what they’re buying without reading a novel)
  • Product bullet points (so customers can get a feel for the product and answer any quick questions they have)
  • Photos, including lifestyle and informative graphics (the equivalent of a customer picking a product up from a shelf and looking it over)
  • A+ content (don’t you love when the store has a little endcap display with more information for you to look at? This all makes the listing look very professional and gives credibility)
  • Reviews, even though you have less control over this

Having all of the above isn’t an exhaustive list, but it sets the product up for success. With these boxes checked, you’re ready to put the car in gear.


Admittedly, the actual brakes on the car is not a 1:1 comparison because this pedal equivalent is the operations and inventory portion of the listing. Having inventory WILL NOT be pumping the brakes on your listing. But in a car, if you put it in gear and punch the accelerator, you’re going to have a bad time without a brake pedal. Conversely, you can have beautiful detail pages that drive conversion and great advertising driving eyeballs to that beautiful detail page, but without inventory it’s all for naught. 

While less “Amazon specific” than the other steps, there are some nuances to Amazon fulfillment, especially FBA or if you’re selling directly to Amazon (see our other blog post on FBA vs FBM vs Hybrid approach). The most important thing is that you don’t go out of stock, and that you forecast enough for peak times/promotions but don’t run into overstock fees or ageing inventory. Once you have detail pages ready for action and inventory ready to ship, you’re finally ready for some action. 


Everyone’s favorite pedal, because it’s the most fun. This is advertising, either PPC, programmatic, social, or other off site advertising levers you have available to you. You’ve got a great looking detail page and plenty of inventory ready for Amazon to ship to customers. Now it’s time to get some eyeballs on that page! 

Creating a PPC campaign and seeing the first sales get attributed to it is always an exciting time…as long as you’re ready for those customers you’re spending cash on to see your page. Without the first two steps you could be driving potential customers to your pages with no inventory to ship to them (“but don’t worry, it will be in stock soon!” — No customer wants to see that message if they’re ready to buy). Or, even worse, what if there’s plenty of inventory ready to ship and plenty of traffic but only a single image on the detail page? 

By making sure you’re using all 3 pedals together, and in the right order, you won’t have to worry about customers experiencing anything but an experience leaving them ready to write a 5-star review!

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