How to Sell on Costco.com

Last week, we looked at Costco’s place in the online marketplace ecosystem and at what makes the online retailer worthwhile. Today, we’ll look more closely at how you can plan a successful enhanced product content project to sell on Costco.com. It can be difficult, but it’s possible (we promise).

What’s in the Post

  • What you need to know to make Costco-approved content
  • How to tailor your production timeline based on Costco’s review cycle
  • Takeaways to hone your Costco selling strategy

Costco has specific layout requirements.

The Elements of Costco Style

On the surface, Costco content is similar to most other enhanced content. Features and benefits are explained and demonstrated through paragraphs with headers, video, and product and lifestyle images.

However, as content26 account manager Elizabeth Olmsted notes, “Costco is very particular about their content.” Amazon (and most other companies that commission, require, or otherwise use content of any kind) aims for a 7th-grade reading level, a level of complexity that allows for the expression of complicated ideas (such as advanced functions on an espresso machine or the sensing technology of a robot vacuum) in a way that’s accessible to most readers.

Costco requires product text to be written at a 12th-grade reading level. And, depending on the department, they prefer long text–longer than any other site we’ve worked with requires. For consumer packaged goods (a category notorious for its brief content, which is often ruled by legal restrictions), Costco demands content that is at least 1,000 words long. Even for products with a high level of complexity, such as high-end receivers and laptops, this length can be excessive–and we say that as evangelists of relatively lengthy product content!

Costco’s style guide (which we unfortunately can’t reproduce here) isn’t very specific about what they think constitutes acceptable enhanced content. The guide largely covers format and technical requirements rather than content or tone. On content, the most specific dictates they provide are:

  • “Add sufficient product information to elaborate on all relevant product details.”
  • “Ensure that naming conventions of products and features are consistent.”

Fascinatingly brief, considering how many reasons Costco will give for rejecting your submitted pages.

So How Can I Make Acceptable Pages?

The Costco style guide does go into greater detail about design and format. Here are a few quick tips to keep your Costco merchandiser happy.

  • Images must alternate between right and left alignment.
  • Eliminate white space as much as possible by making your paragraph heights match your image heights.
  • Ensure your images strictly match the subject matter of the item. For example, if a stock photo of a man and a woman is used on a page for men’s multivitamins, the image (and thus the page) may be rejected. Be as specific as possible with your images.

We also recommend having a good, thorough talk with your merchandiser when you start to sell on Costco. As we said, CPG is a particularly picky category, sometimes requiring 1,000-word descriptions. However, we’ve found that the best practice of at least 300 words is enough for most departments.

Costco.com representatives have also called out these elements as being part of an ideal Power Page:

  • Product tours
  • Taking full advantage of graphics, images, and icons to complement text
  • What’s in the box
  • Tips or Dos and Don’ts
  • Cross-merchandising via matrices

In short, Costco.com likes the richest product descriptions you can create. No argument here.

If you sell on Costco, be prepared for multiple revision rounds.

Two Men Enter: the Review Process

So at this point, your pages are beautiful. Intelligent, nay lyrical text, written for a smart audience. Your images are appropriately sized, alternate just so, and are in a Webcollage page that would make devotees of the Golden Mean weep at the impeccable composition. So what’s left?

The review.

The Costco style guide understates it: “However, as noted above, there may be delays due to initial rejection of content.”

Account manager Elizabeth states it a bit more baldly. “Be prepared for several rounds of review. We have seen clients go through zero to seven rounds, and we are happy to help you make any changes they request.”

Webcollage gives you a lot of flexibility in creating enhanced content, enough that they’ve become a content26 favorite for their many options for including video, images, and appropriately lengthy text. However, this means that the longest part of your Costco Power Page production schedule may be the review process.

“Don’t let them bully you,” Elizabeth advises. Costco sometimes demands changes and often attaches short deadlines to them. However, her clients have had success pushing back–including declining to make requested changes. Just make sure you have good reasons for your choices and explain them clearly and respectfully. With Costco, you’re always dealing with a person, and it’s worth it to have an involved conversation. After all, the merchandiser is someone with an interest in good, useful enhanced content. You’re pursuing the same goal.

A Few Last Tips

A few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re able to stick to your content production timeline:

  • Build a couple weeks for review into your content creation plan. You might even allow three or four weeks if you’re doing over-the-counter CPG products.
  • OTC products in particular require specially designed headers with images. Keep that in mind with your production timeline and your budget.
  • Look at existing Power Pages within your vertical and take tips from content that’s already been accepted. This can spare you some avoidable rejections.
  • If you’re contracting with a writer or designer, ensure that you know the financial implications of extra revisions or delay. Content26’s Costco production prices are higher than for other channels, and it’s to account for the extra time that’s often needed to get pages revised and accepted.
  • Remember that this content will be syndicated to many sites, if you take advantages of Webcollage’s full services (which we recommend). Keep all of your online marketplaces in mind when you’re revising.
  • And finally, remember that it’s okay to push back if you’ve already made changes and encounter further resistance.

Every online marketplace has their difficulties (paging Amazon. Amazon, please pick up the white service phone). Despite the difficult review process, it’s worth selling on Costco. Their audience is growing quickly and globally, their customers are loyal and, if their content requirements are anything to go by, informed and engaged, the kind of customer most companies most want to reach.