Welcome to part 2 of what I’m not going to do in 2017, my stop-doing list or my giving-up list, if you will.
The next thing on my list after giving up products that aren’t profitable or don’t sell, is to think about the marketplaces that you might stop selling in as well. Certain marketplaces will be better suited for certain products. For example, if you wanted to sell barbecue equipment in the UK right now, while it’s in the middle of January and it’s freezing cold, you won’t do well. You might get a few hardened people (like me!) that walk around in shirts while it is 5° C, but not many. Certain products aren’t going to work out in certain marketplaces at certain times.
It may be that you sell a product in one marketplace and it does really well, then you try to sell it in another and it does poorly. You have to make sure to do the right things. You have to dial in your pay-per-click and your keyword research needs to be specific to each marketplace. Don’t be lazy and transfer over what you already have because it can work quite differently. Especially if you’re a UK seller trying to sell in the US marketplace or vice-versa. Don’t assume the keywords are the same, they often aren’t.
Let’s say, even once you’ve done that, and done your pay-per-click properly, and did a proper launch, your product isn’t taking off. I wouldn’t say to kill it, but maybe pause that listing and let your inventory sell off. This isn’t a product you’d want to re-order.
Classic example, I had a generic product in the US marketplace, we’ll call it a blue widget, sold great, but only at a certain price point which wasn’t profitable. If I raised the price, it would drop to page five and sales would disappear. Now a niched-down version of that product, call it a stainless steel blue widget , did much better. I sold 1200 units in six weeks at a 25-30% margin.
With those same products in the UK, it was a different story. The generic blue widget version did a few sales a day at a profit. However, the niched-down version, the one that sold 1200 units in a few weeks in the USA, was very disappointing. It, maybe, sold one or two units a day, even though it was still on page one, albeit at the bottom. For me, that’s not worth the time and effort to keep doing that. I was then able to reallocate my money and focus into something else.
This isn’t so much giving up an Amazon marketplace as such, but rather, giving up a certain product in a certain marketplace. I encourage you to look at your numbers. Make decisions based on the data rather than what you wish was the situation. Just because you invested a lot of time, money, and effort into something, doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. You have to be willing to walk away if the data shows that it’s not working. It’s called a sunk cost and it’s an incredibly important discipline for all business people.
Need more personalised input on issues like this? Live in the UK in or near the South-East? You might want to consider joining us for monthly meetings where we can thrash out all the issues like this one for YOUR business. Check it out here.
Mannan Shah, the senior account manager – 6 years’ experience as Trader/dealer
What 3-5 factors are most important to consider to help predict future relationships between currencies?
The main determination for currency movement is the key interest rate for that particular country. For the US, if the Federal Reserve says there will be a major hike in interest rate by December 2016, it will struggle against other currencies. The expectation of the interest rate is the main factor.
The second thing is economic outlook and future growth expectation in that particular country. The US regularly release a jobs report that will give you insight into where the economy is heading. Manufacturing, retail sales, and inflation can weight a lot on the currency movement.
The third thing is political balance and uncertainty in that particular country. The GBP has dropped 28% since Brexit. Even though the UK is still currently within the EU, the uncertainty of the situation has had an effect. In the next couple days, the US election will play a major role in the deciding the USD movement as well.
What particular 2-3 factors are you looking at to help you predict the Pound to USD relationship over the next two months (Nov/Dec 2016)?
The biggest factor will be the election. Donald Trump is causing major volatility in the stock market. Depending on how the elections turnout 8 November, we could see a lot of volatility. In Mannan’s opinion, if Donald Trump gets elected, we could see the sterling spike to upwards of £1.30 per dollar overnight because Trump himself, is unpredictable.
Another factor that could affect it would be that in December 2016, the Fed plans to raise interest rates. According the Mannan, the election will determine what the Fed will do in December.
The euro and the dollar relationship is quite important for UK sellers since they often sell in Euro to the rest of the Eurozone but buy their products in dollars from Chinese suppliers. What’s your prediction on the future of the Euro vs. the dollar?
The euro and the dollar have been trading in a tight range for about a year and a half. It has been trading between €1.08 and €1.14 range. Going forward, he doesn’t see that changing much. The main expectation is on the US side now; looking into 2017 and seeing what the Fed does. Recently, the euro dipped to €1.08 but has bounced back to €1.11. If the Fed decides to raise rates in 2017, we could see the euro drop to €1.05 and possible €1.03 for every dollar.
The euro will remain much more stable against the dollar than the sterling because of Brexit. Brexit will continue to drag the value down for another year or two if not more, as everyone waits to see what deals the UK makes with other countries once they are out of the EU in 2019 or whenever that happens.
When you have speculation in the news all the time, that reflects in the currency markets with volatility so the rates keep shifting. Is that correct?
Yeah. Generally, the way the currency market moves, it looks for what is coming next rather that what has already happened. What is usually on Bloomberg or other news sources is what has already happened. So the big article will be that the Fed says this, but the market has already moved based on expectation. If the outcome isn’t what the market expected and there is a big shock, then the market moves dramatically. Much like what we had when the Brexit vote came in. Just before the results were announced, it was believed that the people would vote to remain in the EU, but 4 hours later the market dropped 1100 points.
To sum that up, if something is expected, that has already been priced into the market. It’s the unexpected events that causes weird volatility. For example, if the markets expect the UK to leave the EU with almost no rights to access it, such as no passports for the city of London, and so forth, then that will already be priced into the currency exchange. But if May comes out of the meeting and actually, the EU will be generous to Britain, and they have done something special, you could see the pound suddenly get much stronger.
Exactly, as long as the expected happens, you won’t see much movement. For example, in the US election, Clinton is expected to win. If Trump comes out as the winner, that would be a shock to the market and you might see the S&P drop 5-7%.
What can we, as small businesses, do to help mitigate those risks in a practical sort of way over the next couple months? Taking into account the US elections, Federal interest rates, and the UK politics surrounding Brexit.
Take advantage of forward contracts to lock in currents exchange rates and avoid any uncertainty. If your feel that your margins are good enough, you can make sure that, regardless of what happens, you will have that same rate. Then you can work your pricing on the product.
Can you share your best practices?
The first thing you should do is get yourself set up with a free e-tailer collection account. This will help avoid expensive conversion costs.
When you are buying stock from your suppliers, don’t use banks for supplier payments, use Currencies Direct. This will save you money on currency exchange, which lowers your cost and improves your margin. Not only do banks tend to hit you with extra charges, they sometimes take three or four days to send currency whereas currency exchange specialists will generally send it within 24-48 hours.
Take advantage of your account manager. They can help you set up forward contracts if needed, as well as contact you if there is a notable movement in exchange rates and you can set up notifications so that you are always up to date with what’s going on.
To find out more of Adam’s own strategies and tactics, CLICK HERE
Reviews are a major part of any strategy and you mentioned earlier that you want enough reviews to seem viable. Is that correct and could you expand on that?
Yes. It hard to seem credible if you have five reviews and everyone else has 100, so you have to work for those reviews.
How much is enough? And what do you do now that incentivised reviews have been removed?
How many depends on the product. It depends on what page one looks like for you products’ search terms. There is still opportunity out there. There are a lot of products with low reviews that are still dominating. Adam would use ilovetoreview.com, which he also owns, to get 25 reviews for products in the UK and 50 in the US.
Find out more of Adam’s latest thinking HERE
It’s only in the US that incentivised reviews are gone and it’s only compulsory reviews. There are other services that never guarantee the review but would push out your products at a discounted rate or for free. It’s not clear how it works, but it seem that after you get around 25 or 30 sales in a day then you products get a jump start and the sales keep rolling in. So even if you’re not getting a guaranteed review, there is still value in pushing your products out at a discounted rate.
Adam can only speak to his community at ilovetoreview.com, but the reviewers have been doing this for three years where they use the coupon, get the product, and write the review. So, they will probably continue to do so even though it can no longer be required.
Companies will continue to do this even if the review rate drops in half. Adam’s company has a review rate of 87% meaning 87% of products that were pushed out came back as a review. With these new rules, that will likely drop. And if it drops in half that means you will just have to send out twice as many products. This is a one-time investment for something that can generate income for life.
Another tip from Adam is to follow up with you customers via email. Especially in the UK, they are very responsive to this. Zonguru (which Adam also own) has this automation built in.
Every time you make a sale it can send an email when it ships, six days later following up with any issues,and 14 days later asking for a review.
Not only will this help in getting reviews, but it allows you to get ahead of any issues with the product, say if the box was damaged or the product wasn’t right, allowing you to take care of the issue without before going through Amazon’s return system.
Adam tries to casual in his style in his emails. Just a quick “Hey, how are you doing? Just wanted to make sure everything is good with the product.” He doesn’t try to sound like a big company with huge copy in the email, just a quick message like you would send to an acquaintance.
The bogeyman in all this, as Adam puts it, is that Amazon can change this against this type of thing. They have already sued a bunch a review companies last year. All they have to do is make a change in the algorithm that scrutinizes those reviews that have reviewed an above average amount of products, and out of those, how many used a coupon and just wipe out those reviews. They can just remove reviews of people who are just reviewers.
No one knows how things will work out, but sellers will just have to adjust. They will still have to do product launches, just like every company in the world when they launch a new product. You just have to follow up and encourage your customers to leave a review. You only need 25 – 50 – if you need more than that you’ve gone into the wrong niche.
As you say- Amazon has the ability to wipe out these reviews if it chooses. It just drives the point, that at the end of the day it comes down to organic reviews and organic sales.
Yes. Just make great products that people like. It’s that simple. And don’t be impatient. Adam likes the way this is because it knocks out all the people that think they can get rich quick on terrible products. It’s about putting in the work. Putting in the effort. That gives him the freedom to sit around all day, and look at his seller account and see that he made $3,000 in a day.
You mentioned earlier that you teach this stuff. How do you do that? Is it live webinars, live courses, group training?
He has a company called Reliable Education. The aim is to give people a realistic expectation going in and tell them the truth.
On the website, you can enroll in a free training program that is four videos where he shows you his home and drives you around where he lives in Australia.
He educates you on what the Amazon opportunity is, how to find products and his criteria for that. He teaches you about “Velicity Retailing” which is how to compound your capital over time.
All this leads to a paid programme which is an online course where you get access to about 90 videos that show you Chinese factories and how a 3D printer is made and a lot of very cool stuff.
It includes a private Facebook community and will link you with a mastermind group that they cap at seven people. Everyone signs a NDA so they can freely talk about what their companies are doing and talk on Google Hangouts or in person, and they’re all trained with the same philosophy of not being opportunistic, not get rich quick. They are solid people that want to build solid businesses.
They also have 12 coaching webinars with each member of the course. They have an onboarding program for every new member. There are two guys whose job it is to call every new member and talk to them and get a feel for them. They also have a program where they loan money to a 3rd-world entrepreneur, interest-free, and gets paid back over time. People seem to find a lot of value since their refund rate is less than 5%.
How do listeners get hold of you or find out more about you?
Just at reliable.education. Adam doesn’t really use Twitter etc. so you can’t catch him there – sounds like he’s more likely to be on his boat!
So you mentioned you started with $20,000 when you started your first company and I often tell people that you need at least $5,000 to start, which is a manageable figure for many people, but is that a viable number for people to start out with?
It is. You just need to do a lot of research. Adam uses Zonguru, which he owns, which is similar to AMZ Tracker and Jungle Scout if they had Feedback Genius built in. You need to track something like 100 – 200 products.
Spend hours tracking products and going to Amazon and Alibaba.com Use Pinterest, that is a great resource. If you want to sell coffee cups, just do a search for cool coffee cups, and people have built boards with all these designs they like. They are literally giving you the products they want to buy.
Adam isn’t interested in tracking the number 1 product. He’s is looking at the number 4 or 5 listing and he sometimes goes to the second page. He doesn’t like tracking products with a lot of reviews. He prefers niche products where if you were to count all the reviews for every product on page one, he wants the average to be below 60 or 70.
You can LOOK HERE For more detailed training from Adam.
In the UK, you would probably adjust those numbers down. Simply put, it’s not worth it to go into the huge niches with a lot of competition and products are doing $20,000 or $30,000 a month. He is more interested in a smaller portfolio of products where each product is doing $5,000 or $10,000 a month. He’s happy having ten products doing $3,000 a month. A more stable business with lower, but consistent sales day in and day out.
Some sellers in the US have found their products have a life cycle of about three to six months. Have you found similar results? And how do you defend against competitors coming in, driving the prices down and advertising costs up?
Adam hasn’t found that in his experience. Most people want quick success and they aren’t willing to do the labour that he does. He will labour over a logo and package design and he will take a month to get another sample and other people just aren’t willing to put in that kind of work.
One unique thing he does when he gets a quote from a supplier is to offer them more money. If they tell him that it’ll be $4 if will ask if they can do it for $5 and explain that he wants the best possible product. The best quality control and the best possible outcome. No cutting corners. Taking that extra step to make the product the best it can possibly be.
The response he gets is remarkable because that extra dollar could double their margin and it’s only a dollar that he has to get back on the retail end, and he could get $10 because of the superior quality.
One thing you have to be wary of with these gurus is their ability to misrepresent their earnings. They could talk about how much of a margin they’re making but leave out the cost of acquiring new customers. Sometimes they may be losing money whenever the get a sale from an ad because the ad costs are so high.
Find out more about how Adam gets these results.
In the US many sellers aren’t making any money from sales that come from ads, and it seems like the only money they’re making is coming from their organic sales. So, tell us about what needs to be measured, and once you measure it, how do you deal with it?
The first step, with any business, is to write down what kind of life you want to have. You may want to make as much money as you can. But that means you will be working as much as you can.
Adam made his decision early on that he didn’t want hundreds of products because it’s too much stress. He also didn’t want hundreds of keywords that he was bidding on in PPC because he didn’t want to spend his day going through PPC reports and optimizing his keywords. For his products, he bids on 10 words, exact match. He doesn’t do any broad match advertising.
He is aware that he is missing sales but he doesn’t care because it will be eating into why he got into the business. Because of that, his ACoS is really low he hardly spends anything. Be sure to read Adam’s blog post about how advertising costs can eat into your margin.
You cut off everything that doesn’t make a profit, so how do you drive sales volume? How do you drive traffic to your listing?
Amazon does it. He has twice the conversion as everyone else because he only does exact match keywords, so if someone sees his listing they are looking for that exact product. Lke he mentioned before, he is charging twice as much as he next competitor. Therefore, it is better for Amazon to drive traffic to him because they can send have the amount of customers and get the same conversion and make the same amount of money per sale. It all comes back to having the best product.
(More of Adam’s insights are at reliable.education)
Get Adam’s Latest thoughts HERE
So, the first thing is to have a great product, what’s the next thing?
The next thing is to have great photography. Not good photos, not the best you can do, but great photography.
The best that you can possibly get. If you look at AirBnB for example, one of the decisions they made early on was to send professional photographers to the homes to take photos. In the beginning, people weren’t booking because the photos weren’t good enough. As soon as they started offering that to the AirBnB hosts, their business took off.
Another flaw in the course gurus is that they sold Amazon short. They said you can come in with $1000 and be making $30,000 a month in six months and that’s just not true. What Adam tells people is that is you can start with $5,000 and in the first year you can rotate that money at 30% margin in a year, that’s a win.
CLICK HERE for more details on Adam’s approach to Amazon on his “Reliable Education” site.
Warren Buffett is the greatest investor in the world and one of the richest men in the world. If you look at his record he is trading at 20% a year. If you’re doing it at 30% then you’re doing better than Warren Buffett. As you get better you’ll be able to rotate that twice in a year then you’re doing 60%.
If you sit down with a compounding calculator and do the math on if you start with $5,000 or $10,000 you can see that you have an amazing vehicle at your disposal.
However, a lot of these “gurus” are telling people they’re failures if you’re not making $20,000 or $30,000 a month in your first year.
You mentioned that you started with 6 products and turned that into a million dollars a year, so I would assume that you put substantial capital into that.
In fact, it’s at $1,000,000 a year “run rate”, ie, it now turns over about $83,000 a month.
Adam figures that he started that business with about $60,000. This was a different company. He has a completely different brand that he’s been running for about three years and he started that one with $20,000. At this point, he hasn’t taken any money from it. Except for a $20,000 loan from Amazon that he accepted just to see what it was about, he has been compounding that initial capital. Right now he has hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory paid for in distribution center around the world.
The only other person I’ve talked to about compounding your money is Will Tjernlund. If you took that $60,000 and after a year turned it into $80,000 a month that clearly is a tremendous success. How on earth did you manage that?
Adam is experienced at this point, with his numerous business adventures, and experience comes from activity and time and anybody can learn to do that if you stick with it (learn more from Adam here at Reliable Education)
The difference, according to Adam, is that Will farms a product. He’ll throw 20 or 30 products out there and two or three will be a hit. He clears the rest out and starts over.
Adam wanted to build a brand with a small number of products. He currently has six products with an average cost of $8 and retails for $40 with one about $129. Adam’s strategy is to build his brand around a few products and get them to page one and keep them there. Last time he checked, Will had around 1700 SKUs. He didn’t want to think about what that was like, to wake up and have to monitor 1700 SKUs.
How do you find potential products?
To be successful, it’s about paying attention to the details and being objective. If you look at AirBnB and everything that makes it successful, then reverse engineer that and unpack it to find every component, that kinda what you have to do with Amazon. For example, AirBnB hired pro photographers to go every single place listed on the site!
Too many sellers go in with the wrong mentality. They go in think they need to make this product in this price range and that’s all wrong because you’re building a product around your limitations and needs rather than the wants and the desires of the customer.
Adam as two or three products that are on page one for the biggest term they’re on. Now, the top couple spots are taken up by his products and he sells them two in a box while his competitors sell it four or six to a box. His product is $40, the next person is $20, and everyone else is cheaper than that. He is at least twice as much as his competitors and is selling half as many.
For more details, CLICK HERE
This almost mirrors Kevin King in regards to the ideas behind the photos and going against conventional wisdom. How did you find these products in the first place?
Some people will misunderstand what he is saying, and you can find out more in his course at reliable.education. They think they just need to charge more. However, you must have a clear reason that a customer will give you more money. It’s more than headlines or you saying it’s better.
Many of these products are bought as a gift. The person is intending to gift the item to someone. Like with a ring from Tiffany’s, you paying for the box as much as you are the ring. So every aspect needs to be thought about. Don’t get on Fiverr and pay someone $15 for a logo. His philosophy is pay once for the best.
Write amazing briefs for everything from accounts to designers. Articulate exactly what you expect from them. If you hire a designer, the work is only going to be as good as the brief you give them. If you spend a little extra on the packaging, you can really impress your customers and all this goes to building a brand.
Sellers make the wrong assumption that no one has money and are looking for the cheapest product and that’s just incorrect. Now, this doesn’t apply to all products, not all products need to go to the extent, but at least make sure your logo is top notch.
(To get more training from Adam, go to reliable.education )
Having just played piano for music auditions in London recently, it struck me that the Main mistakes made in auditions are the same as those made by many beginning Amazon entrepreneurs. mindset strengths or mistakes and doing it well – needed for auditions for peak performers are the same as those needed for Amazon
Mistake #1 Failure to prepare
Solution: Prepare! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Xmas sales are big in retail. Plan your inventory accordingly. Plan your cash accordingly. If you’re just launching a Private label business, plan your capital needs upfront (hint: £1000 isn’t enough for private label! Don’t believe the hype – it’s designed to sell courses, not make you money!)
Mistake #2 Getting put off by mistakes
Solution: When you have a basically sound plan – keep going! Mistakes are not reasons to lose focus or momentum. Or rather, they can be – but don’t let them! Stay focussed and learn fast!
Mistake #3 Expecting to be great first time out
Solution: Practise! The best way to do a great audition is to do several – some good, some bad, some mediocre – and to learn from the experiences. The best way to do pick an Amazon product or do an Amazon launch is the same. Plan accordingly (don’t put all your money into one product, for example), start manageably and scale up with experience.
A great bit of advice is to start with Retail Arbitrage (retail arb or RA) or Online Arbitrage (OA). I haven’t done it this way so I can’t guide you properly, but if you are US based, Jim Cockrum is your man. Check out his site My Silent Team.
Mistake #4 Not getting training (or just learning from Podcasts and Facebook group aka “Drinking from a firehose!”)
Solution: Get the best training you can afford. Yes, podcasts and Facebook groups are free and an excellent place to gather info. But it’s too much to absorb and nobody can really structure it to be step by step in those formats.
I would get training from someone who knows what they are doing, preferably geared to your particular finances, circumstances and experience.
Above all, I would get myself a group of peers who you can grow with (find out more about the Amazing FBA London mastermind- on waiting list only at the moment). For me personally, this has been the single biggest success factor so far, hands down.
When you work on your own, it can be easy to fall into bad habits and drift or even go backwards.
Ideally, one key thing is to be sure you aren’t on your own too much – you need to connect to fellow entrepreneurs. Join a Facebook Group, get a mentor and or join a Mastermind group.
But there are inevitably weeks and days at a time when you’ll need to get and keep yourself going.
For me, that is simply taking a walk first thing in the morning and making phone calls to fellow entrepreneurs (nowadays I also often make a call to my business partner).
What are your rituals? Let me know in the comments below.
This episode is one of the **Summer Series** of bite-sized chunks of Amazon Strategic Goodness!
Can you tell us about any products that you get asked to review that are over-saturated and there are too many of them out there?
It can depend on the season. For example, during the summer he was getting a lot of review requests for money pouches and passport holders that you would use when you travel. As we get closer to Christmas he will likely start getting a lot of requests for lights and other holiday items. Keep this in mind if you have seasonal items.
For instance, let’s say you are going to sell neck pouches for traveling. You know the summer is going to be the busy time for travel so you want to plan ahead and start getting reviews in spring or even winter. You want to get ahead of the competition.
If you wait until June, the reviews will have received several requests for similar items and may not want any more. Also, reviews may take a couple weeks for the reviewer to get around to it. If you wait until June, it might be in July when the review comes in. At that point, you have already missed a good portion of the traveling season. As a bonus, if you get your reviews early, you are prepared for customers to start looking to buy these items. Click here for more information on the European summit if you are looking for tips on breaking into the European market.
Other items he gets requested a lot include flashlights, bike lights, headphones (bluetooth and wired), LED lamps, garden lamps, solar/ battery powered lamps.
Amazon has banned the use of super URLs, have you had any issue with this?
(A super URL is the address Amazon uses when you search for items and listings get ranked higher based on the keywords people search for. There are tools that will mimic this super URL and makes Amazon think people are finding your product based on keywords that they didn’t search for and thus these products get listed higher.)
Augustas hasn’t seen much of this lately. It used to be that the requests would give instructions directing you to go to amazon.de/keyword and it will be the third item down. This would build your ranking for that keyword but it was very inconvenient for the reviewer and often Augustas would ignore the instructions and simply locate it by the ASIN. He doesn’t get these much anymore and there is even a service that will mimic that URL so you don’t need to go through all that. However, be warned that Amazon is cracking down on the tactic and has even started removing listings.
A tip from Augustas for sellers that do fulfilled by merchant rather than FBA. If you have a good relationship with a reviewer, you can use them to make sure your staff or external warehouse is doing a good job. Augustas had a seller that had his own shop and staff that packaged everything. Augustas would give him feedback on the packaging and ways to improve it or if something was missing. It’s a good way to test for quality assurance. It’s better to get private feedback from a reviewer rather than a very public negative comment from a customer.
How important do you think reviews are in general for listing conversion?
Some people may not believe a review is genuine. As a reviewer, it might be difficult to leave a bad review if you have a good relationship with the seller. So rather than giving a 4-star review, you may give 5 because of the customer service.
As a customer, Augustas will always compare reviews especially if one doesn’t seem genuine. And if he sees a short review from a customer that hasn’t left many other reviews, it will hold more weight because it’s a casual shopper that wanted to leave their experience rather than a top reviewer. He noticed on one particular item that he was giving 2 or three stars and the reason why, and he saw the rest of the reviews were all 5-star reviews from top reviewers because they were getting free stuff.
Do you think, as a shopper, that the quantity of reviews is important for conversion? Or is quality more important?
Augustas will look for 2 or 3 quality reviews. If it’s just 2 or 3 lines he will often skip it and look for someone that wrote a couple paragraphs. If he sees that the person got the product for free in exchange for a review then he will look for another one and compare. But definitely, he wants to see a few quality reviews.
Augustas was looking at another product some time back and noticed they were getting close to 50 reviews a day. However, they are said they got the product for free. This went on for a while, around 50 reviews a day and they had around 1000. About 6 months later he went back looked and found that they almost completely stopped getting reviews. They might have gotten another 50 organic reviews which showed that they might not be getting many sales. They invested a lot to get all those reviews but that didn’t translate into actual sales because they weren’t quality reviews.
As a buyer, how important is the quantity? Are you looking for 100 reviews or are you happy with 5 as long as they are long quality reviews?
A few good reviews are great. If he can get a good idea about the product from a few well-written reviews then it doesn’t matter if there are 50 more reviews.
For more info on the European Private Label Summit, click here where you can learn other tips for succeeding in the European Amazon marketplaces.
What about photos and videos? Do you think they make a big difference to the impact of a review?
Oh yes. Since sellers cannot upload their own videos they really like it when the reviewer does one. Some sellers have approached Augustas about reviewing their products because they saw the videos he did.
Now Augustas will upload about 10 photos and a video for each review he does, and as a buyer, it holds more weight than what the seller uploads because it is an actual customer’s unboxing rather that the photoshopped images the seller is putting out. Depending on the product, in his video, he will show how the product is used. This could be particularly beneficial if it can be complicated. This way buyers can watch how it’s done rather than be dissatisfied with your product.
Does it make a difference to Amazon if you have a lot of top-reviewer reviews?
Probably not. It’s unlikely that Amazon would weigh top reviews more than regular reviewers. In fact, Amazon doesn’t really like these free reviews. He did an interview with a private seller that used to work in Amazon and according to him Amazon is all about the customers, and when reviews are getting free products then they are losing the true connection between the product and the customer. It may be, that in the future, it will be more difficult for this type of reviewer to exist.
Even as sellers, we know that these reviews aren’t completely genuine. It’s different than when as a customer, you buy a product, you really like it, and decide to go and leave a review. It’s likely that Amazon will make it more difficult and in fact, in the US, they are starting to require that sellers can only give a 50% discount for reviews.
Tell us about the private label online summit
Augustas wanted to start his own private label business but it ended up not working out and he got into reviews. He noticed that people often had a lot of questions about Europe and there wasn’t one place you could go for consolidated information about getting reviews in Europe, different languages, taxes, and many other topics. Augustas decided to help out by gathering experts about all these different topics. He has about 20 speakers that will be sharing their knowledge. He has some sellers from the US so you can hear their stories and follow their paths. There is a lawyer from Germany that will discuss some of the laws and regulations you have to follow, especially in Germany where they are a bit stricter.
He decided to go with a virtual format because it’s easier to set it up, it easier for the speakers to be there, and it’s easier for the audience to be able to get all the information.
If you have had any desire to sell in Germany, this is a great resource to learn what you need to know. If you’re a UK based seller, you can still be based out of the UK and sell in Germany. Your orders will be fulfilled by the UK warehouse. If you are in the US, don’t let the language barrier stop you, it’s not that difficult to work around.
Do you have any websites/events/places that people can learn more from you or contact you?
Any parting words of wisdom?
Treat you reviewers like your customers. Forget you are giving them something for free and treat them with respect. You will get more and better feedback from them.
Augustas is originally from Lithuania and moved to Germany because that is where his wife is from. He has moved around a lot and is quite the digital nomad.
For access to the European Summit with special bonuses for Amazing FBA listeners, click here.
About a year ago he learned that he could get free stuff from Amazon sellers after looking into doing FBA. He never started his Amazon business, instead he got into doing reviews. He found Facebook groups for German products and decided to give it a shot. He saw one seller looking offering a hands-free bluetooth device for cars and applied for it and got it. After that he started looking for other items that he needed around the house. He began to realize how much value he was giving to the sellers after they began messaging him, thanking him for his reviews and asking him if he wanted to review another product for him. He is a top 400 reviewer in Germany, currently 320 and organizer of the European Private Label Summit!
For access to the summit, with special bonuses for Amazing FBA listeners, click here
Has it changed now that you’re more established?
Since Augustas is a top 400 reviewer, he is able to make his email public and sellers can contact him for reviews. Whereas before he would have to hunt for products to review. When he first got started he didn’t have any reviews in his profile so sellers weren’t as interested in working with him. He would started leaving reviews for any product he bought so that he could start building his profile. He would hunt for any product he could review and as he ranked higher and higher he began receiving emails to review products. Now, on average, he gets about 8 emails a day.
What kind of products turn you off?
What are the best kinds of products that attract you to review them?
Each reviewer has different things they look for. Some will end up selling the item on eBay whereas Augustas will see if he needs it around the house or if he can give them as presents. Though if it’s an expensive item, he might consider reviewing it even though he doesn’t need it with the intention of selling it.
Another thing to consider is the price. Since Augustas puts so much effort into his reviews, he reserves an hour for each one. If it’s a less expensive product, maybe €10, he is more likely to just buy the product outright. If you have a lower priced item, you might get better results from looking in reviewer clubs and Facebook pages rather than the top reviewers. However, some top reviewers will do lower priced items, so it’s always a good idea to check out their reviews to get an idea of how the operate.
What are the big turn-offs in emails?
Augustas prefers emails with direct links to the products. Also, make sure they are short. Sometimes the URL is very long and goes for several lines in the email which could get cut off or mishandled by the software. So use a shortening service if you need to. Add a picture of the product so he doesn’t have to go to the URL to see what it is.
Some sellers write longs emails talking about how they saw he was a top seller and how they saw his reviews and going on and on. Leave that off. For Augustas, receiving as many emails as he does, doesn’t read them. He will quickly scan the email, mainly looking for the link. Don’t waste your time and his by writing long emails. Make it short and sweet and have your listing make the sell to him. This goes back to making sure you have a strong listing.
What is the best email approach that you respond to?
For Augustas, it really comes down to the link. He doesn’t really read the email. Since some of the information he needs get lost in the text, he might miss it.
What he is looking for is:
If you are contacting a reviewer in another country, add a sentence at the bottom of the email apologizing for you poor language skills and note that you are a native speaker. It might not always be useful, but it is for someone like Augustas. He is not a fluent German speaker who writes reviews for the German market. For him it is easier to communicate in English. So by adding the note in the email, he will know that he can contact you in English instead of both of you struggling in attempting to communicate in German, which neither party is fluent. You are more likely to find people that can speak English rather well.
Are there particular review clubs/services that you like as a reviewer?
When Augustas started out, there weren’t any well-established review clubs in Germany so he joined a Facebook group. Then one-by-one the clubs began popping up and he started joining them. The one he likes is amzreviews.co.uk or amzreviewtrader.com in the US. It’s a global platform and you can choose your market. It has a great search feature, big pictures, and it lists how much it will cost. You can apply to be a reviewer and if the seller approves you, you will get an email. Then you go back to the platform and get the coupon code, order the products, and submit the review link.
The problem with this platform is there are thousands of products, so if you know what you want it’s easy to find. However, there is a good chance that you are missing out on some great products.
What about red flags/warning signs?
The only thing Augustas really warns against is spam email. Sometimes you can get that with some of these review clubs since you are putting your email out there. Just make sure you protect yourself.
On a sidenote, Augustas made sure it was known that you need to treat the reviewers like customers. Listen to their feedback. Augustas mentioned that he was dealing with a seller who sent a product without the necessary adapter to make it work and expect him to solve the issue. On the reverse side, he was reviewing a tote bag that had a hole in it when it arrived and within hours the seller had gotten back to him and shipped a new one. As a seller, do not treat your reviewers like the first example. These people are putting a lot of effort into reviewing your product so please respect their time. Also, you run the risk getting a negative review from them.
How do you deal with Amazon ToS? Have you ever had a review removed because you got it for free?
Augustas has over 200 reviews and has never had an issue with one getting removed or any seller coming to him after the fact about a review. Augustas uses ARAT software to monitor his reviews and those of other top sellers and hasn’t noticed any issues with his reviews.
Sometimes the reviews get stuck in Amazon’s system. In the US and UK, reviews will be published within 6 hours, in Germany it’s a bit longer. So if he notices his reviews haven’t been published he has to contact Amazon or else they will never be published. He also noticed that some of his reviews weren’t listed as verified purchase. He mostly saw this when he ordered from the UK market rather than the German. But after the market was released, it showed up as verified.
Keep that in mind when working with the reviewers. Make sure to approach them respectfully if it appears they haven’t left a review because it would be a glitch in Amazon’s system. SO if they say they left a review but you don’t see it, ask them to contact Amazon directly because they may be a reason the reviews got stuck. For example, Augustas had a review get stuck because two of the pictures were too dark. Another got stuck because he showed the website address in his video.
For access to the European Summit with special bonuses for Amazing FBA listeners, click here.
Greg has sold on Amazon for about 2 ½ years now so he has quite a bit of experience with selling. Greg saw an opportunity while he was selling. He hated doing the prep work. It took a lot of time and kept him away from what actually made him money, sourcing and working with suppliers. So he started FBA Prep UK almost two years ago as a solution for Amazon sellers.
Why bother with prep at all? Why not just send directly from China or supplier to Amazon?
First of all, things happen to products. It’s more common with air, there’s a lot more handling and a lot more opportunity for packaging to be damaged. From the supplier not doing what their supposed to, then sending it to the plane, loading and unloading from the plane, then to the Amazon warehouse.
Sometimes the products show up without packaging. It may have been repackaged by the shipping company because it was in such bad shape. Amazon won’t accept that. They have very high standards for what they expect and if it arrives damaged, they will not accept it. It will either be removed or destroyed.
To avoid all this, you’ll want the products to be inspected before they go to the warehouse. You can do this yourself but you will soon realize how much time and effort it takes to go through everything.
So what prep do you need to do for Amazon?
Obviously, everything will have to have a scan-able barcode, i.e. EAN or UPC work fine. Most products that come from China do so in a poly-bad or a plain white box with no identification on it. Amazon cannot accept that. They are a massive operation that cannot deviate from their processes. Prep companies, being smaller and working with you directly, have the flexibility to ensure the products are packaged correctly before Amazon gets them.
For the items that come in the poly-bag, can you repack those?
These bags are quite brittle and are too thin so they don’t meet Amazon standards. They have to be sealed or they have to have a suffocation warning label is the opening is more than 5 ½ inches. These aren’t Chinese regulations, so unless you specifiably request this, it won’t be done. Sometimes it won’t happen if you do specify it. Keep in mind that your supplier is likely not to comply with your instructions. There is very little chance of getting your money back should they mess up. Typically the only recourse is a discount on your next shipment.
If you hire an inspection company and everything checks out at the factory, what are some other things that can go wrong?
If it’s in a poly-bag, it’s pretty much ok. The problem starts if you have it in a box that gets thrown in to a shipping container. By sea is better because there is less handling. It doesn’t get handled much until it arrives gets put on a pallet.
Greg recommends contacting the supplier and having them ship extra boxes. Many times some of them will get hit by a forklift and the packaging gets messed up which will be rejected by Amazon. The products are fine but because the box is messed up it becomes unsaleable. If you don’t have extra boxes you have to contact the supplier after the fact. The supplier will likely not send you the extras until your next shipment which leaves you with 10-15% of your products sitting around until you’re ready to order again.
Greg’s standards are whether or not he would be happy to receive it. If he order an item off Amazon, would he be happy to receive it in that condition? If not, he would send it in until it gets repacked. This is also to protect you. Amazon shoppers are picky. They will rate a product low based on the packaging. Even if the product is great but the packaging was awful, they might leave a poor review. So it’s worth it to wait to send it in rather than risk a poor review.
So if you bother with prep, why use a Prep company?
It depends on your circumstances. Whether or not you have the space and means of handling them. Make sure to receive the samples at home so you have a change to inspect them before making a large purchase.
Some people don’t realize how large their orders are. So when you try to prep 100 or 150 units, you realize that you don’t want to be doing that for 500 or 1000. 1000 units, you’re probably looking at a pallet. You have to make sure you have a place to put a pallet.
Greg had a customer call him one time about 2000 piece order that was about to dock and he was told that it was going to be two maybe three pallets. He hadn’t realize how large it was going to be and was planning on fitting it in his two-bedroom flat on the 16th floor. This would not have been remotely possible to do on his own. He had to have the help of a prep company that has the means to handle such an order.
Also, this is almost required for some sellers that do it as a side gig and they have full-time jobs and they do their sourcing and dealing with suppliers in the evening. They have no time to be messing with prep work because they have their full-time job. It’s not feasible for them to do it on their own.
What are the main steps you go through to prepare for Amazon?
What are the biggest mistakes you’ve found sellers make with freight that you’ve come across?
The story before, about the guy that didn’t know what he was going to do when it arrived. There is a scam going around where the supplier offers you shipping terms. They offer FOB prices to the port in China and CIF prices Felixstowe.
To clarify some terms, FOB is “Freight on Board”. The Chinese will pay the expenses to get your goods from their factory to the port of departure. CIF, Carriage, insurance and freight, is the exact same thing to the UK ports. So they exported the products, put it on a boat, and it will arrive at the docks in Felixstowe or South Hampton. From dockside, you have to organize onward freight and customs clearance. In Greg’s experience he got the same price for FOB in China and the CIF in the UK. It got to the UK and it seemed like it was all a part of the service, but after talking to he Freight Forwarding partner he was told it was a scam.
When it gets to the UK, the handling agents have to pay the shipping charge. It’s not free, it just gets passed on the UK agents who then pass it on to you. You then, also have to pay your normal VAT import duties, and custom clearance duty fee. He has heard figures of £600-1000 just to release the product. If you don’t pay them, you don’t get your product. They then start charging you storage fees and the costs just start rising.
What are the warning signs to look out for?
The supplier will offer you terms that look remarkably good. “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Ask for prices from other freight forwarders. Even if it just to give you an indication of what the cost might be and if the Chinese guys stack up and looks about the same, you should be fine. But if it’s considerably cheaper, then at least you know what prices you can expect.
What are some basic dos and don’ts of working with a prep company?
The biggest thing is trust. At the end of the day, you’re sending a large investment, thousands of pounds worth of product, to someone you don’t know. You don’t know if they exist. As an entity, they could just be a website and an email address and you end up sending your stuff to them. Make sure your happy with them, call them up, look for social proof. Just make sure you’re real.
Keep in mind they are an extension of you, they’re not the importer on record. They don’t have importing responsibilities, they are simply a delivery point for you. You need to tell your supplier that. Greg has gotten invoices coming in with his name on them. Then DHL, or whichever shipping company will send him an invoice for the duties. He will send that on to the customer, but the invoice is in his name. So that makes it difficult for the customer to put it in their accounts.
Even if you’re out of the country, they will be your delivery point. So it will be your name, your company, at their address. So the invoice will go to the prep company who will then forward it to you. If it’s been agreed, they will pay the duties.
Tell them it coming. As ridiculous as it sounds, inform them of it’s arrival. The worst thing for Greg is to receive six pallets of products and have no idea who it belongs to. All they have is his name on the invoice.