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#92 What are your Amazon Business Daily Rituals?

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!

#87 The Amazon Reviewer’s Perspective with Augustas Kligys – Part 2

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.

Click here for more information on the European Summit

Do you have any websites/events/places that people can learn more from you or contact you?

agustaskligys.com

European Private Label Summit

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.

#68 Post Brexit thoughts for Amazon Sellers

Brexit has hit UK based entrepreneurs, like everyone else in the UK.

But I think it’s time to start reflecting quietly on what this means for your Amazon business. There will be threats and issues – but also opportunities.

First and foremost: Don’t panic. Don’t despair. Respond but don’t react! Assess everything with a cool business brain. Don’t be a Polyanna; don’t be pessimistic, either. Just be aware of events and stay aware of threats and opportunities. When you spot the latter, act decisively!

Threats & Solutions

The USD/Pound rate

  1. The pound now buys you about 15% less in USD (at time of writing) than before Brexit (about 1.30 USD).
    1. So now is not the time to start selling in pounds (UK) and buying in dollars from China (nor in fact in RMB, the Chinese currency, which has more or less tracked the dollar).
    2. If you are already selling in the USA, and are having funds paid into your UK account in pounds, set up a USD account in the UK Fast (I use Metrobank simply because it was so quick and easy to set up an account; others use HSBC with success) and set up a receiving account with a decent currency exchange (I use Currencies Direct, who are the most cost effective and quickest out of all solutions I’ve tried).
    3. If you already have dollars in reserve, I would be inclined to use them to get more dollars, ie sell in the USA.
    4. Having said all of which, always analyse each individual opportunity (market research) for profitability/cash needed. There will almost certainly be some amazing opportunities in the UK, just be very careful to analyse  the unit costs from China.

The USD/Euro exchange rate

1. For now, if you’re selling in Euros (if you have inventory in the UK or other European marketplaces) and are selling into  Germany, France, Spain, or Italy, again, get yourself a Euro account in the UK and set up Currencies Direct or similar to receive your payouts from Amazon. Euros are for now worth more than before Brexit.

2. However, I would say that medium term (who knows exactly but I guesstimate within 6-18 months or so), the Euro itself will be hit by crises and thus lose against the pound (worth less to you  if reconverted) and against the Dollar, which you need to pay Chinese suppliers (to an extent it has itself been hit by Brexit).

I almost guarantee a crisis, if nothing else, because of the Greek debt situation. I’m no expert but it’s pretty obvious that if they couldn’t pay their debts last two crises,   next time (when they will have expanded), they will simply have to be written off to a degree (in a “haircut”). The markets are going to hate this and they will punish the Euro.  It will probably bounce back, I suspect, but that is way harder to predict.

3. Of course, one way to mitigate Euro currency risk is to sell in wealthy Euro countries on Amazon (eg in Germany) AND buy in Euros from lower-cost countries (eg Estonia). This is something I’ve been exploring in depth but I’ve no practical experience yet.

Opportunities:

Simply put, tough times thin out the herd. We aren’t in a recession yet, but for people converting pounds to USD, their dollar costs just rose 15%. That may drive some people out of the whole business model.

If there is too much competition for your liking on Amazon UK, or from UK sellers on Amazon, this is one way that it will get reduced. It may indeed be the right decision for you and your business to shut up shop. Assess objectively if you can. But equally, if you can ride it out, you will have less competition at the end of the process.

If you sell and buy in dollars, you are effectively outside the UK economy and outside the pound’s relationship to other currencies. Congratulations! You still have to deal with the intense competition on Amazon.com but if you can handle that, there is money to be made.

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#59 Kevin King Part 3 of 3: Expanding your business and the future of Amazon

Kevin King part 3 of 3 show notes 

What’s working best in your business now?

Kevin encourages people to focus on Amazon. It is the biggest platform for online shopping and if you focus on maximizing on Amazon first, it will pay off. People are already there with their credit cards out wanting to buy. Since Amazon is always changing things, you need to keep tweaking your listings to keep up with the changes. You can’t just post your products, sit back, and watch the money roll in. It doesn’t work like that.

Once you maximize on Amazon, what do you do to expand off Amazon?

Kevin is working on getting into some big-box retailers as well has having his own Shopify site. Kevin has also found success using JoeLister. Using this tool is Amazon items are automatically submitted to eBay. Any sales from eBay are sent to Amazon for shipping and sends the customer the tracking number. It’s all automated. It does a relatively small amount of sales, roughly $1000-2000 a month. However, since it is all automated he doesn’t require any additional time and effort to get those sales. It’s free for the first couple listings and after that it’s only $29 a month.

He also has his own branded site to go along with his Shopify site to add legitimacy to his brand. That way if first-time buyers try to look him up they will see that his are valid products. However, these are just tools that support his Amazon business. Again, the main focus should be Amazon.

Another great tool is Amazon Assistant for Firefox.   This is a plug-in for Firefox that allows you to download your reviews from Amazon as well as the video reviews. He then takes those videos and puts them on his YouTube channel and links those back to the product listing.

Kevin has found that Amazon is a great way to refine and improve your products for another stage. He is looking into getting into big-box stores like Sears or Wal-Mart and has been taking feedback from his Amazon customers to make sure his products are at the highest level. The last thing you would want is to get into a big store like Wal-Mart and have a low quality product. You are going to have a lot of returns and the stores aren’t going to want to carry your products anymore. So use the feedback you get from Amazon and tweak and improve your products.

His long-term goals is to create a strong brand in these big-box stores so that he is covered if something happens with Amazon. If you’re looking to make this a full-time job then at some point you will need to expand beyond Amazon because at anytime Amazon could decide to unlist you. Therefore, in order to survive elsewhere, it is important to build a strong brand. Kevin is looking to take his brand to $10 million a year by the end of 2018 and he is well on his way to reaching that goal.

Kevin explained that he doesn’t want to have a huge business with a lot of employees. He tries to take care of as much as he can by himself because bringing on other people will really eat into his bottom-line. So he isn’t a big fan of outsourcing too early. However, many people don’t have the same background and might need help with shipping and freight and will need to rely on outside help.

Kevin is also looking to expand his business into the UK. Once he gets his VAT number he will be ready to test the waters in Europe. Europeans have very similar cultures to that of the US and are just as willing to spend money. The UK has the highest ratio of online shopping to income in the world. That means that they spend more of their money online than anyone else. Plus there are 60-70 million people buying that have similar cultures and buy similar products, so the UK is a great opportunity for expansion.

A big advantage to selling in the UK is that it will be much easier to expand into other parts of Europe. Customers in, let’s say France or Germany, will have the opportunity to have their products shipped from the UK. When his sales reach a certain point, he will have to open accounts in each of these countries, but until that point he can base it all out of the UK.

A word of warning is that you need to make sure that your products can have a high enough margins because your costs may be higher when selling in other countries due to regulation cost, but more importantly, currency exchange rates. For Kevin, he will be buying everything in USD, but selling them in the UK with GBP. If he has a slow moving product and ships 1000 units, it may take him a year to sell through them. In the meantime the pound gets stronger against the dollar and now he’s losing money. For UK sellers, certain political events are having an effect on pricing, e.g. the Brexit.

What can listeners do if they want to get a hold of you, or find out more about you?

Kevin has considered consulting but doesn’t feel strongly about continuing that. He recently offered a free 15 minutes session and got about 30-40 hits on it from all over the world. Over a few days he worked with each of them, looked over their listings and helped them improve. He quickly realized that you can’t do both. You can’t do consulting as well as selling. For Kevin, consulting isn’t scalable. He can’t make money while sleeping unless he makes a course. At the rate Amazon is changing the course will quickly go out of date so he will focus on that. He is considering starting a mastermind group in the future where people can come in for a four hour session but that would be it.

Other than that you can find him on several of the American Amazon FBA groups on Facebook or just look him up on Facebook, Kevin King in Austin, Texas.

What do you see coming in 2016 and 2017 in the future of Amazon?

  • An increase in the cost of pay-per-clicks as more and more people and brands begin to see the value in it.
  • Amazon will likely clean up the catalogue. This has already begun with limitations on titles and bullet points. Kevin believes it will go even further by cracking down on images. You’ll probably see fewer banner ads and such and a heavier enforcement of guidelines.
  • Part of the problem is private-sellers who are both good and bad. Third-party sellers make up more than half of the sales on Amazon which means more money for Amazon. However, you have a lot of products that are the exact same thing just under different names. To address that you might see higher barrier to entry.
  • One such barrier could be a crackdown on UPCs. Rather than buying official UPCs from GS1, sellers are buying duplicates on eBay. So rather than being another seller on the same listing, they put it under a different UPC and have its own listing. So one thing you might see to combat this is to unlist the product if the UPC doesn’t match the database.
  • Another prediction from Kevin is an increase of big brands. Right now these small private sellers are able to compete because the big brands don’t have much focus on Amazon. They have some low-level employee putting generic information on the online store just so they have a presence. One change could be the brands putting more focus on Amazon and having a stronger presence. This could be an opportunity for some sellers. If things aren’t working under their own brand, they could approach these big companies with their experience and offer to handle their Amazon business.

Do you have any final words for Amazon sellers?

If you are willing to work hard, put in the time and dedication, and have a little money to play with, you will succeed. Just stay positive. take your failures as they come; learn from them and get better.

2

#58 Kevin King Interview – Part 2 of 3 – Finding a Private Label product, Keyword Research & Profit

What would your advice be to someone just starting off with, say $10,000 and 20 hours a week, but still has a day job? How can they get started?

The general advice is to start small. Most people would say to start with something that can be air-shipped and fits in a shoebox. Kevin believes that is the wrong approach because that’s what everyone else is doing. Instead you should go where others aren’t. The items may be a bit larger therefore you might have to ship them by sea to reduce costs, but there will be less competition which means more potential for success.

Kevin has products in the kitchen category – he’s actually doing things that go on the stove, weigh 3-4 lbs apiece. Can sell for $10-20 profit per sale rather than $4-5.

Kevin is very emphatic about ensuring the quality of the products. Never, and he means never, ship products from China without an inspection. Whether it’s the first time working with the factory or the 6th. Always get an inspection.

Ensure that you take all these costs into consideration, and then make sure you can mark it up at least 3x. Preferably 5X Also, avoid any item that has been used as an example in a training course because there will be many people that will try to replicate it which in turn means more competition. Like Greg’s bamboo sticks or Manuel Beaver’s example product.

Finally, get good images. Pay to have high quality images of your items because it will make a difference and it will pay for itself through additional sales. Use all 9 images, at least 1500 pixels a side so they are zoomable.

Even if you spend $500 for great photos, and you sell one extra unit a day at $10 profit, you have your money back after a month and a half.  A lot of people don’t read your copy. Kevin has put codes for 100% off in the description and only one person used it out of 50 orders. A vast majority of people will based their decision on the title, price, and picture.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that 60-70% of sales in the US are from mobile devices which limits how much copy people actually see. So you need to make the first little bit compelling. You have the first 200 characters of your description, and the first 3 bullet points (they have to click a button to see the others) . Make them count.

Make sure you have good packaging. Your logo should be everywhere you can put it as well as instructions for the product that prompts the customer to register the product.

Put an instruction sheet in with your packaging, that asks for a review on the back.

What advice can you offer about product launch?

Product launches are very important. Don’t skimp on product quality. You may get away with it for awhile but eventually the returns and negative reviews are going to catch up to you. Make sure to test the product yourself to ensure a high quality. The more you know about, the easier it is to market. Especially if you develop a product yourself.

As soon as there are 10-30 units of product ready (whatever fits in a case), he gets those sent over and then goes and looks for top reviewers – like Review Sniper, AMZSuite has something to look up top 10,000.

Or Google: Take competitor’s ASIN,  Search string is something like:

URL=amazon.com  ASIN “top 500”

Reach out – let product speak for itself. Customise it to person – send out 15 emails to top 500 reviewers – Kevin gets say 11 out of 15 to respond.

Don’t say “It’s great”; customise e.g. Milo is dog’s name, so put in “Great new product for Milo” in subject line.

Email:

Hi Michael

We’ve got a great new product that Milo might be interested in trying out. 

Here’s the link:

www.amazon.com/B00ABCDEF

Let me know if you’re interested in receiving one in exchange for your honest opinion.

Thanks, Kevin

Don’t try and sell them on it. Let them click on the link – if they like it, they’ll get back to you.

Some of them get 200 emails a day. Some of it is garbage!

Kevin doesn’t chase them. Maybe 6-8 will write a review. He might do one follow up a week later.

Follow-up email:

Hi Michael 

I hope the item arrived okay. Let me know if you have any questions.

Looking forward to your comments.

Thanks, Kevin

Don’t say things like “I sent this to you for free – why haven’t you reviewed it?

The next step would be to invest heavily in pay-per-clicks for a few days.

He will bid say $5 a click for a few days on an Automatic campaign. Then dial back pay per click to say 50 cents a click. This will boost your visibility on Amazon. Any sales are just gravy.

All you really need is 5-10 reviews.

It will boost the SEO value of your product which will lead to high conversion rates. You may be losing money on these sales but it will establish you in the search results. At this point you will want to incrementally increase the price back to where you intend to sell it.

Reach out to your competitors customers. Look up top reviews of competing products and contact the top reviewers about your product with a personalized email. You can offer them the product for free for their opinion on it. This will help validate the product and get the ball rolling. The best would be to get a video review. Kevin recommends hiring a service that can connect your with reviews. He recommends getting two or three reviews per variation of your product.

It’s critical to have a good video review, on the first page. If you get one down the road, it may get buried. If you get it early on, it’s likely to stick to the first page. Kevin uses a service that has keen video reviewers. Even if it’s a boring simple product, a 45 second video makes a big difference.

Once he has several reviews,  he’ll discount the product say $45 product down to $19,  and go for PPC aggressively. He’ll start getting lots of sales for say 4-5 days, any reviews will be verified reviews. Low price boosts conversion rate. Losing money on each sale but cost of entry to market. Run for 200-300 units. It goes into algorithm.
Then raise to $24.95, $29.95 back up to $45 and that’s where it will stay.

If you go “out of range” (too high) with your price, you’ll lose the buy box, even if you are the only seller! Amazon flags it as an error. 

Kevin looks at first shipment of say 1000 units as a cost of entry to a market. You have to buy your position. It’s an upfront investment. He’s got onto page 2, Kevin will spend a bit more to get to page 1, after which he will be into big profits.

You can have a product that is not in a competitive category so you don’t have to do much advertising. Just run a low bid ad campaigns.

Kevin had a sports category  product that sold only 1-3 units a day, he played with various things till it took off. Now it sells about 20 a day at $14 profit per unit after advertising cost.   Kevin recommends “Hello Profit”.

The importance of cost analysis (esp. advertising costs)

Kevin explains that the number of sales doesn’t matter. Profit does. People who run Facebook groups who boast about sales numbers don’t interest Kevin.

A lot of people have cashflow but they aren’t making profit. You can have 100 sales a day, but if you don’t factor in advertising and other expenses into your cost, you might just break even or actually be losing money.

Kevin uses spreadsheets to track his costs, once he has the data, he builds Advertising costs into Cost of Goods Sold. Kevin adds up what the overall cost of advertising is over all units sold. He knows therefore what his maximum spend on Amazon Ads can be to break even or to make a profit.

Don’t use ACoS to work out real ad costs.

EXAMPLE: Kevin has a custom product made in china for $20 each, $1.50 to ship, a few other fees, so hard cost is about $23. He sells it for $59. Amazon takes about a third roughly.

SO Amazon is roughly paying him $40 cashflow. Now he knows how much PPC costs – he can spend $7 a unit sold on advertising to make $10 per product. If say his PPC sales are ⅓ of his sales, he could spend $21 per PPC sale and still break even. 

Don’t go off ACoS to work out true Ad cos per sale – you need to break it down. Export search term report into Excel or Google numbers etc. and create a pivot table.

Brian Johnson (PPC expert) shows you how to do it in this video …and Greg Mercer (of Jungle Scout) wrote a blog post about it.   

You need to factor in COGS and changes of sales price. Lifetime ACoS is almost meaningless.  You need to see what you’re making on every single sale: how much you made and how much you spent on Ads.

If you can’t or don’t want to do this analysis, hire someone else to do it.

  Kevin recommends Hello Profit .   It is a great tool that will factor in the advertising costs, manufacturing costs, refunds, fees, and everything else that affects your profit. Kevin logs in 3-4 times a day and it will automatically calculate COGS, Amazon ads, Returns etc.

It’s not perfect or as good as Xero or Quickbooks but it’s the best thing to do to keep an eye on what’s happening. Kevin uses it to adjust PPC. If you have more than one product, at least try their 21 Free or $1 trial. Don’t forget to factor in Refunds!

What is your process for keyword research?

Do it before you order. Once Kevin decides on his product,  he does the research. Before he places his first order. Using Keyword Inspector and Scientific Seller , he will do research on his competitors to collect keyword data. Google Keyword planner is good for research, as is  Merchant Words, but some of the words are not associated with your product.

Taking all the data gathered he uses Helium 10 to makes sense of it all to find the best keywords. It de-dedupes it [removes duplicate keywords]. He’ll use this tool to build out his listing. Kevin doesn’t repeat keywords in his listing.

Amazon is always changing so it’s important to stay up on the trends. Right now the title is very important. Everything in the title will get indexed by Amazon. If you have a title like “Blue Garlic Press”, it will also index you for “Garlic Press” – some are giving away 200 units to rank for 10 keywords.

The next thing to get indexed are the bullet points. Amazon tells you they don’t index those but that’s BS.

In most categories, they do not index The description doesn’t get indexed completely. Only part of it so you need to make sure that your strongest keywords are in the first or second line.

You can type in your ASIN in the Amazon search bar next to a keyword and see if  your listing is getting indexed for that keyword

e.g. into search bar, put:

B00HEZ888K Soft-handled Garlic Press

Trust but verify!

#56 Marketing Mastery Mini Course: Principle 3: optimize!

Problem #3:  Low Conversions

Result: Wasted Ad dollars, lower sales, lower profits.

Solution: OPTIMIZE!

To find your conversion rate for each product on Amazon, there are two sources of info:

  1. Overall Conversion data:
    1. Go to “reports” on top menu
    2. Click on  “Business Reports”
    3. On left find “By ASIN”
    4. . Click “Detail Page Sales and Traffic”.
  2. For Amazon ads conversion data:
    1. click on “Reports”,
    2. from drop-down menu click “Advertising Reports”,
    3. at the top middle, click on “Search Term Report”.
    4. If needed, click Request Report button
    5. Under “Check Report Status & Download” if needed on the right click “Refresh” button
    6. on the right, click on “download” button next to latest report
    7. Open report as a spreadsheet
    8. Search for “Conversion percentage” .

Analysing Amazon ads data is a big topic in its own right. If it’s overwhelming you, just start with the global conversion data.

    1. PHOTOS
      1. Main product shot is CRUCIAL!
        1. try to differentiate from competition main shots
      2. use the first 7 shots (including the main) for most important things as last 2 are hidden unless shoppers click on them
      3. Have at least 2, maybe 3 shots with a model using the product, preferably in a logical sequence, or if it is is not totally obvious how to use a product.
      4. If you have more than one product, have the 7th shot show a composite picture of your other products, preferably with the ASIN code under each and a little text telling shoppers to put the code in the search bar
      5. Use the last two shots for little product details
      6. Many sellers also put text on their images, effective mini bullet points. It may be against ToS – but it seems to help. Your choice how far you want to push it!
    2. KEYWORDS
      1. For Amazon’s algorithm
        1. This matches customer searches to keywords in your listing
        2. Use Amazon Ads data if you have it: which keywords give best ACoS? Best sales in absolute volume? 
        3. If just starting out, use AMZTracker or other to examine the competition.
        4. Also keep an eye on competitive listings
      2. For Humans:
        1. Make sure the relevant keywords are woven into the copy
        2. Try to focus on those words that convert well if you have data
        3. If no data yet,
      3. Three places to optimize:
        1. Title (obey Amazon’s rules eg 80 character limit
        2. Bullet points – bear in mind features into benefits
        3. The Keywords tab in Seller central>Manage inventory>[Product]>Edit
    3. TITLE:
      1. Get most important keyword first
      2. Ideally get your product title in next
      3. Your brand is least important as most people have never heard of you!
      4. Check Amazon’s latest ToS – including length (may now be limited to 80 Characters)
      5. If you have data:
        1. you can match up best converting/least expensive/most sales keywords with your title. It may not be what you think.
        2. Your best converting keyword may not be the one that makes you most sales. Likewise it may not be cost effective ie profitable
        3. SO analyse your data carefully!
    4. BULLET POINTS
      1. Turn Features into Benefits, e.g. This light has Xenon 214.B lenses – so the light is more focussed, brighter and more visible at night.
      2. Keep sentences short. Keep words short. Assume 8-10 year old reading level!
      3. Be clear! Always answer the “So what?” question.
    5. DESCRIPTION
      1. Flesh out your bullet points
      2. Use simple HTML if possible: <b>bold</b> etc.
      3. Again features become benefits
      4. Don’t spend too much time on this because
        1. The Amazon algorithm doesn’t index it any more
        2. it appears below several offers from Amazon of your competitor’s products! It’s too late!

Product Example A

Sales Price  $15

Total Landed Cost $5

Amazon fees $5

Gross profit $5

Amazon ads costs

100 clicks @ $0.50 a click=$50 ad cost

Relationship between conversion rate and profit per unit

example A1 (sales price $15, gross profit $5)
At 20% conversion rate:

20 clicks out of 100 result in a sale.

Ad cost total=$50

20 sales @$5 gross profit=$100 gross profit

Profit after advertising (for 20 units)=$50

So profit after advertising per unit=$50/20=$2.50

Example A2 (sales price still $15, gross profit still $5)

At 10% conversion rate:

10 clicks out of 100 result in a sale.

Ad cost total SAME= STILL $50

10 sales @$5 gross profit=$50 gross profit

Profit after advertising (for 20 units)=ZERO!

So profit after advertising per unit= ZERO!

Relationship between price, conversion % and profit

In practice, conversion rate is strongly affected by price. The lower the price, the higher the conversion rate tends to be.  NB This is not always true if higher price gives a perception of a better quality product- test your prices!

compare with example A2 above.

Product example B1 

Sales Price  $14

Total Landed Cost $5

Amazon fees $5

Gross profit $4

Amazon ads costs per 100 clicks (average): $50

At 15% conversion rate: (Sales price $14 , gross profit $4)

15 sales @$4 gross profit=$65 gross profit

Overall Profit after ads costs=$65-50=$15

Profit per unit=$15 overall profit ÷15 units=$1
Although the price is $1 lower ($14 instead of $15), the profit is actually greater per unit ($1 a unit average over zero) and greater overall (15 units sold at $1 profit per time instead of 10 units sold at no profit)

Split testing

To find the price at which you optimise overall profit, you will need to do some form of split testing.


Simple/primitive method: You can just run the listing at one price for 7 days (or longer) then change the price and repeat. Then compare results. Without software, that’s the best you can do on Amazon.

All other things being equal, that will tell you what effect price has on conversion %, overall sales and overall profits.

However, all other things may not be equal e.g. if the demand for your main keywords happens to drop off that week due to say a national holiday, good weather, etc.

To get a more reliable result, you need to use split-testing software. In the USA, I’ve just started using Amzsplit= Splitly

Sadly it is not yet available for the UK, although they keep promising jam tomorrow! I’m exploring a UK equivalent – if it works, I’ll let you know in the Facebook group – don’t forget to join if you haven’t already!

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1

#55 Amazon Private Label Strategies: Kevin King Interview Part 1 of 3

**WARNING: Contains a bit of swearing &  A Lot of Truth!**  

How did you come to be selling on Amazon?

Entrepreneur since age 4 when resold bubble gum to friends! Not had a job as an employee since age 17.  Direct marketing background not SEO. Sells calendars directly to consumers, also wholesale.

Been selling on Amazon since late 1990s – e.g. old CDs, DVDs etc.

Also in calendar business signed up for Amazon Advantage – media only e.g. CDs, DVDs

In Q4 gets purchase orders. Start of season 3-4 a week; end of season say 1000 a week.

That alone pulls in six figures – and everything else on top of Amazon orders is 100% profit.

So Kevin has seen the power of Amazon grow.

2 years ago he looked into the PL model but didn’t jump on it, which he regrets.

Started doing it May last year – doing some Retail Arbitrage – see how shipping and systems work. He realised RA is too much work and not scaleable. Race to the bottom.

Why do PL?

Calendars are seasonal. He had pay-per-view TV revenue stream but the internet had killed that off. Plus Kevin’s Background matched all the skills needed, including:

developing packaging, product development, online marketing -plus sourcing from China and Korea. So he went for it.

Kevin’s philosophy is to prove a product on Amazon then take them into retail on other channels.

Amazon is the bulk of his revenue. This is problematic long term because they could in theory shut your account down or suspend your best selling product at any point.

Recent example: Amazon wrote to Kevin saying they’re suspending his best selling product because of an image violation. They didn’t even tell Kevin what the violation was!

Kevin worked out it could be cartoons or extra elements in the images that he had put in. So he was able to deal with the issue. But it was a reminder that you’re vulnerable to some robots or some employee doing things by the book.

Where would you get started as a newbie with Product Selection?

How much money do you need to start in Amazon PL?

Product selection depends on how much money you have to start with.

Even Scott Voelker and other people say unrealistic things about how much you need to start. Kevin says you need a lot of money. There are stories of someone who started with $300 and made a lot of money. Some of the stories are untrue, some are true. But what’s missing: five days later that person took a loan from the uncle for $10,000 & 10 days later put $20,000 on the credit card. etc.

It paints a false picture. Some people get lucky, but it’s very rare. It takes a lot of work and a lot of money. If you just want a bit of extra holiday money you could do one of two products. But to make a living demands serious money, determination and hard work. Even Kevin didn’t realise how much money it takes even with his product.

Do you believe in staying in one Amazon category and building a brand? Or do you pick each product on its own merits/just follow the numbers?

In Kevin’s case, he started five brands because he came from a product background so he was a aware  one might not work. So he wanted to increase odds of success.

Launching second product won’t double sales unless it’s just an add-on or extremely complementary. So he’s not so worried about potential complementary sales.

However, if you can, do get them. An example is that Kevin started in the makeup category. The problem was  massive competition because it was easy to get into. Now for example he sells makeup tools instead of makeup itself, and many of those are complementary [cross sales potential].

How do you go about picking products? If you had $5000 to start out but potentially use credit card later?

If it’s capital intensive, what’s your approach to finance?

Kevin will make use of available credits. For example at bankrate.com you can get find credit cards listed. Like City and Chase which will give you know percent balance transfer and also wash purchases for about 15 months

If you have good credit and some good history, there’re other places like a deal struck on deck etc. If you have a pro seller account for a year and the metrics look good, Amazon will offer you a decent rate on loans as well.

How do you differentiate your products on the competition?

In some cases, Kevin sources products that are straight up private label from Ali Baba. But he makes a few changes. Every product has retail packaging.

A lot of people will take the brown box that is given by manufacturer, but customers care about the look of packaging.

Kevin doesn’t do an initial order under 1000 units – if he doesn’t have confidence in the product he won’t buy it. He believes he can sell out over time if it was a dud product. It may take a year and tie up cash but you can sell anything on Amazon in time. So the risk is not that great.

Kevin picked his first product in May 2015 it took two months to get products out but that was okay because he used for long photo shoots and made a really beautiful products and packaging.

Three Product Examples.

Example 1: Product for dogs, just wanted to do it, the research tool said no but Kevin wants to do it anyway. It’s doing well because it’s a great positioning and marketing.

He went to www.upwork.com for CAD design in Argentina which he had sketched on paper.

He went to one factory that messed it up; 2nd factory  however made new moulds.

Kevin rarely has a hijacker because they are original. The only time that ever happens to him is when you sell the products for $0.99 to people who have accounts on review groups. So they probably have 10 accounts and they basically use it today bit of retail arbitrage..

Example 2: Kevin spent $30,000 dollars on creating a mould and tooling. But where the best seller is selling a product for $10, Kevin is doing it for $100. BSR doesn’t matter to Kevin for that reason.

The competitor is making only $1 a sale, Kevin is making $20-$30. Because Kevin has differentiation against the high end to compete, BSR does not matter to him, also at the high end of product quality and price there is less competition.

Example 3: Kevin recently launched another product in the dog space. He did use tools like: ASIN Inspector, Jungle Scout, other tools including Merchant Words and UberSuggest. However, all these tools are just guesses. The only numbers you can totally trust are Amazon ads results.

Again, most of the competition were playing at the low end. They were the equivalent of McDonald’s, whereas he wanted to create a product that was equivalent of the best steak house in town/French chef. It’s a smaller market but enough to make it work.  They were using cheap packaging, where is Kevin created a  kind of cigar box type packaging.

Kevin’s product is twice as expensive as the main competition, and has half the number of products e.g. five treats instead of 20. On Friday it was put up with no promotion. He had 3 sales with no reviews. He started PPC (one sale) but it is already selling at a high price point without it.

Differentiation and going for the High End

Kevin makes sure to be different and go for the high end of the market [less crowded/more profit].

Kevin may sometimes go to Alibaba and source an existing product. However he will add pieces to it change things so it is different.That might be thought of as bundling, but Kevin things it’s bigger than that.  It is about changing things so it is different from the existing products.

He does not go into the model of getting it in fast and then get it shipped. He is in for the long haul, not “get rich quick”. People preach that model but Kevin doesn’t buy that.

Differentiation and building a brand is an end to end process. It is no good skimping on the product or if you have issues, even if the packaging is good, it will still go wrong!

Building on email list from your Amazon customers

If you use a manage by stats, they will take your Amazon customer’s postal address is match them up email addresses. This is not perfect, but 30 to 40% should match up. 

Testing your market and their views on products

Kevin recently send out an email to 100 people on his email list. He had 20 responses and he email he sent out 20 units from his competitors, In plain packaging.

He got great feedback on the pros and cons of different models. He also got the sales copy for his bullet and title. And he knew what was a good product.

Those who raved, he went back to and asked them for reviews. He had up a dead listing for the product said that it could have reviews on. So it actually had eight reviews on it before the product went live.

Reviews – numbers and discounts

It is a myth that you need 50 or hundred or 500 reviews. However, now you really need verified reviews. If you sell it out over 50% discount, it won’t be a “verified” review. Customers are also getting savvy.

Kevin now sorts by verified reviews when he is searching on Amazon, and other Amazon customers are probably starting to do the same.

An example of this is that Kevin got a product that got five stars reviews across the board from giveaways. But after it was used for real, the real reviews went down fast.

How to maximize positive reviews – Email followup tip

Kevin has the first email which does not even offer anything, it contains tips and suggestions and checks. For example if it is a potentially dangerous product, it tells the consumer to be careful when opening it.

The timing of this email is crucial. Assuming that most customers use Prime, they will receive the product two days after ordering. So Kevin times this email to arrive one day off to the order. In other words it is after the order but before they receive the actual product.

He puts the question in the PS: “Why did you choose us?” And offers a free gift if they onto this question. Always put something in the PS if you want someone to read it.

This gives an important psychological insight before they have a product in their hands. From this he can change the listing, bullet points etc. and he gets a lot of verified reviews. About 10% respond. It gives great insight into why they hit the buy button. The product itself can negatively or positively influence them.

You start to see patterns here.

Optimising listing

What are your main points? Photos? Title? Bullet points?

The title is really important. The reviews the second most important thing including a video on page 20 possible. Images are also very important. If somebody’s shopping for a well-known brand, the images not so important. But for private label, they are crucial.

Packaging is also very very important. If you have great packaging, it can help you make sales with the photo of the packaging itself.

An example of improving packaging:  Kevin started with a $1 box. The new box cost $2.20 but he was able to raise the price to $40- $50, his customers didn’t feel ripped off, they felt they were getting a good deal. This is what to aim for.

If you look at high-end products like Apple Samsung, the packaging is absolutely critical especially somewhere as competitive as Amazon. It gives the customer confidence even if it’s not fancy, it can be a couple bucks but the spelling must be good and it must look like something they can get in a retail store. In a retail store if you think about the people by based on packaging anyway.

You can use great packaging in your photos to catch the eye and differentiate your product.

Careful who you listen to

The figure of “ 50% of full price figure to get verified reviews” comes from Kevin’s own testing and people who know what they are saying. 

Kevin warns that some people don’t have a clue are giving advice, in Facebook groups and even some podcasters. Some give great value but a lot of the podcasters don’t have a lot of experience selling. It varies a lot. It’s best to trust the guests are doing the numbers.

[Michael does not claim to be an expert in doing big numbers, which is why these days he focuses more on more on getting in guests who are doing big numbers, and focusing on what they have to say]

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right away.

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3

#51 Using Amazon Suppliers & Building Quality products with Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo – Part 1 of 2

   This episode, #51, is the first of two parts of the interview with Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo. Manuel has 11 years’ experience of sourcing in Hong Kong and China and also is an Amazon seller with several product lines live and selling well. 

EPISODE 51 SHOW NOTES

What took you to Hong Kong?

Went there for a 6 month internship  for an Austrian electronics firm in 2005. He was handling sourcing from suppliers. He fell in love with the city and a woman and never left!

He loved the drive and opportunities of Hong Kong. Very expensive but great place to live.

Do you also sell on Amazon?

Yes since August 2014. Also documented launching a whole brand. He currently has 7 products and 10 more coming in the next few months.

He’s focussed on getting after 3-5 categories in different categories. He launched then stopped a few more.  He has several businesses which were more of a priority till now.

What are they?

  1. Selling on amazon
  2. Sourcing company in hong kong for amazon sellers.
  3. A consulting and import course, step by step guide to import from china and sell on amazon but also sell to retail.

He started out with a consumer electronics brand, selling to retailers in Europe under own brand and their own brand, but also now on Amazon. Now Manuel is focussing on his own Amazon business as it is really picking up.

Tell me about stopping a product?

He used to sell smart phone accessories but then the prices got so low there was not much profit. Electronics can be very competitive.

What’s your process for selecting products? What are your selection criteria? Do you go by the numbers of individual products? Or build a brand in a niche?

Manuel is more old fashioned, doesn’t use Jungle Scout or ASIN inspection so much. He subscribes to relevant product websites. newsletters, goes to trade shows. Also looks at Kickstarter and Indigogo for product concepts.

Manuel doesn’t look into creating a huge brand in one category. Tries out one product in a niche e.g. coffee press. If that takes off, build into that niche. If not, don’t go into say grinders, filters etc. 

Coffee press now selling about 20 a day.

How do you  beat the competition?

you need to stand out to beat the competition.  Tries not to copy the competition. This is his approach. Will Tjernlund does copy the competition, but Manuel is more interested in creating unique products and building a brand.

How can we make a product unique in a simple way?

Example 1: Blue tooth speaker-

The sample looked bad, plastic finish, bad sound, packaging horrible. 

The finish rubber instead of plastic was 20 cents more but immediately looked better.  Then looked at components, sound was bad, different driver sounded much better and cost just 50 cents more.  Used photographer to get better photos. 

He turned a $10  product into a $30 product but only cost him $2 more.

Focus on finish, minor improvements etc.

Example 2 – Coffee Press

There are  lots of stainless steel finishes, but no copper finish.  So Manuel had that done and added in extra filters etc.

Look at the little things you can change.

Tell us about working with suppliers. What’s the best way to approach your supplier about this?

Introduce yourself including company presentation –

Create an excel file or word doc about the product- include bullet points, this is where it’s at, this is what i want instead. 

Also point out that if you improve the product, they will make more sales with other customers as well. so they are more willing to make changes with costs.

So you’re not trying to get an exclusive deal with them?

Amazon sellers are mostly a small part of a suppliers’ business. if Manuel does say $10,000 a year he’s a very small fish. that may be 0.5% of their turnover if you work with a big factory (this is true for his own coffee press. They also work with Tesco’s who order $1m a year)

How do you get an exclusive deal for amazon rights?

He has set up an agreement with the Purchase Order which says – “My plan is to order 10,000 units. Are you willing to give me exclusivity for a year. If I don’t reach 5000 units within 6 months, we can cancel this agreement. “

This give Manuel 6 months to figure out if he wants to place more orders and it means the supplier can make more profit too after 6 months. 

Manuel is okay with that because he would have a head start, maybe 100-200 reviews already. It’s okay to have competition. It’s not all about one item only.

Manuel is happy if he can do 6 months of excellent sales on one product. That repays the time and money invested already. 

Greg Mercer was saying if you get 6 months’ head start, you can defend your product against competition. So you agree with that?

Yes, that does work.

Where do you go to look for suppliers?

Manuel has collected over 1000 business cards for suppliers from previous job being a product manager, when he went to China every 2 weeks.

Manuel also works with a lot of trading companies. He will sometimes be willing to pay say 50 cents more and use a trading company, similar to agent. Some of them work as if you are working with factory, for example if factory doesn’t speak English, don’t know about country requirements eg CE (European Union), FCC (USA), FDA (Food & Drug Administration, USA) approval, doesn’t have experience exporting to a country, etc., etc.

So working with a trading company can make a lot of sense.

Alibaba and Global Sources Manuel does use if he can’t find anyone through his network – you can verify and vet the suppliers. You can still vet them by checking their certificates, asking who they work with,  Which markets they export to etc.

For example, If Manuel asks “where do you export to?” and they say, “Middle East” and you want to export to USA, don’t bother. He wants a supplier

It’s also good to know a few names in the industry eg small supermarket or worked with an Amazon seller before. Check business certificate.

What are the big does and don’ts for selecting a supplier? Assuming Alibaba, Global Sources or HKTDC and someone who is new to the process.

There is a lot of filtering you can do. e.g. a microwave on Alibaba, filter by Gold Supplier, trade assurance, 3rd party verification.

You can also filter by region – say 10 different provinces of China.

Let’s say Guangdong have 5000 suppliers and another has just 10. That shows you where the main factories are for this kind of product.

If a region specialises in making those products, they have the resources and the infrastructure.

Say in Jeijung province, with 10 supplier results, they probably don’t specialise in that.

There are many other filters you can use.

Send out enquiries to 10 suppliers. 3 or 4 get back to Manuel with and answer all his to Qs

Email out “vendor profile”,  asking for:

  • 2 customer references for customers
  • markets. Has he exported to this country before?
  • business certificates, and certificates for prods
  • no workers; when company established; annual turnover.
  • do they do R & D? Have their own engineers? how many product lines?

You get a gut feeling after a while.

This is included in import dojo ebook as a downloadable document.

Import Dojo is actually a 60-page book which is a bestseller on Amazon! It is free at the company’s site. 

 What’s next in your process?

Get a soft copy of any certificates needed – prove he has it!

IF that’s okay, then ask for a sample from at least 2-3 suppliers. Same process with all suppliers.  If all samples are equal, go with most responsive/proactive and helpful supplier, even if price is a little higher. Then place an order. 

So you’re okay with higher prices?

They need to make profit too, they work hard. The factory will be business partner, it should be a fair biz relationship. As long as profit is built into your price, it’s fine to pay a little bit more.

If you have individualised products and with good product price, you can afford
If you’re building a brand, if you squeeze in cheap products, it won’t help. 

I guess it depends on whether you have customised products vs. commoditised products sold en masse?

Yes, I’m building a brand, so selling cheap products to make a quick buck is not part of my strategy.

What is the best tip for negotiating on product price once you have verified that the quoted price is in the fair region? Should simple customisations really cost that much more?

There shouldn’t really be a big difference. Unless the supplier has to invest money into a new tool or a new mould. If it’s just a colour difference, it shouldn’t be much.

To find if it’s reasonable, ask at least 3 suppliers for a quote. IF one is way off on price, he’s either incompetent or trying to rip you off!

To contact Manuel, click here for the Import Dojo contact page.

NEXT EPISODE

In Episode #52, Manuel gives details on keeping your money safe, getting quality control for Electronic Products, simple ways to start with Freight, overall process and predictions for the future of Amazon. Stay tuned!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

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#50 Product Process, Suppliers, Freight and Amazon Future with Anthony Lee Part 2

NEW PRODUCT PROCESS

So a product jumps out at you from the universe.

Can you talk us through your process with a new product (from selection to re-ordering)?
(from product selection, via supplier selection, freight/supply chain, getting products to Amazon, product launch)

What are your criteria/ numbers?

Look for main KW “The thing that it is” on page 1 – using Jungle Scout, Anthony wants to see at least 60% of sellers doing $15,000 sales each. He wants a handful under 250 reviews. They’ve probably been there under a year, so there’s room for AL to take some market share.

He’ll glance at BSR – a number between 2000-4000 =mid competition. Anthony is confident he can easily get on page 1.

80% of all factories in the world are in China – it has lots of real estate, dedicated to factories. Everything AL sources is located in China.

Next step is to find a supplier using Alibaba, Global Sources,. Global sources is his go to place. HK is an easy place to reach and many of their suppliers go to their trade show. HKDTC (never had much success so far) and Made in China as backups.

Criteria: Gold Supplier for 3 years – they have to pay for that. Make sure they take some kind of secure payment -they’re probably not trying to rip people off.

Send out your enquiry. Ask for samples first – if it’s crap, cost doesn’t matter! 3-4 samples generally.

You pare down – send emails. certain %age come back; ask for samples; certain %age respond.

Whittle down to highest quality then  pit them against each other for quotes.

“I really like your quality and I personally would like to work with you. But my partners would like to work with your rivals because of price.”

ALWAYS make custom modifications. Put logo on product not just package, have the product itself your brand colours. Better for brand and for hijackers etc.

Give them design specs, place a 30% deposit but have them send you a sample of your design.

Use that to check quality and for photos.

How do you deal with Quality control?

Have an inspection co. like Asianinspection or Richforth. Contract them for a man day (unless it’s electronic in which case you might need a week) 300 USD for one man day.

Have it set against a margin of error. So you know it’s good to go before you leave the factory.

You tell the factory they won’t get 70%

You can work with a sourcing agent. It’s just hard to find someone you can trust. Most of them are very much making a deal with the factory and you. Get paid on the front end and the back end. It turns out AL has 15 years’ experience as an importer and AL is now communicating with him. That will help with QC – they can check factory, batch inspection.

The real low tech way/cheap way to do it – find someone on Upwork to go to the factory and send a Skype video or pictures of the production line or products. Have them toggle switches etc.

What are the biggest issues you’ve met with suppliers? What are your best solutions?

AL has been “lucky” but that’s because he has a lot of hoops to jump through before he’l work with them. He’s heard the horror story e.g. sample quality not real quality or jack up prices last minute etc. Not experienced yet.

The best way is to very very thorough about selection process.

What other hoops do you make them jump through?

Communication. How responsive are they? If it takes 2 days to get an email back, am I a priority?

When we get to a certain point, what’s your Skype? how about your mobile/cell phone?

I have them send pictures of the production facility. Because

  1. see the factory. 2. How willing are they to do it?
    The factory is your biz partner – they’d better act like it! If you were gong into  biz with someone in your own country how you would you want them to act?

How do you handle freight? Supplier’s carrier?

How do you deal with inventory management?
It’s a big area of confusion! AL does not have a courier account with DHL etc. because he doesn’t do much air freight. He just uses supplier’s courier account for samples – he  even has a standard template for samples.

For everything else he uses sea freight as it is significantly less expensive. Generally he shipped LTL (Less than a Truckload /LCL (Less than a Container Load) although now mostly 20-40 foot containers.

Because the closest US coast to China is the West coast, and the most common port is Longbeach, he specifically looked for a Freight Forwarder in LA. So that is freighting by sea and delivered the shortest distance. Then he does LTL pickup by Amazon who picks up palletized and labelled units ready to go to Amazon.

SO you’re looking for a one-stop shop for warehousing and freight?

Yes, wanted to make process as easy as possible. They contract with a customs agent to handle the customs clearance. AL just gets an email with the bill. They make it really easy.

An alternative is to use Asia based Freight Forwarders – they get amazing deals on fast boats out of China. So you need to go through the same process.

Amazon decided that everything is going to Moreno CA so West Coast made sense. However, every time they have a strike, his products get stuck. The absolutely best way is to go out and get as many quotes from FF as possible. As lots of questions and get one that will take the time to educate you. One of them might say “Well our clients do it this way” and make a suggestion.

Tell us about inventory management – when a product is selling, what then?

What about “Killing off” products with low sales or low profit?

AL doesn’t yet use inventory management software – doing it manually is a pain. It’s tricky because you base reordering decisions on two weeks’ sales; then you get a spike in sales and you will run out of stock. The other danger is demand drops off instead and you buy too much inventory so you pay high warehousing fees. That’s when supply chain management evolves.

You need to look at warehousing deals so at some point you can bring in whole containers and bring  only a couple of pallets to Amazon.

Every product is seasonal. You need to be in the game before you learn that pattern for a particular product. A store manager might be your first hire – a necessary one if you’re going to have and grow a business based on importing.

When to let go of products?

A lot of people come in thinking they need to make lots of sales or it’s over. If the product is still making you a profit, you should maybe reconsider. Even if it’s only a small amount. If you get 5% return, it’s worthwhile.

What’s your approach to cashflow management?

Al is just starting that conversation – chances are you will run into this soon enough. The solution is not in the system itself. Cash injections become important.

AL’s short term solution has been credit. Will Tjernlund uses Amazon outside of PL to make cash faster – wholesaling ideas are fantastic. When you’re in this business, you’ll make a lot of connections. It could be someone in your local area who doesn’t have product on Amazon or it’s not selling well. You probably have more Amazon experience than they do. SO soft sell – let me help you with this – good way to make extra cash. AL has recently been working out profit share deals with people who want to

Leverage whatever skills you have. A lot of people want this skill but don’t have time to develop. A lot of retailers are on a 36 month contract and paying whether they make sales or not. You could come in with a solution  and make them extra money.

You can work out a wholesale deal. You can do consulting. Whatever comes your way.

Bigger picture

What’s working well right now in your business (that you can reveal)?

Finding great margin deals by establishing relationships with factories and suppliers. Then get on page 1 for main keywords.  AL has one  product only selling 2 a day which will kill it in Q4.

What are the most successful sellers you know doing right now?

One person is leveraging Facebook advertising for both Amazon and Shopify sales.

Either learn an avenue really well, or pay someone else who knows it really well.

Another friend takes advantage of every single offer. Every beta programme they do, she takes it. She’s got someone at amazon who answers her email. She is killing it!

Find an area where you can get visibility for your products and get really good at it.

What do you see coming in terms of changes that we should be thinking about adapting to… In the next year?

Predictions are mostly wrong! But a focus of unique products is coming – we’re in the middle of a Kickstarter crowdfunding craze. SO AL assumes that Amazon will get a lot more of untested unproven concepts coming out. This might be the next generation of sales. The marketplace has proven they like this kind of thing. There will be a lot less competition for those products.

If you have an idea, this will be growing, -there are prototyping companies out there, go for it.

In the next five years, there will be other marketplaces – whatever teenage girls are doing now will become big! App based – right now, teenage girls are buying products on App based programmes like Wish etc, which are basically like eBay

Do you have any parting words of advice?

The most important thing is: understand you are serving a marketplace, a niche, not just selling a product. Treat it like a business – it’s an investment – go at it with a calm pulse, understand that it takes time. The growth curve is never easy, it’s never in a straight line but stick with it.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right away.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is: http:// amazingfba.com/feed/podcast.

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask

 

#49 Amazon market research, credit & margins with Anthony Lee Part 1

How did you come to be selling on Amazon?

Working as a waiter! Not really. AL saw a video on PL on Amazon and that was it!

How come Private Label?

AL was taught only PL and that’s what he’s done. He only knows about wholesale from Will Tjernlund.

Do you sell only on amazon.com or also in the UK and/or Europe?

Currently in the USA. Everyone expands their business in their own way. AL has decided to focus on building off Amazon rather than expand Amazon internationally.


How do you find products?

The “Standard” answer: try to find things that you use. Walk around kitchen/dining room and when you see something that you use, you will able to ID with target demographic because you are in it! (About 2 products found this way). Makes figuring out Customer Avatar much less complex.

Then check the numbers to see if other people are making money with the product. If they check out, go deeper.

The “real answer”: Decide on a Category e.g. kitchen. Then look in the relevant dept at the shops, in your friend’s cupboard – become mindful and the universe will show you a product! [Then check the numbers]

Do you believe in staying in one Amazon category? Or do you pick each product on its own merits/just follow the numbers?

Start with product on own merits. Then plan to expand into the category with your brand.  Then start thinking of the implications – what are complementary products?

How do you deal with the increased competition in the Private Label Amazon market( esp. USA)?

A lot of people look at the competition – there is a lot of “sky is falling” thinking!

The days you could trip over something to make $100K a month are over but that was always going to be short lived. Now it’s just levelling out.

BUT The idea it’s too saturated is silly. More people starting on Amazon leads to new products on Amazon which create new markets – also if you intro a new product, you’re the only seller!

You don’t sell a product and have an Amazon business; you have a physical prods biz and Amazon is just a channel.

Do you use other sales or marketing channels?

Took a while to learn that FBA is the most affordable fulfillment centre. AL spend 6 months looking for alternatives but Amazon is the best!

The next was finding companies to connect Amazon FBA to other channels. AL has put products on Jet – long approval process – eBay templates are being built. Next month going on Sears, Rakatan. Shopify site is nearly up. 

Tell us more about a “Customer Avatar”?

If you sell anything, you always have an ideal customer/target demographic. Person most likely to see, love and buy your product. Focus on them and don’t go broad – you will miss easily sales if your message is too diluted. Focus language- when you’re writing bullets/description e.g. if you sell male enhancement, the language is men “he/him”etc. – refine that ever deeper the more you know your avatar.

Ask” by Ryan Levesque (on Smart Passive Income podcast) uses surveys for this.  Do you do this?

It’s hard to do this because Amazon’s customers are not your customers. But once you have an email list, it’s very powerful, yes. But until you have that, just pay attention to your data.

If you run FB ads, look at the demographics and over time build a picture.

Gender, age range etc. e.g. Baby market – AL started with idea of just mums but gradually got more specific.

Surveying your own audience/buyers really does give you amazing results.

Yes, it is very important who you’re hitting

[Andre Chaperon the email marketing “guru” is obsessed with Customer Avatar].

Dealing with increasing competition – from moderate to tough. How do you deal with this?

Before AL used to say: “Find a product and do it really well.”  Now it’s: “He who has the most SKUs wins”. [SKU=Shelf Keeping Unit, i.e. a product line]

When you start out,   “failing” may be that your listing is buried in page X.  Once you get to the point where you know what you’re doing, “failure”=selling only 5 a day of a product.

But if you have 300 product lines doing 5 sales, that’s a living!

Having a fleshed out catalogue is  great for your brand. if you approach wholesalers you’re better placed. there are many benefits. It’s a very capital intensive approach but all of Amazon products business is capital intensive so you just have to be very intelligent with your product choices of inventory and expansion.

How do you make intelligent choices i.e. use of capital?

Most people come in thinking “If I can make $8000 sales/mo at 45% margin i could quit my job.”

AL says: “Keep your job and reinvest your money for 5 years.”

With a traditional business, you would give it 5-10 years before you give up on it. So why not with Amazon?

It’s a tough sacrifice but if you reinvest everything repeatedly, you’ll really build out your cat and have more options. That and intelligently using credit. Business credit cards are building AL’s credit and opening new SKUs.

Where would you advise using credit and where avoid?

If you can afford to make 3X the minimum payment per month, then using a credit card to expand your brand is okay. So in the end, that won’t hurt your credit. What you do have is new inventory to make new money off. This is a strategy if you have  couple of products doing pretty well.

If you’re starting out, it’s more of a risk. AL did max out 3 credit cards to start because he had no capital. It’s a personal choice. But it’s not a good idea to take out credit for a highly competitive product.

What sort of margin would you aim for in general?

Aim for 50-55%. It never works out that way because of competition and price wars. AL has an average across all SKUs of 36%. But the wiggle room is there now.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right away.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is: http:// amazingfba.com/feed/podcast.

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask