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190 How to Sell in Amazon Europe with Gil Lang Part 2 of 2

Today we will be delving further and looking at Amazon Europe. In Part 1 we spoke with Gil Lang of Private Label Journey, a German Amazon seller about the mindset of German consumers and the challenges and opportunities of building an Amazon business in Germany.
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146 FBA Inventory Management with Jeremy Biron of Forecastly Part 3 of 3

Maintaining Ongoing FBA Inventory

There are many things that you have to take into consideration. You have to think of your lead time and everything that goes into it. Also consider receiving time at Amazon. It might take awhile for them to check it in. When planning a strategy for your FBA inventory, you should plan for the worst case scenario. There could be issues with it getting backed up at port or issues with your supplier.

Using Software to help FBA Inventory Management

A great thing about using software for forecasting, is that they can keep track of that, whether it’s Jeremy’s Forecastly or another piece of software. It tracks inbound inventory, current inventory, what you have in manufacturing, and true sales velocity.

You also need to consider spikes in sales. You may have consistent sales every day, but a couple times a month your sales spike. This is why you need to build in a safety stock. That gives you a cushion so that if you get a surge in sales, you have enough stock to cover it until your next shipment gets there.

Forecastly

Forecastly has many business that use its service. The software can then use this anonymous data to make predictions about Amazon as a whole. It takes ASIN level data over the past 30, 60, and 90 days to makes prediction about future sales numbers.

Their main focus is demand forecasting. It considers your recent sales including stock out periods. If you were out of stock, it can determine what you would have sold had the product been available. It also tracks the variability of demand which is something you can’t do in a spreadsheet.

The main thing you have to be conscious of when managing your FBA inventory is, what do you need to replenish, when do you need to replenish it, and how many units do you need to replenish. Forecastly tracks all that while monitoring your inventory and will recommend your orders.

Many sellers want to use a 60 day trend to determine their sales velocity which is a bad idea. If you selling in an upward trend, meaning your sales are growing, then your sales were much lower 60 days ago. This will make your average too low. Forecastly uses a 30 day trend to get the most up to date projections.

False Rule of Thumb

We, here at Amazing FBA, love a rule of thumb. Unfortunately, when it comes to FBA inventory, many sellers follow a rule of thumb that won’t help them, and could hurt them. It’s the idea that you need to have X amount of days worth of inventory. Whenever they place their order, they bring it back to this magic number.

For example, if you wanted to maintain 90 days of inventory and you order monthly with a 30 lead time. When it’s time to make an order, you have 60 days of inventory. Based on this, you would order 30 days of inventory.

You don’t need that much inventory. You wouldn’t need to order for another month because you have a 30 day lead time and you’re tying up cash in stock you don’t need. The rationale behind this method is security. The attempt to avoid stock outs by keeping a large amount of stock on hand.

Future of Amazon according to Jeremy Biron

Amazon will continue growing their own private label brands. So Amazon is now your competitor. International markets are growing. The European markets are booming. If you’re having success in the US, you’ll want to take those products to the UK and the rest of Europe. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to come up with a separate replenishment strategy as well as deal with the tax regulations. There is an opportunity, though. Especially in Germany where 40% of the sellers are non-German, and very few are American. That means they are willing to buy from foreigners, but not many Americans are there yet.

As Amazon grows, the more warehouse space they will need. They are investing in new space, but they don’t want to overdo it. You will likely see seller-fulfilled-prime see some growth as a solution to this problem though will come with its own issues.

The inbound process is likely to change. It used to be that you would just slap on a UPS label. Then you had to also do the Amazon label. Now you have to do box contents. It’s going to get more and more complicated as Amazon continues handling more inventory.

If you want to receive a free tool for launching new products, head on over to Forecastly.

143 Selling on Amazon 2017 by Brad Moss of Product Labs – Part 4 of 4

What are your big picture things that you’re looking out for in regard to Selling on Amazon 2017?

Brad’s very first day at Amazon, he was working next to a guy named Tor. When asked what he was working on, Tor responded that he was working on the GCID program. It stands for the Global Catalog Identification system. This means that people can have a brand, and put their own brand on Amazon and have these account numbers linked to their brand. Brad says that this was the start of the whole brand revolution that has happened over the past three years. People have discovered that private labeling is much better than competing by the box. Instead of people competing over the same item using the pricing algorithm, many have moved to private label and own the ASIN. Now they get all the sales.

This year, with all the fraud stuff going on, Amazon is figuring out brand protection and brand control, and those are big things coming from inside Amazon; trying to get more brand control and brand protection. Big brands, like Sony, was the originally intended beneficiary. These companies have a lot of products with fraudulent listings. Then they realized they could extend it for a lot of people.

Amazon has gotten more into brand gating, and brand content because of these sellers. This is likely going to be the beginning of a program that sellers love. Amazon will get that feedback and keep building more and more around your brand. This also builds consumer trust.

Consumer trust is a big thing lately. A lot of people have come out about getting defrauded by Chinese sellers not being forthright about the authenticity of their products. Now Amazon has a big PR battle to deal with.

That’s a big issue. That’s a major differentiator between them and eBay. eBay feels more like the wild west whereas Amazon was more in control with actual brands. So consumer trust is one of, if not the, biggest thing on Bezos’ mind.

When things like that come out, all the big heads come together and institute new programs to solve whatever problem. Amazon is trying to solve the fraud issue with brand gate and brand control.

You said there were two things about where Amazon was heading. What was your second thought?

It’s not so much about where Amazon is heading, but rather the minds of the brand owners needs to be going in. You have a lot of these large brands that really understand brand management because they have been doing it for 50 or 100 years. Amazon has enabled these new sellers and they are powerful and effective at building their brand.

The idea, for the last couple years, is that these people have gotten a certain part of the brand going and now they have to determine where to go from here. Over the next couple years, you’ll see more sophistication in the brands. Who the brand is, who identifies with it, what’s the target audience.

You mentioned the Chinese sellers. Obviously, Amazon is courting them, and trying to create a link to them. They’ve gone so far as to open offices in China. How can we, in America, the UK, or anywhere else in the world, compete with the Chinese sellers trying to sell direct on Amazon?

It comes down to what do you mean by compete. If you think about what the Chinese are good at that those in the UK aren’t. They have manufacturing there with some very competitive costs. There are other manufacturers in the world that have better prices, but they’re harder to reach because you can’t look them up on Alibaba.

The bigger question is, if these manufacturers can cut out the middlemen and sell direct to consumer, where does that leave these middlemen that are trying to create a brand? That’s what the majority of these sellers are.

Many of these manufactures don’t have the acumen to be that middleman. They’re not very good at it. The middleman is very valuable. They are doing the work to build a brand and they’re doing the research on what’s going to be a big seller. There is a place for sellers. Remember, just because these manufacturers can make the products cheap, middlemen are still needed to figure out what products need to be marketed.

There is some worry about counterfeit. If a seller does all the research and comes up with a brand idea, and what if someone else takes the idea and sell their own. Brad spoke with some attorneys when he was in Hong Kong. They said that you can actually set rules and regulations of your products with the manufacturer. That way they can’t take your product and sell it to someone else. You can work within the Chinese system and shut down other manufacturers if they copy what you’re doing.

Just remember what they can do, what your can do, where the value lies, and how your brand can gain consumer trust. How often is a Chinese manufacturer gathering emails, and sending emails to their customers. That’s a very western idea and way of thinking.

You can email Brad at brad@productslab.net, or use the contact form on their website, productlabs.net. If you would like to use his video service, please go to amzproductvideo.com.

 

134 Buying Wholesale for Amazon with Will Tjernlund – Part 3 of 3

Buying wholesale has been talked about a lot by more ambitious Amazon sellers. But is it still a viable business model, to approach a wholesaler and try to sell on Seller Central?

Buying wholesale from a  brand owner is still viable for sure; someone which owns one brand. As far as a wholesaler, that distributes several brands, it depends. They have to make their profit too, and there might not be enough margin to go around. They are also likely to be selling to other Amazon sellers which would cut into your sales.

If you go to Back Country, they would carry the Black Diamond brand, as well as many others. Will wouldn’t buy from them but rather buy directly from Black Diamond.

What do you do to get a product launched these days?

One of the big reasons Will got into Vendor Central is that he hates launching products. It’s much easier to start with a product that already has 10,000 reviews. His philosophy is not to do something that’s hard just because it’s hard. So many people are worried about building a brand and launching products from scratch. It’s a lot easy to just make money first. Then, when you want a challenge, build your brand.

One recent product launch Will and his team did, was they got ping pong accessories from China. Got them in, slapped labels on them, no real packaging to them. They sent them into Amazon. There was four different types that they bundled in two and four packs. They’ve sold about 357 units in a month in a half and they just got their first review.

They spent $1000 on PPC  to make $4000 so their A-cost is about 25% which is about break-even but gets them some traffic. It’s selling about seven units a day at $6 or $7 and he did nothing more than throw it up on Amazon. It’s all because he picked the right niche with the right keywords. He knew he could compete only on price.

If you are trying to go after a product that has 1500 reviews, then you will need 1500 reviews just to compete. What’s your strategy for getting 1500 reviews? If you do 1500 giveaways, that’s not sustainable. If someone wants to sell dog leashes because they love dogs, what can you do with that? You can’t put your love of dogs in the title. You can’t work with that. However, if you want to sell leashes because you see a gap in the market of seeing-eye dog leashes. They’re all 20ft long which makes no sense if the person is blind. It needs to be 4ft long. Great! You found a gap in the market. You found a specific keyword. There is a way to differentiate yourself and add value. Also, you didn’t need to do some crazy manufacturing. Just make a shorter leash.

Thinking off-Amazon, do you see any future with Wal-Mart’s third party seller platform?

No. No one really has that app on their phone. A lot of people will go out of their way to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. Just Google “people of Wal-Mart”. There is a negative stigma. Much like eBay. Will they take a portion of the market? Yeah, but they won’t be a major competitor. People like the simple Amazon experience. Plus, if you’re going to buy something from walmart.com, why not just drive down the road and get it right now? The only real benefit Will sees from walmart.com is that if your product does well on their website, they might try to sell it in the stores and then you’ll be able to sell it in all the big-box stores.

Speaking of eBay, do you think their market share will shrink in the next couple years?

Will was recently talking with a hedge-fund manager that owns a part of eBay who said that eBay looks good compared to other retailers. Who are the competitors? Macy’s who’s closing thousands of stores. Sears who is closing thousands of stores. Of course their going to look good in comparison when the competition is about to go bankrupt. They may grow 3.5% year after year, but the S&P average was 18%. 3% isn’t that cool. The numbers of people that get online in America grows at 3%. So eBay is growing at the rate of the internet and slower than GDP.

If you’re wanting to get started in Vendor Express quickly, what would you look for in a product?

You will want to find a product in a category that Amazon isn’t sourcing and selling already. Then they will want to get their hands on it. Plus, if you have sales history on top of that, Amazon will love it. If you find that Amazon isn’t selling in climbing ropes, but they are selling 9 of the 10 dog leashes, then they’re not too excited to get anymore dog leases. Buying wholesale is a good way to start this. 

FBA selling VS. Vendor Central?

It really depends on a lot of factors. It depends on how much cash flow you have, what kind of distributor you have, what the competition is like. Let’s say you have one Chinese supplier that you buy iPhone cases from. They’re the only ones that are waterproof and you buy 10,000 at a time and you have $100,000 in the bank. From they, maybe you build momentum in Seller Central, then move it to Vendor Central so they see the momentum. In Seller Central, you might be ranked in the thousands for iPhone cases, but in Vendor Central you might be rank 1 for waterproof cases.

There is a company in Hong Kong that does Vendor Central so they don’t have to pay taxes in each state whenever they sell in Seller Central. There is all sorts of different scenarios that will affect the decision. Amazon pays for inbound shipping when they order from you in Vendor Central. So if you have a large product that is expensive to ship, you can save a lot of money by using Vendor Central.

What are your predictions for 2017 and beyond?

So 2017, third-party sales will still grow from 2016. However, at the same time, Amazon will condense. If you look at their earnings report, the number of items offered for sale has gone down; the number of items fulfilled have gone up. Amazon is clearing up a lot of junk sellers. You have people like Will going through and condensing their listings. Once they get rid of the riff-raff, it’ll be much more simple, and you can tell who the private labelers are that care, and who’s selling junk. Eventually, the junk ones will phase out. The sales of third-party sellers will go up, but the amount of third-party sellers and third-party products may fall over time. So, by the time 2018 rolls around, everyone will try to find a way to differentiate themselves because the third-party selling will become a thing of the past.

Where to find Will:
goatconsulting.com
Email him at will@goatconsulting.com for a Vendor Central VS Seller Central profit calculator.
Twitter: @wtjern
Facebook: facebook.com/tjernlund

139 Greg Mercer on Amazon in 2017 – Part 5 of 5

What are your thoughts on Amazon in 2017? What’s coming? And what do we need to do to prepare for it?

It’s no surprise to anyone that sales with Amazon in 2017 will get more complicated. There is more competition. It will probably weed out those that aren’t committed and aren’t willing to invest the time and money needed. It’s going to get more sophisticated. The person just throwing something up on Amazon probably isn’t going to make it. The ones that put in the effort, and work to make sure it’s a good product to sell will excel.

We’re going to need better listings now that there is enhanced brand content. More people will start using that making it more difficult for those who don’t.

Email follow-up sequences will become more important. They’ve always been important, but now that they are the only real way to get reviews, they are that much more important.

Inventory management will become more important. It’s not secret that Amazon’s distribution centers are bursting at the seams. That can’t really hold more products. So we will likely see stricter inventory control. Whether that’s higher storage fees, or they don’t allow to send in shipments on products that they already have a lot of inventory for.

It’s seems obvious hearing that, but I didn’t really think about it. A couple months ago we were trying to ship products to Amazon. We were warned against sending new products until after the holidays. And it’s fantastic that you were able to talk to Amazon lawyers. It’s reassuring to know that JumpSend is sound and don’t have to worry about getting flagged or banned for using it. I’m definitely going to use it with my next launch.

#80 How to prep for Amazon UK with Greg Jones – Part 2

What are the major freight paperwork and how do we overcome those?

If you are using a courier or one of the freight professionals, they do all that for you. You don’t have to worry about the various paperwork, custom claims, etc. This is a skill these guys have been working on for years, they can do it better and more efficiently than you, so let them do it. UPS is around £11 per shipment for customs clearance. DHL is right around there as are most of the others. Since you’re importing the product, most of the paperwork is done by the exporter and you’ll end up with the VAT and the duty. Both of these are calculate off the commercial invoice.

One thing the Chinese like to do to be nice, is send the shipment as samples. If they are a sample, that’s fine. However, if you’re shipment is 500 units, that clearly isn’t a sample. At some point, the guys at HMRC are going to catch on and you may end up with penalties as well as your future shipments getting more scrutiny causing delays.

You have a proper business, so you want to make sure you do things by the book. It may cost you more in duties, but you want to build your business on solid ground.

Another they offer is to lower the cost of the invoice to stay under a certain value at which point things become more complicated. Is that something to avoid as well?

At the end of the day you’re evading taxes, which simply put, is wrong. Also, if you get caught you may end up getting put on a list which will further delay you in the future. If one of the customs officials gets to digging around and realizes your products are valued at more than what was declared, they will put you on a watchlist. Ongoing shipments will be inspected and paperwork will be scrutinized which will hold up your shipment.

Do you need to instruct your suppliers about commercial invoices or will that be checked by DHL or UPS?

A commercial invoice is just like any other invoice. It will detail the value of what your purchased, the goods you purchased, the delivery address, the importer on record’s address, and the commodity code. That is a global code that details what the product is classified as which you can find on the HMRC website. So when the shipment comes in they can charge import duties.

Is that something the Chinese supplier will automatically put on the invoice and get right?

Well… they’ll put it on the invoice. It may not always be right and there is no way of going back and saying this is wrong, so you’ll just have to double-check it and next time you order tell your supplier that they put the wrong commodity code on it. Which could save yourself some money since the import duties can vary depending on this code. It can range from 0-12% on top of VAT.

How is VAT calculated? Is it the value of the goods only? So if I have 500 units that cost $2 a piece, is VAT calculated on that $1000?

It is the commercial invoice value + freight + duty. VAT is calculated on the total of all three.

Is there anything else we need to get on the commercial invoice? Say I order a shipment, sent to your prep company, do I need to make sure all that is on the invoice and how do I communicate that to DHL or whoever?

It does need to be on there, but in Greg’s experience if doesn’t matter. It seems to be a daily battle with FedEx, or DHL trying to get the person on the commercial invoice or airway bill. It doesn’t matte who the consignee is, Greg seems to always get the bill sent to FBA Pep UK at his address. If you look at the paperwork that comes with it, it clearly states the correct customer but they seem to ignore that.

How do you handle that, when you get the invoice in stead of your customer?

It depends on the customer. Some will just pay it which is fine. Even though it’s FBA Prep UK on the bill, they can’t sort it out. The customer has to contact them and tell them that they will accept that invoice.

The biggest takeaway seems to be that it’s best to just use a freight forwarder or use your courier and make sure that your name and the company name is on the paperwork.

Those guys are the professionals. They are doing this day in and day out. Sure you can learn it, but that’s time better spend on your company and sourcing more profitable products.

Another thing you have to worry about is your EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification scheme) number. Which is a number supplied by the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). You can’t apply for one unless you have a shipment coming, and you can’t get your shipment into Europe until you have it. It takes about 3 or 4 days to get it, so as soon as your supplier gives you all the detail on when the shipment is coming from, where it’s going to land, the size of it, the vessel number, take that information and you can apply for your EORI number online.

Small samples should be ok, your couriers can take care of it. Once you start getting bigger shipments coming in, you’ll want to get your own number. It simply for statistical purposes of what come in and goes out of Europe.

On a side not, outsourcing is vital! It’s a waste of time trying to do everything yourself. Some of the simpler tasks, or task that need expertise can be outsourced freeing you up to focus on growing your business. Here is just one example:

This is a 15×15 grid of everything that needs to be done with products. This is why you shouldn’t order 15 different things from AliExpress and why you need help with prep.

For more ambitious sellers what are the biggest challenges when trying to scale up?

What about people who want to import a lot of one product?

Factoring time scales. If your coming by air now, you’re looking at 7-10 days from China to yours or your prep company’s hands. As you scale up you’ll have to start coming by sea which is about 35 days from China to the UK. Then the ship has to be unpacked which is another 5 days. It’s about 40 days from the time the supplier delivers it to the time you take delivery. Obviously, this is something you have to consider. If you’re doing you analysis to determine when you will need more product, you’ll have to add another 30-40 days onto that or risk running out by the time the ship arrives.

If you’re used to doing your own prep, as you scale up the deliveries will get bigger. You’ll start getting them in pallets rather than loose boxes. If you plan on continuing to do it at home, you have to consider how you’re going to offload the truck. It’s no longer going to be a van or small truck, it’ll be coming in artics so access becomes an issue. Also, you have to request a truck with a taillift if you don’t have a forklift. That will cost another £40.

What about those who want to go from a few SKUs to say 10 or 20 but not a huge quantity of each one?

This is common with things like pencils. Where you have one type of product, but 5 or 10 variations. i.e. different colors which Amazon treats as completely different products. Having the product description on the boxes is a huge help. That way if there is a problem with a particular SKU, it’s easier to identify which ones they are without having to open every box.

Whether you’re ordering 500 unit of one product, or 50 units of 10, the challenges are the same. Where the challenges would come and the cost would rise, is if your importing products from different suppliers. Now, there are services that will consolidate for you. You can have four or five different suppliers send everything to these consolidation warehouses. They will consolidate those and export them as one shipment saving you money.

What do you see coming up in the Prep side of Amazon as a problem?

Amazon will start requesting detailed contents of boxes. You can do it now, as an option, and in the US they have started requiring it. Usually if it happens in the US it will happen in the UK. So you will have to communicate that with your supplies to be more clear about what’s in each box especially of you ship directly. They will also requiring packing notes, so when they open the box, they know what’s in it to speed things up on their end.

Brexit will likely have an impact on shipping in Europe.

Amazon announce recently that they will have an air fleet of about 40 planes to ship products themselves. It’s unknown if freight will change much since it’s a fairly stable and established system. However, Amazon will likely try to takeover that.

How can people get hold of you?

Facebook Group
Email: greg@fbaprepuk.com
FBAPrepUK.com

1

67 Ryan Bredemeyer of Hello Profit Part 2

What are the other numbers people make mistakes on? What things to people go wrong on and how can they go right?

Promotion services

There are a lot of great services out there to handle promotions, but one major mistake is failing to calculate the cost of those promotions. It might sound like a great idea to give away another 10 units until you factor in the cost of that. It’s important to get those numbers in front of you because that is a lot of money.

Weigh your reasoning for doing that. Is it important to show Amazon that continued sales velocity? Do you want to hit 1000 reviews? Is that really important? For Ryan, he has goals outside of Hello Profit and Amazon. He wants to help others. By taking a look at his numbers and not just throwing money away to be the big seller, it helps him reach those goals.

Conversion Rates

It’s a very important element of selling on Amazon that is underrated and not talked about so much. Ryan was talking with another seller that had been working with Amazon for about a year that didn’t know what unit session percentage was or where to find it.

What this is, is the ratio of people that visit your page (sessions) to the number of units that those people  purchase (unit session percentage)

This number is very important to Amazon. Amazon has very limited amount of space to devote to ads and they spend actual money on you promoting products on Facebook and other places.

So it’s in their best interest to promote products that will convert. So will they choose product A that maybe 1 out of 5 times someone that visits that page, will buy the product. Or, product B that gets 1 sale out of 10? Amazon wants the higher converting product because that means they will make more money of the sales.

Whenever Ryan got his unit session percentage up, he noticed a lot more traffic to his ASIN because Amazon started promoting that product more.

Is there a magic number of conversion percentage we should hit?

There probably isn’t a magic number but Ryan suspects that it varies by category. For instance, in beauty, shoppers will more likely comparison shop. So they will look at several different items before choosing, therefore conversion rates will be lower. Unlike hammers which shoppers will likely buy the first one they come to.

On a side note, Ryan was getting around 30% in home improvement, which is really good. Sometimes up to 40%. However, if you’re getting 20%, that’s still very good. If you’re in the teens, still probably above average. However, if you’re below 10%, it’s probably a sign there is an issue with your listing.

With unit session percentage, is it important to differentiate between units per session or orders per session? For instance, if someone buys 10 units in a single order, that gives 10 units for one order

It seems to be units per session that matters. So if you sell 10 units in a single order, it’s 100% order session percentage,  but it’s it’s 1000% unit session percentage.

It’s unit sales that seem to drive Amazon. If Amazon can send an ad and get 2 units sold instead of 1, they get that 15% commision twice for the same ad. It is definitely in their interest to promote that product, so focus on units per session.

Refunds

Refunds often denote returns, and returns are not your friend. You will get listings, and even accounts, shut down if you have too high  a return rate.

Hello Profit has recently started tracking your refunds for you right on your merchant and product dashboard so you can see your rate of refund.

Now you can see if you are having a lot of refunds and can do something about it; check your customer feedback, reach out to them, interrupt that process somehow and contact the customer first instead of Amazon and give them their money back.

[When I had a product where a customer wasn’t happy, I contacted them and apologized. Refunded their money and let them keep the product. Now, that product probably had a 5-6% return rate, but Amazon showed less than 1% because instead of putting “Faulty product ” or whatever that option is called,,  as the reason for refund, I put “General adjustment”, which really means nothing]

Ryan brought up an example of his experience going the other way. He had a listing taken down because of returns. Once that happens, they start doing an investigation into your inventory which can take weeks. This is just as bad, if not worse than running out of inventory.

Customer order information

Hello Profit has not gotten into the automated email append world but it’s easy to find services for that, but HP makes it easy for you to do that on your own.

In HP you can pull up your entire customer list with all the information. You get the customer’s name, their real mailing address, and their phone number, and you can take that data to get their real email address.

It’s amazing what you can do with this. For example, you can look up which customers used a particular coupon code, get their email addresses and add them to Facebook as a custom audience. Then you can drive them to your ad. They’ll see recognize your product which will legitimize your company to them. Then when they click on it you can direct them to another item, or to review that item or anything.

This is data you can’t get directly from Amazon. You can download your order data from Amazon but it doesn’t give you the phone numbers, so you can use an email append service to find the real email. What you can do, and this is free, is download the customers that used a coupon code. You can get their Amazon encrypted email and write them that way and ask for a review.

What some of Ryan’s customers have done with this data, is look at seasonal items and find that they are very geographically located. The ASIN is very hot in Texas, California, and Florida. Then, they can go on Google and target those locations only and make a killing.

What top software tools do you use for Amazon selling?

Hello Profit

Jungle Scout (affiliate link)

Cynthia Stine – She helped Ryan get his account back up when they were shut down for image non-compliance. Her team turned him onto Canva. They convert your images to make sure they are Amazon compliant.

Time Doctor – To keep track of his VA team as they come up withnew products.

Asia Inspection – To inspect the products before they leave the factory.

Slack – For internal communications

Screenflow for Mac, or Camtasia for WIndows. Just a screen recorder for the tasks you don’t want to do so you can use it for training someone else.
What’s working well right now for you?

You can’t overinvest in your staff. They are doing the autopilot tasks. If they know that you love them, and that you care about them, and you give them praise, as well as some of your cash, they’ll love you back and you’ll be able to grow much better. Empower others so you don’t have to micromanage, and you can focus on growing your company.

What trends do you see happening on Amazon over the next 18 months?

I was listening to the co­creator of the Amazon marketplace and he was fielding this question about whether Amazon was just taking over the private label space. The bottom line is Amazon is going to keep growing and the marketplace, the third­party sellers, just does too well for Amazon to just take it over directly.

We’re essentially Jeff Bezos’s VAs. We’re doing the hard work to make Amazon grow into the biggest most well­-rounded inventory that the world has ever seen. Amazon is too large to be able to focus on a single product the way third party sellers can.

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2

#53 China Sourcing for Amazon: Keep money safe, Quality Control and Freight – with Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo – Part 2 of 2

(Part 1 of this interview for more from Manuel)

#53 Manuel Becvar interview – part 2 of 2:

How do you keep your money safe?

When you place order, tell them you’ll send an inspection team when 80% of production is finished, you’ll have to redo the goods and pay for the reinspection, and you’re not getting the rest of the money until the inspection is passed.

So never do 100% upfront payments; always pay 30% upfront, 70% when the goods are passed. 

Even if you just order $1000, please get an inspection; there are companies that will do an inspection with a 20 page report for $100 for one man-day, eg Trigo  if it’s simple. They send someone to factory and send report. 

Others are more like $300 for one man day eg Asian inspection for difficult products like electronics. But no use for say a comb or a brush.

How do you approach Quality Control for electronics particularly? The advice famously is to avoid electronics from China. [I had about 10% defect rate]

Manuel has 17 years’ experience in electronics, knows what certificates are needed and which components to inspect. He doesn’t recommend it as 1st or 2nd product.
But just get certificates, experts in electronics inspection. There is a higher defect rate – Manuel’s is about 4%. Lots of customers just don’t know how to deal with electronics, so they often send it back even though it’s working perfectly.

Is there a way to reduce defect rates?
Take reviews and customer complaints – Speak to supplier – 5/10 of reviews have this issue, can you improve on this? Also speak to inspection company and have them focus on those issues in future inspections.  

But Manuel does all this and still has 4% defect rate. Anything below 5% is okay  in electronics. Above that, consider abandoning the product.

FREIGHT

Air freight vs air courier -what’s the difference?

Air courier means someone like DHL, UPS, Fedex etc. They have special customs clearance channel and they handle the whole process for you. So it’s more expensive. An “All in” solution – where to pick up, where to deliver.

Air freight is same process but it’s usually a logistics company that works with big airlines e.g. China Airlines. There is more paperwork involved and you need to be involved. You need a customs bond, you are the ultimate consignee. You need to know the process.

Manuel has had rates for air courier of $4 /kg and for air freight of $2.30/kg so it can be a $2 difference.

Simplest solution is to ask the supplier about air courier or freight. Or ask their freight forwarder. Give them USA/UK address, tell them you need duties/import taxes upfront.
If supplier has no Freight Forwarder, just look on Alibaba or Google.

If you have to do DDU [Delivered Duty Unpaid], how do you avoid problems?

Suppliers usually have no idea how to deal with freight etc. – they are experts at manufacturing. Manuel works with a Freight Forwarding company DDP [Delivered Duty Paid]-it’s all in. They pick up at factory, they ship it direct to Amazon. He doesn’t get involved in customers clearance or amazon pickup appointments.

In the beginning he had to explain how to book appointments with Amazon.

So you ship direct to Amazon?

Yes. Always directly from China to Amazon warehouse.

What do you do about damage to packaging from Air Freight?

It’s a small %age. Always put a label saying “Fragile, handle with care” – this helps.

How did you train your Freight Forwarder?
They are based in Shenzhen head office. They knew how to deliver to USA -but they had never delivered to Amazon. Manuel chose based on price and helpfulness but had to train them in delivering to Amazon.  He gave them a clear workflow. After 2nd order, no more hiccups. 

So you don’t want someone who doesn’t know about exporting to USA?

True. If you can find someone with great price and knows about delivery to Amazon, even better.  Manuel recommends Dolphin Logistics, based in Shenzhen. Reach out to Manuel if you want more info.

How did you get $2.30/kg air freight price?

$6 for air courier is average. Manuel gets good prices because he ships 28 m3 a month!

To make it simple, give your air freight forwarders a clear business process. Tell them they need to deal with Customs brokers and make appointments with Amazon.

They can set up a Vendor Express account with Amazon to set up appointments (they can’t just turn up at an Amazon warehouse!)

How do you send inventory direct to Amazon from China? I guess you save money with intermediate steps but what are the risks and how to you mitigate them?
Manuel thinks  it can all be done cheaper in China. Get them to put FNSKU barcode on inner packaging, prepare cartons according Amazon requirements e.g. size, send them the shipping labels from Amazon seller central and you’re good to go.

If you have more than 20 cartons, the supplier needs to palletise the boxes in China, otherwise Amazon will give you a hard time!  If you have fewer, it’s okay for Floor Loading.

How else can you speed up your supply chain?

Don’t take care of the details yourself. If you have 10-15 products and have customer service, taking photos, etc etc – outsource everything you can to inexpensive VAs.

Focus on growing your business:  

  • New products
  • Optimising listings. 
  • New eCommerce Channels
  • Retail! Go to local store and ask if they want say 50 units.

Tell us more about expanding business – selling to retailers

Manuel actually started own business selling to retailers (through his time in HK) because he just thought Amazon was another eBay. It’s easier to start on Amazon, built a brand, built a reputation for products then reach out to retailers, DIY stores etc etc to sell wholesale.

Any other tips on the best way to approach retailers?

Start locally. Look into smaller importers that set to big brands at an exhibition & approach local distributors. If you can’t go physically go to exhibitions, go to exhibition websites and check then names of companies that exhibit, check them out and email them!

“My name is X, this is my brand, I’m importing direct from China, are you interested in buying?”
  

Are there other ways other than unique products and high quality to protect your brand against competition?

One thing is to have Amazon brand registry. Other than that, be better in terms of quality. Don’t give the competition grounds to attack you – quality, customer service – try to be an awesome company. Even if first few months not highly profitable, eventually it will pay off.

What is your prediction for competition in the next year or two? How do we protect ourselves?
Manuel had 6 enquiries last month in his sourcing company for a product that everyone is selling! Nobody has any imagination, it seems!

Be unique, have expertise in your product and be creative. Yes, competition is increasing but so is the market – Amazon has 51% of the (USA) online sales. There will always be a customer for [good] products. The USA population is about 300 million people!

CONTACT

How can listeners find out more about you or learn more from you?

Go to importdojo.com – there is a contact us page – or email mail@importdojo.com.

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

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#46 Will Tjerlund on Suppliers & Amazon Future Part 2 of 2

Episode #46  Will Tjernlund Interview Part 2 of 2

Suppliers

Many people worry about getting ripped off by a Chinese supplier but it doesn’t make business sense – there is a lot more money to be made selling repeat orders!

What are your main tips for beginners on finding suppliers?

You can find them on Alibaba or via a China Sourcing Agent.
On Alibaba, just make sure they’re a gold supplier and so forth.
If you need peace of mind, Asia Inspection will do a factory inspection for $100.

Have them send pictures of the packaging and product while they are being produced.

Any main dos and don’ts for working with suppliers?

Choose a product that is as simple as possible – that way, it’s hard to mess up making it! A hunk of rubber, wood, plastic. So: very few moving parts, no electronics, hard to break, etc.

Keep it simple! That’s how Will is able to travel the world with a laptop!  Don’t follow weird passions like Robotic toys! Many people overcomplicate Amazon. Don’t try to make it as hard as possible; make it as easy as possible!

How do we make it as simple as possible?

Think of everything that can go wrong. If you can’t think of anything, that’s a good product choice!

Will likes to sell (mostly) to Needs not Wants, e.g., Polka Dot underwear vs. a bolt.

It’s not just about price.  If you sell a 10 inch bolt for $8 instead of $12, most people will buy it because all bolts look the same. They’re not saying “Some day I’m going to buy this 10 inch bolt”!

Also if you need to liquidate such a product, there’s a clear market for it, to reduce your risk.

How can you build profit into that for yourself?
Email the supplier and ask how much would it be for 1000 units of this product?

If they say, $1 a unit landed cost, do some quick math[s]: If selling for $8, paying $3.60 or $4.50 in  fees, so still making $3 each. So for every one dollar invested, he’s getting $3 back.

Do you have a minimum or max selling price?

No it’s more like a timespan to profit ratio. Also it’s about time you’re spending for what return. If you’re spending all day on something with a 15% return, that’s not  as good as something with a 33% return where you simply reorder every 3 months.   


So it comes back to cashflow?
If I gave you £10 million now, could you make $2 m back in a year? Yes! 
If I gave you $500K, could you? No. [But if you returned 20% every 2 months on it, you’d end up with $1.492 million – Michael]

So it’s all about getting cash back as fast as possible.

Compounding interest is the 8th wonder of the world, so you need to take advantage of it!

How do you deal with increasing competition in Amazon Private Label?

As competition grows in a niche, Will sends his products directly to Amazon, and Amazon gets nearly 100% of the Buy Box. The margins are lower but Will gets the sale nearly all the time.

Vendor Express (where you can apply) and Vendor Central (invitation only) are the places that Amazon will do that.

If you have some kind of sales history, Just go to Vendor Express, tell Amazon “I want to sell these items directly to you”, you offer a price, they tell you if they accept that or not-they often will. If they accept, they will start placing Purchase Orders and you sell directly to them.

You’ll have to keep some inventory to hand, [and you’ll have to accept getting paid 59 days in arrears!-Michael]. But if it’s a Private Label product, Amazon will outrank all others for the product for that keyword.

Is that open to everyone?

Vendor Express is – just google it and sign up!

Is that what you do when PL is not viable for profit any more?

It’s not normally a price war – it’s usually if someone else optimises their listing etc. (Private Label sellers) and does giveaways. Will has too many SKU’s to watch any individual listing.

How do you manage 2000 listings?

It’s manageable because Will has only about 20 suppliers. He uses software like Stitch Labs and Restock pro, which will alert him when (according to his presets like lead time) a product line needs restocking. When he has built up a big enough order of products from one supplier, he’ll go to the supplier. Will has good knowledge in his mind of  which suppliers have short or long lead times

Are you literally keeping it all in your head Like a chess game?

Often it’s triggered by writing a cheque. Or you can just go down a checklist by supplier. It doesn’t take long.

If you’re ordering 100 SKUs from one supplier, you can just order say 50 units of each and still fill a container.  So Will gets economies of scale but doesn’t risk much in any individual SKU. Also you’re turning that cash around quickly.  “Cashflow is everything”.

Where do you see the relationship between Amazon and Private Label sellers going over the next year or two?

Competition is growing but a lot of the time the competition are doing the same dumb things! So over the next 2 years, there will still be profit to be made.

Within 5-10 years, for anything that is a semi-commodity, China is just going to sell directly to Amazon. Amazon is opening training centres in China. So you’ll need to stay in low-competition niches and fly below the radar.

What sort of commodity products would that be?

Everything in the top 100 BSR that is not a real US brand name. Shopping on needs will be taken over by Amazon: eg silicon spatula – if Amazon can source it and sell it profitably for $2.99 and PL sellers have to sell at $9.99 to break even, Amazon will win the sale every time and therefore build massive numbers of listings. Amazon Basics is only going to get bigger and bigger.

How do you see yourself dealing with this increasing competition?

Will partly depends on the US brands to keep growing their businesses with their own marketing, product research and sourcing.

If you have 4 SKUs total and one gets de-ranked because a bunch of Chinese sellers come in, you’ve lost 25% of revenue.  Will has his risk much more diversified. Also he can see trends coming from a long way off via his many SKUs. He will be able to pivot at this point if needed.

Will follows the investment principles: Diversify and get cashflow.

How can  people who are starting out take advantage of this?

It’s not one size fits all! That’s why so many courses out there don’t make sense.

If you have $500 [£342] to invest, flip stuff from AliExpress, drop ship or get a second job and save more cash. Will suggests find a successful Amazon seller and work for them for $15 an hour and learn how it works.

$5000 [£3422] to invest is on the border. Will says it’s hard to order just $2500 of stuff from China (you’ll need to keep $2500 in cash). Maybe you can find a small retailer or do some Retail Arbitrage or find a wholesaler who will allow you to drop ship their larger products – eg, a fireplace manufacturer (big, bulky stuff). It’s not quite enough to start a business! 

If you can go to AliExpress, lead times are so much quicker [than on Alibaba] -you can have a  product in your hands within 10 days. If you find something profitable on Alibaba, see if you can air freight it and still make a profit.

If you can invest say $3000 [£2,053] to make $700 back after a month or so, that is a very good start [23%return-Michael].

As you order more, the profit margins will only get bigger over time. The rich get richer on Amazon. The more you sell, the better you rank; the more you sell, the more you can buy, so the price you buy at gets lower and your profit margin gets bigger. As you grow, it gets easier.

$10,000 [£6843] to invest is enough to order from China [by sea]- a $5000 order will get you somewhere – you could Private Label or find a Mom and Pop shop that does say $10m a year in revenue or less (spend half of inventory and keep the cash back).

if you have $50K [£3,4216] to invest, you can just call up wholesalers off the bat and say you have £10K to invest.

Once you get bigger and bigger, it becomes ever more important to save money.  For example, if Will can increase profit by 1% by saving money, when turning over $10m a year, that’s $100,000 extra profit.

At a 20% margin, that would be extra sales of $500K a year to make that profit number up. So it’s a lot easier to make more profit by saving money than extra sales.    

Try to just sell as much as possible as the beginning, but at some point you will need to lower your costs. 

How can people find out more about you, Will?

Email: williamtjernlund@gmail.com

Twitter: @wtjern

Website: www.amzhelp.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjernlund

What is your parting advice for someone wanting to get started?

Don’t go after your passion, go where the cash is. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, more times than not you can liquidate and get your money back. Keep moving forward! 

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 on yt sentence.

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.

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