We have, once again, Brian Johnson of PPC Scope and Sponsored Products Academy on the show. After we released the previous episodes I got so many questions that I had to get Brian back on. We’re going to do a Q&A session right now to address questions sent in from the listeners. Continue reading
The future of Amazon is going to be challenging for Amazon sellers. Products are becoming more competitive and this making the Amazon space more congested than before. Therefore, people need to find a way that they can assert creativity in their sales by creating something original or by adding something original to the already existing products. Continue reading
Today we have Brian Johnson of Sponsored Product Academy (& PPC Scope) to talk to us about PPC and the REAL reason for the end of Amazon incentivized reviews.
This is a guy that has been in ecommerce industry for years. He started out selling banking equipment on eBay for seven years before a friend pulled him into Amazon. He began launching his own private label products. This was about three years ago when Amazing Selling Machine launched.
It’s offers more robust to you PPC advertising. The top banner ad on Amazon, that is usually a link to someone’s storefront, that’s Amazon Marketing Services. Sometimes there are ads under the Buy box, those are Amazon Marketing Services ads. It’s more exposure and drives more customers to your products which, in turn, could lead to more sales.
It’s only accessible to vendors. This used to be invite only until Amazon started Vendor Express, which is open to everyone. Now you can get access to Amazon Marketing Services once you have a purchase order. So once Amazon orders product from you, then you have access to AMS and all the benefits that come with it. To learn how to get started with Vendor Express, please check out my interviews with Will Tjernlund.
If you don’t want to go down the route of Vendor Express, there is a work around. You can sell Amazon a product that you don’t intend to keep in stock. Go to aliexpress and buy 10 units of some item. Tell Amazon that you want to sell it to them and they will request samples. Once that process starts, you should be able to then sign up for AMS. Once in Amazon Marketing Services, you are able to advertise any products, not just the ones you have in Vendor Express.
Not only can you advertise products that are in your Seller Central, you can advertise products for items that Amazon doesn’t list you as the seller of. This is very beneficial if you have a Merch by Amazon account. If you sell Merch, you don’t have access to ads. With Amazon Marketing Services, you can then run ads for you t-shirts. You can check out my interview with Chris Green if you are interested in getting started with Merch by Amazon.
It may not be worth it, for everyone, to utilize Vendor Express beyond getting your foot in the door. There are many issues with it because they take over the listing and they tend not to optimise it so it converts. However, it’s almost a necessity for some. For example, Anthony has a friend that selling a health and beauty product that he makes from home. Since he makes it from home it is impossible for him to get ungated. However, by selling through Vendor Express he is now able to get past that since it’s technically Amazon selling it, not him.
Vendor Express is making strides to improve the listings by making some of it available to the sellers to be edited. Some aspects, like the title, you may need to ask Amazon and jump through hoops for, but it is possible to optimise your listing.
Get in touch with Anthony:
He has written two books about selling on Amazon:
Bootstrapping E-commerce: How to Import and Sell on Amazon
Bootstrapping E-commerce: Advanced Amazon Tactics
You can contact him at he publishing company
There are a few things to remember with an Amazon product launch. You need to get as much traffic and sales velocity for your product as quickly as possible. This is a given in any sales capacity. Also, you need to high rankings early, as in on the first page, using an important key word related to your product. Run a promotion when your product goes live which will get people talking and stimulate sales velocity. You can make your products even more visible by turning on the automatic sponsor ads. Lastly, go after some reviews and use family and friends, who will be sure to help your product out in the early days.
It goes without saying, you need to find the primary and most relevant keyword for your product. This is something that people will be able to identify and make the connection to you as the one selling said product. You should make sure the keyword(s) are in the title of your product AND inside the URL address. People can be very lazy so when they are looking for something they are overjoyed when they can find it with relative ease. You can run Facebook ads, external ads and even banner ads from Amazon Marketing Service. Aside from Anthony’s launch too, Zonblast, you can also use Keyword Inspector and Merchant Words.
This has a lot to do with the total views your product actually gets during an Amazon product launch. If you have a low number of searches in a month, say under 20,000, you could see sales velocity stimulation in one day, see some solid movement, as opposed to over several days. However, if you only spike with search hit one hour of each day, your average will be lower. It would be much better for you to spread it out over a number of days for better results. Anywhere from 4 to 7 days seems to be a good time frame in which to work from. It’s all about averages. If you can spread your views and sales over a longer period of time, it will average out to a total that will look much better to you as the seller and to a potential buyer as well.
Make sure you understand Amazon’s new Terms of Service. ‘Free’ sales or giveaways are now considered product manipulation. The big reason the Terms of service were put into place was to stop people from operating multiple accounts and thus being able to receive ‘sales’ of the same product anywhere from 50 to 100 times during an Amazon product launch. Specifically, Amazon are trying to stop buyers from receiving codes to allow them to do this for free. You can now have your product suspended for this. Always remember this and you’ll be fine: Real sales are unique sales to an individual.
Great customer reviews are always welcome but you should not depend on them to help boost sales of your product. While Amazon won’t remove or stifle a review if a customer got a discount on your product (remember though, no coupon codes for free) they can take down good reviews, paid in full by the customer, if they have been attacking the buyer accounts. There is also some unpredictability overall in terms of the reason or reasons why Amazon removes some reviews. All you can do is turn the review machine on, have a great follow up sequence in place, and get reviews as naturally as you can. The best way to success is to have a great quality product and then you can worry about everything else.
Brad runs a one-stop consulting firm that helps Amazon sellers and one of the strategies they use is not to think of a product or product sales life cycle one dimensionally. There are different phases a product goes through. You want to identify those phases and what is need for each phase. A lot of people are wondering what to do for an Amazon launch. After the review blast is over, what do you do?
They have something called “Spur the Machine” that they do for their ASINs and sellers. It’s a four phase approach to the first step of getting something up on Amazon. In their experience, it takes about three months to get a product up and running and there’s a lot going into this.
The big thing is to take a snapshot, then stop and review your data. People tend to keep going and make small adjustments along the way. Doing that makes it difficult to see what’s happening and what’s causing it.
Some research was done on this topic. They gathered data from millions of SKUs and they found that the number of reviews stop mattering after 21 reviews. After that, it’s the amount of stars you have. Reviews matter for sure. Intuition would say that a product with 3000 reviews would do better than one with 100. However, according to the data, what really matters is the star rating.
Brad has found that when you run promotions, there is a higher rate of reviews that comes from people buying your product. The normal rate is about 1-3% of people who buy your product, will review your product. That number jumps up quite a bit when you run promotions. Usually, you don’t have to give away more than 30-50 units on products with a lower price point. With product over $100, you could probably get away with less.
A Facebook crowd around your brand is a great resource. You can promote new products there and get a good response
If you have built up a following around your brand. i.e. A Facebook page or group. You can leverage that following to help you. When you have an Amazon launch and are trying to get a new product out there, you can post about it on your page or group and tell them about your promotions, and ask them to leave a review. It’s a great resource if you have that following.
You can. It’s the idea of making your Facebook community feel special.
It’s hard to say. Within Amazon, it’s an individual person making the call every time. They have their SOPs that say if someone is given a promotion for a review, take it off. If it’s in a grey area, Brad has seen them overreach their bounds too much. However, there should be nothing against giving away promotions for your products.
It shouldn’t. It’s such a new thing and Brad doesn’t know what the internal procedures are but it’s not an incentivised review. You’re not saying, “Here’s a product so that you’ll review it for us.”
Brad could see that argument between two VPs as he has seen in the past, however, he doesn’t have much more insight than that. All he can really go on is the success of promotions in that past that his firm has experienced.
Adam has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years.
Adam got started right out of high school. He knew he didn’t want a boss and was captivated by the idea of entrepreneurship. He has had several businesses but not focuses solely on Amazon. He has had online and offline businesses including a flight simulator business, hair salon, and a finance company. He has a very diverse background, to say the least. Selling on Amazon FBA came more recently.
Adam got into selling on Amazon FBA part-time while he was running an animation business. He sold that business last year and moved away from service businesses in order to start a product business with Amazon. Part of the allure of products is that it gets away from the “selling your time” type job where you make more money the longer you work. With products, once you do the hard work and develop the product, you can sell it all over the world and get paid over and over.
His animation business was growing and financially successful but he had a lot of people and a lot of moving parts. With products, it so leveraged and you can get away from that.
As a business guy, Adam found Amazon very impressive. It’s a phenomenal company. In terms of their growth and numbers you know they are doing it right. He really loved that you didn’t have to build a website, that you didn’t have to find the customers because they were already there and that they handle fulfillment and shipping. FBA just changed the rules of product distribution. It was appealing to sell into the biggest markets in the world from wherever you were. To get more of Adam’s thoughts on the Amazon opportunity, CLICK HERE
It definitely isn’t according to Adam. He did an experiment this year. He started with 6 products that launched in February or March to test what it would be like for a newcomer. They are currently around a million dollar a year products at this point. So it isn’t too late. There is a lot of opportunity to those with the necessary education.
It’s interesting because right now his European business is doing about 70% of his US business. What’s truly amazing is that his cost-per-customer (CPC) in Europe is about ⅓ of what it is in the US. Also, Europeans give more feedback than Americans. He has automated emails that go out and he gets about twice as many emails from UK residents than the US.
Adam is in .com and then Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and the UK.
The US is always appealing because it’s so big but because it’s so big means there is a lot more competition. Also, America is home many of the Amazon course gurus that have pumped out a lot of courses to those wanting to start an Amazon business. The challenge is that there are a lot of sellers that have been educated on the same strategy at the same time. So America is still a great opportunity if you have the right education and the right lens. You can’t beat the US market because it’s so big and broad.
However, if you live in the UK and feel more comfortable working there, Adam would recommend starting in the UK. It’s a fantastic market, much easier to access, much easier to rank, and a much more appreciative group of consumers. However, if you don’t live in the US or the UK Adam recommends starting in the US because it’s much easier to get started. The regulations for foreign sellers are a lot tougher in the UK and it’s a lot easier to get your account set up in the US.
Another issue is that not everyone is registered for VAT and many people won’t until Amazon requires it because it will add 20% to your prices and put those that register at a disadvantage.
One of the biggest promoters put out a course telling people to sell items for under $40 with high Best Seller Ranking. When they first launched they recommend being in the top 100 of any category. Once they began selling this idea they realized they needed to expand because they had 5000 people looking to be a top 100 in about 15 categories.
One of their flaws was the emphasis on BSR because it doesn’t really matter. That only measure who sells the most. But in business, it doesn’t matter how much you sell, rather how much margin you make. That’s the difference between turnover and leftover. Adam is looking for higher margin, less contested spaces. People don’t realize how massive Amazon is. Over 2 million sellers with hundreds of millions of products. There are a lot of unsophisticated sellers that have two images with ten reviews and are on page one. There are a lot of small sellers that looked for cheap products with high turnover where anyone can get into it. What Adam looks for is something that is difficult for people to compete and isn’t as obvious.
Adam cover a lot of this in his course at reliable.education. His first product was $160 retail. But it was costing him $40 a unit. So there was an $80 margin which gave him options someone selling a $12 product just doesn’t have. He could spend more on advertising. Even if he spent $20 per sale he was still making $60. He was completely out of the top sellers and in his subcategory there was around 45,000 and he was nowhere near the top. He still came in and started making $15,000 a month in sales and $8,000 profit.
The first thing people need to think about is that whenever you look at a market for anything, you need to think about it from a consumer’s point of view. Why will a consumer notice you? And why would a consumer buy from you and not someone else? It can’t be something they need to read about. Don’t expect them to read your copy and find some feature. Think of Amazon like Tinder. People put in a few details about what they are looking for, then go through the pictures and start dismissing them. You need to have good photographs, but you also need something good in the photograph. So try to get something that is visually different. Some key detail or feature that will grab the buyer’s attention.
For example, if you look up desktop calculators on Amazon, they are all black or grey except for one that is green. Now if you look at car covers, they are all black or grey or blue. But if someone came with a car cover that had a cool saying, or was bright pink, it’s going to stand out. The question is, how can you innovate, visually, at the core design level. It’s not about the best title or description, anyone can do that. The big thing is to think like a customer. Just follow Jeff Bezos advice, “Be in business for the customer.” In the end, the best products are going to win.
To get more advice or free training from Adam, just go to reliable.education
Chris Green says: Merch by Amazon, like all Amazon models, is not best done by trying to game the system. The best practice it to reverse engineer the system instead. Figure out what Amazon wants you to do, because that will be rewarded. You can try to game the system, but if Amazon doesn’t like it, you will face consequences.
There are time-tested methods for creating and launching new products with FBA. With Merch, how do you select new products, and how do you launch them?
A lot of the people, Chris Green has been working with are relying on organic traffic. One way you can find new products is to search on Amazon. Start typing in the search bar and see what’s populating and you will find the products people are looking for. So if you see that people are buying “I love Panda” shirts, then maybe you should make one. Make sure you don’t copy. However, there is nothing original in this world. Everything is built on something else. So make your “I love Panda” shirt or whatever is popular, but make it your own.
The people that are going to win at merch by Amazon, are the people driving traffic. If there is already a demand for something, find out where the demand is, and go give them a product. For example, there are a lot of Facebook groups for classic cars. Now, there are probably sayings and phrases that go along with classic cars that you can put on a shirt. Have someone create a mockup of a cool car and make a shirt. There are some shady ways of promoting it, but the best way would be to go to the admin, and offer to give him/her some shirts that they then and giveaway to those in the group.
This applies to anyone with an audience, not exclusively Facebook. You might consider making a mockup of a logo for a smaller YouTube channel. You could find someone with a podcast that is respected by their listeners. Approach them with the idea of the shirt, share the link to the listing, you can make it unlisted so you’re not selling anything, and offer to share the royalties. It’s about getting creative with the platform you have because most people want to keep doing what they’re doing.
Chris Green feels that advertising within Facebook groups is under-utilized. Some groups you can just post a link and that’s fine, but if you need to approach the admin, you can give them something to giveaway to make them look good, or cash may work. Just ask if you can advertise in the group for $100. If you have a good design then people will go buy the shirt and you’ll make your money back.
Or, you could get involved in the community. If you know about classic cars, join the group. Ask questions, answer questions, help other people and you will gain rapport and you’ll have more freedom to advertise the shirt.
Here is an actual secret from Chris Green: Send them to redirect them to Amazon. You can send them straight to Amazon to buy the shirt, but you won’t get any data or analytics. However, if you send them to your website first and redirect them to Amazon automatically. That way you can attach a Facebook pixel and get a lot more data. This way you know that everyone that clicks through that link is into classic cars and you can target them using Facebook ads with all of your classic car shirts. You now have a list of people that are into classic cars right now and are willing to click out and to look at a t-shirt.
If you’re selling your shirt for $7.68, then you can spend $7 per sale and you’re still making money. Better yet, you’re spending money on highly targeted people who are the most likely to buy your shirt. Since Amazon is doing all the work, every sale is like printing money. That is the huge potential with Merch by Amazon. Unlike with FBA and private label, you have no money tied up. Right now it’s only t-shirts, this is the ground floor. In time we will look back and reminisce about when Amazon merch was only t-shirts. Now is the time to carve out you space.
Amazon is where the customers are. Sure, there are other options like eBay or teespring where you can sell your shirts, but the people are on Amazon. They want Prime shipping. They will filter out products to make sure it is Prime eligible. People don’t search on Google, they go straight to Amazon and you need to be where the people are. Merch by Amazon is prime eligible, and no inventory and you can’t find that elsewhere.
Let’s say you have 10 designs. What is the simplest way to get going?
Leave Facebook until after you get some sales. Don’t get into that fancy targeting stuff right away. First thing would be to post it on Facebook and ask your friends for their opinion. Get some feedback for it and be prepared for them to be honest. Which is what you want. Bad looking shirts won’t sell so get feedback first so you don’t waste your time on a bad design.
Look at what is selling. Don’t reinvent the wheel. See what people are buying and make your own version of that. See what’s popular. It’s election season in the U.S. right now so Trump and Hillary shirts are popular. Go to your local school and sports teams and do a fundraiser. Put their logo on a shirt on Amazon and have all the kids push them on their social networks. Every shirt sold with mean $5 to the group. People are more likely to buy the shirt than donate the money.
Find local businesses that want to want people to wear their logo. Give them a shirt to display with a link to the Amazon page. They can offer promos and discount to customers wearing the shirts. The possibilities are endless. There are so many different things you can do. If you’re a marketer, you can team up with a designer and split it 50/50. You might be good at promotion, or networking, or relationship building; find what you’re good at and then fit in the missing pieces.
How does launching a new shirt work? Is it similar to launching with FBA private label? Do you do a lot of giveaways to get your ranking up? Does ranking work in a similar way?
There is definitely some overlap between merch and private label. If you want to be competitive, and get your shirt to the top you’ll need some recent sales and reviews. You can certainly do giveaways; buy the shirt and put someone else’s address on it. You can send Amazon gift cards instead of refunds. Have your shirt as a prize in some kind of drawing. You can bundle it with your private label items. Put an insert in the box that gives the buyer an opportunity to get a free shirt.
Is there any way to gauge competition or predict sales?
You can certainly see your ranking just like you can with private label, says Chris Green. So with retail arbitrage, everyone is fighting over the same pie. THere’s only so much to go around. With private label, you introducing a brand new pie into the market and you get all the pieces. With merch, you own the pie but the pie is getting bigger. There is no limit to the market because you’re not fighting over the same design, you’re introducing new designs and the best ones will win out.
The biggest mistake Chris Green thinks people will make is relying on organic sales. He thinks Amazon will reward people that drive traffic. When people search for something, Amazon will determine what the best products are for that customer. If your product has better page views and conversion rates, you will be one of them. And having a better ranking gives customers more confidence in your products.
GET AN ACCOUNT NOW! There is no reason not to. You have nothing to lose, even if you never doing anything. As of right now, there is a waiting period to get your invitation, so even if you’re not ready to do anything yet, apply now so that when you are ready, you don’t have to wait for the invitation.