Today we’ve got Nadine Eich from Germany. Nadine runs a virtual assistant agency for Amazon sellers called Enida and she’s here to share her tips for selling and Amazon Germany customer service.
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
As we discussed in the previous episode, building a brand away from Amazon is a very good idea.
Amazon owns you and your listing. They control everything. They can suspend your account at anytime. If you sell exclusively on Amazon, that puts you in a difficult situation. It’s a good idea to have multiple selling channels. That way, if any one goes down for whatever reason, you have other sources of income. Amazon only accounts for about 20 – 30% of Manuel’s income. Now, if something happens to his Amazon account, it wouldn’t shut down his business.
Another reason for building a brand is that Amazon is a race to the bottom on pricing. If you come up with a new product, in a couple months a lot of sellers have copied it and now everyone is lowering prices to get sales. If you have your own ecommerce site or wholesale, you can dictate the prices as long.
When building a brand, there are several options when it comes to other sales channels. There is jet.com where you can signup to be a third-party seller. Wal-Mart recently bought them for $3.3 billion. You can also sign up to be a third party seller on walmart.com. When it comes to these these third-party selling routes, it’s important to bear in mind that it may take awhile to be ungated. For those in the UK, you can use tesco.com. The downside to these platforms is that you are still a third-party that is subject to Wal-Mart or Jet or Tesco, etc.
The best security would be owning the platform with Shopify. That way you control everything. It takes a lot more work than with Amazon as you don’t have the benefit of them shipping everything. However, the big issue is getting traffic. You can always find people on Amazon, but getting them to come to your site takes work, like all aspects of building a brand.
You have to work on SEO in order to be found. One strategy is to go to other sites where your target audience is. You can find forums or go to Reddit and talk to people that are interested in your category. For example, Manuel is selling VR products so he goes to a Reddit forum about VR and talks to people about a new headset Samsung is releasing. This can drive traffic to your Shopify store which will help your Google rank.
Ads are another way to boost rank and drive traffic. Google or Bing as are effective. You can use Facebook ads for conversion and email signup; not so much for selling products.
It can be more expensive and it takes a lot of work. But if you have good content, good SEO and traffic you can easily rank on page 1 or 2 of Google. That is building a brand that has visibility on the most powerful website on the planet: Google.
Today on the show we have Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo. As Will Tjernlund mentioned during his interview, Amazon wants to increase their own private label operation. As Amazon become a larger competitor, you’ll want to establish your brand off-Amazon. Once you have a strong audience, this will not only help you sell more on Amazon, but give you the leverage you need if you wanted to sell on other channels. An important step to this, is creating a social media strategy.
There are differing opinions on social media. Some people say it’s a complete waste of time while others say it’s the cornerstone of their business. Social media can be a huge driver of traffic for your listings. When creating a brand, it’s important not to overlook the critical component that is social media.
It’s understandable that people may think that social media is a complete waste of time. You’re not going to get instant results. You won’t see anything in a couple months. However, if you stick with your social media strategy, and keep building your social media presence, you will start to see in impact in a year or two. Manuel Becvar doesn’t run PPC ads anymore because of the success of the success of his social media platform. Now he can take the money he would have spent on ads, and use it on continuing to build on social media, and put it into his products.
You will have to invest in your social media. Whether that’s you putting in time, or paying someone to do it. Either way you decide to do it will still be beneficial. Even if you’re paying someone to put out content every week, you will still make more from sales than you would have if you put that money into ads.
If you’re creating a brand, then you might not have the audience for it to make much difference. However, you can always outsource it. There are sites, like Famebit, that will bring you together with influencers. These are people have have very large following on social media. You write up a campaign and get offers from different people. They will then review your product and send it out to there tens of thousands of followers. This can drive 2000 – 3000 people to your Amazon listings. Manuel Bacvar estimates that this led to 60 -70 additional sales in the first week. Well worth the $500 he spent on it because he wouldn’t have gotten that kind of return with PPC.
You could even contact them directly. If you go on social media and look up people that have a large audience and send them a message. This will let you target those that would buy your product.
As much as we all love to get a quick turnaround on our investments, you have to understand that your social media strategy takes time. Again, you can outsource this if you’d like. You can hire people to run your social media accounts and they will post new content weekly and maintain it.
There are a few techniques you or your VA can do to help grow your audience. The first step, obviously, is to post regular content. You need to be posting at least once a week on most platforms. Go onto other accounts that target the same audience to post similar content and follow their followers. The idea is that once you follow them, they will look at your content and will be more likely to follow you since they are already following a similar account.
When planning your social media strategy, it’s important to target the right people. One way to do that is to target people that have purchased your products. This way you know they are interested in the category you’re selling in.
Manuel has grown his mailing list to over 800 subscribers in 2 ½ years. It’s very simple. As we all know, we need to put information in the packaging. This way we can encourage buyers to leave a review on Amazon, or to contact us, rather than Amazon, if they have an issue. Manuel goes a bit further and offers an additional 6 month warranty if they signup for his newsletter. His products are all coffee based. So now he has over 800 people that he can market to, who are also willing to buy coffee related products. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a warranty. If you sell kitchen supplies you could offer a recipe ebook. You could simply offer a discount on their next purchase if they subscribe.
You can use Google Trends to help you build an audience as part of your social media strategy. You can look up your keywords and find out where they are popular. Then you can buy Facebook ads targeting those locations. So if you’re looking up hiking and you find that people in Manchester search hiking a lot, you can buy Facebook ads targeting Manchester.
Facebook ads are really good at building your audience and a following. They are effective if the user doesn’t have to buy something right away. So they aren’t useful for directing people to your Amazon listing, but if you direct them to your site and have great content, then they will be more likely to buy your product.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
This is one of the biggest issues with Amazon inventory management. It’s something everyone deals with. Sometimes a product doesn’t as well as you expected. Once again, there is no crystal ball solution.
It might seem obvious, but one thing you can do is to look at it from a marketing perspective. Take a look at what you can do to improve the conversion rate. Can you improve your images or other aspects of your listing? Pay-per-click ads. It’s an investment. It will take time to perfect it. Is there anything else you can do as a last ditch effort to recoup your investment in the stock?
If you have already considered the marketing aspect, you could try a completely different route. You can wholesale it or sell it on a different channel. You’d be surprised how many people will buy lots of inventory on eBay other sites that will help you with that. There are sites that help you with bulk sales. You can work with a service that does flash sales, like touchofmodern.com. They will flash sales household products that are high-quality. If you want to leave it on Amazon, you could lower your price. Even if you take a loss on the sales, at least you’re putting money back into your pocket.
Proper Amazon inventory management is very difficult. You have to think long and hard and it really comes down to a plan. In the case of excess inventory, many sellers just go on a whim. One seller is dealing with excess inventory because they bought 3000 units of a product they’ve never sold before. Their main reason was that they got a good cost on them at 300 units.
The cost isn’t as important on that first order. You’re really trying to prove the product is viable. Then on your second order, you can get the cost right once you know the product will sell. It might be difficult for a first-time seller since your money is tied up but you’re not making much profit. However, you are lowering the risk if the product doesn’t take off.
One tactic that you might consider is ordering small amounts of several different products knowing you are likely to run out. Then you can see which one takes off. This isn’t a great strategy. If you find a good product that takes off, you will jump in the sales rank. Now you have a high ranking product with no inventory. Let’s say it sells out in a week but you have a 45 day lead time. Now you’re going to be out of stock for 45 days unless you can negotiate with your supplier and spend more money to have it expedited.
One issue you might run into is a minimum order quantity (MOQ), where suppliers will require a large order otherwise they won’t accept it. You can try to negotiate with them saying that you will be ordering from them for awhile, but it’s company policy that the initial is smaller.
Amazon inventory is a crucial but neglected area for all Amazon sellers. We have Jeremy Biron with us today. He’s the founder of Forecastly. He has been selling on Amazon for over 10 years so he has a really deep understanding of the marketplace and of Amazon inventory management and the issues that can involve.
He was one of the first FBA sellers in the office supply space running a multi-million dollar operation. Jeremy has a strong knowledge of Amazon and what it takes to maintain your Amazon inventory.
Coming out of college about 15 years ago, Jeremy was working in the corporate world doing marketing and sales. Quickly realized that the corporate life wasn’t for him. He got into selling Amazon inventory part-time while working the corporate job. He happened upon office supplies. Not the sexiest products but he found a place. He realized that he could make more money selling on Amazon than in his full-time job and he enjoyed it much more.
He started selling full-time 8 years ago. Then, about 2 years ago, the office supply space wasn’t going in the right direction. He heard from a lot of other FBA sellers about their Amazon inventory issues. Jeremy had the answer. He had custom software they used in-house. He decided to take this software, improve it so it could be mass-distributed, and began Forecastly.
It was a combination of stock-outs and excess Amazon inventory. At first, they were just using the reports you get from seller central. It shows how much you have in stock and how much you sold in the past, like 30 days. It would be 30 days later, after he had placed all those orders, and looked at his profit and loss and think that he should have sold more. As it turns out their estimations were off. He knew from the beginning that using the inventory reports from Amazon wouldn’t cut it.
A lot of the time, those aren’t accurate. Looking at your current Amazon inventory and your inbound numbers. You inventory is usually right, but your inbounds number aren’t. They didn’t know exactly what was going into Amazon. What status was it in. Even looking at your existing Amazon inventory, you can’t tell if it’s being labeled, is it moving around the country, or is it reserved because it’s already been sold. If I have 100 units, and 10% has already been sold, I really have 90.
The other piece of it is figuring out your sales velocity. That’s not as easy as many people think it is. Let’s say you sold 50 units last month. If you don’t know if you were in stock the entire time, your don’t know your true sales velocity. If you sold 50 in the last 30 days, but you were out of stock half that time, you should have sold 100. However, those reports are saying you sold 50, and if you want a 30 day supply, you should buy 50 more.
The last piece to this is taking that demand forecast and building a replenishment strategy off it. Knowing when you’re going to run out of stock.There isn’t an Excel spreadsheet that will tell you if you’re going to have a spike in sales. The only way to do that is by using a database and running some crazy statistical calculations.
This is something Jeremy sees a lot of mistakes with. Even if you’re an experienced private label seller and you’re bringing out a new product. It’s tough trying to figure out how much to order. Some things you want to think about when releasing a new product
You want to consider payment processing. Your money doesn’t show up immediately. Sometimes it takes a couple days to process your payment with the bank. The suppliers won’t do anything until that payment processes.
How long will it take for the factory to actually make the product. Is it going to be reliable? Will it take the length of time they quote you.
Preparation of shipping. If you’re placing a large order, it’s going to take time to process that shipment. Then sea or air time. Then is has to come through customs. There can be a lot of delays here. Then is has to be sent to Amazon where it will sit on their dock until they can receive it. If you send it to your house first, or a third-party preparer, all that takes time.
People will underestimate their lead time, and throw off the whole process. That goes for existing products as well.
Just to underline how important this is, it will always take longer than you expect. If a factory quotes you 2 weeks, it will likely take longer. They will tell you what you want to hear. If you send it to a prep facility, it could sit there for 3 weeks. Don’t underestimate receiving time at Amazon if it’s around Christmas or other holidays.
In terms of reality, it’s going to come down to you putting some pressure on them. Communication is key. Contact them saying that you’re going with them. You like the communication so far. How likely do you think we’re going to hit that three week mark? Should I account for an extra week in there? They’re people too. It will put them at ease knowing that they got the order and don’t have to tell you what they think you want to hear. There really isn’t a magic formula because each supplier is different.
You can add in a late delivery penalty. Let them know that it’s your company’s policy that there is a 10% penalty for every week past the deadline. You see this difference between new and veteran sellers. If you ship an order to Amazon and it’s late, you’re going to be hit with a charge-back. This is also dependent on your payment agreement. If you pay everything up front, you can’t go and take that back. Whereas if you make a partial payment before delivery, it’s a bit different.
The main point is to get a straight answer out of them. They are likely to be more honest if they will get less money if they try to be overly-optimistic. Most terms I recommend is 70% up front, and 30% balance.
One point Jeremy wanted to make sure to hit on is about new product and why lead time matters. It’s not lead time for your first initial order. It’s thinking ahead to your next order. Let’s say your very first order arrives today and you have a 45 day lead time. Now you have to think about your next order. If you didn’t order enough units to get through 45 days, you will run out of product. Even if you place a PO today.
You don’t want to place another order for 30 days. If you have a 45 day lead time, you have to order enough for 75 days of inventory. You don’t want to over-order inventory, but you really don’t want to run out. There are a lot of sellers that always order 100 units, or 1000 units. They’re just making up a number. Jeremy recommends looking at JungleScout. If you’re shooting for a rank of 10,000 in the office products category, you can look on JungleScout and estimate how many units you’ll sell in a day.
Exactly. They have a free Excel spreadsheet that you can get at forecast.ly/amazingfba. It’s a simple sheet that tells you what your lead time is, and when you’ll want to place your next order. The last piece on top of that is safety stock. That is a complicated thing so we won’t go into too much detail. Essentially, it’s insurance against a stock-out. If you think you’ll sell 10 units a day for those 75 days, then you’ll buy 750 units as your initial order. Depending on your level of cash, you’ll bump that up. You may want 10% safety stock. So you’ll add 75 units, just in case sales are higher than expected.
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.
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.
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.
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 [email protected], or use the contact form on their website, productlabs.net. If you would like to use his video service, please go to amzproductvideo.com.
Amazon has opened up a little more for third-party sellers to be able to get video on the website. This service has gained a distributor agreement with Amazon so they can get videos for other people, onto their listing. It’s different than the typical videos you’ve seen. If you become a vendor, everyone knows that you get the A+ content and you can put a video up top with your images.
Brad’s business partner used to work for IMDB and they know a lot of the people on the team handling this service. The service is pretty neat and they are trying to build up more and more video content inside of Amazon. You can actually put up a video and link it to your ASINs, and it will show up on the page a little further down. It won’t be on the top, it is right above the customer reviews. So when people are scrolling through and looking for more information, there is a section titles “Related Video Shorts.” It gives more information about the product itself, where people will be looking for it.
There are several types of videos you can do, it’s really fascinating. You can do unboxing videos, you can tag them as product comparison, you can do how-to videos, interviews, or you can do a straight-up advertisement for your product. There’s a whole list of different categories you can classify it as. This is particularly important for products that need to be explained or need some kind of information.
The service just processed a video the other day about a drain. It had this really cool strainer system, and the video showed everything about it. How it worked and why it was so much better than the competition.
These are the various tags you can put in. So you get the video ready, then you have to put in some metadata. You submit it through the service and then service processes it and distributes it into Amazon. The categories are Unboxing, How-Tos, Interviews, Product Review, and Advertising.
Yeah. This service wants to get more and more videos on Amazon. They love AMZ Product Videos because the service makes sure it’s high-quality videos. You can just put any video up. It has to be good quality, and you can’t have links going out of Amazon. This service scrubs all that which is why their contact in Amazon are really excited about this distribution agreement.
You just go to amzproductvideo.com and the service does two things. If you don’t have a video, they will develop some videos for you and upload them to Amazon for free. If you have a video, they charge for the processing they have to do, then upload it to Amazon.
It’s really quite easy. You just need: from http://amzproductvideo.com/pages/how-it-works
What we need from you.
We have several things we require in order to take your video upload request. They are:
- High Quality Video. We reserve the right to deny uploading a video where the content, resolution, or audio isn’t generally considered high quality. This is an Amazon requirement.
- Video File. We need a link to the following:
- Video File. Formats accepted are: 3GP, AAC, AVI, FLV, MOV, MP4 and MPEG-2 formats.
- Thumbnail image: 16:9 aspect ratio and a suggested minimum width of 1920px. Formats accepted are: JPEG and PNG.
- Metadata information. This includes:
- Title (100 char max)
- Synopsis (400 char max)
- Video Type: How-To, Review, Advertisement, Comparison, Unboxing or Interview
- Related ASINs: All the ASINs referenced in the video.
With that, you’ll up up and running in no time.
Once the video is on Amazon, it has it’s own page. Almost like it’s an ASIN listing. So you can go through and watch it at any point because it has a permanent location, like a YouTube video.
You can link your video to multiple ASINs. So if you had a brand with 20 SKUs and you wanted to make a brand video, you could link that video to all 20 SKUs. Or you can link multiple videos to one SKU. When you go to the Related Video Shorts on Amazon, you’ll see the video. If you have the URL to that video, which they will send you, it will list all the ASINs associated with it. In that previous example with the brand video, when you go to watch the video, on the right side of the screen, it will list all 20 ASINs.
He doesn’t have as much data as he would like. Based on the feedback from customers, they have seen increases in sales. A number that’s been floating around is that videos can improve conversion rate by 80%.
There is actually a volume discount. It’s 20% off if you do more than one. For one video it’s $250 for the processing if you already have one. If you need a video created, the prices are pretty competitive. Depending on the complexity, a 30 second video will run about $3000, for one minute it’s $4000.
It probably for people that are making serious money on Amazon. Although, if you have similar products, like different variations of pens, you could have one video linking to all those products.
There are other services that are similar. Often times you’d have to get the full-package and they can range from $750 – $1000. From what Brad Moss has seen, they are considerably cheaper than the competition. Also, there aren’t many people that are doing this.
It’s a really terrific service. Plus it’s still new, so now is the time to get in on the ground-floor.