Augustas is originally from Lithuania and moved to Germany because that is where his wife is from. He has moved around a lot and is quite the digital nomad.
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About a year ago he learned that he could get free stuff from Amazon sellers after looking into doing FBA. He never started his Amazon business, instead he got into doing reviews. He found Facebook groups for German products and decided to give it a shot. He saw one seller looking offering a hands-free bluetooth device for cars and applied for it and got it. After that he started looking for other items that he needed around the house. He began to realize how much value he was giving to the sellers after they began messaging him, thanking him for his reviews and asking him if he wanted to review another product for him. He is a top 400 reviewer in Germany, currently 320 and organizer of the European Private Label Summit!
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Has it changed now that you’re more established?
Since Augustas is a top 400 reviewer, he is able to make his email public and sellers can contact him for reviews. Whereas before he would have to hunt for products to review. When he first got started he didn’t have any reviews in his profile so sellers weren’t as interested in working with him. He would started leaving reviews for any product he bought so that he could start building his profile. He would hunt for any product he could review and as he ranked higher and higher he began receiving emails to review products. Now, on average, he gets about 8 emails a day.
What kind of products turn you off?
What are the best kinds of products that attract you to review them?
Each reviewer has different things they look for. Some will end up selling the item on eBay whereas Augustas will see if he needs it around the house or if he can give them as presents. Though if it’s an expensive item, he might consider reviewing it even though he doesn’t need it with the intention of selling it.
Another thing to consider is the price. Since Augustas puts so much effort into his reviews, he reserves an hour for each one. If it’s a less expensive product, maybe €10, he is more likely to just buy the product outright. If you have a lower priced item, you might get better results from looking in reviewer clubs and Facebook pages rather than the top reviewers. However, some top reviewers will do lower priced items, so it’s always a good idea to check out their reviews to get an idea of how the operate.
What are the big turn-offs in emails?
Augustas prefers emails with direct links to the products. Also, make sure they are short. Sometimes the URL is very long and goes for several lines in the email which could get cut off or mishandled by the software. So use a shortening service if you need to. Add a picture of the product so he doesn’t have to go to the URL to see what it is.
Some sellers write longs emails talking about how they saw he was a top seller and how they saw his reviews and going on and on. Leave that off. For Augustas, receiving as many emails as he does, doesn’t read them. He will quickly scan the email, mainly looking for the link. Don’t waste your time and his by writing long emails. Make it short and sweet and have your listing make the sell to him. This goes back to making sure you have a strong listing.
What is the best email approach that you respond to?
For Augustas, it really comes down to the link. He doesn’t really read the email. Since some of the information he needs get lost in the text, he might miss it.
What he is looking for is:
If you are contacting a reviewer in another country, add a sentence at the bottom of the email apologizing for you poor language skills and note that you are a native speaker. It might not always be useful, but it is for someone like Augustas. He is not a fluent German speaker who writes reviews for the German market. For him it is easier to communicate in English. So by adding the note in the email, he will know that he can contact you in English instead of both of you struggling in attempting to communicate in German, which neither party is fluent. You are more likely to find people that can speak English rather well.
Are there particular review clubs/services that you like as a reviewer?
When Augustas started out, there weren’t any well-established review clubs in Germany so he joined a Facebook group. Then one-by-one the clubs began popping up and he started joining them. The one he likes is amzreviews.co.uk or amzreviewtrader.com in the US. It’s a global platform and you can choose your market. It has a great search feature, big pictures, and it lists how much it will cost. You can apply to be a reviewer and if the seller approves you, you will get an email. Then you go back to the platform and get the coupon code, order the products, and submit the review link.
The problem with this platform is there are thousands of products, so if you know what you want it’s easy to find. However, there is a good chance that you are missing out on some great products.
What about red flags/warning signs?
The only thing Augustas really warns against is spam email. Sometimes you can get that with some of these review clubs since you are putting your email out there. Just make sure you protect yourself.
On a sidenote, Augustas made sure it was known that you need to treat the reviewers like customers. Listen to their feedback. Augustas mentioned that he was dealing with a seller who sent a product without the necessary adapter to make it work and expect him to solve the issue. On the reverse side, he was reviewing a tote bag that had a hole in it when it arrived and within hours the seller had gotten back to him and shipped a new one. As a seller, do not treat your reviewers like the first example. These people are putting a lot of effort into reviewing your product so please respect their time. Also, you run the risk getting a negative review from them.
How do you deal with Amazon ToS? Have you ever had a review removed because you got it for free?
Augustas has over 200 reviews and has never had an issue with one getting removed or any seller coming to him after the fact about a review. Augustas uses ARAT software to monitor his reviews and those of other top sellers and hasn’t noticed any issues with his reviews.
Sometimes the reviews get stuck in Amazon’s system. In the US and UK, reviews will be published within 6 hours, in Germany it’s a bit longer. So if he notices his reviews haven’t been published he has to contact Amazon or else they will never be published. He also noticed that some of his reviews weren’t listed as verified purchase. He mostly saw this when he ordered from the UK market rather than the German. But after the market was released, it showed up as verified.
Keep that in mind when working with the reviewers. Make sure to approach them respectfully if it appears they haven’t left a review because it would be a glitch in Amazon’s system. SO if they say they left a review but you don’t see it, ask them to contact Amazon directly because they may be a reason the reviews got stuck. For example, Augustas had a review get stuck because two of the pictures were too dark. Another got stuck because he showed the website address in his video.
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Brexit has hit UK based entrepreneurs, like everyone else in the UK.
But I think it’s time to start reflecting quietly on what this means for your Amazon business. There will be threats and issues – but also opportunities.
First and foremost: Don’t panic. Don’t despair. Respond but don’t react! Assess everything with a cool business brain. Don’t be a Polyanna; don’t be pessimistic, either. Just be aware of events and stay aware of threats and opportunities. When you spot the latter, act decisively!
Threats & Solutions
The USD/Pound rate
The USD/Euro exchange rate
1. For now, if you’re selling in Euros (if you have inventory in the UK or other European marketplaces) and are selling into Germany, France, Spain, or Italy, again, get yourself a Euro account in the UK and set up Currencies Direct or similar to receive your payouts from Amazon. Euros are for now worth more than before Brexit.
2. However, I would say that medium term (who knows exactly but I guesstimate within 6-18 months or so), the Euro itself will be hit by crises and thus lose against the pound (worth less to you if reconverted) and against the Dollar, which you need to pay Chinese suppliers (to an extent it has itself been hit by Brexit).
I almost guarantee a crisis, if nothing else, because of the Greek debt situation. I’m no expert but it’s pretty obvious that if they couldn’t pay their debts last two crises, next time (when they will have expanded), they will simply have to be written off to a degree (in a “haircut”). The markets are going to hate this and they will punish the Euro. It will probably bounce back, I suspect, but that is way harder to predict.
3. Of course, one way to mitigate Euro currency risk is to sell in wealthy Euro countries on Amazon (eg in Germany) AND buy in Euros from lower-cost countries (eg Estonia). This is something I’ve been exploring in depth but I’ve no practical experience yet.
Simply put, tough times thin out the herd. We aren’t in a recession yet, but for people converting pounds to USD, their dollar costs just rose 15%. That may drive some people out of the whole business model.
If there is too much competition for your liking on Amazon UK, or from UK sellers on Amazon, this is one way that it will get reduced. It may indeed be the right decision for you and your business to shut up shop. Assess objectively if you can. But equally, if you can ride it out, you will have less competition at the end of the process.
If you sell and buy in dollars, you are effectively outside the UK economy and outside the pound’s relationship to other currencies. Congratulations! You still have to deal with the intense competition on Amazon.com but if you can handle that, there is money to be made.
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Kevin King part 3 of 3 show notes
What’s working best in your business now?
Kevin encourages people to focus on Amazon. It is the biggest platform for online shopping and if you focus on maximizing on Amazon first, it will pay off. People are already there with their credit cards out wanting to buy. Since Amazon is always changing things, you need to keep tweaking your listings to keep up with the changes. You can’t just post your products, sit back, and watch the money roll in. It doesn’t work like that.
Once you maximize on Amazon, what do you do to expand off Amazon?
Kevin is working on getting into some big-box retailers as well has having his own Shopify site. Kevin has also found success using JoeLister. Using this tool is Amazon items are automatically submitted to eBay. Any sales from eBay are sent to Amazon for shipping and sends the customer the tracking number. It’s all automated. It does a relatively small amount of sales, roughly $1000-2000 a month. However, since it is all automated he doesn’t require any additional time and effort to get those sales. It’s free for the first couple listings and after that it’s only $29 a month.
He also has his own branded site to go along with his Shopify site to add legitimacy to his brand. That way if first-time buyers try to look him up they will see that his are valid products. However, these are just tools that support his Amazon business. Again, the main focus should be Amazon.
Another great tool is Amazon Assistant for Firefox. This is a plug-in for Firefox that allows you to download your reviews from Amazon as well as the video reviews. He then takes those videos and puts them on his YouTube channel and links those back to the product listing.
Kevin has found that Amazon is a great way to refine and improve your products for another stage. He is looking into getting into big-box stores like Sears or Wal-Mart and has been taking feedback from his Amazon customers to make sure his products are at the highest level. The last thing you would want is to get into a big store like Wal-Mart and have a low quality product. You are going to have a lot of returns and the stores aren’t going to want to carry your products anymore. So use the feedback you get from Amazon and tweak and improve your products.
His long-term goals is to create a strong brand in these big-box stores so that he is covered if something happens with Amazon. If you’re looking to make this a full-time job then at some point you will need to expand beyond Amazon because at anytime Amazon could decide to unlist you. Therefore, in order to survive elsewhere, it is important to build a strong brand. Kevin is looking to take his brand to $10 million a year by the end of 2018 and he is well on his way to reaching that goal.
Kevin explained that he doesn’t want to have a huge business with a lot of employees. He tries to take care of as much as he can by himself because bringing on other people will really eat into his bottom-line. So he isn’t a big fan of outsourcing too early. However, many people don’t have the same background and might need help with shipping and freight and will need to rely on outside help.
Kevin is also looking to expand his business into the UK. Once he gets his VAT number he will be ready to test the waters in Europe. Europeans have very similar cultures to that of the US and are just as willing to spend money. The UK has the highest ratio of online shopping to income in the world. That means that they spend more of their money online than anyone else. Plus there are 60-70 million people buying that have similar cultures and buy similar products, so the UK is a great opportunity for expansion.
A big advantage to selling in the UK is that it will be much easier to expand into other parts of Europe. Customers in, let’s say France or Germany, will have the opportunity to have their products shipped from the UK. When his sales reach a certain point, he will have to open accounts in each of these countries, but until that point he can base it all out of the UK.
A word of warning is that you need to make sure that your products can have a high enough margins because your costs may be higher when selling in other countries due to regulation cost, but more importantly, currency exchange rates. For Kevin, he will be buying everything in USD, but selling them in the UK with GBP. If he has a slow moving product and ships 1000 units, it may take him a year to sell through them. In the meantime the pound gets stronger against the dollar and now he’s losing money. For UK sellers, certain political events are having an effect on pricing, e.g. the Brexit.
What can listeners do if they want to get a hold of you, or find out more about you?
Kevin has considered consulting but doesn’t feel strongly about continuing that. He recently offered a free 15 minutes session and got about 30-40 hits on it from all over the world. Over a few days he worked with each of them, looked over their listings and helped them improve. He quickly realized that you can’t do both. You can’t do consulting as well as selling. For Kevin, consulting isn’t scalable. He can’t make money while sleeping unless he makes a course. At the rate Amazon is changing the course will quickly go out of date so he will focus on that. He is considering starting a mastermind group in the future where people can come in for a four hour session but that would be it.
Other than that you can find him on several of the American Amazon FBA groups on Facebook or just look him up on Facebook, Kevin King in Austin, Texas.
What do you see coming in 2016 and 2017 in the future of Amazon?
Do you have any final words for Amazon sellers?
If you are willing to work hard, put in the time and dedication, and have a little money to play with, you will succeed. Just stay positive. take your failures as they come; learn from them and get better.