In this episode, I talk with Sean Elias of Helium10 where he tells us how he got started with the company, what Helium10 is, the different tools offered for Amazon sellers, and how to choose an Amazon product.
Amazon is an incredible launch mechanism for new eCommerce retailers and established brands alike, but sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking it’s the only solution for online retail. On the last installment of Amazing FBA Jason Miles and I discussed this phenomenon. It’s called the Einstellung Effect.
The guest for this episode is Jonny Steel, the VP of marketing for Payoneer. Payoneer is the leading B2B cross-border payment platform that helps business pay or get paid. They’re also Amazon’s trusted payment platform. He is here today to help us sell on Amazon US.
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.
Today on the show, I have one of the first contacts I made when starting this show, David Aggiss. I had him on, all the way back in November of 2015. Since then, he has given up the day job and is his own full-time boss. He has a few business, one of which being an Amazon business. We’re going to dive in and find out David’s strategy for selling on Amazon.com.
David started learning about Amazon in April/May of 2015 and began receiving some training. In about four months, he started selling his own product. He took off quite well in Q4. At the time, incentivised reviews were still allowed so he made that a large part of his strategy. His sales exceeded his expectations going from 10 units a day to 30 on average. He launched his second product in Q4 last year and focused on his listing since incentivised reviews were no longer available.
There are a lot of techniques for finding products. David decided to simply look through Amazon. This is a great technique for finding good products. Look for lower prices and low competition items when first starting out. If you find a good product and the listing isn’t optimised, then there is definitely an opportunity for you to sweep in and take over. You can use Google Trends, Merchant Words to help you find what popular and what people are looking for.
David didn’t use any tools to find products, like Jungle Scout etc. He didn’t know what his products would be so he wouldn’t know what to search. Once he picked the products, he verified through Jungle Scout that there was a demand. Now he has about 5 products he’s working through launching.
He search Amazon to find his products. He narrowed his search to products between $15 and $50 and looked for products that interested him. If you are interested in the product then it’s easier to relate and figure out what those buyers are looking for. Then you can tailor your listing to those shoppers.
Getting reviews has become much more difficult since Amazon banned incentivised reviews. With this new world, you have to pay more attention to reviews since you can no longer give products away in exchange for a review. One thing to pay attention to when getting started with a new product is the number a reviews your competition has. If they have thousands of reviews, it’s going to be much harder to compete because it is more difficult to reach a competitive level.
Make sure you competitors only have a hundred or so reviews so you can better compete. Then you can use other services to help get legitimate reviews. You can also try to get traffic coming in from off Amazon.Ads on Facebook, Google, and Bing are great places to start.
There are also ways you can use Amazon to boost your listing. Spending heavy on PPC at the beginning is a good way to drive traffic when selling on Amazon.com. Once your listing gets going, then you can cut back to where it’s profitable. One thing David mentioned was participating in Lightning Deals. These deals on put on by Amazon that offers their shoppers very good discounts for a very limited amount of time. There is a link underneath your Advertising tab on the main screen of Seller Central. It’s not all the time, but Amazon will offer you a Lightning Deal when it’s relevant. This is a great way to drive a lot of sellers to you listing and gives a nice boost to new products.
Amazon sets the parameters. They will tell you the time slot, the minimum number of units, and the sale price which is based on your sales history. David, for example, recently got a time slot for 1am to 7am. Not the best time as many people aren’t looking at Amazon so early in the morning. Despite that, he had an additional 40 sales from the deal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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