We have a special guest today, Augustas Kilgys, to help up with seller optimization. Augustas is from Lithuania and Germany which gives him a unique insight into selling. He is also running the Seller Optimization Summit which is going to be going on very soon. If you are interest, please sign up to get more information.
The great thing about running an Amazon business is the freedom it allows in your personal life. You can go on holiday as you want and you can take a day off as needed. You set your own schedule and make your own deadlines. That also creates one of the more difficult aspects of your job as an Amazon seller, time management. Today on the show we have David Aggiss and we’ll be discussing time management techniques when you’re running an online business.
If you are first starting out, the challenge is finding enough time to work on your business. You have your full-time job, maybe a spouse and children, then your Amazon business on top of that. It’s going to lead to some late nights and long days. That’s the struggle of it. It’s important to set aside time-blocks for specific tasks. If you start working without this, you’ll end up working on a number of things and accomplishing nothing.
Customer service is a daily task. You’re probably going to be in Seller Central a lot anyway, which is a good thing so you can respond to customer questions and other issues as they arise. Once a week, you want to look at your listings. See if there is any way to improve them. You should take a look at your PPC and keywords to make sure they are performing how you want.
Expanding your business is an evening job. If you are looking to research new product lines or find new suppliers, make sure you have a few weeks available where you can put in some serious evening hours. You’re going to have to work everyday with emails back and forth with your suppliers, especially if they’re in China. Unless you can get on a Skype call, this process could take a week or more because of the time difference.
Skype is recommended to help speed up this exchange. However, keep in mind that if you’re looking into several suppliers, that Skype could get overwhelming. It is easier to maintain all the information if you limit it to email since that has understood, built-in limitations. Also, you will have a record of everything discussed.
If you find that you don’t have the time to handle everything that you need, consider outsourcing. Be aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus on your strengths, outsource your weaknesses.
If you are making enough money from your Amazon business that you can afford to outsource, then you are probably pretty proficient at the day-to-day Amazon tasks. Then you’ll want to continue to handle those. If your background is in web design, then build your website yourself.
If, however, you don’t know the first thing about building a website and you have no idea how to work on social media, outsource those. Chances are you can find someone that will do it better and faster. If a task is going to take you a week, but someone who is an expert can do it in a day, pay them to do it. The task will get done several days soon and you now have that week to work on something you’re an expert in.
While time management is important, focus management is as well. Like I said before, you have the freedom to make your own schedule, but you don’t have a boss to keep you on track. It’s easy to lose focus and let your business suffer because of it. You have to keep in mind why you want to run your own business. Whether it’s to have a luxury house, nice cars, or to simply spend more time with your family. Whatever it is, whether it changes over time, always remember that and let it be your motivation to stay focused.
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 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.
It’s no surprise to anyone that sales with Amazon in 2017 will get more complicated. There is more competition. It will probably weed out those that aren’t committed and aren’t willing to invest the time and money needed. It’s going to get more sophisticated. The person just throwing something up on Amazon probably isn’t going to make it. The ones that put in the effort, and work to make sure it’s a good product to sell will excel.
We’re going to need better listings now that there is enhanced brand content. More people will start using that making it more difficult for those who don’t.
Email follow-up sequences will become more important. They’ve always been important, but now that they are the only real way to get reviews, they are that much more important.
Inventory management will become more important. It’s not secret that Amazon’s distribution centers are bursting at the seams. That can’t really hold more products. So we will likely see stricter inventory control. Whether that’s higher storage fees, or they don’t allow to send in shipments on products that they already have a lot of inventory for.
It’s seems obvious hearing that, but I didn’t really think about it. A couple months ago we were trying to ship products to Amazon. We were warned against sending new products until after the holidays. And it’s fantastic that you were able to talk to Amazon lawyers. It’s reassuring to know that JumpSend is sound and don’t have to worry about getting flagged or banned for using it. I’m definitely going to use it with my next launch.
Greg has first-hand experience with this as he has launched six or seven products since October; three or four in the last few weeks. An Amazon product launch is very different after this updated Terms of Service was released.
Let’s take a 10,000 ft. look at this. In order to rank organically on Amazon, you need to have sales. There are a few ways to get sales. You can make your products really cheap, you can try to drive outside traffic, you can use deal sites like JumpSend. Without sales, you can launch your product but it will end up in the deep dark hole of Amazon and no one will find it. As Amazon sellers, we need to be thinking about how we can get sales on a product that is not organically ranking and doesn’t have any reviews so there’s no social proof.
Greg utilizes his JumpSend tool. It’s a deal site where about 30,000 people are visiting and looking for good deals. It’s no longer a place to get reviews, it’s a place to get sales. It still works, and it is completely within the Terms of Service of Amazon.
So Greg puts his products on JumpSend. Then he offers it at a price people want it, which can vary. He offers about five coupons a day, maybe ten if it’s competitive. From this, he is getting sales. He will do this for about a week. After that time, the product will be ranking very well. From those sales, a few will end up resulting in a review. He will also turn on pay-per-click advertising (PPC). It’s costly, but it does get you sales. That’s what you need to get started; you have to have these sales.
Where most people go wrong, is that they get scared of spending the money. Usually, Greg has to turn PPC so high that he is losing money on that sale. If he is offering 70% off, then he is likely losing money. People seem to get shy about losing money. However, that’s a part of doing business but you will recoup this money in the long-term. A big problem for people is that they’re afraid to bid the PPC that high, or they’re afraid to give that big of a discount because they’re afraid of losing money.
That’s the gist of it. To do an Amazon product launch, you have to force sales somehow. The easiest way is deal sites and PPC. Then you’ll start ranking organically, and start getting reviews. Another thing is that you definitely want to have an email follow up sequence turned on. You can use any tool for that, but keep in mind that JumpSend is also a follow-up email service as well as a deal site. It’s nice that it is a full launch package. No matter what you use, before you do your first giveaway, you need to have some sort of email follow-up that asks for a review.
The first email will thank them for the purchase. The second may let them know that they can contact you if you have any issues. The third could ask for a review. With an email sequence you’ll see that you can get 10-15 reviews out of 100 compared to the 3 out of 100 you may get without one.
Going back to the coupons. Amazon forbids any action that tries to manipulate the sales ranking, and in a way, giving out coupons does that. It’s not so much following the letter of the law but how Amazon sees that. If you give coupons to only JumpSend users but not to the general public, is that potentially violating the Terms of Service?
There is a clause in the ToS that was release in the first quarter of 2016 that said something to the effect that purposely manipulating sales rank is against the rules. It comes down to, what does this mean? It is a bit of a grey area. Greg’s personal opinion is that Amazon put that in because, at the time, sellers were doing these massive giveaways, especially in the supplement category. They were giving away about 100 units everyday for a couple days. That is probably what that clause was looking to prevent.
So, is giving away a couple coupons a day considered manipulating sales rank? All Greg really cares about is making sales and ranking organically in the search results. Since those Terms of Service were released, there hasn’t been anyone, that we’re aware of, that has gotten in trouble for manipulating sales rank. Some have gotten in trouble for some review type infractions. They have been big sellers doing about $500,000 a month. One seller, their VA got in touch with a top reviewer, didn’t ask for a review but it might have been implicated that they expected one, and their account was suspended for two months.
Some sellers have mentioned that some of their reviews were removed if the discount was too high. The sales were legitimate and organic in every way, but if the discount was over 50% off the regular price, then they were removed. You mention that you might give 70%-80% off, does that create any issues, as far as Terms of Service?
Amazon’s ToS are really vague, so Greg bases his knowledge off data and what people are actually experiencing. Whatever you do, do NOT imply that they are getting the discount in exchange for a review! That is a clear violation of Amazon’s ToS. If a person uses a coupon to buy a product, you’re just giving out coupons to make sales. Since October, Gerg has noticed that some of the reviews have been marked “unverified”, so he assumes that those are the ones bought with a coupon.
There is no way to know since you can’t track a review to an order. It seems that, for now, they are sticking. They might not stick a year from now. For the short-term, they are nice to have since, when you do an Amazon product launch, you won’t have many reviews. So even though they are unverified, it’s better to have them than little to no reviews.
They’ve done a lot of testing, and there is no one number, say 30% off, that will get a product verified. Some products, you can give a 50% off coupon and it will show verified. You can give 20% on another, and that will result in it being unverified. Even if you post it publically in the listing.
It’s reassuring that you’re not hearing about people getting their accounts suspended for giving away coupons and that, if you have a follow-up sequence, you can still get reviews. Since you have so many JumpSend users, you have a good amount of data. Also, that Amazon doesn’t seem as trigger happy with this as they seem to be with reviews.
Greg gives away about 5-10 units a day. That isn’t really manipulating sales rank. If it was 100 units a day or 500 units a day, it is probably more likely that Amazon will come knocking on your door. You just have to be mindful.
With the reviews, it’s worth repeating, you CANNOT give a coupon with the purpose of getting a review, or expect a review, or require a review. There is no more incentivised review.
Greg and some others that were running review sites had the chance to speak with Amazon lawyers. At first it was a bit scary but in the end it was a great experience. The lawyers were willing to work with them because they were looking to make the whole industry more legitimate and do away with the whole incentivized reviews.
There were a few things that aren’t in the ToS, but they did put it in writing. Big picture, you can’t incentivise anyone you’re giving a coupon to, in any way, to leave a review. An example of this, is that there were a lot of Facebook groups that had implied reviews with each other. They were saying that you don’t have to leave a review, but if you do you get more coupons. That’s not okay.
They’re not cool with you checking their review profile to see if they left a review. You may not require a review, but maybe you could check to see if they left one or not, and kick them out of the Facebook group.
Offering them more deals or giving them more coupons if they left a review is something Amazon is not okay with.
Basically, anything you do to check up on reviews, or anything link to reviews at all. That was when ReviewKick was relaunched as JumpSend. It’s totally legit and by the books. They have the lawyers blessing. You give out coupons to these people, but you have no idea who they are, you can’t follow up to see if they left a review. They don’t get more coupons for reviews. You’re just giving away coupons in the hopes of getting more sales.
Another thing that was surprising, Amazon’s not dumb. They are very in the loop. All these Facebook groups with the implied reviews, there is probably an Amazon lawyer in the group. Amazon is very attuned with what sellers are doing.
It’s surprising that people think they can fly under the radar. Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world, and third-party sellers account for ⅓ of their sales.
To find possible best products to sell online, as Greg mentioned in the previous episode, you can look at Amazon’s best seller, or look for trends in your everyday life. If you have time and are cost conscience then that works. However, the Jungle Scout web app was created to solve that problem. There are a few tools in the Jungle Scout web app, which is different than the Chrome extension. It’s more like traditional software. It has a database tool which is a recreation of the Amazon catalog. It’s available for the European and North American marketplaces.
What they’ve done is rebuilt Amazon’s catalog so it’s more user-friendly for sellers. You are able to search by metrics that sellers care about. You can search for all products that sell more than 500 units, have less than 50 reviews, have a poor listing, and weigh less than 5 pounds. You can put all that in and get it down to 5000 listings. From there you can get ideas of the best products to sell online. What people are are some really obscure products that people would have never thought to look for.
There’s a few strategies you can implement. One is finding a product, and improving on it. This is the age old practice. Take an item people are already buying even though it’s crappy, and just improving upon it. That’s what’s great about this day an age. 20 years ago, big corporations had to spend a lot of money doing research to find this same information that any average Joe can get by reading product reviews.
Just find a product to sell online that is selling despite poor reviews. Then filter by 1-star reviews and find out what everyone hates about it. Then contact a factory in China and have them make this one simple change. Put it on Amazon, and now you getting 5-star reviews while your competitors are getting 3-4 star reviews.
You’ll also find that anything with a higher barrier of entry will have less competition. If it’s a larger item that need to come in containers, those will have less competition, but will come with headaches. More expensive items will have less competition. The U.S. is the most competitive out of all the markets, so Greg has been expanding into Europe. According to an Amazon representative, if you combine all the European stores, they do about as much volume as the U.S.
Greg is by no means a lawyer and you should speak with an attorney about any specifics when doing Amazon product research. The information shared here should not be considered legal advice. But Greg has a lot of experience dealing with these types of things.
When doing product research, the first thing is patents. These offer protection for inventors. No one can use their idea for the length of the patent. If you do, the patent owner can sue you.
The expensive way to find out if something is patented is to hire a lawyer to do a full patent search. It’s expensive, takes a lot of time, and is full of headaches. However, you can be sure that you won’t have to worry.
Greg will look for red flags. If it’s a unique item that he’s never seen before or has a unique feature, that would be a red flag. Another would be if they’re the only one selling that type of product. Whereas if there are 8 people selling the same thing, it’s probably not patented because the patent owner would have come after them. An easy way, is many patent owner will put that in the description, or on the owner’s website. A lot of times you can just Google the item plus patent.
If at that point, you still think there might be a chance it’s patented, then it’s best to just drop the project.
Greg avoids selling products where there is strong brand loyalty. People buying running shoes, wants Nike or one of these big brands. That’s an item to stay away from. Whereas, does anyone really care who makes their alarm clocks? Apparel is another category with brand loyalty, also electronics. People care who makes their TVs and computers.
Do people care if their mixer is made by Kitchenaid? Or would they be ok with a private label? To determine this, you need to figure out how well the Kitchenaid is selling vs the private label. If the kitchenaid is selling 3000 units a month and the private label is selling 100, that’s a red flag. If Kitchenaid is selling 1000 a month and the private label is selling 600, that tells me people are willing to buy a private label.