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#101 Finding a Killer Amazon Product Part 1 of 5: Generate Great Ideas

Generating Product Ideas

Generating Product Ideas

The first step to finding a Killer Amazon Private Label Product is generating good ideas.

I think there are basically two ways to do this:

Option 1: Organic Ideas

  • Brainstorm – I use a tool called Workflowy but a Google doc (especially good if you’ll be sharing with a partner or VA) or Word or Pages (Mac) document would do. Or even a notebook!
  • Go to Argos, Tiger and similar shops – maybe Tesco for UK if you’re after clothes or Walmart in the States
  • Look at physical catalogues like Argos etc
  • Sign up for specialist magazines or catalogues eg for Cookware
  • Look around eg your kitchen, friends’ kitchens, etc.

Option 2: Use research tools to generate ideas

  • One tool I’ve used is the Product Database from Jungle Scout (affiliate link). I personally tend to start from ideas but if you’re more numbers driven, this tool can be great. I have a couple of my mentees who love starting this way.
  • If you do it this way, you’ll need to start off with some criteria. I’ll talk more about this at the next stage, but I would avoid cheap, light products. The $20-40 selling price range is where everyone else is; I suggest going much higher. You can do interesting things like only looking for products above 5 lbs weight etc. Have a play and see what comes out.

Either way – we just gather ideas at this stage, we don’t want to rule out too much. First we gather, then we whittle down ideas.

 

#62 How to do The Canton Fair with Danny McMillan – Part 2 of 2

Danny’s recent article on the Canton Fair for www.webretailer is here

What are the 5 biggest mistakes people make attending the fair for the first time?

When people don’t plan at all and they get lost and lose their time. Once a phase is over, it’s over. So if you don’t plan out where you need to be you very well may end up missing out on what you went there for. By taking 10 minutes to plan out where you need to be at what time, you can save yourself hours.

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#61 The Canton Fair – Lessons Learned – with Danny McMillan – Part 1 of 2

Danny – remind us of your background in 2 minutes or fewer!

Danny first got his start in the music industry selling vinyls years ago. That where he first got to work with products and marketing and all that. In 2008 he began working online with different startups which led him to Amazon last year. He was able to consolidate the knowledge he gained from those two industries and put them to use with FBA.

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#60 Q& A Tuesday No. 8

Q1 David 

PRICE TESTING: Hi Guys! I have been doing a lot of price testing. Does anybody know if the price changes in the shopping cart? For example, if somebody added my product to their shopping cart as price X, but did not check out. Then, I change to price Y. Does the product, in the shopping cart, change to price Y or does it remain at the original price X as it was when it was added to the cart? Things that make you go Hmm!!!

Michael Veazey David, interesting question. I admit I don’t know the answer.

However I wouldn’t recommend changing price that swiftly or often! I’ve been guilty in the past. Problem is that you can’t make objective statistically significant measurements of the effects of price changes.

Michael Veazey I’ve recently been testing out www.amzsplit.com

Www.Cashcowpro.com also looks promising although I’ve not used it yet. It also does profit calculations to some degree. Hello profit may be better for the latter.

I am tracking down the creators of all of these things for the podcast…

Q2. Anila

So… I went on Jungle Scout to find the niche product 

Started with  Home & Kitchen -> Kitchen and Dining -> Kitchen utensils -> Cooking utensils:

A lot of Silicone spatulas came up as you would expect but what JS ran was a completely different story.

It would seem that there still is market for those wishing to sell Silicone Spatula…

Or am I reading the data wrong

According to Greg Mercer’s guidance:

1st 5 listing have under 50/100 reviews (Further down a few names dominate)

And the revenue for is good for all the top sellers and very high volume of sales

Wade I might be wrong, but I’ve always been sorting the results by rank, and then those are my top 10 ones to look at and assess. Please someone tell me if I am wrong!

Michael Veazey Well, this is the first phase or first filter of any sensible product picking system.

First of all quite a few results are for steel tongs so those need to be eliminated as irrelevant.

Then you need to be aware of giveaways.

Look at the top ranked seller.

With just 23 reviews, I don’t believe they are doing 3000 organic sales a month in this market.

Next and most important, price. At $6.49, you have to wonder what the profit is.

let’s look at ad costs which are frightening with a very competitive keyword.

If we guesstimate PPC costs per click on such a competitive keyword at say $2 per click, and if we are optimistic and say 33% conversion, that gives a cost of $6 as cost per ad driven sale.

Even if say 1/2 of sales are organic that would give an overall average ad cost of $3 per sale.

That leaves $3.49.

I don’t know what the fulfilment fees are but let’s say $1. Referal fee is $0.97 so basically $1.

So that leaves $1.53 to:

1. buy your unit, 2. inspection, 3. freight, 4. duty and customs costs 5. Receiving warehouse in USA 6. Amazon inbound shipping.

Sales can be achieved if you drop the price, spend a lot on giveaways and spend aggressively on PPC.

That’s a good set of launch tactics.

The issue is whether after that, there is profit to be made.

Q.3 Sergei

Hello Amazing FBAers!

How do you pay your freight forwarder to ship your goods to Amazon USA? Do you pay 100% directly before shipping?

I have been trying to get freight forwarders to use Escrow or to pay them 30%/70% through Alibaba’s Trade Assurance but they won’t agree to it….

Is there a way how I can be safe? Because if you pay them 100% of the sum at the beginning, then you are at their mercy and they will not put a lot of effort because they have already been paid

Btw Michael, keep up the good job, one of the best podcasts out there!

Peter Zapf I’ve usually seen the bill/invoice issued right when goods are about to get delivered (this would be US freight forwarders shipping into the US). Not up front before goods are even picked up.

But this is also different than the 30/70 for suppliers. For suppliers, the 70% is the hammer to make sure you get the quality you need, which is why you should do a pre-shipment inspection. I’ve never seen anything like 30/70 for freight forwarders.

Michael Veazey Hi Sergei,

I assume your freight forwarders are in China, is that right?

Are they are very small firm or are they an established large one? Is there a particular reason you feel worried about fraud with them?

Michael Veazey So Sergei, are these FF based in China? And where are you shipping to? US? U.K.? Europe?

I’ve not heard of anyone doing a 30/70 split with a FF. If you’re really worried then I’d suggest

1. Get one in the USA If that is where you are importing to. Or UK or wherever you are based.

2. Find one who will talk through the process on the phone and generally help you avoid newbie mistakes.

Q.4 Ella

Hi Guys – I’m new to this group! I am in the process of arranging shipping from china to FBAI by air express (arranged by the supplier), however after reading a few posts could air freight be an option? I will exceed the $2500 customs threshold so will have to engage a customs broker anyway so will it make more sense/cost effective to go air freight? This is my first shipment so a bit unsure about the whole thing but trying to work my way through it! Additionally when you say door to door (in this case does that mean to FBAI instead of having to engage a FF to move from port to FBAI). Thanks 🙂

Yes air freight could well be an option. If it’s a small consignment it probably won’t save you much over air express but The thing to do is to get some quotes then you can work on hard data.

Air Courier is nearly always the simplest option. Ask for DDP =Delivered Duty Paid. If you get DAP=Delivered At Place (sometimes called DDU Delivered Duty Unpaid which is not technically an INcoterm) you can in theory just have the courier invoice you for the Duty but it is wise to use a customs broker at least first time out.

Ask your supplier what they can get from their air express guys. Then get quotes from several freight forwarders and compare.

1

#55 Amazon Private Label Strategies: Kevin King Interview Part 1 of 3

**WARNING: Contains a bit of swearing &  A Lot of Truth!**  

How did you come to be selling on Amazon?

Entrepreneur since age 4 when resold bubble gum to friends! Not had a job as an employee since age 17.  Direct marketing background not SEO. Sells calendars directly to consumers, also wholesale.

Been selling on Amazon since late 1990s – e.g. old CDs, DVDs etc.

Also in calendar business signed up for Amazon Advantage – media only e.g. CDs, DVDs

In Q4 gets purchase orders. Start of season 3-4 a week; end of season say 1000 a week.

That alone pulls in six figures – and everything else on top of Amazon orders is 100% profit.

So Kevin has seen the power of Amazon grow.

2 years ago he looked into the PL model but didn’t jump on it, which he regrets.

Started doing it May last year – doing some Retail Arbitrage – see how shipping and systems work. He realised RA is too much work and not scaleable. Race to the bottom.

Why do PL?

Calendars are seasonal. He had pay-per-view TV revenue stream but the internet had killed that off. Plus Kevin’s Background matched all the skills needed, including:

developing packaging, product development, online marketing -plus sourcing from China and Korea. So he went for it.

Kevin’s philosophy is to prove a product on Amazon then take them into retail on other channels.

Amazon is the bulk of his revenue. This is problematic long term because they could in theory shut your account down or suspend your best selling product at any point.

Recent example: Amazon wrote to Kevin saying they’re suspending his best selling product because of an image violation. They didn’t even tell Kevin what the violation was!

Kevin worked out it could be cartoons or extra elements in the images that he had put in. So he was able to deal with the issue. But it was a reminder that you’re vulnerable to some robots or some employee doing things by the book.

Where would you get started as a newbie with Product Selection?

How much money do you need to start in Amazon PL?

Product selection depends on how much money you have to start with.

Even Scott Voelker and other people say unrealistic things about how much you need to start. Kevin says you need a lot of money. There are stories of someone who started with $300 and made a lot of money. Some of the stories are untrue, some are true. But what’s missing: five days later that person took a loan from the uncle for $10,000 & 10 days later put $20,000 on the credit card. etc.

It paints a false picture. Some people get lucky, but it’s very rare. It takes a lot of work and a lot of money. If you just want a bit of extra holiday money you could do one of two products. But to make a living demands serious money, determination and hard work. Even Kevin didn’t realise how much money it takes even with his product.

Do you believe in staying in one Amazon category and building a brand? Or do you pick each product on its own merits/just follow the numbers?

In Kevin’s case, he started five brands because he came from a product background so he was a aware  one might not work. So he wanted to increase odds of success.

Launching second product won’t double sales unless it’s just an add-on or extremely complementary. So he’s not so worried about potential complementary sales.

However, if you can, do get them. An example is that Kevin started in the makeup category. The problem was  massive competition because it was easy to get into. Now for example he sells makeup tools instead of makeup itself, and many of those are complementary [cross sales potential].

How do you go about picking products? If you had $5000 to start out but potentially use credit card later?

If it’s capital intensive, what’s your approach to finance?

Kevin will make use of available credits. For example at bankrate.com you can get find credit cards listed. Like City and Chase which will give you know percent balance transfer and also wash purchases for about 15 months

If you have good credit and some good history, there’re other places like a deal struck on deck etc. If you have a pro seller account for a year and the metrics look good, Amazon will offer you a decent rate on loans as well.

How do you differentiate your products on the competition?

In some cases, Kevin sources products that are straight up private label from Ali Baba. But he makes a few changes. Every product has retail packaging.

A lot of people will take the brown box that is given by manufacturer, but customers care about the look of packaging.

Kevin doesn’t do an initial order under 1000 units – if he doesn’t have confidence in the product he won’t buy it. He believes he can sell out over time if it was a dud product. It may take a year and tie up cash but you can sell anything on Amazon in time. So the risk is not that great.

Kevin picked his first product in May 2015 it took two months to get products out but that was okay because he used for long photo shoots and made a really beautiful products and packaging.

Three Product Examples.

Example 1: Product for dogs, just wanted to do it, the research tool said no but Kevin wants to do it anyway. It’s doing well because it’s a great positioning and marketing.

He went to www.upwork.com for CAD design in Argentina which he had sketched on paper.

He went to one factory that messed it up; 2nd factory  however made new moulds.

Kevin rarely has a hijacker because they are original. The only time that ever happens to him is when you sell the products for $0.99 to people who have accounts on review groups. So they probably have 10 accounts and they basically use it today bit of retail arbitrage..

Example 2: Kevin spent $30,000 dollars on creating a mould and tooling. But where the best seller is selling a product for $10, Kevin is doing it for $100. BSR doesn’t matter to Kevin for that reason.

The competitor is making only $1 a sale, Kevin is making $20-$30. Because Kevin has differentiation against the high end to compete, BSR does not matter to him, also at the high end of product quality and price there is less competition.

Example 3: Kevin recently launched another product in the dog space. He did use tools like: ASIN Inspector, Jungle Scout, other tools including Merchant Words and UberSuggest. However, all these tools are just guesses. The only numbers you can totally trust are Amazon ads results.

Again, most of the competition were playing at the low end. They were the equivalent of McDonald’s, whereas he wanted to create a product that was equivalent of the best steak house in town/French chef. It’s a smaller market but enough to make it work.  They were using cheap packaging, where is Kevin created a  kind of cigar box type packaging.

Kevin’s product is twice as expensive as the main competition, and has half the number of products e.g. five treats instead of 20. On Friday it was put up with no promotion. He had 3 sales with no reviews. He started PPC (one sale) but it is already selling at a high price point without it.

Differentiation and going for the High End

Kevin makes sure to be different and go for the high end of the market [less crowded/more profit].

Kevin may sometimes go to Alibaba and source an existing product. However he will add pieces to it change things so it is different.That might be thought of as bundling, but Kevin things it’s bigger than that.  It is about changing things so it is different from the existing products.

He does not go into the model of getting it in fast and then get it shipped. He is in for the long haul, not “get rich quick”. People preach that model but Kevin doesn’t buy that.

Differentiation and building a brand is an end to end process. It is no good skimping on the product or if you have issues, even if the packaging is good, it will still go wrong!

Building on email list from your Amazon customers

If you use a manage by stats, they will take your Amazon customer’s postal address is match them up email addresses. This is not perfect, but 30 to 40% should match up. 

Testing your market and their views on products

Kevin recently send out an email to 100 people on his email list. He had 20 responses and he email he sent out 20 units from his competitors, In plain packaging.

He got great feedback on the pros and cons of different models. He also got the sales copy for his bullet and title. And he knew what was a good product.

Those who raved, he went back to and asked them for reviews. He had up a dead listing for the product said that it could have reviews on. So it actually had eight reviews on it before the product went live.

Reviews – numbers and discounts

It is a myth that you need 50 or hundred or 500 reviews. However, now you really need verified reviews. If you sell it out over 50% discount, it won’t be a “verified” review. Customers are also getting savvy.

Kevin now sorts by verified reviews when he is searching on Amazon, and other Amazon customers are probably starting to do the same.

An example of this is that Kevin got a product that got five stars reviews across the board from giveaways. But after it was used for real, the real reviews went down fast.

How to maximize positive reviews – Email followup tip

Kevin has the first email which does not even offer anything, it contains tips and suggestions and checks. For example if it is a potentially dangerous product, it tells the consumer to be careful when opening it.

The timing of this email is crucial. Assuming that most customers use Prime, they will receive the product two days after ordering. So Kevin times this email to arrive one day off to the order. In other words it is after the order but before they receive the actual product.

He puts the question in the PS: “Why did you choose us?” And offers a free gift if they onto this question. Always put something in the PS if you want someone to read it.

This gives an important psychological insight before they have a product in their hands. From this he can change the listing, bullet points etc. and he gets a lot of verified reviews. About 10% respond. It gives great insight into why they hit the buy button. The product itself can negatively or positively influence them.

You start to see patterns here.

Optimising listing

What are your main points? Photos? Title? Bullet points?

The title is really important. The reviews the second most important thing including a video on page 20 possible. Images are also very important. If somebody’s shopping for a well-known brand, the images not so important. But for private label, they are crucial.

Packaging is also very very important. If you have great packaging, it can help you make sales with the photo of the packaging itself.

An example of improving packaging:  Kevin started with a $1 box. The new box cost $2.20 but he was able to raise the price to $40- $50, his customers didn’t feel ripped off, they felt they were getting a good deal. This is what to aim for.

If you look at high-end products like Apple Samsung, the packaging is absolutely critical especially somewhere as competitive as Amazon. It gives the customer confidence even if it’s not fancy, it can be a couple bucks but the spelling must be good and it must look like something they can get in a retail store. In a retail store if you think about the people by based on packaging anyway.

You can use great packaging in your photos to catch the eye and differentiate your product.

Careful who you listen to

The figure of “ 50% of full price figure to get verified reviews” comes from Kevin’s own testing and people who know what they are saying. 

Kevin warns that some people don’t have a clue are giving advice, in Facebook groups and even some podcasters. Some give great value but a lot of the podcasters don’t have a lot of experience selling. It varies a lot. It’s best to trust the guests are doing the numbers.

[Michael does not claim to be an expert in doing big numbers, which is why these days he focuses more on more on getting in guests who are doing big numbers, and focusing on what they have to say]

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right away.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is: http:// amazingfba.com/feed/podcast.

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask

 

#50 Product Process, Suppliers, Freight and Amazon Future with Anthony Lee Part 2

NEW PRODUCT PROCESS

So a product jumps out at you from the universe.

Can you talk us through your process with a new product (from selection to re-ordering)?
(from product selection, via supplier selection, freight/supply chain, getting products to Amazon, product launch)

What are your criteria/ numbers?

Look for main KW “The thing that it is” on page 1 – using Jungle Scout, Anthony wants to see at least 60% of sellers doing $15,000 sales each. He wants a handful under 250 reviews. They’ve probably been there under a year, so there’s room for AL to take some market share.

He’ll glance at BSR – a number between 2000-4000 =mid competition. Anthony is confident he can easily get on page 1.

80% of all factories in the world are in China – it has lots of real estate, dedicated to factories. Everything AL sources is located in China.

Next step is to find a supplier using Alibaba, Global Sources,. Global sources is his go to place. HK is an easy place to reach and many of their suppliers go to their trade show. HKDTC (never had much success so far) and Made in China as backups.

Criteria: Gold Supplier for 3 years – they have to pay for that. Make sure they take some kind of secure payment -they’re probably not trying to rip people off.

Send out your enquiry. Ask for samples first – if it’s crap, cost doesn’t matter! 3-4 samples generally.

You pare down – send emails. certain %age come back; ask for samples; certain %age respond.

Whittle down to highest quality then  pit them against each other for quotes.

“I really like your quality and I personally would like to work with you. But my partners would like to work with your rivals because of price.”

ALWAYS make custom modifications. Put logo on product not just package, have the product itself your brand colours. Better for brand and for hijackers etc.

Give them design specs, place a 30% deposit but have them send you a sample of your design.

Use that to check quality and for photos.

How do you deal with Quality control?

Have an inspection co. like Asianinspection or Richforth. Contract them for a man day (unless it’s electronic in which case you might need a week) 300 USD for one man day.

Have it set against a margin of error. So you know it’s good to go before you leave the factory.

You tell the factory they won’t get 70%

You can work with a sourcing agent. It’s just hard to find someone you can trust. Most of them are very much making a deal with the factory and you. Get paid on the front end and the back end. It turns out AL has 15 years’ experience as an importer and AL is now communicating with him. That will help with QC – they can check factory, batch inspection.

The real low tech way/cheap way to do it – find someone on Upwork to go to the factory and send a Skype video or pictures of the production line or products. Have them toggle switches etc.

What are the biggest issues you’ve met with suppliers? What are your best solutions?

AL has been “lucky” but that’s because he has a lot of hoops to jump through before he’l work with them. He’s heard the horror story e.g. sample quality not real quality or jack up prices last minute etc. Not experienced yet.

The best way is to very very thorough about selection process.

What other hoops do you make them jump through?

Communication. How responsive are they? If it takes 2 days to get an email back, am I a priority?

When we get to a certain point, what’s your Skype? how about your mobile/cell phone?

I have them send pictures of the production facility. Because

  1. see the factory. 2. How willing are they to do it?
    The factory is your biz partner – they’d better act like it! If you were gong into  biz with someone in your own country how you would you want them to act?

How do you handle freight? Supplier’s carrier?

How do you deal with inventory management?
It’s a big area of confusion! AL does not have a courier account with DHL etc. because he doesn’t do much air freight. He just uses supplier’s courier account for samples – he  even has a standard template for samples.

For everything else he uses sea freight as it is significantly less expensive. Generally he shipped LTL (Less than a Truckload /LCL (Less than a Container Load) although now mostly 20-40 foot containers.

Because the closest US coast to China is the West coast, and the most common port is Longbeach, he specifically looked for a Freight Forwarder in LA. So that is freighting by sea and delivered the shortest distance. Then he does LTL pickup by Amazon who picks up palletized and labelled units ready to go to Amazon.

SO you’re looking for a one-stop shop for warehousing and freight?

Yes, wanted to make process as easy as possible. They contract with a customs agent to handle the customs clearance. AL just gets an email with the bill. They make it really easy.

An alternative is to use Asia based Freight Forwarders – they get amazing deals on fast boats out of China. So you need to go through the same process.

Amazon decided that everything is going to Moreno CA so West Coast made sense. However, every time they have a strike, his products get stuck. The absolutely best way is to go out and get as many quotes from FF as possible. As lots of questions and get one that will take the time to educate you. One of them might say “Well our clients do it this way” and make a suggestion.

Tell us about inventory management – when a product is selling, what then?

What about “Killing off” products with low sales or low profit?

AL doesn’t yet use inventory management software – doing it manually is a pain. It’s tricky because you base reordering decisions on two weeks’ sales; then you get a spike in sales and you will run out of stock. The other danger is demand drops off instead and you buy too much inventory so you pay high warehousing fees. That’s when supply chain management evolves.

You need to look at warehousing deals so at some point you can bring in whole containers and bring  only a couple of pallets to Amazon.

Every product is seasonal. You need to be in the game before you learn that pattern for a particular product. A store manager might be your first hire – a necessary one if you’re going to have and grow a business based on importing.

When to let go of products?

A lot of people come in thinking they need to make lots of sales or it’s over. If the product is still making you a profit, you should maybe reconsider. Even if it’s only a small amount. If you get 5% return, it’s worthwhile.

What’s your approach to cashflow management?

Al is just starting that conversation – chances are you will run into this soon enough. The solution is not in the system itself. Cash injections become important.

AL’s short term solution has been credit. Will Tjernlund uses Amazon outside of PL to make cash faster – wholesaling ideas are fantastic. When you’re in this business, you’ll make a lot of connections. It could be someone in your local area who doesn’t have product on Amazon or it’s not selling well. You probably have more Amazon experience than they do. SO soft sell – let me help you with this – good way to make extra cash. AL has recently been working out profit share deals with people who want to

Leverage whatever skills you have. A lot of people want this skill but don’t have time to develop. A lot of retailers are on a 36 month contract and paying whether they make sales or not. You could come in with a solution  and make them extra money.

You can work out a wholesale deal. You can do consulting. Whatever comes your way.

Bigger picture

What’s working well right now in your business (that you can reveal)?

Finding great margin deals by establishing relationships with factories and suppliers. Then get on page 1 for main keywords.  AL has one  product only selling 2 a day which will kill it in Q4.

What are the most successful sellers you know doing right now?

One person is leveraging Facebook advertising for both Amazon and Shopify sales.

Either learn an avenue really well, or pay someone else who knows it really well.

Another friend takes advantage of every single offer. Every beta programme they do, she takes it. She’s got someone at amazon who answers her email. She is killing it!

Find an area where you can get visibility for your products and get really good at it.

What do you see coming in terms of changes that we should be thinking about adapting to… In the next year?

Predictions are mostly wrong! But a focus of unique products is coming – we’re in the middle of a Kickstarter crowdfunding craze. SO AL assumes that Amazon will get a lot more of untested unproven concepts coming out. This might be the next generation of sales. The marketplace has proven they like this kind of thing. There will be a lot less competition for those products.

If you have an idea, this will be growing, -there are prototyping companies out there, go for it.

In the next five years, there will be other marketplaces – whatever teenage girls are doing now will become big! App based – right now, teenage girls are buying products on App based programmes like Wish etc, which are basically like eBay

Do you have any parting words of advice?

The most important thing is: understand you are serving a marketplace, a niche, not just selling a product. Treat it like a business – it’s an investment – go at it with a calm pulse, understand that it takes time. The growth curve is never easy, it’s never in a straight line but stick with it.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right away.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is: http:// amazingfba.com/feed/podcast.

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask

 

#49 Amazon market research, credit & margins with Anthony Lee Part 1

How did you come to be selling on Amazon?

Working as a waiter! Not really. AL saw a video on PL on Amazon and that was it!

How come Private Label?

AL was taught only PL and that’s what he’s done. He only knows about wholesale from Will Tjernlund.

Do you sell only on amazon.com or also in the UK and/or Europe?

Currently in the USA. Everyone expands their business in their own way. AL has decided to focus on building off Amazon rather than expand Amazon internationally.


How do you find products?

The “Standard” answer: try to find things that you use. Walk around kitchen/dining room and when you see something that you use, you will able to ID with target demographic because you are in it! (About 2 products found this way). Makes figuring out Customer Avatar much less complex.

Then check the numbers to see if other people are making money with the product. If they check out, go deeper.

The “real answer”: Decide on a Category e.g. kitchen. Then look in the relevant dept at the shops, in your friend’s cupboard – become mindful and the universe will show you a product! [Then check the numbers]

Do you believe in staying in one Amazon category? Or do you pick each product on its own merits/just follow the numbers?

Start with product on own merits. Then plan to expand into the category with your brand.  Then start thinking of the implications – what are complementary products?

How do you deal with the increased competition in the Private Label Amazon market( esp. USA)?

A lot of people look at the competition – there is a lot of “sky is falling” thinking!

The days you could trip over something to make $100K a month are over but that was always going to be short lived. Now it’s just levelling out.

BUT The idea it’s too saturated is silly. More people starting on Amazon leads to new products on Amazon which create new markets – also if you intro a new product, you’re the only seller!

You don’t sell a product and have an Amazon business; you have a physical prods biz and Amazon is just a channel.

Do you use other sales or marketing channels?

Took a while to learn that FBA is the most affordable fulfillment centre. AL spend 6 months looking for alternatives but Amazon is the best!

The next was finding companies to connect Amazon FBA to other channels. AL has put products on Jet – long approval process – eBay templates are being built. Next month going on Sears, Rakatan. Shopify site is nearly up. 

Tell us more about a “Customer Avatar”?

If you sell anything, you always have an ideal customer/target demographic. Person most likely to see, love and buy your product. Focus on them and don’t go broad – you will miss easily sales if your message is too diluted. Focus language- when you’re writing bullets/description e.g. if you sell male enhancement, the language is men “he/him”etc. – refine that ever deeper the more you know your avatar.

Ask” by Ryan Levesque (on Smart Passive Income podcast) uses surveys for this.  Do you do this?

It’s hard to do this because Amazon’s customers are not your customers. But once you have an email list, it’s very powerful, yes. But until you have that, just pay attention to your data.

If you run FB ads, look at the demographics and over time build a picture.

Gender, age range etc. e.g. Baby market – AL started with idea of just mums but gradually got more specific.

Surveying your own audience/buyers really does give you amazing results.

Yes, it is very important who you’re hitting

[Andre Chaperon the email marketing “guru” is obsessed with Customer Avatar].

Dealing with increasing competition – from moderate to tough. How do you deal with this?

Before AL used to say: “Find a product and do it really well.”  Now it’s: “He who has the most SKUs wins”. [SKU=Shelf Keeping Unit, i.e. a product line]

When you start out,   “failing” may be that your listing is buried in page X.  Once you get to the point where you know what you’re doing, “failure”=selling only 5 a day of a product.

But if you have 300 product lines doing 5 sales, that’s a living!

Having a fleshed out catalogue is  great for your brand. if you approach wholesalers you’re better placed. there are many benefits. It’s a very capital intensive approach but all of Amazon products business is capital intensive so you just have to be very intelligent with your product choices of inventory and expansion.

How do you make intelligent choices i.e. use of capital?

Most people come in thinking “If I can make $8000 sales/mo at 45% margin i could quit my job.”

AL says: “Keep your job and reinvest your money for 5 years.”

With a traditional business, you would give it 5-10 years before you give up on it. So why not with Amazon?

It’s a tough sacrifice but if you reinvest everything repeatedly, you’ll really build out your cat and have more options. That and intelligently using credit. Business credit cards are building AL’s credit and opening new SKUs.

Where would you advise using credit and where avoid?

If you can afford to make 3X the minimum payment per month, then using a credit card to expand your brand is okay. So in the end, that won’t hurt your credit. What you do have is new inventory to make new money off. This is a strategy if you have  couple of products doing pretty well.

If you’re starting out, it’s more of a risk. AL did max out 3 credit cards to start because he had no capital. It’s a personal choice. But it’s not a good idea to take out credit for a highly competitive product.

What sort of margin would you aim for in general?

Aim for 50-55%. It never works out that way because of competition and price wars. AL has an average across all SKUs of 36%. But the wiggle room is there now.

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#48 Differentiating your product on Amazon – PART TWO of the Marketing Mastery Mini Series

Master Marketing Principles Mini Series:

SUMMARY SO FAR

  1. Problem: “all things to all people” Principle ONE: NICHE MARKET
  2. “Same as everyone else” Principle TWO: DIFFERENTIATE
  3. Listen for the next episode!
  4. Look out for the future episode.
  5. Look out for the future episode.
  6. Look out for the future episode.
  7. Look out for the future episode.

2nd PRINCIPLE: DIFFERENTIATE!

Problem: Same as everyone else

Result: No sales, or shopped on price

Solution: DIFFERENTIATE

    1. Customize the Product itself:
      1. Existing issues:
        1. look at products with average 3* reviews but good demand
        2. look at the 1 and 2 star reviews
        3. if you can find a problem you can fix easily, then do that.
    2. Product Variations (parent and child relationships)
      1. If you see that certain variations eg Pink colour etc (Child Variations) sell well, order some of these and test the market.
      2. Bear in mind that usually one variation characteristic eg colour(Child Product) will result in most of the sales of that kind of product (Parent Product)
    3. Bundles
      1. Amazon Rules:
        1. They must be physically packaged together before they get to Amazon
        2. They must have a separate ASIN (Amazon product ID number) to the single packs
      2. Multipacks- simplest type of bundle but can be most effective
        1. If you notice your product selling in 2s, 3s or 5s for example,
        2. First experiment by setting up  a promotion (on Amazon Seller Central) on your product with different “tiers”. So give a different discount for buying say 2, 5, 10 products together
          1. Note that your Discount applies to the ORDER as a whole NOT to each individual unit
          2. For example, 1 unit costs $10; discount on promotion for buying 2=$2. So value of order =2X$10=$20. Discount=$2. Total price to customer: $18.
        3. you can bundle multipacks of the same products together. Notice:
        4. One simple starter trick (market test) here is to have your warehouse hold back a number of single items and package them together into bundles.
        5. If this proves enough demand, go back to your supplier and ask for new packaging for 1, 2, 5, 10 etc. packs
      3. Different products bundled together
        1. For example, if you sell Tennis shoes, you could bundle it with a packet of tennis balls.
        2. Same Amazon rules apply as per Multipacks.
        3. You can also use the same idea with your warehouse to test this.
    4. Packaging
      1. This doesn’t help your product on Amazon sell so very much (although it helps)- but it greatly boosts organic Reviews and Repeat buyers
      2. Getting really great packaging done may cost 30-50 cents more per unit but can mean you can charge dollars more on the sales price
      3. It can be best to find a separate packaging factory/supplier in China if you want to be sophisticated
      4. Use a designer who is familiar with this and if possible a Supplier who uses industry standard files (eg Adobe Illustrator) 
    5. Customer Service
      1. If there’s a problem, respond fast, courteously
      2. Offer a refund or replacement without customer having to return product
      3. If you can go even further and offer some  other light  products for free etc. or any other form of “Wow” experience, so much the better!

#47 Amazon Keyword Research, Amazon USA vs UK and Quality Control – Q & A Tuesday no 4

#47 Q and A Tuesday no. 4 SHOW NOTES

Q. 1 David G.

Merchant words vs KWI for accurate kW search volumes?

Danny :

Both use algorithms rather than qualified data from Amazon’s servers. Use as guidance rather than absolute numbers. The best data will be from your reports.

Michael: remember that all research numbers before you have product live are an approximate guide. If the numbers look good, go ahead and place an order, but just place a small one. You could go to AliExpress and make a really small order of say 20-50 units. Or go to a supplier on alibaba.com who will accept a small MOQ. Then launch the product with a few reviews and see if you can get sales at a reasonable price.

Either way, then you will get real data which you can then use to decide whether to place a full sized order.

Q2.  Kurt

Hi all, I am currently selling on co.uk and I am wanting to start selling on the .com market… do I need to create a brand new buyers account (with different email address) and then use that to create me .com sellers account?

Thanks

Hi Kurt, yes you do need a separate account. The advantage is that your business on amazon.com is separated from amazon.co.uk. So if there is a global issue (like account suspension) in one marketplace, you are safe in the other one.

You can link the reviews for a product between the two marketplaces as long as it is the same ASIN. This can be very helpful if you have for example a product that did well in the USA and you want to take advantage of the reviews in the UK. This is only going to work if it’s the exact same product.

Ruth B

Advice needed asap –

I have had long delays with my first order, the initial colour changes and gift box design took longer than expected and then it failed the inspection in China. 

My supplier said they would rework the problem items and with the canton fair happening, instead of the promised 3-4 days this took more like 3 weeks. 

I have had it reinspected and it still hasn’t passed – the previous major problem has been fixed but various other problems were found – all cosmetic – scuff marks, glue marks, slight gaps where the 2 materials meet (only a couple of these), damage to gift boxes. 

In total there were more defects found in the second inspection than the first (including major and minor defects). 

Where do I go from here in terms of negotiations/demands with my supplier?

I don’t really want to say goodbye to the product and lose my deposit plus all the time and effort that has gone into differentiating/designing etc, but i also don’t want to risk receiving an order of a defective product. 

The inspection pictures of the products without defects do look really good and the finish looks good quality but there do seem to be a number of defects which would result in returns. 

Having failed the first inspection my supplier agreed by email to replace (including shipping costs) any damaged items that might arrive in the UK, but how do I know they will actually stick to their promise as this is my first order with this supplier?

Nigel:

Ruth, sorry to hear that it’s a bit deflating and it happened to me with my 1st order last year. Our solution was

to have all our 1,000 items checked & pay for the ones that are ok & leave the others (after 3 inspections!)

This resulted in 203 out of 1,000 being passed &

given we paid 30% upfront we actually got a small refund.

Remember most inspections fail initially and you can accept or reject the order despite the result . Well done you though for having an inspection – many still don’t bizarrely & it’s saved you a big problem down the line.

In the end we had to change supplier for future orders.

Michael: Nigel’s advice is good.

1

#45 Amazon Master Seller Will Tjernlund Part 1 of 2

Episode #45 Show Notes: Will Tjernlund Interview Part 1 of 2

How did you get into Amazon Private Label Selling?

Will’s brother started selling on eBay around 2003 and ordering from Alibaba.  Will was 13 asking million Qs. Aged 16 he did different forms of RA selling on eBay using his dad’s CC! He started selling on Amazon Full Time about 3 years ago.

Where are you at today with Amazon Private Label?

Will has sold $10m in 3 years. He’s outsourced the part where he has to be there. He’s travelling and running his business from his laptop (like Greg Mercer! – see episode #42)

How did you do that?

Some wholesaling from US brands and Canadian brands and Private Label. If he can see a risk free dollar to invest for $1.20 in a couple of months, that’s where he’ll go. Basically he’ll follow the cash! 

How do you know where the cash is?
Two paths
1. People do a bunch of research for 2 months, order a sample, test it, brand it, get logos made, finally get nice packaging, get 2000 units into amazon, give away a few hundred units.

2 Will might call a US based brand, lots of products on Amazon, 100+ reviews but they’re not Prime.

He’ll call them, say, “Your account is not being well run,  so most of your customers have to pay for shipping. We can run it better.”
He’ll order lots of product. He can see if that they sell $50k, he can buy $5000 worth and flip it in 10 days and make $2500 while the other person is still doing their research!

Do you just go after individual keyword opportunities or build a brand?

If you see a wholesale company where say 10 of their 100 SKUs sell like crazy -Will often will Private Label one of those so as to offer the illusion of choice to the customer. But he will sell both the wholesale product and his Private Label product.

So it’s going after a microniche?

If you can take over all the listings on one page, it’s very valuable. Make all the listings individual rather than Parent-Child IF it is a low-competition keyword.

Do you just not bother with Parent-Child relationships?

P-C makes a lot of sense if you’re after a competitive keyword because you’re trying to drive all your sales to one listing. But if you have a low-competition keyword, it makes more sense to own the first page. 

Does that take a lot of capital to invest?

If Will sees that a brand sells $50k a month, the first order was still just $5K to return $7.5K. Then you reinvest for $11K and then keep doing that. Turn the cash around as fast as possible. Go after their hottest sellers and this is much easier. 

Example: One brand Will bought from recently had an average selling price of $150 for its products.

He ordered about 50 of their hottest selling products and sold those out within 5 days.  It’s all about turning your cash as fast as possible.

For those just starting on first product, how can you use this approach?

Fake it till you make it! Find products sold by a wholesaler that  are not being presented properly on Amazon. Make a free one week Shopify store, put in pictures of products and prices. “willsshovelstore.com” and an email.

Email them and say: “We’d love to sell your products. I’m looking to Place an order for $5000 right now. “ If it’s a $5m company,  that’s over 1% of revenue so you’re a salesman’s dream.

Then on to the next?

Yes! You cut so much BS out: creating the UPC, photos, listing creation etc. because they already exist! So you just accept products in, send them back out to Amazon and then move on to the next brand.

If Will calls the brand and spends 2 hours on the phone and ends up making $40,000 profit in a year, that’s $20,000 an hour income!

He’s not wasting his time building a brand. Getting cash in, not spending 2 months to make a logo.

Michael made a similar mistake starting out, which took 5 months to go live. The competition goes crazy, you don’t know if it will sell out- it’s all risk, little reward. Will takes little risks and gets rewarded multiple times: the aim is to make 20% return 6 times a year[=around 300% annual ROI- Michael] instead of trying to find one home-run product that will make you a million a year. 

It’s a lot easier to sell  1000 products once a day than 1 product 1000 times a day.

Isn’t the downside of that getting cash tied up in inventory?

So just order a week’s worth of inventory. A lot of US brands will have just 3-10 day lead times. 

So a really different model than everyone is teaching?

It’s hard to teach Amazon in general because everyone has different education, cash, cash flow, they have different responsibilities in life…it’s hard to write one course that suits everyone.

Are you basically saying you would do wholesale first and Private Label afterwards?

More times than not, it’s super obvious. Say Will buys a product from a wholesaler for $40 and they want him to sell it for $150. If there’s that much margin, it must be bought from manufacturer for $10-15. Will goes Alibaba and confirms his suspicions. Then he’ll source it and sell a Private Label version for half the price. A lot of the time, customers want the half price product as much as the named brand version. So you’re selling it on price not brand.

For those just starting on first product, should they go for wholesale or Private Label (ie look on Alibaba etc.)?

Alibaba can be great, Will advises going after the lower-competition products. If you’re making $10 profit and selling 10 a day, that’s amazing, that’s $36K a year.

It’s so much easier to go after a lower competition product than after a product selling $50K a month. A lot of the time they are being sold by someone making a loss to keep the competition at bay. 

Will likes to see one listing with 300-400 reviews (shows demand) and lots of listing under it with 20-40 reviews (competition is low). With giveaways Will can get that number very fast and get the 2nd Place spot. The 2nd listing down can sell as many as the 1st. The 1st may just have been there longer.

What are the biggest problems you see with people launching their own Amazon business?

Just not getting started in the first Place! Analysis Paralysis on research.  Working on the business without making cash.

The other thing is cashflow. If they have $5K to invest, they order $5K of product, that means they don’t have enough cash to order new inventory before running out of stock. If they have a 30 day lead time, and invested all their cash in inventory, selling too much too quickly can be a problem.

What’s the solution?

The solution is to only put half of your investment cash into any order.

For example, Will and his brother ordered a container of knee scooters for $40K. That was 210 units.  The lead time was 60 days from ordering to in stock at Amazon.

On the first day, they sold 7 units. If you do the maths, that means 210 units would sell out in 30 days (no. units/units sold per day)  So they had to go back to the supplier that week and place another $40K order.

 If you only had $40K in the first Place, you’d have to wait until you’d sold ¾ of your inventory before placing an order, which means you would be out of stock for 2 months.  If you sell 20 units on the first day, do your multiplication!

While generally taking out a loan to start an Amazon business is not good, when you have proven sales, and you need to get back in stock, this is a good time to get a loan from family or friends.

Will has been talking to private equity firms who want to lend to Amazon businesses because they love proven cash-producing products because they are tired of investing billions in startups with no turnover!

What are the other big mistakes do people make when launching their products?

Not thinking through:

  1. How will you get on page 1?
  2. How will you stand out? What will make the customer buy your product over someone else’s?

Will will often do it via price but also it can be being differentiated. 

What are others tips on differentiation?
Size – if everyone is selling a 10” pan, sell a 6″ or 12” each

Colour – If everyone is selling a black product, sell a pink one. Even if the demand is lower.

Will sometimes stands over his mother’s  shoulder to observe her buying style.
She doesn’t really care about 3 vs 5 bullet points,  she doesn’t know about all the reviews- she’s not in an Amazon bubble! She takes about 2 seconds before hitting the one-click checkout button.

You need to stand out quickly via something visual – people aren’t interested in reading text. 

What other big mistakes do sellers make?

That’s about it. Either sellers  don’t have enough cash or they try to sell a product they can’t rank for. There are few other problems. Getting ripped off by a Chinese supplier is very very rare- but Will gets many emails saying “I sourced this super competitive product and I have 5000 units, what should I do?”

If you recognise you’ve got into an over-competitive product, there isn’t much you can do. You could try giving out lots of units and spiking the sales rank but otherwise, sell them as a job lot on eBay! 

You should have started smaller or tested demand some other way. So the mistake has already been made.

Be “Young Dumb and Stupid” – a lot of smart people try to over-complicate Amazon – just sell a good product at a good price, then move on to the next one.

The biggest things to differentiate yourself are product selection and good cashflow management. 

Will listens to no Amazon podcasts and instead reads general business books and applies general business principles to the Amazon model and it “turns out pretty decent” [$10m in sales!]

How can people contact you, Will?

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @wtjern
Website: www.amzhelp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjernlund

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

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This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right on yt sentence.

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