A Comprehensive Guide on Due Diligence for Amazon FBA Businesses

Selling on Amazon has been one of the most popular routes to owning your own business in recent years. From your own living room, you can run a multi-million dollar business for a relatively small startup cost. This is your guide on Due Diligence for Amazon FBA Businesses

Starting an FBA storefront is relatively easy. Once you’ve created your Amazon Seller Central account and sorted out logistics, you can automate most processes. You then have to manage only customer service or PPC campaigns. This is your guide on Due Diligence for Amazon FBA Businesses.

However, if you’re looking to accelerate your business’s growth and progress quickly along the entrepreneurial path, it might be in your best interests to buy an FBA business instead of starting one from scratch.

The Case for Buying over Building an FBA Business

Starting a successful FBA business requires an initial capital injection. As well as the right attitude and skill set, to ensure growth and sustainability.

More than 50% of FBA owners inject at least $1,000 into their business when starting it. While more than one in five owners inject over $10,000 in initial capital, according to one study. However, as you’d expect, it’s not necessarily a pay-to-win game. More FBA businesses in which the owners invested $500 or less were still active. In comparison, those in which the owners invested $10,000 or more are not.

A higher initial investment means you have more room to scale your business. It also means you have more moving parts to manage. However, once the business is optimizing, a highly lucrative investment is ran. Case in point: Wall Street investors and private equity firms have been acquiring mom-and-pop FBA stores in deal sizes totaling billions.

Brand aggregators pick up a variety of FBA brands because they recognize their potential to scale. What if you took a leaf out of brand aggregators’ books and bought a business instead of starting one yourself? You could also acquire an FBA business in a profitable niche. Then, you’re left without having to figure out product-market fit and risk investing capital in different ways. They may end up as sunk costs. 

Take a look at how valuations for FBA businesses come about in this guide on Due Diligence for Amazon FBA Businesses. Then you have an idea about how much you should be paying for one.

How FBA Businesses are of value

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We won’t go into too much detail about how businesses are of value as we cover this in greater depth in another article.

Basically, an FBA business is valued by the following formula:

Valuation = 12-Month Average Monthly Net Profit x Multiple

The average monthly profit is set against a monthly multiple that takes into account several business performance factors. There is the age of the business, traffic diversity, number of SKUs, the presence of an email list, and more.

Before we dive further into what makes up the monthly multiple, it’s important to understand two things. One is why pricing periods are important and two is why this matters if buying an FBA business.

Pricing Windows 

The number of months over which the average monthly profit calculates might seem like a small detail. Yet, it can reveal a lot about an FBA business.

A 12-month window is the gold standard because it gives the most holistic view of a business’s performance. You can see whether traffic and revenue are affected by seasonality or are quite steady throughout the year. A 12-month window also gives you more data to look at before deciding to purchase.

Some sellers may consider using a shorter pricing window. This reflects a recent increase in performance or because the business began making profit only recently.

Naturally, you want as much information about a business as possible before making any buying decision. A business might look like a great deal according to your criteria. If you’re a first-time buyer, we’d recommend looking at businesses that provide a 12-month average profit.

Now that we’ve explained the importance of the pricing window, we’ll review some things that make up a monthly multiple. As well as what to look out for when doing your due diligence.

Age of the FBA Business

Simply put, the older an FBA business is, the higher the multiple is likely to be. 

An older FBA business indicates how resilient it is in the face of challenges. Such as finding product–market fit and establishing a foothold in the market. An older business also shows that it’s in a profitable niche selling in-demand products. Instead of riding the latest trends that may die off in a few months.

We recommend that you look for businesses at least two years old. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Many FBA businesses won’t be profitable for several months after their Amazon storefront is first created. It also takes some time for operations to stabilize and to build up a solid brand.

The Number of Established Traffic Channels

An FBA business with greater traffic diversity will likely command a higher business multiple for two main reasons.

First, diversified traffic channels protect your business if your primary traffic channel is disrupted as a result of a change in search engine algorithms. This scenarios can happen from low experience in marketing and are trying to scale a business yourself. When you think you’ve cracked the advertising code and have great keywords, your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns could be suspended for a breach of the terms and conditions. Sales can then dry up if you can’t reach new customers.

By establishing different traffic channels for customers to find your products, you also broaden your brand awareness to include new audiences. Having a mix of paid and organic traffic sources is ideal because potential customers might not visit all channels on which your brand has a presence. 

Another way to diversify your traffic is through omnichannel selling. Selling on e-commerce platforms outside of Amazon gives you access to audiences who may prefer Walmart or eBay for specific products. Suppose your product is in demand and your copywriting is solid. In that case, you should be able to establish a foothold in various online marketplaces and gain new customers through various traffic sources.

Customer Reviews and Ratings

The simplest way to measure a brand’s reputation is to look at the storefront’s customer reviews and product ratings. What’s great about Amazon is that with enough social proof of ratings and reviews, the marketplace could award your products with badges or labels that give them extra credibility.

An Amazon’s Choice badge means that a product’s shown to people looking at a category for the first time.

With enough sales and positive reviews, the product could also earn a Best-Seller badge, but this is harder to obtain because it requires many reviews and depends on other factors that affect Amazon’s A9 algorithm and Best-Seller Rank. The key takeaway is that an FBA business with an Amazon’s Choice badge, even without a Best-Seller badge, is a reputable brand in its niche.

Other ways to investigate brand strength include monitoring social mentions. You can get a general feel for how a brand is perceived based on who’s talking about it and recommending its products to their friends and family. These types of spontaneous posts or shoutouts can indicate how well-received a product or service is if you don’t want to rely only on reviews and ratings.

The Presence of an Email List

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Email marketing creates another revenue stream, working as a traffic driver that exists outside of search engines.

A large email list is an addressable audience of subscribers interested in receiving content from the brand, including product reviews, recommendations, or launches, and could potentially become loyal customers. 

Simply put, an email list can significantly boost an FBA business’s revenue.

An extensive email list is also a sign of brand strength, as customers are now more concerned with customer experience and brand innovation rather than depending on how long a brand has been around or how well established it is.

Even if the list isn’t monetized, it can be repurposed in several ways, such as by delivering helpful content or gathering customer feedback. Because an email list is so flexible, it can be a valuable asset for your business; if you have ideas for email marketing campaigns, buying a brand with an existing email list can save you the time of building one from scratch.

The Number of Products on the Storefront

Smaller businesses tend either to have many active products on their storefront or to be based around a select few products while they’re figuring out what works.

If you’re willing to work on a business and spend time optimizing it while you learn the ropes, having an overly large or minimal SKU range might not be as much of an issue.

However, if you’re looking for a hands-off operation, then you’ll want to buy a business with a smaller SKU range. That way, you won’t need to spend as much time on upkeep, including optimizing each listing and checking that it’s still active. 

For reference, we’ve seen institutional buyers like brand aggregators and private equity firms acquire seven-figure FBA businesses with 40 or fewer SKUs. These larger institutions have in-house teams that specialize in scaling FBA assets, so a smaller range of products is easier to work with.

If you see a business that meets all your other criteria but has a larger SKU range than you expected, you could hire virtual assistants (VAs) to whom you can delegate the time-consuming and repetitive tasks of product upkeep.

What to Look for in a Great Deal

Choosing which FBA business to buy can be tough, but it boils down to your personal goals and preferences.

Niche doesn’t matter, although home and pet care are two of the most popular choices due to the wide variety of subcategories you can choose within them.

To make your search easier and quicker, make a due diligence list to help discount unqualified businesses. A few initial things to include in the list are the size of your budget, how much time you want to spend working on your business, and how many products the business sells.

We covered some due diligence criteria above when discussing the factors that affect the monthly multiple. Other due diligence criteria may include how many people the business employs and whether it faces any pre-existing legal issues.

What your due diligence checklist eventually looks like comes down to what your goal is in buying an FBA business. If you want an entry point to e-commerce and running your own business, you may be looking to buy a five-figure or low six-figure business with a few SKUs in a niche you’re familiar with.

Depending on your budget, you might be looking to buy an FBA business with room to expand. One that hasn’t been fully optimized by the current owner due to time or capital constraints. Your criteria will be different from those of the buyer in the previous example. You might be looking for distressed assets with a negative trend in profits and traffic, but that are still profitable.

Figure out what your overall goal is. Once you’ve identified what the ideal FBA business looks like in your due diligence checklist, all that’s left to do is to find the best deal for you.

Where to Buy Suitable FBA Businesses

If you’re a first-time buyer, we recommend using a broker’s service. A private sale provides little to no protection for buyers and sellers. It could take you a long time to sift through before you find qualified businesses that pass your checklist.

Many buyers think they can negotiate a great deal and pay less than a business’s worthwhile also avoiding paying a broker’s fee.

Experienced buyers can achieve such results. However, it’s less likely and demands a lot of experience in the negotiating and M&A arena.

If you don’t have that much experience, you can visit a curated marketplace offered by brokers. There, you’ll find businesses that meet a minimum standard of quality and perform more or less as advertised. You’ll also receive support and advice from an experienced team of business analysts who can help you find the right business based on your needs. This is the end of this guide on Due Diligence for Amazon FBA Businesses

If you’re ready to kick-start your entrepreneurial journey in the FBA world, register on our marketplace for free.

Want to Know How Much Your FBA Business is Worth? Start Here

Chances are, you probably sell on Amazon because you recognize the huge potential ROI there.

But have you ever stopped to think about your next step after your FBA business? Many FBA owners have never considered selling their business—or even know the option is on the table!

We wanted to share why selling your FBA business could help you build an even better business and be the best thing for your entrepreneurial journey. Let’s explore the reasons FBA owners sell their businesses.

The Truth about Selling Your FBA Business

Selling an FBA business boils down mainly to personal or business-related reasons. 

In terms of personal reasons, we’ve seen sellers exit because of an event or goal that meant they no longer had time to manage the business. Some of these reasons include a death in the family or wanting to spend more time with their kids.

Business-related reasons tend to revolve around raising capital for another project or losing motivation to stay with the business. 

Whatever their reason for selling, some FBA sellers have received two to four years of net profit in cash in one payment. That’s the biggest windfall many entrepreneurs have ever received in one go.

But don’t start counting your chickens before they hatch: first, let’s dive into understanding how FBA businesses are valued.

FBA Business Valuation

Online business brokers and individuals working in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) usually value businesses by a multiple of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). EBITDA represents a business’s annual profit, and it is multiplied in the range of two and four times.

The valuation formula we use is:

Valuation = 12-Month Average Monthly Net Profit x Multiple

There’s not much difference between the two formulas. We stick to the average monthly net profit because it gives a more granular view of an FBA business’s performance than an annual profit figure. 

While average monthly net profit is easy to calculate, determining the multiple is a bit more complicated as it takes into account the business’s age, traffic sources, branding, product line, and pricing window.

Age of FBA Business

A profitable older brand tends to be valued more highly than a younger one because it has survivability.

Unexpected market demands and changes place stress on FBA businesses, which can seriously affect cash flow and average order values.

A business’s ability to scale and grow through these challenges shows buyers that it’s resilient. While you can’t directly influence your business’s age, the takeaway here is that age works in a seller’s FBA business’s valuation, which is why a long-term Amazon selling strategy pays off more than a short-term plan.

Diversity of Traffic Sources

One of the greatest advantages of selling on Amazon is being able to leverage their brand, which customers love and trust.

However, selling on a single marketplace can lower a business’s multiple because if that source of traffic is shut down, there’s a higher risk that the business will be negatively impacted.

Amazon is well known for delisting products and shutting down stores for minor infractions. While you can prepare to ensure you fulfill Amazon’s requirements, increasing the number of traffic sources through multichannel selling is a good way to minimize your business’s risk and increase its multiple.

Branding

Branding has a smaller influence on the multiple than the other factors listed here since it’s hard to quantify how strong a brand is .

That said, the number of customer ratings and reviews, as well as how high the ratings are, play a part in determining the multiple. If people mention the FBA brand on social media, the context is also taken into consideration. Are customers raving about a store’s products and recommending them to their friends? Or are their experiences mixed, with varied reactions toward the customer service or the product’s functionality?

A strong brand is an attractive asset to a buyer, but it has less weight than the other factors that affect a multiple.

Product Line

There isn’t a perfect number of products that will help you gain the highest possible valuation. A couple of key things to keep in mind are the amount of work it takes to manage your product range and the diversity of the revenue generated by the products.

Let’s compare two FBA businesses in the home niche, both selling kitchen products. Business A has only one product, while business B has 50, and both generate $100,000 in revenue from sales each month.

Business A’s single product has the same risk as a single traffic source: if the product is delisted, the business’s cash flow is completely cut off. 

While it might look like business B won’t suffer from this issue, there are a couple of issues with its product range. For instance, if a single product generates over 50% of the business’s revenue, this is also cause for concern from a revenue-by-product basis. Managing all those listings could also consume most of your productive hours, time that could be spent growing the business in other ways.

We’ve seen the ideal range of products to diversify sales and be manageable without being overwhelming is between three and eight products. 

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some buyers with large capital reserves won’t mind paying for a single-product FBA business because the potential ROI of a future flip may outweigh the risk. These types of buyers will probably make strategic acquisitions and have a team of optimization ninjas to increase the value of their assets.

Buyers who can afford to buy only a few FBA businesses will be much more cautious about a business with a product range that’s too large or small. They are likely to be solopreneurs who manage operations on their own, so the stakes would be much higher if the business didn’t work out as hoped.

Pricing windows 

Another thing to keep in mind is for how long you’ll calculate the average monthly net profit.

12 months is the golden standard because it provides a good view of the business’s traffic and revenue earnings and takes fluctuations in buyer demand, aka seasonality, into account.

If you started your FBA business less than 12 months ago, we’d recommend waiting before considering a sale. While you could shorten the pricing window to three or six months to reflect the profits, buyers will look at the business holistically and see that only a short window of data is available to help them decide whether to buy your business.

Again, there are exceptions to this rule. Some buyers with more capital means or a higher risk tolerance might make an offer for newer FBA brands.

Shorter pricing windows narrow the buyer pool, making it harder to find the right buyer who’ll offer you a reasonable deal. You might receive only a single offer and find yourself settling for a much lower offer than you wanted to ensure you close the deal.

Who Would Buy Your Site?

Now that you have a basic understanding of FBA businesses are valued, you might be wondering who would be interested in buying one. 

There’s a wide range of buyers with different levels of available capital and time, but all buyers recognize the power of selling on Amazon, and they want a piece of the ecommerce pie.

FBA businesses offer a lower barrier to entry for ecommerce entrepreneurship than full-blown ecommerce, which requires owners to manage many different moving parts. Instead of building a business from scratch, a buyer can acquire an existing FBA brand that’s generating steady profit.

To increase your chances of receiving a great offer and landing a successful deal, let’s discuss how to widen the buyer pool.

5 Ways to Optimize Your FBA Business

Buyers are much more likely to put down an offer after doing their due diligence if they think a business is a deal they just can’t pass up. So how can you make your business an asset that buyers will compete for?

By making it as hands-off as possible.

This is not to say that a less optimized business will attract zero buyers, but an FBA business that requires minimal work from the owner to maintain will be more attractive.

There are already some great tips for selling on Amazon, so we’ll focus on a few other ways you can improve your FBA business.

1. Use a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Service Provider

Many sellers ship their inventory directly to FBA fulfillment centers, so storage and fulfillment are managed in one place. While it might be easier to allow a manufacturer to ship their products to FBA warehouses, it could be costlier than using a 3PL service provider.

Spend some time shopping for reputable 3PL solutions to see if there’s a more cost-effective route.

Another thing to consider is if you should use a 3PL as an additional storage facility. If stock doesn’t sell within six months, Amazon will charge long-term storage fees.

Depending on your products’ average turnover time, it might be better to hold stock in a warehouse and send batches of inventory to FBA centers according to your inventory forecasting.

While additional expenses sound like they should bring down your business’s valuation, removing essential services will in turn add extra burden and responsibility for the owner to manage and make the business a less attractive option.

A common mistake we see FBA sellers make is to cancel their 3PL solutions services, which brings down overall costs but adds 10–20 hours of work each week. The initial valuation price may increase but at the expense of making your business more hands-on.

2. Nurture Great Supplier Relationships

If you have exclusivity with your suppliers, ensuring that agreement will be carried over to the next owner makes purchasing your FBA business a more attractive prospect.

Establishing a strong relationship with suppliers saves the buyer the time and energy required to find reliable manufacturers, giving them one less thing to worry about, so they can focus on expanding the business in other ways.

Diversifying the number of suppliers the business owner can call on also works in a seller’s favor. The ability to order from multiple suppliers helps avoid dreaded out-of-stock situations for your top-selling products, especially during peak seasons.

We’re not advocating for drop surfing, where you’re encouraging suppliers to compete for your business by undercutting each other to offer the lowest price. Developing good relationships with more than one supplier opens up other manufacturing channels in case your usual supplier has production issues.

3. Optimize Product Listings

Creating a great product is only half the battle. Getting it in front of the right eyes is the other half.

Increase the chances that your products will appear to your target audience by optimizing the listings for SEO.

Search engine optimization will involve keyword research and the placement of target keywords in your copy’s title and body. Just don’t stuff the keywords in; Amazon’s search algorithm will deprioritize your listings if it detects too many keywords.

As an FBA seller, you can leverage Amazon A+ Content (formerly known as Enhanced Brand Content) to enrich your ASIN descriptions. A+ Content doesn’t get indexed by Amazon’s search engine but can increase conversion rates, leading to more sales.

4. Automation

Hiring virtual assistants or outsourcing time-consuming tasks frees you up to focus on your growth strategy. 

A great way to improve your own efficiency and automate more of your processes is by creating standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Well-documented SOPs will help a buyer keep the business running as it currently does, so it doesn’t drop performance after changing hands. SOPs are especially helpful to solopreneurs, streamlining the transition period by providing a resource they can refer to at any time.

If the new owner decides to outsource, they can use SOPs to train freelancers to operate the business as you did.

5. Build a Monetized Email List

Many FBA owners overlook using an email list as part of their marketing strategy, but to understand the power of email marketing, the real value lies in the audience it builds.

Gathering subscribers looks great, but the number remains a vanity metric if the list isn’t used properly. When you consistently deliver value to an audience through curated content, the email list becomes a valuable asset in itself because you don’t rely on search engine algorithms for your content to be found and you can address your audience any time.

However, if you are considering selling your FBA business and haven’t started an email list, I’d recommend that you use your time and resources to bolster your business’s strengths instead. 

Email lists take a lot of time, energy, and patience to get right.

You’re nurturing an audience from scratch, so you’ll need to experiment with the type of content you send out and to get all the elements aligned for the highest conversion rate.

The Myth of Timing the Sale

Deciding when to sell can be hard. Some sellers think they can time the sale like a stock based on market conditions and whether the forecast is bullish or bearish.

In reality, it’s extremely difficult to succeed with this approach. We’d recommend selling your FBA business when it’s at its strongest and performing optimally on the capital means available.

A buyer may be willing to pay a premium price for an FBA business generating steady sales that has products with Amazon’s Choice or Best Seller status in their subcategories. 

A business’s value is how much a buyer is willing to pay for it, which is why it matters where you list your business for sale if you want to succeed in landing a deal.

Best Places to Sell Your Business

There are really only two options: selling privately or using a broker.

A third option is to use a DIY marketplace, but we’d strongly recommend against using this type of service. DIY marketplaces charge a commission comparable to that of brokers, and you have to do a lot of the work to source deals and market your business yourself.

If you’re selling for the first time, a broker is the optimal route (even though we might sound biased for saying so).

If you go for a private deal, you risk running into two of the worst kinds of buyers: the savvy kind, who know how to negotiate a low price, and tire-kickers, the sort who make inquiries and non-serious offers, wasting your time. There’s also the need to attract many qualified buyers, which can be tough if you don’t have a wide network of suitable connections.

Then you have to worry about marketing your business and making it as attractive as possible without overselling.

There’s a mixed bag of brokers available. A reputable broker will have processes in place to attract buyers who can prove their buying intent with verified liquidity. When shopping for a broker, do your due diligence to see if they have such a system, as it helps both sellers and buyers.

You can register for free on a broker’s marketplace to talk about selling your FBA business and how they’ll help you handle the administrative side of things so you can focus on managing the different offers that come your way.

What’s Next? Preparing for Life After an Exit

We hope that by this point you’re aware of the amazing potential that selling your FBA business holds.

One of those possibilities is to buy another FBA business and keep your momentum going. After all, no one said you had to hang up your FBA hat and call it a day! The skills and experience you’ve developed could be used to scale a series of smaller businesses, so they reach their potential. 

In time, you could flip them for a profit, creating a money-making engine that provides five figures of capital for each deal you make.

In time, you’ll have built up an ecommerce empire.

This is just one of the routes you could go down. Of course, you can reinvest the capital in any way you want.

Whether you pursue a passion project or put the money from the sale in your kids’ college fund, the possibilities start with the knowledge that your FBA business is a highly lucrative asset to the right buyer.

This insightful guide was brought to you from Empire Flippers. Do YOU want to contribute to the Viral Launch blog with your expertise? Simply complete our brief guest blog post form and we’ll contact you if it it seems like a great fit!