Amazon FBA Business Tips: 12 Common Mistakes to Avoid as an Amazon FBA Seller

When starting your Amazon FBA business you’re taking a risk. One false move could cost you precious time and money or worse. A mistake could send your business crashing down before it even begins. The Amazon ecosystem can be confusing to navigate, but by arming yourself with plenty of information, you can maximize your chances for success.

So if you’re a newer Amazon FBA seller, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of the most common mistakes to avoid when starting your FBA journey. Most of these are centered on the Private Label selling experience since over half of Amazon FBA sellers have one or more Private Label products.

#1 – Following the wrong resources

It’s extremely easy—maybe a little too easy—to find courses, gurus or service providers that give out or sell lists of the “best products to sell on Amazon.” If you see someone selling or giving out “hot product ideas,” run away.

There’s a huge market for courses, gurus, and consulting services for Amazon sellers. And it’s not hard to see why. Amazon can be confusing, to say the least, and people want to be told how to be successful. The problem is, when everyone takes the same advice, especially when it comes to products, it can lead to oversaturated markets. That means it can be exceptionally hard to generate visibility and drive sales. A market can be great, but if a few hundred sellers all source that same product, the supply can overtake the demand, leaving you with high competition and a bunch of inventory that’s too hard to sell.

#2 – Following trend markets

Just like you ran from the gurus and best product lists, do the same for trendy markets. Chasing trends can be extremely risky, especially as a newer seller. They’re only really profitable for those who are really, really early to the party.

For an example of this, look no further than 2017’s fidget spinner:

In late 2017, the fidget spinner made some early sellers a lot of money. But as more people hopped on the bandwagon, demand crashed, and a lot of money was lost. Think of it this way, if a product is trending on social media or TV, you’re probably too late to the party. Even if a market looks amazing, with tons of sellers moving thousands of units with low review quantities, you probably won’t have enough time to capitalize on it. On the short end, it’s going to take you two months to get your product to the market. And by that time, public hype will have started to die down.

If you do hop into a market that quickly becomes saturated, many sellers find themselves in pricing wars with their competitors, limiting their profit margins. This could lead you to sell below cost and lose money.

The people that profit from a trend market either get extremely lucky with timing or they have a low cost (meaning they are a manufacturer) or a ton of capital to pour into a product to drive and hold ranking. Everyone else will likely end up taking a financial hit.

#3 – Not thoroughly researching restrictions/barriers for your desired market

There are quite a few categories on Amazon that have a required approval process to begin selling. For these categories, you may need to submit formal documentation and invoicing. You may also have to pay an upfront fee to be permitted to sell in the category. This can be disastrous for new sellers hoping to hop into a category quickly and start selling. Make sure you have taken the time to understand categories that require this upfront work by checking out Amazon’s approval process. Additionally, there are also specific products that have different restrictive barriers.

#4 – Sourcing low-quality products

If you are planning on selling a private label product, make sure it’s high quality. Sourcing a low-quality product can doom your Amazon venture from the start. Reviews are extremely hard to generate on Amazon, and a few negative reviews early on can sink a listing in a flash. Take the time to order samples and analyze durability, functionality, and overall quality to address any concerns that could drive complaints from buyers. Also, take the time to read through negative reviews from your competition and see if there are any issues that you can improve on. You may even want to purchase a few of your competitor’s products to compare to your samples as a quality check.

#5 – Sourcing an expensive product (for that market)

Another thing to be aware of is all the hidden costs of starting a private label business. Until you actually get started with the selling process, it can be difficult to understand all the costs associated with an FBA business. Between shipping, sourcing, Amazon fees, PPC, promotions, listing creation and more, there’s a lot of costs to be aware of before you jump in. At Viral Launch, we actually have a tool that can help you with initial cost estimates. Amazon also has some great resources about referral fees by category and shipping tiers you should check out before getting started.

 

 

While it’s extremely important to have a high-quality product, if you cannot match or beat the majority of your competition on price, it’s probably not advantageous to enter the market. We recommend being sure you can break even by selling at a lower price than everyone on page one. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will afford you some flexibility to adjust pricing with fluctuations in the market.

Keep in mind that while quality is important, it is extremely hard to sell a higher priced item based on quality on Amazon. You’re allowed limited space for copy and images and shoppers are typically looking for low prices.

#6 – Selling a product you’re passionate about

This one might surprise people. It might make sense to some to sell a product you’re knowledgeable or passionate about, but it can often do more harm than good. Sourcing a product you’re passionate about can cloud your judgment, lead to mistakes in pricing and make it harder to bail out if a product just isn’t selling. While it’s not wrong to sell something you’re passionate about, it can cause you to react emotionally rather than logically. So just remember to focus on the bottom line.

The 12 Most Common Amazon FBA Mistakes to Avoid – Video VersionCheck out the video version of this blog below and don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe:

#7 – Not inspecting a product

This is another note for private label sellers and it goes hand in hand with sourcing a low-quality product mistake. It’s important to ensure the product that comes off the manufacturing line and to your customers is in good shape and quality. Many sellers hire an inspection agency that will go in and observe the manufacturing process to check out inventory and monitor any defects or flaws. This step can save you significant time and money in the long run because you’ll catch mistakes before the inventory is sent to the United States or Amazon.

#8 – Sourcing a patented product

When looking for private label products to source from a manufacturer, it’s important to consider patents. In some cases, sellers will have a product manufactured that’s actually under a patent. Most likely, manufacturers you’re buying from won’t know the product is patented and will try it to sell to anyone who will buy it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s legal. Imagine investing a bunch of capital in product inventory only to get a cease and desist or lawsuit from the patent holder.

#9 – Not putting enough effort into building your listing (including photos)

If you’re a private label seller, you own the product listing. That means you have to set it up. You’ve put a lot of effort into finding and sourcing your next great product. It would only make sense to put the same amount of effort into creating your listing, right? Unfortunately, many Amazon sellers don’t subscribe to that notion. Between your photos, title, bullets and product description you don’t have much space to capture a customer’s attention and explain what your product is and does. That’s why it’s so important to use the limited space you have to its full advantage.

Effective listing copy accomplishes two goals. It provides persuasive sales copy while also helping you to index for valuable keywords. Before launching a listing, make sure to do extensive keyword research. Find the most relevant keywords for your product and make sure they’re in your listing, most importantly in the title and bullets. And, make sure you’re writing engaging and accurate copy for your product. If you’re not comfortable writing your own copy, check out the listing optimization service from Viral Launch.

As for photography, many sellers think a smartphone photo and a few clicks in Photoshop will do the trick, but they’re mistaken. Professional photography can play a huge role in whether or not a product fails on Amazon. Because Amazon is such a crowded marketplace and you have limited space to sell customers on your product, including high-quality photos can truly make a difference in sales.

#10 – Violating Terms of Service (with reviews or by attacking competition)

There are a lot of companies that pitch different “black hat” (against Terms of Service) strategies. Most of these are centered around generating reviews. While these strategies may seem tempting, Amazon heavily polices review generation. If you get caught paying for (or otherwise incentivizing) reviews, you’re putting your selling privileges at risk. Engaging in review manipulation tactics is common on Amazon, and many sellers get away with it initially, but Amazon has been seriously cracking down on review fraud and the impact can be extremely detrimental to your business.

#11 – Not monitoring your listing or data

For private label sellers, your product listing is sort of like a living, breathing organism. There are ups and downs and changes from day to day. Far too many private label sellers throw their listing up and think they’re done. It’s important to continue monitoring your listing to collect data and see how it’s working. You should also keep track of how competitor listings are doing and the category as a whole. Make sure to monitor your ranking for important keywords and ad campaign data as well, using those insights to develop a long-term strategy. Getting your listing up is only half the battle. Tweaking and optimizing based on feedback is the other half.

#12 – Putting your product into the wrong category

As a private label seller, one part of setting up a product listing is deciding what category your product will be listed in. During this step, it’s important to place your product in the proper category. Some sellers try to categorize their product in a lower competition market as a way to earn the Best Seller Badge. However, many searches filter to a specific subcategory, so incorrectly categorizing your product could filter you out of crucial search results.

Sellers can look up their product in Seller Central to determine potential categories, just make sure your product is relevant to the one you choose. If my first aid kit, for example, is not for survival or tactical purposes, there are several options below I would want to avoid in terms of category choice. More than likely, I would want to be in generic first aid kits under Health and Personal Care:

Learning from Your Mistakes as an Amazon FBA Seller

This is the part where I wish we could tell you a magical secret that would make you wildly successful with your Amazon FBA business and richer than you could have ever dreamed. But on Amazonand in lifethese magic shortcuts just don’t exist. The only way to maximize your chances for success as an Amazon FBA seller are through hard work, data leveraging, and constant research and education.

It’s also safe to say that you’ll make some mistakes. The hope is, however, that those mistakes are minor and few and far between. But, when you do make mistakes it’s important to learn from them. Hopefully, this blog has helped open your eyes to things you’ll want to keep in mind and help you from making a big mistake that could doom your FBA business.

Here at Viral Launch, we’d love to be your resource for all things Amazon. To hear more from us, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, check out our Youtube channel and listen to our podcast Follow the Data.

Best of luck on your selling journey!

 

 

Amazon FBA: Guidelines for Starting Your Amazon FBA Business

Ready to ditch the corporate life and sell Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)? Not sure how to get started?

Or maybe you’re already selling Amazon FBM (Fulfillment by Merchant) and looking to make the switch …

If you’re interested in FBA vs. FBM each program has its pros and cons. But ultimately, FBA provides an unmatched, hands-off selling experience with the ability to scale. For these reasons, many sellers prefer FBA to FBM.

FBA is a method of fulfilling products by having Amazon store, pick, pack and ship your inventory. Through FBA, Amazon even handles returns. Although there are additional fees, setup, and tax obligations, FBA makes it easy to quickly start and scale your business.  lot of the content in this blog can also be found from our How To Sell series! Check out the video if you’d like to get started on your Seller Journey:

Why Would I Want to Sell Through Amazon’s FBA Program?

  1. You don’t have to store boxes of inventory at your house. One major benefit to selling FBA is that Amazon handles a good portion of the selling process, namely the most time-consuming portions. Although you still have to set up an Amazon Seller account (we’ll talk more about how to do this later), choose a product to sell, list the product, and have the inventory sent to an Amazon Fulfillment Center, Amazon takes care of the rest of the process with FBA. So when a customer orders your product, Amazon handles the fulfillment logistics of picking, packing, and shipping. In their words, “You sell it, we ship it.”
  2. Once your products are ready to sell and in stock at Amazon’s warehouses, they are automatically eligible for Prime 2-day shipping. Although it is possible to be a Prime seller through FBM, you must meet extensive criteria to be eligible. And with an estimated 112 million Amazon Prime members, or about 62% of U.S. households subscribed to Prime in 2019, you can’t afford NOT to have Prime shipping. Numbers like that are hard to ignore when it comes to the sales potential that Prime provides.

What are the Different Methods of Selling on Amazon FBA?

Now that we’ve established which program you should sell through (FBA), let’s talk about methods of selling, or where to get inventory. There are many options, all of which appeal to different kinds of people. Some are more hands-on, while others allow for higher earning potential. Three of the most common methods include Retail Arbitrage, Wholesale, and Private Label.

  • Retail Arbitrage – This is a process of finding discounted products in retail stores (such as Walmart, Target or Kohls) and reselling them on Amazon. To make it profitable, the items need to be bought at a significant discount and sold at a higher price on Amazon. You can sell other branded products using this method and it is often a lower risk option, since you can check before purchasing the items if you will be able to make a profit or not. You can also search liquidation stores or online sites for pallets of returned items that can be resold.
  • Wholesale – To sell wholesale, a more unique method, you must find a manufacturer (local or abroad) and convince them to allow you to sell on their behalf. The smartest way to do this is to create an official business or LLC, acquire a wholesale license, then reach out to manufacturers/wholesalers to discuss a contract for selling their items. Getting the business to agree to providing you exclusive selling rights can lower your competition as well.
  • Private Label – Private Label selling involves working with a manufacturer to produce items and add your own brand name and logo to the products. As long as there is no patent on the product model, you can legally sell under this method and even work with manufacturers to create product modifications or additions to make your brand’s product stand out. Many private label sellers use Alibaba.com to connect with manufacturers, get samples, purchase inventory and more.

How Do I Get Started with FBA?

There are two account options when selling on Amazon: Individual and Professional. With Individual Selling Plans, you pay $0.99 per item every time a product is purchased. For those sellers making fewer than 40 sales per month, this may be more cost effective than paying the $39.99 Professional Plan subscription fee. These fees are on top of other FBA fees, which we’ll get into more later.

If you haven’t already created a Seller account, you will need to set one up. If you already have an account as an FBM seller, you can easily switch over to FBA inside your Seller Central account.

For retail arbitrage sellers selling FBA, you will need to add the product to your inventory in Seller Central and follow the steps to create labels for your items, which can be printed at home. Once you have printed labels, you can package different items in one large box to be shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center and print a shipping label for that box as well.

Keep in mind that you will need to pay for these shipping costs out of pocket, plus any materials needed for shipping (labels, boxes, tape, scale, etc.). Additionally, Amazon may require you to send inventory to multiple fulfillment centers depending on their inventory levels, which could increase your shipping costs.

Amazon does not require sellers to sticker products at the SKU level as long as you have a manufacturer barcode for the product. But other sellers with the same product (that are also “stickerless”) could get mixed in with your inventory in an Amazon warehouse and could be picked up and shipped to a customer instead of your stock. If their product is used, lower quality or even counterfeit, you could receive poor reviews, a higher return rate or even be suspended by Amazon for counterfeit sales (even if the product is not actually your inventory).

If you choose to sell Private Label or Wholesale, you’ll want to find a good product to source as well as a trustworthy manufacturer. Check out our podcast about finding a good manufacturer to make sure you make a smart partnership as well as our podcast about sourcing the right product to make a sourcing decision that meets your goals.

You can choose to label items yourself (following the method mentioned for Retail Arbitrage) as long as each unit has a scannable barcode or you can pay to have Amazon prep and label each item for an additional per-item fee. Fees can be as low as $.70 per item to as much as $2.20 per item.

When your shipment is ready to be sent to Amazon, make sure you have an organized shipping plan that includes easy tracking so you can ensure your inventory makes it to the desired fulfillment center. To learn more about carriers who partner with Amazon to deliver shipment to their warehouses, visit their page featuring Partner Carrier options.

Once Amazon has your inventory and your listing(s) is live, Amazon will handle the delivery of purchased items to customers as well as customer service throughout the process. Sellers just need to ensure their item is always in stock and ready for customers to buy. Check out our blog on inventory best practices to make sure you never get behind or run out of stock.  

What are the Fees for Selling through Amazon FBA?

Because your inventory is stored, packed and shipped by Amazon when you sell FBA, there are additional fees associated versus FBM. Earlier in 2018, Amazon restructured their FBA fees into two fee structures:

  • Fulfillment Fees
  • Inventory Fees

Fulfillment Fees are per unit, based on the size and weight of each item and include the complete picking, packing, shipping and handling, customer service and return process for each item.

Monthly Inventory Fees are assessed per cubic foot based on the total size of your items. Inventory fees increase for Q4, so it’s important to calculate your costs for each quarter. Below is a breakdown of Amazon’s FBA fees. Make sure to double check your math with an FBA Calculator for help determining your costs before you source.

Other potential fees sellers could incur include long-term storage fees (if items in your inventory have sat in a fulfillment center for 6 months or more) and additional storage fees if you choose to participate in Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment Program (more on this later).

Things to Keep in Mind as You Start Your Amazon FBA Business

  • Tax Obligations

Although there was once a time when online sellers could get away with not paying sales tax, those days have come and gone. In June of 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of South Dakota in South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc. Now, one-by-one, states are starting to enact economic nexus legislation.

Because the decision is new at the time of writing this post, it will take some time for the effects to play out. We encourage sellers to keep an eye on internet sales tax by state, and stay informed on the latest news in Amazon sales tax. Sellers should connect with a tax consultant versed in online sales tax regulations to avoid slip ups or potential mishaps in their FBA businesses.

  • Multi-Channel Fulfillment

Did you know that you can fulfill orders from sales channels outside of Amazon.com through the Amazon FBA Multi-Channel Fulfillment Program? Rather than having multiple different inventory locations and shipping methods for your different online sales sites, store all of your inventory in Amazon’s warehouses and let them pick, pack, ship and handle your items to customers, whether the sale is through Amazon.com or elsewhere. There are additional fees associated with the fulfillment process for multi-channel orders, but you can skip the headache of storing, packing and shipping your items and let Amazon do the heavy lifting.

  • Buy Box

If you are selling retail arbitrage or wholesale, the Buy Box is going to be very important to you. The Buy Box is the box on the right hand side of a listing page with the price, seller and shipping information as well as the “add to cart” button. If there are multiple sellers on a listing, they will be listed below the seller who has “won” the Buy Box. Since the majority of buyers purchase from the seller who has “won” the Buy Box, winning is critical to increasing sales. Although there are several factors considered to “win” the Buy Box, fulfillment method is a crucial component. And FBA sellers are significantly more likely to secure the Buy Box over other sellers.  

  • Reviews

If Amazon is handling the customer service for your product under FBA, you shouldn’t have to worry about reviews right? Wrong! Reviews are a huge driver of sales, so whether you’re selling wholesale, retail arbitrage or private label, bad reviews and a low star rating can tank your sales rate. And, with the ability to filter by star rating, too many bad reviews could effectively leave you out of a user’s search results.

For private label sellers, positive product reviews are key to buyer trust in your product quality. If your product is similar to several others in the market, a better star rating could guarantee your product is chosen over your competitor’s. For wholesale and retail arbitrage, positive seller reviews are extremely important to establishing trust in your brand’s quality. Buyers want to hear from their peers if they can trust purchases coming from your seller account or if they should be concerned with used or damaged goods.

There’s been a lot of talk around reviews and Amazon cracking down on review fraud, so making sure you don’t violate Amazon’s Terms of Service for reviews is vital to avoiding suspension. Check out our video about Amazon’s recent “review crackdown”:

Final Thoughts: Learn from Failure

Look, it’s no secret – Amazon FBA can be a confusing and difficult platform to navigate. You’re bound to make some mistakes. What’s important is that you learn from your mistakes and minimize missteps in the future. Following our Amazon FBA guidelines is a good start, but to be truly successful, sellers should keep seeking out new information and staying up to date on changes.

There’s an old quote that states: “Complacency is the enemy of progress.”

Getting complacent or lazy at any stage of your FBA business journey is a recipe for disaster as it requires constant maintenance and upkeep to stay on top. By working hard and arming yourself with up-to-date information, you’ll have the tools you need to achieve Amazon FBA success.

3 Amazon SEO Tips from Viral Launch Lead Copywriter Yale Schalk (Follow the Data Ep. 22)

3 Amazon SEO Tips from Viral Launch Lead Copywriter Yale Schalk (Follow the Data Ep. 22)

Keywords are what set your listing up to rank well and sell well, but there’s a catch. People also need to understand what your product is and what it does from your copy. How can you inform shoppers and do Amazon search optimization at the same time? Join hosts Cameron Yoder and CEO Casey Gauss for this conversation with Viral Launch Lead Copywriter Yale Schalk. And find out how to set up the best possible listing with these 3 Amazon SEO tips.

 

Listen on iTunes   Listen on Stitcher

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
Contrary to common belief, getting ranking on Amazon is not about lowering your BSR. It’s about getting sales attributed to a keyword. Keywords are what set your listing up to rank well and sell well, but there’s a catch. People also need to understand what your product is and what it does from your copy. How can you inform shoppers and capture all your product’s keywords at the same time?

I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

In today’s episode I sit down with our Lead Listing Specialist, Yale Schalk, to talk about the best practices for writing an Amazon listing. We’ll talk about the keyword research, writing for Amazon SEO and how to convert shoppers. Let’s jump in.

So okay, we have Yale in with us today. Casey’s also sitting in on this.

CASEY GAUSS:
What’s up, guys?

CAMERON YODER:
So we’re talking to Yale today about listing optimizations. First, Yale, thank you so much for coming in on the show. How are you feeling about being on the podcast?

YALE SCHALK:
Awesome. Awesome, Cam. Really, really excited to debut on our expertly-produced podcast, which by the way I just want to say that everyone should be subscribed to, and you know, every morning you wake up just find your nearest rooftop and shout it and tell everyone. But yeah, excited for that and really excited to kind of jump into some key information that I really know is going to help a lot of people out there.

CAMERON YODER:
Yale is also already on the ball with recommending the podcast, which is great. I love it. Yale is our Lead Listing Specialist, okay? And he’s been a veteran writer with 10 years of experience writing about retail products. So he’s written for brands like Nike, Adidas and Reebok and is known in the office for his excellent taste in sneakers, okay? So actually Yale, what is your favorite pair of sneakers?

YALE SCHALK:
Oh, wow, that’s – it’s literally an impossible thing to answer. You know, obviously, I was raised on Michael Jordan and Air Jordan sneakers, so I can at least narrow it down to that, but from there it’s all bets are off. There’s just too many.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, all that being said, Yale is definitely deserving to be on this podcast talking about listing optimization when it comes to Amazon specifically. But before we dive into Amazon-specific SEO and Amazon-specific listing ops, I want Yale – Yale, can you touch on just SEO in general, SEO as a practice?

YALE SCHALK:
Absolutely, for sure. So you know, when people think of, you know, the term SEO or, you know, properly search engine optimization, you know they think of Google, right? They think of, you know, their minds go right to Google because Google is this ubiquitous thing that is just out there. So but SEO is not confined to Google. You know, it’s like if you’ve ever seen the movie The Matrix, you know at the end when Neo sees everything in just this digital rain, and it’s just like streaming lines of green code everywhere, you know, I like to think of SEO like that. I think it’s, you know, it’s very much in the fiber of anything that you search on the internet, and it’s necessary, you know, any time that you type something into a search bar.

CASEY GAUSS:
Well put.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, The Matrix.

CASEY GAUSS:
I love that analogy. If you haven’t seen The Matrix you just missed out on a great analogy.

CAMERON YODER:
Watch The Matrix, buy some sneakers, and then you’ll be set. So that’s general SEO, right? So can you move further maybe into like, I don’t know, Amazon or Google specifically?

YALE SCHALK:
Absolutely. So the way it works is basically that, you know, the input for a search is almost always language, and then the search algorithm uses that language to return a set of results, and then to get your content in that results list you have to give the algorithm basically what it wants. So then that begs the question, okay, so what does the algorithm want? In terms of Google SEO, that’s about proving credibility with, you know, relevant headings and meta-descriptions and links, and of course language for Amazon. It’s different from the standard SEO set up in that the results exist within Amazon’s platform. You know, for example, you don’t navigate to a different domain when you click on a result. So Google looks for site credibility with links and traffic, while Amazon looks for language, you know, or specifically keywords. So it’s really important for everyone to keep in mind that Amazon is really its own ecosystem when it comes to how searches are conducted and how those searches help determine the results you get when you or, you know, your potential customer, is looking for something.

CASEY GAUSS:
And I think it’s important to mention that – I think this is a stat from either 2016 or 2017, but over I think it’s like 55% of product searches begin on Amazon. So when it comes to king of search engines, when it comes to product searches, I think Amazon takes the crown.

YALE SCHALK:
Absolutely.

CAMERON YODER:
And that’s something I don’t think a lot of people think of, simply put, Amazon as a search engine. But in fact, like you said, it is, and listings in a sense really are all about SEO when it comes to Amazon specifically. So Yale, would you be able to introduce to us just some tips, maybe three basic tips that you have for everyone when it comes to listing optimization and keyword optimization on Amazon?

YALE SCHALK:
Absolutely, for sure. And you know, I think the good set up for this is like, you know, obviously everyone wants the highest visibility for their product. You know, ideally that’s page one. That’s what everyone wants to be on Amazon. So you really cannot afford to overlook the importance of keywords when assembling your product listing. You know you can have, and you know I never tire of saying this, but like you can have breathtaking photos, and you can have the most exquisite product description, but you know, without the proper keywords and the correct placement of those keywords in the listing, you know you’re basically – you know you’ve got a Ferrari with no engine. You know, it’s looking amazing, but it’s not going anywhere. So I just really want to emphasize, you know, first off that, you know, you can’t just throw information together and hope something happens. You know, I can tell you that it won’t. It doesn’t work that way. So it’s vital to get that keyword foundation in place.

So I would say for the first tip is plurals, plurals of words. So Amazon says that they account for plurals of words. So if you search swaddle blanket, you know, you’ll get different results than if you search swaddle blankets. So some listings will have, you know, both the plural and the singular form of the keyword while others won’t. So when someone searches blankets it’s, you know, hard for the algorithm to determine, you know, what exactly that person is expecting. So the algorithm is very smart, but it has its blind spots, and so one of the blind spots is it doesn’t know, you know, for example for this example that, you know, if you’re looking for multi-packs of swaddle blankets or if they’re looking for all the swaddle blankets on Amazon, so having both forms of the word, you know, or multiple forms of those words, those keywords, is really important for you to show up in any search related to your main search terms.

CAMERON YODER:
So tip number one, overall is suggesting to use both the singular and plural form of your primary keyword, or how many keywords do you think this would apply to?

YALE SCHALK:
I would say as long as you’re starting with your root keyword you want to kind of work in maybe the most common – and this is something that you’ll be able to kind of see in your keyword research, but and you’ll be able to notice patterns of what people are searching for, but usually you’ll just find like those simple little variations, those little, like little degrees of that root word, you know, just plurals and just different tenses of the word that people might throw in there when they’re searching for products.

CASEY GAUSS:
I think it’s important to mention also, I think one common mistake, and I don’t know if this is one of the tips, but you know, people always want to know am I indexed for this word. So just because you’re indexing for a word does not mean that you’re driving the same amount of keyword power or keyword juice, however you want to refer to it, to those words. So this is an important concept, and you’ll hear more about it.

YALE SCHALK:
For sure.

CAMERON YODER:
Let’s go on to tip number two.

YALE SCHALK:
Tip number two. Tip number two is keyword stuff the title. Yeah, you heard that right. Keyword stuff the title. So there’s been – this has always sort of been a philosophical debate on, you know, are you going to be rewarded if you keyword stuff? Are you going to be penalized if you keyword stuff? But I can tell you in the case of Amazon, in the Amazon world you’re going to be rewarded. So the title is definitely the most important, you know, real estate in your listing in terms of SEO. So you should really use as many keywords as you can fit, you know, without compromising quality or under-serving your character limit or overstepping that. I mean when you overstep that’s definitely something you’ll be penalized for, but so you know, what do I mean by compromising quality? So you know you have to make sure that you’re showing shoppers the information they’re looking for, like you know, things like ounces or fluid ounces might be important to consider, you know, if they’re considering price, or you know, certain features like dimensions or certifications like organic are there to include. So you know, this tip is really about just including as many super relevant keywords, you know, while leaving just enough space for those important, you know, product tidbits that people are looking for.

CASEY GAUSS:
And I always like to say, you know, I would much rather have, you know, a 3% lower click through rate because my title isn’t as beautiful but rank for, you know, twice as many keywords or three times as many keywords simply because I’m putting them in the title versus having that super short, you know, elegant, you know, four-word title that has like my brand name and just a few other words. Let’s say it’s a frying pan, so brand, you know, stainless steel frying pan. There are so many additional words that you need to be including in your title to maximize the position and total volume of keywords that you can rank for; well, rank well for. And so yeah, I would much rather have this longer title, rank for so many more keywords than you have this beautiful title that may drive slightly higher click through rates.

CAMERON YODER:
Yale, what’s your opinion on having the brand name in a title?

YALE SCHALK:
It’s awesome that you mentioned that because I was just going to follow up on that point. Yeah, a thing that I really want to talk about for a second is not insisting on including brand names in titles. I empathize with, you know, every seller that, you know, wants to do that. I mean, everyone wants to have the competitive advantage and get their brand out there, but I would say that you have to apply a pass/fail in terms of your brand name. So look at it this way. You just have to treat it as another keyword, and if there aren’t a ton of people searching for your brand name, then it’s always a good rule of thumb to substitute in an actual, you know, high-volume search term instead of your brand name. And I know that there might be a conception out there that, you know, people aren’t going to see your brand and you know, that’s something like that’s going to be a disadvantage for you, but you know, don’t worry. It will show up – you know, your brand is going to show up in the subheading. You just want to make sure that you make the most use of the title.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, to summarize it, people, you know, aren’t searching your brand name. If they are searching your brand name they’re going to see it in the search results. It says, you know, by brand in most categories. And even if not, if they’re searching for your brand name they should know what your packaging looks like because you should have cohesive labels or packaging or whatever in your photos. They will recognize your brand. You should not be concerned about them recognizing or not recognizing your brand. And by including that brand name in your title you’re just wasting super, super valuable character space.

CAMERON YODER:
I think the question should be what more valuable words you can put into your title that would take the place of your brand name.

YALE SCHALK:
Absolutely.

CAMERON YODER:
Yale, what is tip number three?

YALE SCHALK:
Tip three, prioritize keywords and then write your copy. Yeah, this is another thing that I’ve seen a lot where maybe sellers get focused on, you know, really fleshing out their copy, their listing, and they’re focused on, you know, stuffing as much information and even sort of messaging, you know, that they’ve come up with into the listing. But I would say that, as we’ve said, you know keyword is king, and you really have to sort of like lay that foundation first and then, you know, work in your copy from there. You know, again, it seems to make a lot of sense to look at your listing from your sort of branding ideas and everything like that. But you’ve got to get the keywords right, and then you know, then you can provide the insight and wrap everything around that.

CASEY GAUSS:
I think this fits well, actually, with your second tip, which was keyword stuffing the title. In a lot of cases I think people have a rough time picturing where – and correct me if I’m wrong, Yale, but people have a tough time picturing where to get started with keywords, and so maybe they’ll write – they’ll try to eloquently put together like a string of words that connect well, maybe have some keywords in, and then they’ll try to like piece together other keywords that they want to put into the sentence that they’ve developed.

YALE SCHALK:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
When in this case you’re saying like no, start with the foundation, like with your title. Let’s say with your title. Start with the foundation of as many keywords of like a bunch of high-end keywords, keywords that are going to convert or have a lot of traffic leading to them. Start with that foundation of all those keywords, and then maybe piece them together. Is that what you’re saying?

YALE SCHALK:
Oh, for sure, for sure. I mean you really do, like we said, with the title you really have to get the right keywords up there upfront and you know obviously try to assemble those in, you know, the most beautiful way that you can and sort of balance, you know, walk that line of getting the keywords and getting the product information up there for people, and then from there it’s really just a matter of prioritizing.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, and this is what I was kind of alluding to earlier that I didn’t want to go into because I didn’t want to steal Yale’s thunder, but just because you are indexed for a word does not mean you are driving the same amount of ranking power. So what this means is just because you have, you know, keyword XYZ in your description that yes, you – or a bullet point or whatever – yes, you will be indexing for that, but just because you are indexing because the word is in a bullet point doesn’t mean you’re driving the optimal amount of power, and you’ll drive that optimal amount of power by having it in the title, preferably the highest volume keywords at the beginning.

CAMERON YODER:
Yale, can you touch on just a little bit about how much energy people should be putting into their bullets, into their descriptions or their backend keywords? I think a lot of people tend to freak out about the bullets as much as they do the title. And you already mentioned that the title is going to be your primary keyword ranking driver, but where are the other aspects of a listing when coming into this?

YALE SCHALK:
Oh wow, yeah, so you the – yeah, of course, like we said, the title is obviously the most important part, and you know, where the keywords are really prioritized there. But from there I think the most important point for crafting your listing is to keep in mind that buyers by and large are on Amazon to basically scan information. They’re not there to, you know, read novel length listings, and a lot of the times yes, you know, obviously your product information is obviously helpful when they’re, you know, comparing products and trying to make a decision. But a lot of the time they’re just scanning that information, and they need it very succinctly. They need it very concisely, and that’s really going to a lot of times be the difference between, you know, someone adding your product to cart and checking out and, you know, maybe passing over and going with someone else. So yeah, definitely keep that in mind. You know, think of it in terms of a priority list. So the title is the number one priority, then the bullets number two, product description three, and so on. So yeah, definitely assemble your information accordingly.

CAMERON YODER:
Yale, is there anything else that you’d want people listening to know, even if it’s just in general, about listing ops or if you’d want to summarize in any way? What more, what else do people need to know?

YALE SCHALK:
I would say, you know, I think the thing that comes to mind most for me is that each segment of the Amazon selling process is so important. And you know, that’s really why Viral Launch exists. You know, we exist to help you get that right. You know, so I would say use our software. Get in touch with us to do your product photography. Get in touch with us to do your listings. You know, we really have – we’ve really refined and really perfected the entire process. So you know, we really are here to help you be successful.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s great. Casey, do you have anything to add?

CASEY GAUSS:
No, Yale’s just been killing it. You know I think that too many people – you know, I’ve definitely seen plenty of people say, you know, I don’t have time for keyword research. I don’t have time to put into my listing so I just threw something up, and I’m moving on. Essentially people just look at it as just another box to check, and the thing is like Yale mentioned at the very beginning of the listing, or sorry, the podcast, the listing is absolutely critical to achieving success on Amazon, especially as you continue to enter more and more competitive markets. The greater the level of competition, the greater your listing needs to be from a, you know, keyword structure standpoint. So if this is not on point it’s going to be so much more difficult for you to drive rankings, to sustain rankings and to drive sales. And so if you aren’t willing to take the time to invest in this listing, you know, I think your Amazon FBA journey is going to be pretty difficult.

CAMERON YODER:
This is one of those – it’s another one of those no-brainers. It goes with photos. Like why would you not have the best photos possible? Why would you not have the best listing optimization possible? If you don’t optimize this, if you don’t put energy or effort into it, then you’re not going to get the results that you could if you would have put that time or those resources into it.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, it’s just another corner that people like to cut that really ends up biting them, you know, later.

CAMERON YODER:
Don’t cut corners. In this case one of those corners is listing optimization. So do not cut listing optimization.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I got good feedback from somebody at a conference that I spoke at this weekend, and they loved the – you know, everybody’s looking for that silver bullet. And we say you don’t need a silver bullet. You need an arsenal. And one of those weapons in your armory needs to be an amazing listing.

CAMERON YODER:
Well thank you so much, Yale, for joining us and for providing so much valuable information on listing ops.

YALE SCHALK:
Absolutely.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, that is all for this week. Thank you so much for listening to Follow the Data. For more insights and reliable information about how to succeed on Amazon, subscribe to the podcast and check us out on YouTube. For those of you who are looking for your next great product I have a series of product discovery walk-throughs videos on our YouTube channel that show you really how to leverage the tool. Just search Viral Launch on YouTube, go to our page and look for my face in one of the videos. Don’t forget to leave us a review and let us know what you think of the show. And if you really like the show and you like what we’re doing here at Viral Launch, tell your fellow Amazon sellers about us. We want to be a resource for sellers and the information source in this space. So please tell your friends, spread the word and share the show with other Amazon sellers.

Thank you, again, so much for listening. Feel absolutely free to hit us up on Facebook or tweet at us if you have any questions or feedback. And if you want to be featured on the show or have an Amazon related question or an idea for an episode, feel free to leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Also feel free to just hit us up on Facebook or tweet at us if you want to be featured on the show, too. We can always take those questions and feature them on the show if you don’t want to call in. Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

2018 Sales Tax Rate Changes Sellers Should Know About – Guest Post by Avalara

Change is a constant with sales tax. Thousands of sales tax changes occur annually, affecting rates, rules, and regulations: Exemptions expire and are imposed on new products; rates increase and decrease; jurisdictions expand, contract, or even cease to exist; and so forth. Such changes affect any retailer making sales in the affected jurisdiction. But many of the changes coming in 2018 target online sellers in general, and specifically Amazon’s marketplace vendors.

States target online marketplace sellers

Online marketplace sales topped $1 trillion in 2016, according to an Internet Retailer research report. Yet state sales tax revenue isn’t sharing the meteoric rise of the internet marketplace. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that states missed out on up to $13 billion in tax revenue from untaxed remote sales in 2017 alone, roughly $6 billion of which was from online marketplace sales.

Therefore, states are redoubling their efforts to let no online sale go untaxed. Now that Amazon is collecting tax on sales of its own products in all states that have a sales tax, states are targeting marketplace sellers that, until recently, largely escaped the attention of state tax authorities.

New remote seller requirements took effect in Maine and Rhode Island in late 2017. Washington state is taxing marketplace sales as of Jan. 1, 2018. Under a new law in Pennsylvania, referrers, remote sellers, and marketplace facilitators must collect tax on their sales by March 1 of this year. A similar law in Minnesota, the first to be enacted, is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2019.

Yet these aren’t the only laws targeting non-collecting remote sellers. In Virginia, out-of-state vendors that store property in an in-state warehouse or shipping facility, even one owned by another party, are considered to have a physical presence in the state and an obligation to collect and remit tax on their Virginia sales. And as of Dec. 1, 2017, certain remote vendors who “purposefully or systematically exploit the Mississippi market” are considered liable for tax on their sales in Mississippi.

Furthermore, a handful of states may have found an effective way to work around the physical presence precedent that has long prevented states from taxing remote retailers. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Rhode Island now maintain that the presence of software or web cookies on an in-state device establishes a physical presence and an obligation to collect and remit tax. Legal action is pending over at least two of these policies; if the states emerge victorious, others may follow their lead.

All’s fair in love and sales tax

That’s what’s happened with Colorado’s use tax notification and reporting requirement, which the Supreme Court of the United States let stand. Vermont, Washington, and several other states have enacted similarly onerous reporting requirements on non-collecting retailers.

The full impact of these requirements has yet to hit. In the coming months, residents of states with use tax reporting laws will start receiving reports of their purchase activity from non-collecting vendors. They’ll be informed that the vendors are required to send similar information to the state tax authorities. How would you react to such news? Would you rather pay tax at checkout, or have your personal information turned over to the state?

The trend is clear: States will not stop until they can collect tax revenue from most, if not all, remote sellers. If that happens, retailers that don’t currently collect will need to deal with rate changes, new and expiring exemptions, and other state and local sales tax changes.

See more 2018 sales tax changes at the Avalara blog.

 

7 Tips for Your FBA Business from Casey Gauss (Follow the Data Ep. 15)

Follow the Data Episode 15: 3 Tips for your FBA Business from Casey Gauss

Merry Christmas listeners! We’ve got a present for you: 7 tips for your FBA business courtesy of our CEO, Casey Gauss. As you set your business goals for 2018, these tips will help you focus on what will take your business to the next level. Looking to sell for the first time? Even better. Listen closely for advice about what pitfalls to avoid and what will set you apart from other Amazon Sellers.

Listen on iTunes

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • Check out this brief overview or this longer walkthrough of Product Discovery to learn more about how Product Discovery leverages data to help you find the most profitable Amazon products to source.
  • Not sure how to use Market Intelligence? Here’s a full Market Intelligence walkthrough about how to get the most out of the tool.
  • Reinvesting your Q4 profits is the best way to get the most out of your extra earnings. Think about what seasonal products you might be able to turn around in time for upcoming Q1 holidays.
  • Looking for more reliable information from the Viral Launch? Check out our Dispelling Myths Series. Viral Launch takes on 4 common myths in the Amazon FBA community.
  • Want to be on the show? Have your own story of entrepreneurial success? We’re working on an episode that features our listeners! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.

 

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
Merry Christmas, everyone, and happy New Year. It’s the holiday season and the end of Q4 2017. As we head into 2018 we want to help you focus on what’s going to make your business as profitable and successful as possible.

CASEY GAUSS:
Today I’m giving out seven tips to grow your FBA business to help you get in the success mindset heading into the New Year. I am Casey Gauss.

CAMERON YODER:
And I’m Cameron Yoder, your hosts for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 28,000 product launches and our experience working with 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller. Let’s dive in.

CASEY GAUSS:
Cool, guys. So we’ll start kind of in the source, launch, dominate order. Tip number one coming to you through the kind of source perspective, tip number one is pay attention to the sales-to-review ratio when entering a market. Really what this means, you know, we call this the ROI ratio, but really what sales-to-review ratio is, it’s just a very simple calculation, estimated monthly sales divided by total review quantity, and really this is a calculation that does two things for you. One, it is showing you kind of what the reward is versus the amount of work you have to put in. So if I want the reward of selling 1000 units of this widget per month, then the amount of work I have to put in is to get to, you know, X number of reviews. So let’s say 100 reviews, right? So if I only need to get 100 reviews to sell 1000 units, that’s a sales review ratio of 10. And that sounds like a pretty awesome scenario considering or assuming that all the other metrics are good, so price point, margin and so forth. But you know that’s far better than having to get 10,000 reviews to sell 1000 units, right? So the sales-to-review ratio, just a really simple quick calculation to, you know, as this kind of litmus test for should I consider this market or not.

CAMERON YODER:
I’m still amazed at how many people don’t take this into consideration when entering new markets. And it’s a really simple concept. Like it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Really it makes sense if you’re looking at a market and you see a bunch of sales and a ton of reviews, then of course you’re going to have to, in order to compete well, have to get that review count up to match what the market’s at. But if you’re in a market with a low number of reviews and high sales, obviously that’s opportune for you to enter and do well.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah. Thanks, Cam. So tip number two, go wide, not deep. So a lot of people are always looking for that home run product that is going to, you know, make them wealthy overnight. We have a guy named Brock Johnson coming onto the podcast. In six months he sold like $6 million worth of one product. That’s a unicorn. It’s very tough to find unicorns if you’ve never seen one. So anyways, you know, it’s so much more practical to be able to go really wide and not very deep. So what that looks like is, you know, if I were jumping into selling on Amazon this is the strategy that I would take because this is what I see kind of a lot of people having success with. Anyways, what this looks like is going after products where maybe the maximum sales potential for that market is $10,000 or $15,000, $20,000, some fairly low amount. I guess it’s all relative because for a lot of people $10,000 a month is insane. But essentially what you’re looking to do is enter markets where competition is not very high and you know, there’s lessons in it for the big players with the big budgets who are going to, you know, maybe use black hat tactics against you or whatever to come into the market and try to hurt you and your business.

I see this all the time with supplements and cell phone cases and beauty products. You know, what happens is people end up – competitors will buy your products. They’ll say that they’re getting the products – you’re selling it new, but it’s coming used, you know, the seal was broken, or they up-vote your bad reviews, or they leave a bunch of bad reviews, or they leave a bunch of unverified five-star reviews to make it look like you are going and soliciting these reviews. There’s so many things that competitors will do, and it’s just such a headache to fight in these markets, especially if the markets are mature. It takes a lot of time, a lot of money to reach maximum sales potential versus going in these, you know, markets that are not very deep where you’re making, you know, $10,000 a month top line.

The nice thing about it is you don’t really have to worry about competitors if you find the right markets. It’s extremely easy to enter. You don’t have to spend that much time, that many resources, like achieving success with these products. It’s so easy to do that. And so I would much rather sell 10 products that do $10,000 a month than one product that’s doing 100 K a month, and the reason being, again, competition, ease of entry. A lot of the time going for these, you know, smaller products, it takes 30 days to reach maximum sales potential, or maybe 60 days to reach maximum sales potential and boom, you’re off to the next product. And you can just continue to iterate from there versus going after these $100,000 a month markets generally assuming that there is some degree of maturity around it. It’s going to take you quite a long time.

So I see plenty of people just going – you know, the biggest account that I know of these people that are going, you know, in these wide markets, or going wide versus deep is $30 million a year just in Amazon US. So these guys have a killer business, and they’re just going after all the, you know, low-hanging fruit opportunities. And I would highly suggest anyone jump into there that can or is looking to start sourcing in a different strategy or whatever. I think this is probably the fastest, simplest, you know, lowest headache opportunity to growing your business quickly.

CAMERON YODER:
I would even say – I would add to that a couple years back I think this looked a little bit different just because the market, the Amazon market as a whole, was pretty different where competition with the deeper markets was a little bit less than it is now. Not to say that going deep was better than going wide, but even now since competition is so fierce, especially in those deep markets, going wide is going to let you really look into those markets that people haven’t discovered yet and/or are definitely not as competitive as the deep ones.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, completely agree. Awesome. So we will move on to the launch phase of your FBA journey. Tip number one, you know, I would still – we’ve been trying to, you know, kind of preach this so sorry if you’ve already heard this, but so many people still have not, and I think it is just a very, very simple hack to potentially dramatically increasing your sales. And what that is is you need to include both plural and singular forms of your words in your listings title. So in Amazon’s style guides or guidelines they say you don’t need to include both singular and plural forms. And they say that Amazon, you know, they already account for this in their algorithm, but it’s absolutely untrue. You know, just one quick anecdote. Someone is running a launch for grill gloves. I believe they had gloves in their title, but they were running a launch for a grill glove, and for a grill glove though, the key word that they’re targeting, they hit page 2 like top of page 2 for the launch and they were, you know, kind of disappointed that they didn’t hit page 1. But if you went and looked for the plural form, grill gloves, they were like in the top 10 on page 1 even though they weren’t targeting that word just because it was in the title. And so basically that just goes – and we see this all the time. So this just goes to show that, you know, Amazon does treat singular and plural forms of words differently. I mean if you want to go prove it or test it out for yourself literally search grill glove. Search grill gloves. There’s going to be different search results or in different orders. If there’s not, go try other words, fish oil, fish oils. Just go try a few singular and plural forms of the same word and you’ll see different order of words, different results, and the title has a lot to do with this. So it’s a very quick fix. But like, you know, seriously, the difference in ranking or the amount of keyword power that you’re driving to one word could be the difference of thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars in revenue every month.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s an easy action step, too.

CASEY GAUSS:
So easy.

CAMERON YODER:
To simply go over, go over listing and see if you have both plural and singular forms of your main keywords.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yep, and then the second part to that tip is just don’t repeat words. So you know, let’s say this grill glove seller, they have grill glove then grill gloves and barbecue grill gloves in their title. You don’t need to repeat all those words. It should be in phrase order. So ideally as much as possible, right, so it would be something like, you know, grill gloves, best glove for grilling, or you know something like that. That was just off the top of my head, so probably wasn’t the best. But anyways, you kind of get the gist there. But anyways yeah, you have to have – even if it doesn’t make 100% sense, you know, let’s say you’re selling one glove. You should still have “gloves” in your title because people are searching gloves. Or let’s take a grill brush for example. People are inevitably searching grill brushes, right? Even though you’re only selling one brush you have to have the plural form because people are searching brushes, and by having that in your title when sales are driven through your listing you’re driving that much more power to the ranking for that plural form.

CAMERON YODER:
And by not you’re missing out on all that opportunity.

CASEY GAUSS:
Right. And competitors are. And then second tip for the launch phase is just being aggressive. We just see so many people kind of, you know, tiptoeing to success or waiting kind of for the success to come to them, and it’s just less and less likely every day as competition continues to increase. You really have to go after that success, and I mean really looking at opportunity costs. If you are taking six months to get a product up and, you know, hitting maximum sales potential you’re missing out on so much opportunity. If you did that and if you were more aggressive, hit maximum sales potential in three months you would have twice as much time to go after that second opportunity. And so now you have, you know, let’s say you repeat that with a second product, and so then within six months you have two products at maximum sales potential versus the one. So by going slow, yes it is probably more cost-effective or more cost-efficient, right? So you don’t spend as much money going and achieving that success, but by spending that money and being aggressive you have the opportunity to make that much more money.

CAMERON YODER:
We’re getting into the New Year now, and we’re going to touch more on New Year tactics later. But really this aggressiveness, this tip to be aggressive is a great one to hold onto moving into 2018, even to now, and understand it’s getting close to the end of 2017 and everyone’s going to be spending time with their family and the holidays and whatnot. But planning ahead for 2018, to actually sit down and plan how you’re going to be aggressive is honestly a great strategy, just to even plan it out and see what it looks like for you specifically. Again, reevaluating your goals and setting new goals to just flat out be aggressive among other things. But Casey, let’s move on to dominate. What have you got?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so three tips under dominate. First one, just reinvest your Q4 profits. I mean hopefully Q4 has been, you know, an amazing experience for you. Hopefully you broke some records and are just super, you know, proud of yourself and excited for what you’ve been able to accomplish. But you know, at least for my personality and if you, again, really look at the opportunity that still exists in the market, I think you really owe it to yourself and, you know, all the people that you are planning on helping with what you’re achieving here with your Amazon FBA business to just go super hard and reinvest those profits. You know, delay getting that Lamborghini or going on, you know, these month-long vacations. You still have so much opportunity. The last thing you want to do when you look back five years from now, 10 years from now is say dang, you know, that was a gold rush and I went to the Bahamas for a month while everybody else is panning for gold and hitting all these opportunities and, you know, I missed out. So anyways, reinvest your Q4 profits. The amount of success that we are seeing on Amazon is just insane, even to this day, and I just really want to encourage you to continue to take part in it. Delay the, you know, instant gratification, the short-term gratification for the long-term goals. So yeah, just reinvest your Q4 profits. Kind of a little reminder there.

Tip number two is go international. So we are planning on having some guys on the podcast that I met recently, and these guys did – in their first year of Amazon they did $10 million.

CAMERON YODER:
They’re killing it.

CASEY GAUSS:
And some other fun facts for you is one of them, still in school full time, and they are both 20 years old. And the other fun fact for you is that they have never sold anything in Amazon US, only international. There is so much opportunity internationally. You know, these guys, you know, they’ll share their story and everything, but there is just so much opportunity internationally. The competition is a fraction of what it is in Amazon US, and I really think that you need to take your resources, you know, hire someone, bring someone on your team to be general manager of internationalization or marketplace director. I don’t know, somebody to go manage your international business.

But there is so much opportunity, and you really want to get in on the ground floor. I mean a lot of the like really successful folks in Amazon US that I know are all people that jumped in in 2014 or maybe 2015, and they went super hard when Amazon was so much easier. And now that Amazon has, you know, really dramatically increased competition and there’s so many additional sellers here, a lot more money going into driving success, it’s so much more difficult. But if you go look in the international markets, in the majority of these markets it’s Amazon 2014 still. And so you need to get in on the ground floor when, you know, Amazon is still – you need to ride that wave of success. So you know you’re on the ground floor. Revenue or revenue potential is just going to continue to increase internationally, but so will competition. And if you’re in, you know, on the ground floor you already will be ranking. You’ll already have the review quantity, and you can just ride that wave up.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s going to be – granted, it’s going to be a little bit different. I don’t think you should go into international markets expecting the same exact process as the United States, but these guys that we’re going to bring on later are examples that, guys, there are no excuses. At 20 years old they are killing it. They’re making bank, and they haven’t sold a single thing in the United States. So if that’s not proof as to what can be possible in international markets, then I don’t know what is. But that, I think that should be part of your long-term strategy, planning, right, to sit down and if international is something you’re interested in, find out more about it, do your research, and then dive in. All right, Casey, what’s tip number three?

CASEY GAUSS:
Tip number three, so basically just never go out of inventory. We see so many people make this mistake, and you know, sometimes it’s inevitable. Sometimes your projections are way off, which is a good thing hopefully. But anyways, there can just be a lot of, you know, downside to going out of inventory. So essentially, you know, just make sure that you are planning accordingly. You know, look at something like market intelligence where you’re able to see kind of the market trends and understand to what degree sales are increasing, decreasing and, you know, how long the increase or decrease will sustain just so you have a really accurate, you know, indication of what to expect or how the market will perform over the, you know, coming X number of months that you need to plan inventory for. And then secondly, like so it may be too late, or it’s probably pretty close to too late if it’s not already.

CAMERON YODER:
Honestly, actually yeah, by the time this podcast is out it’s probably going to be too late depending on the production time for your product.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I mean so the Chinese New Year is coming up, and I think it’s like early February to early March. Factories are closed down for a month, and before and after that, you know, it’s like, it’s just crazy production because they’re trying to fit everything in before and after for all the people that missed out. And so hopefully you’ve already ordered your inventory in preparation for Chinese New Year, especially if you’re wanting to launch new products. If not, like that can delay your time to getting that product up and running, you know, so far. But yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
This – it’s Friday, December 22nd, and I do know that a lot of manufacturers are taking orders this week in order to get products to you before the Chinese New Year. But with this area specifically, talking about inventory, guys, I honestly think it’s much better to play safe than sorry with this. And so it’s better to overcompensate for inventory here. And sure, you’re going to spend maybe a little bit more money, and you need to figure out how much money you have to play around with ordering inventory and different strategies with that. But it’s better to order a little bit more inventory than it is to run out of inventory and have to wait maybe a week to two weeks before you get your next shipment in. So plan ahead. Plan accordingly. Play it a little safe on this one.

CASEY GAUSS:
I think that’s pretty much all for me.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, well okay. That’s all for this week. Thank you guys so much for joining us here on Follow the Data. For more FBA tips and reliable information that will help take your Amazon business to the next level, subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at viral-launch.com.

CASEY GAUSS:
Guys, we’re all Amazon sellers. We know the most difficult part of your Amazon business is getting reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
So hard.

CASEY GAUSS:
So hard. Please help us get reviews. If we could we would go review your product, but we don’t want to get you shut down. But by you reviewing this podcast we will not get shut down, so we would love your help on this. I mean really at the end of the day if you know anything about me or the company, like we just love honest feedback. So whether it’s in a review or whatever, any feedback just so we know how are we doing, what do you guys want to hear, you know, maybe our approach isn’t the best. Maybe you want us to use voice changers because you don’t like our voice, I don’t know. Anyways, we just love feedback. So yeah, thank you so much.

CAMERON YODER:
We’re also doing – we’re currently doing weekly webinars where we’re going through, walking through product discovery and different strategies that you can use to take advantage of the tools. So if you haven’t seen those yet keep an eye out for those. We do it every – typically every Thursday. But again, we just wanted to say thank you so much for listening. Happy holidays. We hope everyone has a great New Year. And don’t forget if you want to be featured on the show, or if you have an Amazon-related question or an idea for an episode you can leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember the data is out there.

Dispelling Myths: 90% Off Promotions (Follow the Data Ep. 1)

Follow the Data Episode 1: Dispelling Myths: 90% Off Promotions

Do launches work? Amazon gives higher keyword ranking to products sold at full price, leaving deeply discounted promotional products in the dust… Or so the myth goes. In the inaugural episode of the “Dispelling Myths” series, Viral Launch CEO Casey Gauss dives into the data to validate, or dispel, this widespread concern among Amazon sellers.

Listen on iTunes . See All Episodes

Listen on Stitcher / Listen on Google Play

 

Follow the Data Show Notes:

 

Podcast Transcript

Casey Gauss:
Everyone’s looking for like that next hack. It makes logical sense that 90% off promotions don’t drive as much keyword ranking. You know the problem is that the data just doesn’t show that.

Cameron Yoder:
The buzz about town is that running promotions to get ranking may not work the way it used to. Today we’re diving into the data to see what’s really going on. I’m Cameron Yoder.

Casey Gauss:
And I’m Casey Gauss, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. So in this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 20,000 product launches and our experience working with over 5500 brands on Amazon to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, most importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

Cameron Yoder:
These first four inaugural episodes of Follow the Data are all part of our Dispelling Myths series in which we explore topics that have garnered a lot of conversation among the Amazon seller community recently, but that until now have not been proven or disproven using factual evidence.

Casey Gauss:
We’ll talk about where these Amazon myths come from, why they seem to logically make sense, and what the data is saying, and what is actually happening and how you can apply that moving forward.

Cameron Yoder:
All right, Casey, so this is Episode 1 of Dispelling Myths. We’re talking about promotions here. Can you tell us a little bit about this myth? What exactly is this myth?

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, so essentially this myth is basically stating that Amazon gives higher ranking power or effect to sales at full price versus, you know, the promotions at 90% off. The theory is that if you are running a promotion, if you’re giving a product away at a discount or selling it at a discount, especially 90% off, you’re not going to get nearly as much ranking power as a full-price sale.

Cameron Yoder:
So someone selling on Amazon, let’s say they give away items at 50% off. People are saying that those are not as effective or efficient as – or that the 90% off promotions are not as effective or efficient as the 50% off coupons. Is that right?

Casey Gauss:
Yep, correct.

Cameron Yoder:
Okay, okay. So where – or when, when did this idea start? Like where did it come from?

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, you know, we’ve seen this idea ever since 2014 when we got started. To be honest, I think that it’s definitely had a resurgence. We’ve seen people say you know back in the day oh Amazon will only let a review stick, or you can only get review power if it is at zero dollars, or if it’s over five dollars. You know there’s always these kind of arbitrary metrics that people throw out, and so now there’s just this resurgence. You know I’ve probably seen it a lot more over the last three months maybe, maybe around May, maybe around June, somewhere around there.

Cameron Yoder:
So why do you think it’s researching? Like why is this coming back?

Casey Gauss:
The – so yeah, so I mean with any myth I think a lot of it boils down or finds its root in everyone’s looking for like that next hack. It makes logical sense that 90% off promotions don’t drive as much keyword ranking. You know the problem is that the data just doesn’t show that.

Cameron Yoder:
Another point I guess that’s important, right, is that I mean it would be really, really great if it wasn’t true, right, that oh, that means if 90% off promotions aren’t as effective or efficient, then we don’t have to give products away at 90% off. Like that is a very appealing notion, right? So then that means that sellers don’t have to give products away for extreme discounts.

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, okay, yeah, very true. I would definitely like to point that out as – so it’s called consistency bias, right?

Cameron Yoder:
Yeah, right.

Casey Gauss:
And so you don’t want to spend the money associated with selling product at 90% off, and so you would like to tell yourself that it is great to – or that Amazon prefers full-price sales, and that’s why you want to head that way. Oh yeah, so another instance in which this kind of comes up is, you know, people run one promotion and they don’t get the keyword ranking they expected to see, right? So I’m selling a fish oil. I think I need to give away 50 units a day, let’s just say. And so I do that, and I expected to get to page 1, but I only got to bottom of page 2, right? And so then instantly everybody would jump to oh my gosh, promotions don’t work nearly as well. It must be full-price sales that are the answer. And you know the problem with that is here’s where, you know, the Viral Launch data or perspective really comes into play is that we’re running hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of promotions every day. So we have tons of data where you know, we’re tracking keyword ranking –

Cameron Yoder:
Right.

Casey Gauss:
– for keywords, the targeted keyword, as well as keywords that we find in the title, in the bullet points, in the rest of the listings. So we really, really understand how sales interact with the content of a listing, or tracking the price point of sale, or tracking are coupons present when we have MWS access. And so yeah, we’re able to really get this really broad perspective of the market versus you run one promotion, maybe your keyword, main keyword, wasn’t in the title. Maybe it wasn’t in your listing at all. Maybe, you know, you weren’t even indexed for it, or you know there’s a number of different factors that – and sometimes you know there’s things like cursed products where we just cannot get those things to rank in –

Cameron Yoder:
Cursed products.

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, that’s what we call it. So yeah, there’s so many different variables coming into play that running one test and then not getting the results that you had expected or intended is not enough of a sample size to really draw a strong correlation or a strong conclusion.

Cameron Yoder:
Right. And we, in terms of data – like you were talking about data – we really have that sample size. Again, like we run – we run promotions every single day, and they’re all built off of – or not every single one, but almost all of them are built off of 90% off promotions.

Casey Gauss:
Yeah.

Cameron Yoder:
If that didn’t work and it wasn’t effective, it wouldn’t work for us.

Casey Gauss:
Right.

Cameron Yoder:
And we see it every single day.

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, so I mean getting into the data of it, simply we’re running hundreds and hundreds of launches, and the amount— our ability to drive keyword ranking is just insane. And so at the end of the day Amazon is paying attention to did a sale happen? They’re not paying attention to the number of units that occurred or the price at which it is actually purchased. I think Amazon cares or is paying more attention to the price that the product is listed at.

Cameron Yoder: Let’s transition to a break. We’ll be back right after this message.

Rebecca Longenecker:
Hey, I’m Rebecca Longenecker, the producer for Follow the Data, and I wanted to let you know about a really cool resource the Viral Launch team just published. With this holiday season promising to be the biggest yet for Amazon, we’re offering an e-book that walks you through every aspect of Q4 preparation, from inventory planning, to optimizing your listing for mobile, to making sure your product is showing up in search. We’ve got you covered. There are also fun facts, helpful notes and handy little checklists you can use to evaluate how prepared you are. Don’t miss out on this year’s holiday sales. Go to viral-launch.com/Q4 to download the e-book now. That’s viral-launch.com/Q4. Thanks!

Cameron Yoder:
And we’re back again talking about the myth of giveaways and promotions. So Casey, let’s talk a little bit more about the data that’s backing this dispelling up. Can you touch on everything just a little bit more?

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, you know I think the really simple analogy or the simple logic here to kind of give everyone an example is as simple as this. So let’s take fish oil as an example, and someone wants to run a promotion to get ranking for the keyword, “fish oil.” Well, what we do is we go and we look, okay, here’s page 1 for fish oil. You know these guys are selling, let’s say it’s 50 units a day average page 1 or bottom half of page 1. And we want to get ranking there. So what we will do is we will give away 50 units per day targeting this keyword, “fish oil,” and after three days, five days, maybe seven days we’ll be ranking bottom of page 1 for fish oil, and we did – we ran 90% off promotion. So 90% of the sale price, these guys are selling 50 units a day at the organic price, and we sold at 90% off, and we’re still able to drive the same amount of keyword ranking. And so again, if Amazon did not – or reduced the amount of keyword ranking power as some kind of function of the purchase price we would not be ranking alongside these people that are selling just as many units except at the organic price. So that alone kind of just busts that myth, completely dispels that.

You know, another area this myth came from is there are these, you know, quote unquote experts or service providers in the space that are saying oh, you have to do these full-price deals with us, and the reason they’re doing that and they’re promising these crazy affects, right? So if you come and use our service we will guarantee you hit page 1 or number one most of the time, and we guarantee you will stay there for 30 days. The reason our method is so effective is because we’re using these gift cards to run full-price sales, and in reality what people didn’t realize was this person was running a bot or this artificial ranking method to your listing, and that’s what was getting you the results. That’s what was helping to maintain those results. It wasn’t the fact that you used these gift cards. And so that’s really frustrating to me because one, you know this person is operating on your business without your consent in a black hat manner, and two, they’re just, you know, completely lying about what is driving the results, which then goes and leads people down these dark paths. You know, it is against terms of service to compensate someone or reimburse someone for buying your product. It is absolutely stated explicitly in the terms of service that you cannot do this. It’s black hat. You know, will you get caught for it? I personally don’t know anybody that has. But you know, I think it’s one little slip up and now you’re in trouble for, you know, manipulating Amazon’s system or compensating buyers for purchasing your product.

Cameron Yoder:
Right. Let’s touch a little bit on just like the mentality of why, like why 90%? So why not? Why not? Why can’t – people are asking, why can’t I just launch my product at 50% off? It’s still a heavy discount, right, so why is 90% necessary? Touch on that.

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, so the discounted price or percentage is not a function of effectiveness.

Cameron Yoder:
Right.

Casey Gauss:
It is really, you know, we’re running generally around 450 or so launches a day right now, and so yes, we have a buyer list of 350,000 in the US, but you know these guys have – some of these people have been on our list for, you know, years and years and years.

Cameron Yoder:
A long time.

Casey Gauss:
And so if we’re selling an iPhone 7 case or a fish oil, like this demographic that we have only has so much discretionary income, and if you’re selling your product at 50% off, let’s say $10, versus the usual $1, $2, whatever, like that’s $8 less discretionary income they have to go buy our other products. And so in order to make sure the demand is high enough in the group for every launch that we’re running, we want to keep prices as low as possible so they have the money to buy more stuff.

Cameron Yoder:
Right. The 90% off is very much – it’s a means of control. Like you need to move – you need to move, if you’re launching, again, for fish oil, you’re going to have to move an insane amount of units to get to the top. The 90% off really gives control and gives you the ability to launch to page 1 for that. So the 90% off is a means of moving the launch forward and making it effective.

Casey Gauss:
And you know, to be honest, from like a competitive standpoint, you know if I were a larger seller I would actually kind of prefer this because the smaller sellers don’t have the budget –

Cameron Yoder:
Right, right.

Casey Gauss:
– to be really aggressive in these high-volume markets at these low prices. So they have to, you know, work their way up in a much slower process. And as a larger seller, yes, it is more expensive, but you’re essentially pricing or paying your competitors out of the market, which, you know, for large sellers that works. For smaller sellers, you know, this is why we definitely suggest getting into smaller niches where you don’t have to give away 100 units a day for seven days just to get on page 1, let alone maintain that ranking or whatever.

Cameron Yoder:
Oh, but what about fidget spinners?

Casey Gauss:
Yeah. We don’t want to talk about those.

Cameron Yoder:
No, no, no. So that’s actually a good transition into the takeaway. Let’s talk about what is the main takeaway? From my perspective it’s all about the risk, right, the reward of the risk. You have to take a huge risk. You are taking an investment, kind of an investment with giving away this many units. But giving away this many units at a 90% off discount is going to give you the control and get you on to page 1. And from there, then you will be able to make that increase in sales.

Casey Gauss:
Yeah, oh, completely. I would say, especially like – or specifically to this particular myth I think the takeaways are one, really be careful of who you’re trusting and paying attention to. Two, definitely make sure that you are getting a really solid sample size when you are making conclusions. Again, running one promotion that doesn’t get the ranking effects that you expected it to, you know, maybe you underestimated the number of units needed to give because the guys on page 1 are selling more units through that keyword than you had anticipated. Who knows? But anyways, yeah, please pay attention to your sample size when drawing conclusions because the last thing you want is to draw some conclusion and then spend the next three months and $20,000 trying to build a business around this, you know, this wrongly-founded conclusion. Yeah, and then three, really is at the end of the day, like you have to spend money to make money, like Cam is saying.

Cameron Yoder:
Right, right.

Casey Gauss:
And you know, unfortunately that’s the case right now. And yeah, you know, we’re definitely biased in saying that, but the problem is in that bias like we’ve just seen so many people have success. We just posted three Viral Launch case studies where this guy came, and he was doing $400K a month, and he came in, ran promotions across his product line, and after 30 days he’s doing $650K a month organically just because he improved the keyword rank position of his product. So yeah, he spent a bunch of money. I thought it was $250,000 to get that ranking, but now, you know, his sales are just killing it compared to where he was at. So –

Cameron Yoder:
Yeah.

Casey Gauss:
Yeah.

Cameron Yoder:
Take a zoomed out perspective. Ask why with everything that you’re doing. Make sure you’re getting all the data. Make sure you’re getting all the facts.

Casey Gauss:
Awesome. All right. We’ll see you guys later.

Cameron Yoder:
Hey, that is all for this week. Thank you so much for joining us here on Follow the Data. For more reliable information about what’s really happening on Amazon subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at Viral-Launch.com.

Casey Gauss:
And don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you liked or enjoyed the podcast. We really appreciate your feedback as we work to build this podcast for you. Want to be featured on the show? Leave us a voicemail and tell us your thoughts on today’s episode, or ask us any of your Amazon questions. Our number is 317-721-6590. It will be linked in the show notes. Join us next week when we dispel the myth of Amazon sales velocity. Until then, remember, the data is out there.

 

About the Amazon FBA Seller Podcast:

Viral Launch CEO, Casey Gauss, and Amazon Seller Coach Cameron Yoder bring data-driven insights to the Seller community in their weekly discussions.

On the show you’ll get the latest Amazon selling strategies and best practices based on the company’s experience launching over 22,000 products and working with over 5,500 brands. Casey and Cam will bring you up to speed on the latest Amazon news, share stories of success and failure, explore the difficulties of entrepreneurship, and discuss the way Amazon is changing retail.

At the center of the show is the Viral Launch commitment to offering reliable information to today’s entrepreneurs.