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.

How to Sell on Amazon for Beginners: 6 Steps for Starting your FBA Journey

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to sell on Amazon and give you six tips for success.

Wouldn’t it be nice to generate a little extra income? Selling online has afforded many hardworking and driven people more financial freedom and in some cases, completely changed their lives.

In a recent study, it was estimated that 40 percent of worldwide internet users bought products or goods online several times a month. And that number continues to grow daily.

This has led many people to ask themselves: How can I capitalize on this e-commerce explosion?

One of the largest players in the space is e-commerce giant Amazon — a multi-billion-dollar company that has established themselves as the leading online retailer. But Amazon is more than just a store. It’s also a marketplace where regular people – just like you and me – can become successful internet entrepreneurs and make passive income.

What is Amazon FBA?

One of the most popular options for selling on Amazon is as a third-party seller through their Fulfillment by Amazon program, or FBA.

Whether you’re a college student, a retiree, or somewhere in between, you can become an internet entrepreneur through Amazon FBA. In fact, more than half of the total sales on Amazon come from third-party sellers.

Amazon FBA is a popular option because many of the logistics of operating a physical business are handled by Amazon. This allows sellers to minimize their effort and maximize their time and (most importantly) profits.

Benefits of Amazon FBA for Beginners

For the sake of this guide, we’re discussing how to sell on Amazon for beginners through the Fulfillment by Amazon program. There are other options (such as FBM) … but those are blogs for another time.

Like we covered briefly in the beginning of this blog, FBA means you send your products to Amazon and they store, pack, and ship your product to your customers. While there are, of course, additional fees with this strategy, there are also some serious benefits:

  • Prime perks: All FBA products are eligible for Prime, which is a huge advantage for FBA sellers. An astounding 63 percent of Amazon shoppers are Prime members! In fact in 2018, it’s estimated that Prime shoppers will drive more than $117 billion in spending. Selling through FBA means your products will be eligible for Prime free two-day shipping.
  • More trust: Amazon has done a great job instilling trust in their business model and practices, which helps you as an FBA seller. When people see a product is Fulfilled by Amazon, they know it will arrive in good condition and on time (and if not, Amazon takes care of it).
  • Hands-off: Scale your side-hustle into a full-time income. FBA gives you the ability to quickly scale without the difficult logistics of handling inventory and shipping out orders.

All these benefits, plus more, contribute to why FBA is a popular strategy for selling on Amazon that leads to incredible sales potential! Just keep in mind, as an FBA seller, you will have to get your products properly prepared for Amazon’s warehouse. That means printing barcodes on products, packaging items per Amazon’s requirements and shipping them into their warehouses.  

So now you’re ready to begin your FBA journey. But where do you start? Here are 6 steps for starting your online business and making your first sale.

  1. Find Product Ideas

Now that you know a little bit about Amazon’s FBA program, it’s time to sign up as an Amazon seller. You can choose an Individual or a Professional Selling Plan. If you’re hoping to sell more than 40 products per month, you’ll want a Professional Selling Plan. 

The next step is finding product ideas, and this is a really important step. One of the most popular ways to sell on Amazon is through Private Label. Private Label is when you choose a product, find a manufacturer, and then package and sell those products under your own brand.

Choosing the right product to private label and sell on Amazon is crucial for your success, and the process can be difficult and sometimes stressful. There are a whole host of factors to consider, like marketplace viability, popularity, price and profit margins. If you source a random product, you are essentially gambling on its success.

You want to ensure the highest probability of success by understanding the market’s potential. For this reason, getting as much information as you can during your Amazon product research phase is essential.

So, you might be asking: “Where do I start?” Your first move should be to use product finding software that can help you determine the right market to enter.  

This type of software will provide you with a personalized list of potential product ideas that align with your goals, so that you can quickly and easily understand which products will make you money and which ones will take your money.  

Our favorite product finder is Product Discovery, which allows you to find individual products that meet your criteria, find keyword markets full of potential, discover successful brands to emulate, or search subcategories to find that next up and coming product. There are even advanced filters for the adventurous. This allows you to customize your research process and feel confident that you’re seeing personalized results. But if you’re new to this, don’t feel overwhelmed. Pick a few filters that make sense to you, such as Category, Price, Sales, and Reviews, and filter through results to see what catches your eye.

Once you’ve performed your search, you’ll be presented with loads of useful data to help you find potential product ideas. Take a glance below at this example search.

By using a product finder, you’re given all the data and insights you need to find a list of potential products ideas and start your Amazon journey off right.

Want to learn more about Product Discovery? Check out this quick intro tutorial:

 

  1. Validate Your Product

As you might have realized by now, research plays a huge role in whether or not your journey is headed towards success. After gathering a list of potential product ideas, it’s time to dig deeper and validate your product.

One of the best ways to research each of your potential products and ensure yourself the highest probability of success is by using a market research tool. These types of tools help you to eliminate guesswork so you can avoid products that will lose you money.

Market Intelligence, a seller favorite, lets you verify demand for your product by looking at estimated sales numbers, keyword search volume, trends, and market conditions. You can also take a look at how top competitors have performed in the past and are performing now, as well as allowing you to look at potential barriers to entry like reviews, big brands, and high initial investment.

With all this information at hand, you should be able to identify a market full of products that, on average, have healthy revenue numbers and low reviews so it’s easy for you to enter in and compete. It’s also a good idea to look for markets that seem to be relatively stable, rather than chasing trends. While trend categories can be hugely profitable for those that get in quickly, the safer play is to look for markets with long term stability.

For evidence of the risk of trends, look no further than the fidget spinner. As you can see, there was a huge surge in sales, more sellers hopped on, price wars started, and when the trend dried up, many were left with inventory that was impossible to get rid of.

During this research stage you’ll also want to begin thinking about developing a business plan, setting actionable goals and determining how much time, energy, and investment you really want to put into this business.

Keep in mind, during these early stages, you may need more capital than you anticipate. You’ll need to pay for your product, shipping, listing, marketing, and eventually scaling. To get an idea for how much money you could make (and how much you may spend), use an Amazon FBA calculator.

 

  1. Find a Manufacturer and Place Your Order

This next step is another big one. Once you’ve sifted through products and validated your market, it’s time to actually get your product produced and ordered. After in-depth research, we recommend developing a list of at least 3-5 products with margins that align with your goals.

Next, you’ll want to look into manufacturing channels. One of the most popular sourcing options for Private Label sellers is Alibaba.

Alibaba connects you with overseas manufacturers, allowing you to buy your selected products in bulk. Again, doing your research is imperative for picking a legitimate manufacturer to work with.

Alibaba has 3 quality assurance methods that can help you choose what manufacturers to work with:

  • Trade Assurance: This is a free service that helps to create trust between buyers and suppliers. This will protect your money in the case of a dispute with the supplier over issues like product quality or shipment.  
  • Gold Supplier: This allows you to determine which suppliers have received a verification through Alibaba that proves they are a registered legal business. However, this doesn’t mean every supplier with this verification will be 100% reliable, but it does help to lend more legitimacy.
  • Assessed Supplier: Suppliers with this status means they have passed a verification process with an independent inspection status.

Especially for new sellers, we recommend contacting suppliers who satisfy each of those quality assurance checks.

Once you’ve identified a group of suppliers you’re interested in working with, it’s time to make contact and start inquiring about product samples. When working with manufacturers, you’ll want to take note of their response times, clarity, communication, price, timeframe and reputation.

One of the biggest tips we can give you is to think about cultural differences when starting a dialogue with these suppliers. For instance, if you’re working with manufacturers in China, they place a huge emphasis on building relationships. So with that in mind, you’ll want to let them know you’re interested in building a long-lasting business relationship. You’ll also want to make sure to develop a personal relationship and be extremely courteous.

When talking with a manufacturer as a first-time seller, present yourself as a knowledgable business owner looking to quickly ramp up your production and sales. If you portray yourself as inexperienced, you might not get the best possible price from a manufacturer.

A good starting point for a first time seller would be to reach out to 10 or more suppliers, get samples from 3 and then buy a few of your top competitors’ products from Amazon to compare your sample and their product.

To save yourself time, you can create an email template for first contacts that hit on all your major questions. Some things you’ll want to ask are:

  1. Time it takes to receive initial product samples
  2. Time it takes to manufacture the product
  3. What payment methods they accept (like PayPal) for full orders
  4. Cost of shipping the product per unit to your location
  5. Type of packaging that is used

Once you’ve collected and reviewed the samples, it’s time to choose the supplier to move forward with and place your first full order. During this phase you’ll want to determine package options from the supplier and obtain a Universal Product Code through a GS1 Company Prefix.

The next big step is figuring out how much to order. We usually recommend a first-time seller orders enough product for at least a 2-month run of inventory. To get a rough estimate of how much inventory you need, you can use an Amazon sales estimator showing historical trends. 

In terms of shipping inventory from overseas, many newer Amazon sellers will use a freight forwarder. Flexport is a popular option among sellers as they handle all shipping logistics for you for one price, including pick up logistics, sea freight, customs, and more. Using a freight forwarder may be a bit pricier, but many sellers consider the cost worth it for peace of mind in the unfamiliar territory of shipping by sea and importing into the United States.

 

  1. Create an Optimized Listing

Ok … so you’ve got your first product. Now it’s time to list your product on Amazon and make your first sale. As an example, let’s say you’ve decided to sell a first aid kit. Do you snap a picture with your smartphone, throw up a title that says, “First aid kit” and magically start selling? Not exactly.

The goal of an effective product listing is two-fold. You want to accurately depict your product while simultaneously incorporating important keywords to increase the number of people that see and purchase your product.

Think of it this way. You could write a beautiful, eloquent and accurate title, bullets and description of your first aid kit that truly explains why someone should buy it. But, if you don’t include the keywords people are using when searching for that product, you’re not going to be found. So all that great copy would be wasted.

Conversely, you could do in-depth keyword research and find 50 great keywords, throw them haphazardly into a listing and create a nonsensical mess. While you might pull in searches, chances are if someone can’t understand what your product is or does, or it isn’t accurately described, no one is going to actually buy it.

That means you need to find the happy medium of correctly incorporating keywords and accurately describing your product.

Luckily, there are tools available to help you find the exact keywords you should be including in your listing. You want to ensure that your keyword tool is using accurate Amazon-only data.

One of the most important metrics when deciding what keywords to use is search volume, or how many people are actually looking for that product every month. It’s clearly important to find high volume keywords, but there a few other things to keep in mind. You also want to target high-opportunity keywords that competitors aren’t using. And, you want to make sure that the keywords you choose are relevant to your product. If you end up ranking for a keyword that isn’t relevant, you won’t get sales.

Clearly, there is a lot of data here to keep track of. How do you make sure you’ve included all the keywords in the most vital areas your listing? One of our favorite tools that simplifies the listing creation process is called Listing Builder. This feature is included in Viral Launch’s Keyword Research, a tool that allows you to easily gather a comprehensive list of keywords and write your copy on the fly. This feature helps you keep track of what keywords you’ve used and what you still need to incorporate. Once you’re finished writing, you can then take your copy right into your listing for maximum indexation and conversions.  

If you’re not comfortable choosing where to put which keywords and writing sales-inducing copy, we recommend paying for a listing optimization serviceListing optimization services connect you with a team of professionally-trained Amazon copywriters who will write optimized content created for maximum visibility and conversions.

Now that you’ve got the written side of an effective listing down, it’s time to talk about photos. Product photos are an extremely important element of your Amazon listing. Browsing on Amazon, you’ll see some product photos that are of questionable quality at best. You want to refrain from using stock images, relying heavily on photoshop and using largely text-based images. And while you might think your iPhone photo of your product will suffice, you’ll be surprised what a professional Amazon photographer can do for your brand perception, clicks, and sales.

Garnering reviews are also another massively important piece of an effective listing. Recently, there’s been a lot of turmoil surrounding the topic of Amazon reviews. This is just one example of why it’s always important to stay up-to-date on changes to Amazon’s practices.

In short, think of reviews on Amazon as a sort of currency. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that, in general, products with better reviews are set up for better sales. However, getting reviews can be difficult, and you want to make sure you follow Amazon’s guidelines or you could face penalties.

One of the best (and Amazon-friendly) ways to generate reviews is through an email follow up campaign, which is used to ask for feedback and encourage reviews on customer purchases. Check out this video full of tips to generate more reviews:

Just remember, Amazon has taken a hard stance against review manipulation, so at this point, it’s better to take a conservative approach to gathering reviews to avoid the risk of suspension or being banned from selling completely.

 

  1. Increase Visibility

So your product is in Amazon’s warehouses ready to ship, and you’ve got an optimized listing for a great product. Have you done all that you can do to drive traffic and increase sales? Not even close! You still have plenty of options for driving traffic to your listing.

One of the most popular – and effective – ways is through what’s called a PPC or Pay-Per-Click campaign. In short, PPC marketing is essentially “sponsored content” that you’ve likely seen when browsing Google, Amazon or any other search engine. What you do is pay a small amount of money to the search engine you want to advertise on for each click that your product gets. PPC can be a great way to get initial traction and place your product in front of even more people.

Another great way to get your product visibility on Amazon is through promotional giveaways, or what we call Launches.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise; ranking on Amazon is extremely important. The higher up a product ranks on Amazon, the more eyes there are on the listing, which equates to more sales opportunities. Most shoppers don’t make it past the first couple of pages  – if that – when shopping for a product on Amazon. That’s why page one positions for major keywords are so coveted.

Many sellers use promotions as a way to boost sales and drive more traffic to their listing by providing deep discounts on their product for a period of time. If you’re interested in launching your product this way, check out our 9 common mistakes to avoid.

Another popular way sellers use to increase a product’s visibility is by bringing in traffic from outside sources, such as running ads on Facebook, Google or other platforms that direct buyers to their Amazon listing page.

 

  1. Manage Inventory

Managing inventory is a crucial step to maintaining a successful Amazon product. If you don’t properly manage and track your inventory, you will find yourself out of stock and low on cash. Not to mention, being out of stock for too long can significantly hurt your rank, which can have devastating effects on sales in the long run. 

When managing inventory as a seller, there are two important factors to consider – how long it takes for you to get a shipment from a manufacturer and how many units you sell per month, on average.

For instance, if you get your inventory 60 days (or two months) after placing an order from your overseas manufacturer and you’re selling 1,000 units per month, you’ll need to make sure you order at least 2,000 units. That would give you two months (or your lead time) worth of inventory. And if you have the cash, ordering a bit more will give you some cushion in the case of delays or an increase in sales.

Like with any business model dealing with physical products, selling on Amazon FBA Private Label means a lot of cash will be tied up in inventory. That’s why managing inventory correctly is so important. If you don’t, you run the risk of going out of stock without enough cash on-hand for a reorder when you need to.

 

I’ve Learned How to Sell on Amazon – What’s Next?

So now you’ve got your Amazon business up and running. Maybe you’ve just made your first sale or things are going great and you’ve already had to restock.

But as profits rise, so does that entrepreneurial spirit. This might lead to asking … what’s next? You have a few options. One is to add another product to sell in the same or a completely different category.

Or, you might just want to stay with your first product and build profits for some supplementary income. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s what’s best for you and your goals. That’s the best part of being your own boss, isn’t it?

At its core, Amazon is an ecosystem that’s constantly changing. That means you have to stay up to date on Amazon’s Terms of Service and best practices. But luckily, there’s no shortage of information about how to sell on Amazon for beginners or for experienced veterans.

Here at Viral Launch we want to be your go-to source for the most accurate and recent Amazon information. That’s why we recommend you subscribe to our blog! Are you more of a visual person? Not to worry, check out our Youtube channel. If you’re looking for a great podcast to listen to during your commute or while traveling, we suggest listening to our podcast Follow the Data.

You’ve got all of the tools to be successful at your fingertips. Now it’s up to you! We’ll leave you with one final thought about what you need to be successful in the form of a quote from Madam C.J. Walker:

“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!”

What You Need to Know About Amazon Sales Tax Compliance in 2018 (Guest Post by Avalara)

Amazon’s move from garage-based book seller to massively successful global ecommerce giant has inspired countless entrepreneurs to sell products through the Amazon marketplace. With a good product, tireless work ethic, and a dose of luck, you could be the next Amazon seller success story. But getting Amazon sales tax wrong can undermine such success. Here’s what you need to know about sales tax compliance to start off on the right foot.  

The changeable nature of sales tax

Sales tax, rates, rules, and product taxability change frequently at the state, and in some cases local, level. Though tax authorities do their best to disseminate information to taxpayers, the burden of keeping informed and complying with new rates and regulations falls squarely on the shoulders of the seller. If you make a mistake, even due to ignorance, you’ll likely pay the price.

A need for revenue

Due to a 1992 Supreme Court’s ruling, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, a state cannot oblige a business to collect and remit sales tax unless it has a substantial physical connection to the state, or nexus. Consequently, although consumers are buying more online, state and local sales tax revenue is not seeing a corresponding increase. According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), states lost approximately $13 billion in 2017 to untaxed remote sales.

In response, states are aggressively redefining nexus to include ties to in-state affiliates, economic activity, warehouse inventory, web cookies, and more. Many of these laws impact Amazon sellers. Since Amazon now collects sales tax on its own products in all states with a sales tax, states stand to gain the most — approximately $6 billion in 2017 — by taxing its marketplace sales.

States eye marketplace sellers

Different states are taking different tactics to acquire that revenue. For example, Massachusetts is trying to get Amazon to identify its marketplace sellers, while South Carolina is suing Amazon for uncollected tax on its marketplace sales. Virginia law now holds that storing goods in an in-state warehouse is enough of a connection to mandate tax collection, so you better know where your inventory is stored. And as of Jan. 1., 2018, Washington is requiring Amazon to collect and remit tax on its marketplace sales.

While some states are being sued over their efforts to tax remote sales, they’re undeterred. In fact, South Dakota created an economic nexus law with the express purpose of challenging Quill’s physical presence standard. It’s on the steps of the Supreme Court now, and if the court takes the case, it could overturn Quill and grant states the right to tax remote sales.

Getting Amazon Sales Tax Right

Given the current climate, it’s essential for all Amazon sellers to track state efforts to tax marketplace sales. Equally important is the need to understand the risks of not collecting tax. The more aggressively states pursue tax revenue from third-party sellers, the more you can expect to spend on audits and assessment-related costs. According to the GAO report, small and medium-sized businesses could be audited “should states gain the authority to tax remote sales.”

Avalara automates the complexities of collecting and remitting Amazon sales tax, so compliance doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Click here to learn more about how Avalara works with Amazon sellers.

Update: Find International Products with Product Discovery

Many sellers have been awaiting the launch of Product Discovery in global markets. Well, the day has finally come! Just like Market Intelligence and our Launch platform, Product Discovery now allows you to find international products in the following countries:

  • UK
  • Germany
  • Canada
  • Mexico

We are also on track to roll out other international markets in quick succession, including:

  • Brazil
  • China
  • France
  • India
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Japan

Try Product Discovery International  

Find International Products

With international markets now enabled on Product Discovery, you can easily select the market you are wanting to compete in from the top menu. Just look for the location drop-down menu on the top right of the screen, and select your preferred marketplace.

Once you have selected your market, some of the language inside the tool will change. For example, when looking for product ideas in the German marketplace, the category names will appear as they do on Amazon.de. Likewise, if you are searching by Keyword, the keyword results will be in German.

This is where being able to quickly transition to Amazon becomes really handy. If German is not one of your primary languages, you won’t be able to tell what the product is or even what category it is in. Click the View on Amazon button for the products whose metrics look most favorable to you, and give yourself a few tabs to explore.

 

Validate International Product Ideas

Once you’re on Amazon, use the Market Intelligence Chrome extension to get the most up-to-date star rating for the product as well as historical information about how the market is trending. You can also see sales trends, price fluctuation, and market averages for revenue, sales, price, reviews, and star rating. While Product Discovery helps you find products, Market Intelligence will help you to validate, or invalidate, that market.

Market Intelligence provides data and insights for international markets including the following: UK, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain.

Launch In International Markets

Viral Launch also offers international launches in the following marketplaces: UK, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, and Spain. Coming this year in 2018, we will also offer launches in Japan, India, China, and Mexico.

The opportunity to expand into international markets at this point in time is incredible. While you can certainly expect the cash flow from these markets to be less than Amazon.com, getting into a market early is a huge advantage. You can begin gathering reviews and building sales history to establish your product as the go-to product for your market before competition increases.

Additionally, we currently offer all international launches for free, with the exception of UK launches.

With Product Discovery, Market Intelligence, and our Launch platform all integrated with international markets, it’s never been easier to expand your business.

Ready to find and source your next international product? Create a free Viral Launch account and sign up for Product Discovery with international capabilities today!

 

Find International Products  

 

 

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.

3 Tips for Launching Your Next Product from Viral Launches Launch Director, Andrew Field (Follow the Data Ep. 20)

3 Tips for Launching Your Next Product from Viral Launches Launch Director, Andrew Field (Follow the Data Ep. 20)

Viral Launch has long been known as a successful launch platform, pushing products up to Page One in just a number of days. But to get your product to the top and make it stick, there are a few things you need to have in place. Join host Cameron Yoder for a conversation with Viral Launch Launch Director and employee #1, Andrew Field where he reveals 3 tips for ensuring a successful launch. 

 

Listen on iTunes   Listen on Stitcher

 

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
Page 1, the coveted seat of Amazon’s top-selling products, the only place where shoppers are really looking or purchasing. If you want to sell well, you’ve got to get your product to Page 1. Viral Launch has long been known as a successful launch platform, pushing products up to Page 1 in just a number of days. But to get your product to the top and make it stick there are a few things that you need to have in place.

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 we sit down with our Launch Director, Andrew Field, to talk about the best practices when it comes to launching a product and the strategy behind it all. So launching is an incredibly effective method when it comes to keyword ranking on Amazon. And today we’re going to dive into Andrew’s perspective on the dos and the don’ts when it comes to launching. Let’s jump in.

All right, so Andrew, how are you doing today?

ANDREW FIELD:
I’m doing great, man. Thanks for asking.

CAMERON YODER:
Doing great. Awesome. That’s good to hear. So just to introduce Andrew a little bit, I want to introduce him just because, just to validate his perspective, basically. So Andrew, believe it or not – well, believe it because it’s true – Andrew was employee number one at Viral Launch. Andrew, what do you have to say about that?

ANDREW FIELD:
I mean it’s been crazy watching the company grow over the last almost three years, going from a team of just Casey and I to now 40+ people. It’s awesome.

CAMERON YODER:
Dang. Employee number one is not something that a lot of people can say, honestly. Like some people jump on early with a tech company or just a startup in general, but Andrew was literally the first employee, official employee of Viral Launch.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yes sir.

CAMERON YODER:
Which is insane. So he is our – he’s Viral Launch’s Launch Director. Also to just kind of say where Andrew started, Andrew started – well, Andrew, talk about where you started.

ANDREW FIELD:
So basically I started in kind of a customer service role. I was always scheduling launches, so any launch that comes in, someone submits a launch for X number of units over X number of days, I’ll review it, make sure everything works, make sure the URL is directing to the right product, just kind of oversee everything that goes into that launch.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, and you’ve overseen a lot.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, just over 31,000 now.

CAMERON YODER:
You’ve overseen over 31,000 launches. You’ve approved, personally approved –

ANDREW FIELD:
Roughly 25,000 of those, probably.

CAMERON YODER:
So personally approved roughly 20 – you said 20,000?

ANDREW FIELD:
25.

CAMERON YODER:
25,000 launches. So he’s worked with a lot of sellers, personally and through just Viral Launch’s system, to help get them to Page 1. So he’s seen a lot of what works and a lot of what doesn’t work when it comes to launching and ranking on Amazon. So he oversees our launch platform, and he’s just seen a large number of people pass through the system. And that is what we’re working with today. Andrew’s perspective is very valuable, and is something that I think a lot of listeners here can benefit from. So Andrew, just to kick it off, I’m sure many people are familiar with this, but could you just outline what a launch is?

ANDREW FIELD:
So basically the idea of a launch is to get your product to match or exceed the number of sales for listings on Page 1 for your targeted keyword. So for example, like if a product – you want to get your product raking on Page 1 for a keyword where the average number of sales is right around 1000, we’d recommend probably around 200 to 250 units over like 7 to 10 days. And the idea is to drive all of those discounted sales through the targeted keyword to get your product to match the sales history and sales volume for the listings that are ranking on Page 1 currently.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay, so just to like put it into a good perspective, the definition that we’re using today of a launch and/or promotion is basically looking at the sales on Page 1 for a keyword and matching those sales through something like a launch to get you to Page 1 –

ANDREW FIELD:
Exactly.

CAMERON YODER:
– for that keyword. Okay. So can you break down – again, we’re going to get into more strategy as we move on, but can you break down just how a launch works from start to finish? You already talked about it a little bit, but just kind of break it down for everyone.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so it depends on if a seller works with a coach or not. Generally if a seller works with a coach their launch is successful. So we have the knowledge to look at a market and say okay, you need to give away this many units to get ranking for this keyword. Maybe we would notice that this keyword might not convert well for you, so you probably shouldn’t target that keyword. So it depends on the keyword you’re going after. So we would look at the market to see what kind of sales they are doing and then base a recommendation off of that.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay, that’s good. So let’s talk about – let’s outline – I want to outline three strategy tips that you have for people. Just what would your three top tips for people be when it comes to running promotions or product launches?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so first thing you want to make sure you have a well-optimized listing. So if your copy is bad or your photos are bad, that listing is not going to convert well once it’s ranking on Page 1. You want to make sure you have a competitive price point. So if your listing is 35% higher than every listing on Page 1, you’re probably not going to convert that well.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

ANDREW FIELD:
And you also want to make sure that you’re targeting the best keywords. So kind of the best way to figure out what the best keyword is, is to do a lot of research. So you want to look at many different keywords that you would consider relevant and then see which products on Page 1 are most comparable to the listing that you have. So if you see a bunch of products on Page 1 that aren’t necessarily similar to your listing it’s likely that you won’t convert well for that keyword. And if you see a bunch of products on Page 1 that are very similar to your listing, those listings are obviously converting well for that keyword, so it’s likely that yours would as well.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. So let’s, so just to go over those three tips that you mentioned, that’s number one, you said optimize your listing. Number two, you said competitive – have a competitive price point, really. And number three was targeting the most effective keywords, right?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yep.

CAMERON YODER:
So let’s break down – let’s break down each of these. So number one, you talked about – and you went over it a little bit, but specifically when giving advice to people about optimizing their listing, like again, out of everyone that you’ve seen, what works well from the perspective of the seller that should be optimizing his or her listing?

ANDREW FIELD:
So first and foremost you want to make sure you have a great title. Keyword rich, still reads well, but is going to help you rank for as many relevant keywords as possible. Some of the data that we’ve seen – so somebody runs a launch that should work based on the number of units that we recommend. We do a reassessment and see that the targeted keyword was not in their title. That can cause them not to be able to rank for that keyword. They may be indexing, but they’re not getting the same ranking power as they would be if they had that keyword in their title.

CAMERON YODER:
Now what about – can you break down the importance of a title in a product’s copy compared to something like the bullets or the description?

ANDREW FIELD:
So the title is going to be your most important. That’s where you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck. Your most important keywords you want to put towards the beginning of the title. The less important keywords you move towards the back. But your most relevant keywords are going to be all focused on in your title. That’s where you’re going to get the most ranking effect when running launches.

CAMERON YODER:
And in your perspective, again, just from what you’ve seen with data and with launches, is there any – should people just cram a bunch of primary keywords together in the title or string them together like masterfully to create a title that makes sense, or like where’s the fine line between that?

ANDREW FIELD:
So there’s a perfect balance that you want to find. You want to find a balance between sales-inducing copy and copy that will also help you rank. So having a professionally-written listing is key, someone that knows the science behind writing a listing.

CAMERON YODER:
What about photos? What advice on photos do you have?

ANDREW FIELD:
So you want to have a photo that will catch the eye, just based on the thumbnail. So you’re main photo is going to be the one that drives the most clicks to your listing. So yeah, you want to make sure that your listing stands out from the competition with excellent photos. Once you get into the listing you’ll notice a lot of competition on Amazon likely doesn’t have lifestyle photos. That’s something that you can really give a competitive advantage to your listing if you have really nice lifestyle images showing the product in use. It helps develop an emotional attachment between the potential buyer and the product itself.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s good. I think with this first point talking about optimizing your listing, I think a lot of people get, just get lost from the fact that a product launch can get you to Page 1, right? But if those creatives are not in place, like if your copy is not optimized, if your photos are not great, then yeah, you’re going to lunch on to Page 1, but you’re not going to be able to convert once you’re there.

ANDREW FIELD:
Right.

CAMERON YODER:
And the whole goal of a launch, at least for us, our perspective is our goal for you is to reach Page 1 for that, or those primary keywords that you’re targeting and then to stick there. And your best chance of doing that, like you were just talking about Andrew, is to really optimize your title, your copy, the rest of your copy, and your photos.

ANDREW FIELD:
And definitely price point.

CAMERON YODER:
And definitely price point, right, which is your second point actually. That’s a really good lead-in. So your second point was to make sure your price point is in line with competition. Can you break that down just what you generally recommend?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so I mean that kind of starts even before sourcing a product. So if you can only source this product and you have to sell it at a substantially higher amount than other listings on Page 1, you probably won’t be able to convert. You probably won’t be able to compete in that market moving forward. Amazon is a space where you have to have the best priced product. You need to present your product in a great way, but you also have to offer a good value to the customer. Since most products on Amazon are private label nobody really knows and has an attachment to a specific name brand, so price point is going to be a huge converting factor for you.

CAMERON YODER:
And that’s what – and we talk about on the show all the time and in our videos and everything, the importance of really setting your goals before you even start the whole process of really sourcing anything because if you set your goals on what you want to make, then that will kind of determine the manufacturers that you choose or the products that you go after and the margins that you’re looking for.

ANDREW FIELD:
Exactly.

CAMERON YODER:
Because like you said, I mean if you can’t handle the margins or the price war, then – or if you get into a market that is an average of $20, right, and you’re trying to source a product that’s like $40 because it’s better –

ANDREW FIELD:
Right, it’s going to be very difficult to compete in that market.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. Okay.

ANDREW FIELD:
Even if you have a well-optimized listing, good copy, good photos, if your price point is twice as high as everyone else, best of luck to you.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. Let’s talk – let’s touch on the third point, your third point that you made, or the third tip, general tip. So you said make sure that you target the right keyword. I want you to – can you break down for us what you would really recommend when people are trying to find the best keywords to pick to rank for? What’s your advice when it comes to that?

ANDREW FIELD:
So yeah, I get that question all the time. Basically you want to look and see what other listings like yours are converting for. Even another way, just run like an automatic sponsored ads campaign. Let it run for 10 days. See what kind of conversion you get for these keywords. See how many impressions you get for this keyword. And find the one that performs the best. That’s typically going to be the best keyword for you to target with the launch.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay. Other than that, like what about – and we have Market Intelligence, right, which gives us access to like sales estimate data. Would you use that in that case?

ANDREW FIELD:
Right. Yeah, I mean to an extent. It’s almost difficult when you’re just looking at sales estimation data because you’re not sure which keywords those sales are being attributed from. Mostly it’s common sense. You can tell which keywords are going to be most relevant to your product. You can use tools like MerchantWords to find – I mean other sales estim- or search estimation data. But that’s not always all that accurate.

CAMERON YODER:
I really think people overthink the primary keywords where, again, there are always exceptions to this rule, but really chances are if you’re able to put yourself in the mind of a buyer or of someone who is buying your product, you’ll probably be able to narrow down maybe the top three primary keywords that you should at least look into with something like split testing.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, and as far as finding the primary keyword, I don’t think that’s really all that difficult. If you look at your competition you’ll generally see that the primary keyword for that market is going to be at the very beginning of most all of your competitors’ titles. So that’s an easy way to identify the primary keyword.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, to look at your competition and see what they’re driving. And again, that doesn’t always mean they’re picking the right one, but typically –

ANDREW FIELD:
Right. If you see most sellers in a market doing that, that’s generally meaning that that’s the primary keyword for the product, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right, that’s good. Okay, so those were the kind of three general strategy tips, but let’s break down just launch strategy in general even more. So Andrew, what would you say – what are some of the most important things that people should keep in mind before they do something like a launch?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so I mean we’ve already kind of touched on it, but make sure that your listing is well-optimized. You have to have great listing copy. You have to have great photos. You have to have a competitive price point. The question that people always ask is once I get to Page 1 will I stick? I think people are asking the wrong question, and the question should be, will I sell? Because what good is it if you stick on Page 1 if you don’t sell? You need to be asking the right questions. So if your listing is going to convert, if it’s going to be competitive with the other listings in the space, that’s the question you should be asking.

CAMERON YODER:
What would you say about reviews?

ANDREW FIELD:
I mean reviews are important. I think we’ve kind of talked about this on the podcast before. Reviews are the currency of Amazon. That’s another thing that kind of goes into the optimization conversation. If your listing has far fewer reviews than other listings on Page 1 for that keyword, you’re going to find it more difficult to convert. Sometimes what we suggest right after running a launch is to drop your price a little bit, sometimes almost even to breakeven, just to generate sales, develop a strong sales history, keep that product on Page 1, and then you can gradually bring your price back up to like increase your margins.

CAMERON YODER:
Would you say there is like a flat number of reviews that someone should have before they run a launch, or is it kind of just dependent on the market that you’re going into?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, it’s completely dependent on the market. I mean you’ll find brand-new markets out there where the average review count is 10 reviews. You can run a launch on that product with zero reviews. You’d have no problem. But if you’re going into a market where the average review count is 500 reviews, you’re going to find it a lot more difficult to convert with zero reviews. So I mean if you’re looking for a flat number – so for example, like for a market with 500 reviews as the average review count for listings on Page 1, I would suggest launching with no less than 100. That’s kind of my suggestion, so maybe 20% of the average of listings on Page 1.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, I think that’s a good baseline to build off of at least. Okay, that’s good. So next question, what do you see people doing wrong when it comes to promotions or launches? So what shouldn’t people do?

ANDREW FIELD:
So I think sometimes people have unrealistic expectations for how their product is going to perform after a launch. So getting a product ranking on Page 1 generally isn’t a problem. It’s typically pretty easy. But people think that all of a sudden their sales are going to skyrocket, which may not necessarily be the case. If your listing isn’t competitive you’re not going to see those sales. I know we keep going back to the having an optimized listing, but that’s how important it really is.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s important. It’s really important.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so I mean that’s why I think people need to discuss their strategy with a coach or a seller coach or someone that knows what they’re talking about before running a launch. Ask questions like will this listing sell in this market? Am I targeting the right keyword? How many units should I give to target this keyword? All those kinds of things.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, and this is not a – it’s not a plug for what we do. It’s just simply a really simple and easy thing that you guys can do and have free, really free access to.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, exactly. Like no matter what strategy you’re using to get your product ranking on Page 1, these are the questions you need to be asking.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

ANDREW FIELD:
Talking to people with experience is just a great resource for you.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, and that’s what our coaching team – our coaching team is meant to really give strategy to people.

ANDREW FIELD:
Exactly.

CAMERON YODER:
So they’re accessible to you. Okay, so let’s see. We see a lot of people, and we actually have – Casey and I have talked about this on the show before, too, but it’s always important to bring up because it comes up frequently, and it’s funny how often or how periodic this question comes up from people that are performing launches or thinking about performing a launch. But we see a lot of people talking, again, about how steep discounts don’t attribute ranking anymore. So what have you seen when it comes to that?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so I mean, like we said at the very beginning, I was employee number one. I’ve been giving launch suggestions for three years now. This has come up periodically forever. I mean I don’t think it will ever really go away. People are always looking for a reason not to give their product away at 90% off, which would totally understand. Nobody wants to give their product away at 90% off. But the data does not show that it doesn’t work. It still does work. Just for a specific example, just in the last like 14 days we ran three launches for a turmeric product, or three separate turmeric products. We got each one of those listings ranking on Page 1 for turmeric, turmeric curcumin and curcumin. Those are incredibly competitive markets where sales are 10,000+ a month. If 90% off promotions didn’t work there is no way that we would have been able to get those products ranking there.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

ANDREW FIELD:
So we just kind of let the data speak for itself. There is always going to be those rumors out there, but as long as the data is there to combat it, I mean I don’t see it being an issue.

CAMERON YODER:
And that’s if – and that’s not to say that that could not change in the future, right?

ANDREW FIELD:
Right.

CAMERON YODER:
Because Amazon could pull a lever or something and all of a sudden maybe somehow, whether it’s accidental or intentional, make promotions not attribute ranking through stuff like that.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s been a topic of discussion forever. But as of right now that’s not happening.

CAMERON YODER:
Exactly. And it’s not like we will hide that information from you. Like –

ANDREW FIELD:
Right. I mean there’s no point in us running launches if they don’t work.

CAMERON YODER:
Exactly.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, I mean if launches don’t work we’re going to be straight up and say okay yeah, this strategy probably won’t work. Maybe there’s something else that we can try.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, and that’s why it’s important for us to keep you guys updated, at least from what we’re seeing with our launches since we run so many every single day and since Andrew has seen so many. It’s really important to help you guys know where we’re at and what we’re seeing. And what we’re seeing is that steep discounts still do work when it comes to product launches. Okay, so let’s see. When people are performing a launch, when they’re in the middle of the launch – dang it. Hang on. I lost my place. Oh yeah, yeah, okay. So let’s talk about when people are in the middle of a launch or a promotion. Will people, or should people expect to see results right away, or when should they expect to see something happen when it comes to keyword ranking?

ANDREW FIELD:
So my – like my typical launch suggestion lasts for 10 days, usually 10 days, seven to 10 days. Usually people will start to see ranking improve around day five. So during a launch you can expect to see a lot of different things. You can expect to see a big fluctuation in BSR, both up and down, big fluctuation in ranking, both up and down. But right around day five it typically starts to stabilize. So at day five you’ll start to see ranking like steadily increase. So like let’s say if you start on Page 3 for your targeted keyword. You might jump down to Page 6 during the first two days. Day three comes around and you’re back up to Page 3. Day five comes around, you’re creeping up Page 2. Day six, day seven, day eight, you’re moving up Page 1. That’s the typical – that’s typically what it looks like.

CAMERON YODER:
People tend to freak out when they’re on like day two of a launch, right? Yeah, explain that. Like they’re on day two of a launch and they see the product went down in ranking. They’re like what in the world? What just happened?

ANDREW FIELD:
Right, yeah. So I mean that’s just part of Amazon’s algorithm. That’s where people – I think that might even be where some of these rumors are stemming from where people run launches for like quote unquote tests, and after two days they’ve dropped to page 20 and they freak out, right? Let that launch run its course, and it will work. If you end prematurely you’re hurting your sales history, and it’s just going to cause problems down the road. Let that launch run, and you’ll see ranking improvement as long as you’re running with the appropriate strategy, of course.

CAMERON YODER:
And some of these – so some of these questions or this data is like dependent on the market, too. This specific question. Let’s say someone reaches Page 1 for their primary keyword before they expected to, like maybe before their expected launch day or the end of the launch.

ANDREW FIELD:
Sure.

CAMERON YODER:
Would you recommend that people stop their launch early, or just like kind of let it ride for a little bit?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, that’s a good question. So if a listing reaches Page 1 and organic sales pick up to match the listing, the other listings on Page 1, then yeah, I mean go ahead and end that launch. There’s no reason to give products away at that point. If you get to Page 1 and sales pick up just a little bit you may want to let that launch continue so you can build a stronger sales history and maintain that Page 1 ranking, and then you can see organic sales coming in in the future.

CAMERON YODER:
Now what would you advise when considering launch numbers specifically? So like when somebody wants to find out the number of units that they should give away or the number of units they should put a heavy or steep discount on, what would you say to that?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so I mean this is going to sound like a plug for Viral Launch, obviously, but Market Intelligence, a great place to start. Analyze the market. Analyze that keyword. See what listings on Page 1 are doing in terms of sales volume. And you want to match that with your promotion. So generally, to develop a strong sales history you want to have your launch last for at least seven days, sometimes more. So seven days is kind of like the window where you need to run a launch for at least seven days to develop a strong enough sales history to maintain Page 1, or to even get ranking on Page 1. The additional three days that I usually recommend on the end of that are to help develop an even stronger sales history. So once the steady flow of promotional sales stops you’re able to stay there longer and generate organic sales recurring.

CAMERON YODER:
What would you say, what would you talk about post launch strategy? What’s the best strategy people can implement after an initial promotion if they run one for a keyword?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so after your initial launch you’re likely ranking on Page 1 for your primary keyword. If your listing is competitive you’ll probably start seeing an increase in organic sales right away. But let’s talk about a scenario where maybe your product isn’t just as competitive as all the other listings on Page 1. I kind of alluded to it earlier, but like some of the recommendations we have are to drop your price a little bit. Develop a stronger sales history for that keyword. Other things you can do – I’ve got to think about this for a second.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah. No, you’re good.

ANDREW FIELD:
I had a bunch of stuff for this, too. Yeah, so like another thing you can do is run another promotion for another keyword. The best way to see the most organic sales is to be ranking on Page 1 for as many relevant keywords as possible. So if you see that you have – you’re in a market where you have 10 relevant keywords that are all going to attribute to your aggregate sales you want to be ranking on Page 1 for all 10 of those keywords. You don’t want to just be ranking on Page 1 for one of those keywords, and then you’re only seeing 10% of the sales that you would be seeing if you were ranking on Page 1 for all of your relevant keywords. So generally I would say to target multiple keywords with multiple promotions.

CAMERON YODER:
Let’s say you have two primary keywords for a product. If you run a launch for one specific one, and let’s say they’re similar. Let’s say maybe they’re similar, but they’re different enough to where you would need to run two separate promotions to rank for both of them. If you run – let’s say you run a pretty like intense launch for one of the primary keywords and you get to Page 1 for that keyword. Have you seen ranking attributed to the other primary keyword in some cases?

ANDREW FIELD:
Oh yeah, absolutely. So that kind of goes back to having a good, or a well-optimized listing. If you have those keywords in your title, if you have the correct keyword sequences in your title – so for example, like if you have like a fish oil, fish oil is your main keyword. Another keyword would be fish oil supplements. If you have fish oil supplements in your title and you’re targeting fish oil with your promotion you’re going to see a good, a sizable increase in ranking for fish oil supplements. You may even reach Page 1 for that keyword with the launch targeting another keyword. So yeah, I mean this goes back to making sure that you have a well-optimized listing.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, I think it’s good to, if people are trying to decide whether they should run a promotion for two separate keywords or run one targeting both or what have you, I think it’s always good to maybe even run one really targeted one for the primary, like the main keyword in that case, fish oil, and then see where you end up for fish oil supplements. And then if you want to just run another promotion for that right off the bat, you know where your baseline is going to be after the ranking has been attributed from the primary.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, no, that’s a really good analysis, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
So Andrew, what else – do you have anything else that you want to tell people when it comes to launches, or launch strategy or launch data?

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, so get advice. Don’t try to go it alone if you don’t have any experience. There’s always someone out there with experience that has looked into hundreds of thousands or however many markets and has the experience to tell you okay, this is the keyword you should target, this is the kind of strategy that will get you there, this is what an idea listing looks like in this market. You should try to emulate that. These are what your competitors are doing. This is your primary keyword. There are so many intricacies that go into a launch that you really need – there’s no substitute for experience and going into all the data.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, Andrew, thank you so much for being on the show today. It really is good to have a perspective like yours since, I mean you’ve been around the block. You’ve seen it all. You’ve seen brands built from 0 to 100, literally, and you’ve seen a lot of product launches go through. So thank you for taking time to be here and giving advice to everybody.

ANDREW FIELD:
Yeah, thanks for having me, for sure.

CAMERON YODER:
I’ll do and outro, but for now –

Well hey, that is all for this week. Thank you so much for joining us here on Follow the Data. For more insights and reliable information on how to succeed on Amazon, subscribe to the podcast and check us out on YouTube. I’ve been working on a series of product discovery walk-throughs that will really help you understand how to leverage the tool. So just search Viral Launch on YouTube, and go to our page, and look for my face on one of the videos. And if you’re listening on iTunes it would seriously help us out so much if you would leave a review to let us know what you think of the show. And if you know another seller who’s feeling lost in the Amazon information war that’s out there, send them our way. We really want to be a resource for all sellers, and honestly, the information source in this space. So please tell your friends. Spread the word, and share the show with other Amazon sellers.

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