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

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

States target online marketplace sellers

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

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

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

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

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

All’s fair in love and sales tax

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

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

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

See more 2018 sales tax changes at the Avalara blog.

 

5 Tips for Product Photography from Viral Launch Lead Photographer Dustin Kessler (Follow the Data Ep. 21)

5 Tips for Product Photography from Viral Launch Lead Photographer Dustin Kessler (Follow the Data Ep. 21)

Having high-quality images of your product is integral to your success on Amazon. Photos can make or break your sales, especially in the age of Amazon where the primary indication of what your product is like comes from your photos. Join host Cameron Yoder for a conversation with Lead Viral Launch Photographer Dustin Kessler where he reveals 5 tips for creating better Amazon photos. 

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Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
To click or not to click, that is the question. Really, though, that’s the question that shoppers are asking themselves as they scroll through Amazon search results. And one of their main considerations as their eyes quickly pass over the page is product photography. Having high-quality images of your product is integral to your success on Amazon, encouraging shoppers to click and convincing them to purchase. Photos can make or break your sales, especially in the age of Amazon where the primary indication of what your product is like comes from your photos.

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 photographer, Dustin Kessler, to talk about the best practices for product photography, what to do, what not to do and why a professional photographer is worth the investment. Let’s jump in.
Dustin, how are you doing today?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
I’m doing pretty good. It’s a Friday, and we’re killing at the office, getting a lot of stuff done. Excited to be here.

CAMERON YODER:
Dustin is excited to be here. We are killing at the office. We’re in a time of transition right now. We’re actually doing some construction on the office, opening up the space a little bit as our team continues to grow.

So Dustin, I want to introduce Dustin a little bit, and then I’m going to have him talk about himself just a little bit, too, but Dustin is our lead photographer at Viral Launch, and he has over a decade of experience in commercial photography specifically. And he’s worked with clients ranging from local coffee shops to Fortune 500 companies like Samsung and Walmart. It’s pretty crazy. He’s also done a ton of product photography with Amazon and Viral Launch specifically. So Dustin, maybe intro yourself a little bit. Also maybe answer first how many products do you think you’ve shot for Amazon specifically?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
For Amazon specifically I would probably say – I mean it’s definitely in the hundreds if not more than that, but I kind of – you know, I got into photography over 10 years ago now, just kind of picked it up as a hobby, really, really enjoyed it, started doing a lot of research. I’m the type of person when I get into something I really just like throw my entire self into it and learn as much as I can. So I picked it up in high school, ended up going to college for it, and about halfway through college I fell in love with just the idea of commercial photography, of telling a story through a scene, a product, lifestyle from the automotive field, to product, to fashion, whatever it was, just that entire commercial realm is kind of what I fell in love with. So it’s been a really interesting journey since then. I’ve done a lot of different things from, you know, just local coffee shops, helping them grow and helping them, you know, have this visual presence in this digital age, whether it’s through social media, or ad campaigns, email campaigns, anything like that, to working with, you know, huge Fortune 500 companies like Samsung and Walmart and others just to name a few. But it’s been a great journey, and I’m excited to be at Viral Launch, and we’ve done a lot of great things for a lot of great people. So looking forward to continuing that.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, I think one thing that a lot of people forget, especially in this space – well, a lot of people kind of forget to, number one, get a hold of fantastic photos.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Sure.

CAMERON YODER:
But also the importance of telling a story with photos is something that not a lot of people know of, and that’s something that – I mean you, you are really passionate about, but it’s something that is hard for people in, I think that are selling on Amazon, to really see. And so today I’m really excited to kind of just pick Dustin’s brain for all of our listeners when it comes to photography specifically on Amazon because this is a space that’s really important. It’s something that’s going to capture your audience’s attention first on Amazon, one of the first things that they see. So Dustin, if you could, maybe break down a handful of tips that you have for us. What would be maybe one of your first tips that you would tell people, that you would tell our audience when it comes to photography on Amazon?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
So with Amazon, you know, you don’t have a physical product in front of you, right? You only see – you only see what the seller is showing you through their listing, whether it’s your photos or it’s your text, whatever it is. So you don’t have that product in front of you. You can’t have it in your hands. You can’t have that like tactile like oh, this is what the product is, right? So the biggest thing when it comes to e-commerce photography, and in this case Amazon photography specifically, is you have to be able to tell a story with your product, right? You have to be able to show your product in a way that makes people relate to it, makes people think oh yeah, I can definitely see that product in my house. I can see that product in my life being used for whatever purposes I decide to use it for. And you know, if you have – if you just have that main image, that main studio white background image, yeah, it could be the nicest main image in the world, but if you have nothing to follow it up with, you know, what story is that telling people? What is that relating to people? It’s just saying hey, here’s a product, right?

CAMERON YODER:
So that story then, that story is what evokes an emotional response, right? So the whole – this kind of falls into the idea that your photography should evoke an emotional response from a customer looking at your photos. And so is that accomplished then by the story, essentially?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
I would definitely say so. You know, there’s that phrase that a picture says a thousand words. When it comes to product photography and telling a story through your product it’s not as much you as the seller saying these thousand words. You want your photos to say that. You want your photos to develop the story of their own and evoke that emotional response within the potential buyers because each buyer is going to be different. They’re going to look at the same products and the same story that you present, but if it doesn’t tell the story of your product well enough it’s not going to relate with them.

CAMERON YODER:
I do – I want to focus on this a lot because I think this is maybe – this is a very important aspect of product photography on Amazon. Could you give us – I see maybe listeners asking, okay, or telling themselves hey, okay, now I know that I should tell a story with my product, but can you give us like a comparable example of what that would be just for any random, like any random product on Amazon, what would telling a story for something like, I don’t know, oven mitts or like a grill brush look like?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
So we’ll take – we’ll take like the grill brush, for an example. You – per Amazon’s terms of service obviously you have to have a white background image as your main image, and at the end of the day there’s only so many ways that you can, you know, that you can slice that cake for the main image. You can pose it different ways, try to fill up as much of the frame, have like a badge on there, even though that’s a whole other, that’s a whole other story in itself. But there’s only so many ways that you can do that main hero image. But if you light it correctly, make sure it’s good, the product is in focus, like those are the main pillars for that main image. But then once you get into that story itself with those images with this grill brush, like there are so many different ways that you can use this product, right? Whether it’s, you know, getting flavor onto chicken as its grilling, or a burger, or a steak, whatever you’re using on the grill. Like there’s so many different ways that you can use it, and being able to tell that story of those uses is really important. But you also have to remember other aspects of the product. Is it dishwasher safe? Is it, you know, is there a certain temperature of liquid, stuff like that, where most people when they’re just taking a picture of their product they’re like okay, I’m going to take a picture of the product out of the box, in the box and then maybe next to a grill, right? There are so many different ways that you can show that product in use and tell that visual story.

CAMERON YODER:
Do you think there’s a – is there a benefit to telling that story through like a linear progression of how it’s used, so like oh, you open up the grill, like you put the grill brush in the grill, you wash the grill brush after, whatever? What do you think; is there a method to having a linear progression, or not necessarily?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
I think there’s definitely a lot to say for having that linear method of photos. That’s one thing that we do for our clients specifically is when we send them out a photo set, a completed photo set, we generally try to lay out the photos in what the best story that we feel would look like. And you know, say hey, upload these photos in this order and see what your conversions are like in this way. At the end of the day it’s each person’s prerogative whether or not they put it in that order. I think there is something to be said for that story, though, in that order because it, you know, it shows somebody something from start to finish.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
It’s like reading a visual book where you open page one, and you’re like okay this is the product. Open page two, this is where you start using the product. And by the end you see the entire progression of that story.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s good. So okay, tip number one, tell a story. What about, what’s another tip?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
I would say something that a lot of people don’t necessarily think about, and this may just be because people aren’t trained to think this way, is correctly lighting your product. There’s a lot – there’s a lot that goes into photographing products so features stick out, but also making sure that just the product overall looks very appealing. You can have a beautiful looking product, but if you shoot it and light it incorrectly it could look really boring. It could look – the image can look really flat. There could be, you know, no emotion evoked from that image, and that’s not something you want to do. Another thing that like in this digital age that we see people doing is the convenience of having cell phones with pretty good cameras, honestly, is both a blessing and a curse. But in the Amazon space I would go with the latter because you can take a photo of your product on your phone. It will look great, you know, it will look nice and crisp and bright, but that’s on your phone. Once you get it on to Amazon and you put it next to professional photographs, you know, maybe your background isn’t completely white. Maybe it doesn’t stick out as much. Maybe it isn’t quite as in focus as you thought. So there’s these things that are convenient for everyday life that aren’t necessarily convenient for product photography on Amazon. Because if you have a cell phone photo next to a professional photograph you’re going to tell a difference.

CAMERON YODER:
Oh yeah, absolutely.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Especially with the white background photos.

CAMERON YODER:
Let’s say someone – let’s say someone listening bought, like just bought a starter kit, like a photography lighting starter kit. So they have maybe a handful of semi-good, semi-good equipment to use for product photography, but they’re not the best, maybe the most professional photographer, but they have good, like decent lighting equipment. What’s a really simple recommendation that you would give them on how to really just enhance or make the most of simple lighting equipment?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
So generally most like photography studio starter kits are a white like backdrop box, which most of the time we call a lightbox in the industry, two to three lights that they can set up, and obviously whatever camera they’re using, right? So that’s generally the starter package for when people buy like basic studio equipment. I would say YouTube is your best friend, especially if you’re the type of person that you’re eager to learn, you’re willing to do and put the work in that is required to learn these things to better your Amazon business. YouTube is definitely your friend. Look up lighting tutorials and stuff like that for product photography specifically because there’s going to be a difference between, you know, lighting a portrait and then lighting a bottle, right? It’s just going to look completely different. So I would definitely suggest people, you know, jump on YouTube. Go spend 30 minutes a day and learn because at the end of the day learning more stuff is not a bad thing.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right. That’s right. Well, okay, what about, what’s another general tip that you would give everybody?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
So this is a tip that I think a lot of people kind of overlook, and it is don’t overload all of your images with text and graphics. This is something that we see sellers doing all the time on Amazon, whether it’s on your main image, which if you put text and graphics on your main image you run the possibility of getting it flagged and taken down. Obviously nobody wants that. But just in general, in the rest of your photo stack on Amazon having so many words and all this text and all these graphics and callouts, like for some products it’s beneficial, but that’s the minority of products. At the end of the day your photos should speak for themselves.

CAMERON YODER:
Where is the line? What is too much?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
I think too much is when you’re trying to basically copy every single one of your bullet points and put it on all of your photos, and I think that a lot of people try to do that. They try to condense their bullet points into – or don’t, or just literally copy their bullet points and put it on the photos. Or for like a mop with, you know, a telescoping handle, you don’t necessarily need to show a photo that has six additional detail photos of how to turn the handle. It’s pretty intuitive, right?

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, it is.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
And there’s always – there’s always room for putting that text and putting those extra graphics on like a card that you put in the box. That’s how a lot of instruction manuals in most products in retail stores or companies that have been doing products for, you know, 40, 50 years, they have instruction manuals for a reason. You don’t necessarily have to have an instruction manual in your photo stack, and a lot of people get hung up on trying to explain so much about their product when 99% of people are going to be able to figure it out on their own. And it distracts from the image, and it gives you less room to tell that story and evoke that emotional response like we talked about at the beginning. And if you are not evoking that emotional response right away you’ve already lost that person. You only have a couple seconds to effectively communicate what your product is and what it’s about and really relate to that person. And if it’s – you know, if somebody’s looking at a photo and they’re not sure where to look because there’s text everywhere, you’ve already lost their interest.

CAMERON YODER:
This is one specific area that I think a large majority of sellers on Amazon that have graphics fall into, text or graphics overlaying in images, fall into the category of it being a bit much, right, of it being too much.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Absolutely.

CAMERON YODER:
So if you’re going to include text or graphics in your images I would really encourage you to be really intentional about it. Ask yourself if you need that text or if you need that graphic. Again, it can work really well, but since most sellers seem to fall in the latter category of it being a bit much I would really be careful with how you use it.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
And I would recommend like – some of the text and graphics that I see as beneficial are actually things that don’t necessarily relate to the product specifically, but more the seller in the sense of okay, if you have a product in a market that you see competitors with reviews about getting, about products being returned because of, you know, an issue or a defect or something like that and it seems to be a consistent trend, if you’re going to make it your company policy to have, you know, a moneyback guarantee maybe throw that up there as a graphic on one of your photos in your stack. Things like that I can see being beneficial, but trying to take your entire listing and throw it on your product in the graphics just, it looks tacky, and it looks like an ad, and it doesn’t evoke an emotional response at all.

CAMERON YODER:
All right. What’s tip number four?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
You get what you pay for. Quality is definitely worth the money. You can look up plenty of examples of, you know, big Fortune 500 companies skimping out on photographs. They’ll just hire, you know, somebody with a camera. They won’t do their homework on them. They won’t set a standard for what is worth the money and what isn’t. And it starts to go down a very slippery slope of who can I pay the cheapest amount of money just to get photos done.

CAMERON YODER:
What would your vetting process be? What would your vetting process – let’s say you’re not spending – let’s say you want to save money and you don’t want to spend an absurd amount of money on a professional photographer, but you still want really good quality. What would your vetting process be for good photographers?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Definitely the way that people present themselves. Do your homework. That’s the biggest thing. Do your homework and shop around. If you go to a photographer’s website and you see some photos that you really like, do you think it can translate into your product? That’s a big thing of okay, I found this incredible wedding photographer. She’s awesome, or maybe it’s a person that shot your wedding. Photos turned out amazing, but there’s no way that they could, you know, translate that into photography for your specific product. So definitely look for people that are well versed with product photography. It’s worth the time to do your homework and shop around because if you just hire any photographer they could be great in one area but not great for your product.

CAMERON YODER:
Really like if you have – if your goal is to increase your sales and you have just bad photos it’s not going to happen, right?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Right, exactly.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
And then you’re going to be, you know, you’re going to have paid for the service. You’re going to have paid for these photos, and you’re not going to improve your business at all. So it’s worth the time to wait a little bit to find the right photos or the right photographer, I should say, than just paying somebody to do your photos because you’re essentially losing money at that point. Photography is an investment.

CAMERON YODER:
Yes.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
And if you’re going to put money into an investment you want to make sure that you have the most probability to win at the end of the day.

CAMERON YODER:
I like to think of it like this. Think about how you’re paying for photos one time. It’s not a subscription. It’s not anything like that. It’s a single payment, and sure, it might be an initial upfront investment for you. However, think about how much more money you’re going to make after the fact you have these photos in hand, and customers seeing these professional photos done, think of how many more customers are going to buy your product because of those photos. It’s an upfront investment, but it’s going to make you so much more money and save you so much more time than the alternative, which is not having professional photos done. So tip number four, quality photos. Do you have anything else you wanted to add to that?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
To that, just kind of to make an example I guess for a lot of people listening, kind of going to bring back that wedding photography. A lot of people have experience with wedding photography in the sense that either they know somebody that’s had wedding photography done, they’ve had it done themselves, whichever it is. If you hire a really good wedding photographer the images that you get back you’re going to remember forever. If you hire a not so great wedding photographer and the images you get back are subpar, you’re going to remember your day. You’re not going to remember the photos. And it’s the same with product photography. If you hire somebody just to take photos of your product, potential buyers, they’ll click on it, and then they’re going to forget the image. If you hire somebody who knows what they’re doing and can tell an emotional story with your product and elicit that response, those people are going to remember that photo, which means they’re going to remember your product. So kind of to draw all back to that, like quality is worth the money, especially to make sure people remember who you are.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s good. What about, what’s your next tip? What’s the last tip you have?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Brand perception can go a really, really long way with photos. Just a visual, just a visual overall, whether it’s photos or package design when somebody opens up a box, they’re very similar in the sense that you can really kind of put yourself on a pedestal as opposed to just on a shelf with everybody else. You can spend that initial investment, get those great photos, make people perceive that your product is really, really good. But if you don’t invest that money and that time into finding somebody that’s worthwhile to hire to do your photos, your brand perception is going to definitely hurt from that. And you can make yourself look really, really good, or you can make yourself look really, really bad. Like I said before, you could have the most beautiful, high-quality product on Amazon, but if you have terrible photos of it people are going to think it’s a terrible product.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s good. Perception of brand bleeds into perception of product, right? It’s all connected. What is the takeaway from all of this? From these five tips, what is a big takeaway for people?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Hire a professional. If your engine needs to be replaced and you know nothing about cars you’re going to take it to a mechanic. If you need photos and you’re not a professional photographer or you’re not super excited about learning how to become a professional or at least put yourself at a professional level, hire a professional. It will save you so much time and money. It will save you credibility with your product, and it will give you a much better brand perception.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s really good. Five tips – five tips that really encompass, I think, again what Dustin said, the importance of photography and the importance to really hire a professional, but not only a professional, but a good professional when it comes to product photography specifically. So Dustin, can you actually – a couple more things. Can you touch on how your work with larger companies, like we said in the intro, with something like companies like Samsung and Walmart, can you touch on how work with them has really helped your product photography with Amazon in the Amazon space?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
A lot of times that I’ve done larger gigs for, you know, Fortune 500 companies, these bigger clients that have this significantly larger budget, you start to look at all of these things that go on behind the scenes in the shoot, and you’re like okay, how can I kind of like roll this into my own process and make this a lot easier? So whether it’s a location scout, a talent scout, stylists, anything like that, those are all – you know, those are all separate positions on these big shoots whereas with us we condense that all into the people that we hire. So you know, we hire these photographers that can be their own stylists, can be their own location scouts, can be their own model scouts and talent scouts and find the best location, the best people to present products very well. And I think that’s something that’s been very big about – or very important, I should say, that I’ve learned from these larger shoots. And like don’t get me wrong; having a huge team of people sometimes is really fun. It takes a lot more stress off your shoulders, and you don’t have to worry about so many different pieces of the puzzle. But learning how to be able to do all of that on your own and trust yourself and trust your judgment I think is really, really important as a professional photographer. It gives you more credibility, and it gives your work more emotion, I think, at the end of the day.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, that’s really good. I think that’s really good. That’s an important perspective to take, or to bring into the Amazon space specifically. It’s something that you can take other places, too, not just Amazon, but to others. So that’s really valuable. Can you – actually there is one more thing that I want to touch on. Can you touch on I think a lot of people either run into this or are in it without actually knowing it. But there are people that are married to their photos. Sometimes it’s really hard to actually see what’s wrong with something that you’ve created, right, because it’s yours. So how, how would you advise maybe breaking the perception of, or breaking someone away from being married to their photos if their photos aren’t the best? How can we work around this, people being married to their photos basically?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
Sure. You know, and I think everybody kind of goes through this when it comes to photography, whether you are a professional or a hobbyist or you, you know, you bought a photography starter kit and you’re taking photos of your product and, you know, you think they look really great. But then somebody comes in and says hey, actually these don’t show your product very well. These aren’t that good. They’re not well lit, whatever it is. People tend to – and not just hobbyists or anything like that. Professionals do it, too. People tend to put a lot of their emotion into photography, which is a good thing, but also if you don’t understand how to remove that emotion and remove yourself from your work any critique that could make you better is only going to make you more stuck in your ways.

You know, I had the blessing of being able to go through certain college courses that were really, really helpful in teaching critique and criticism and feedback. Not everybody has that, obviously, but the one thing I’ve learned from all of that is if you can step back and objectively look at all the criticism and feedback and suggestions and changes, even if you don’t implement any of it, if you can look at it as being helpful or look at it as a way that you can improve or just look at something differently, I think that’s the first step in creating better content. You know, there’s editors in fields for reasons because if you write, you know, you write something and then it just went straight to print, what if there’s typos? You know, that’s why editors exist. And with photography if you don’t have – if you’re just putting stuff out and you never have anybody look at it, check over it, and you don’t take feedback or criticism, you’re doing yourself and your potential customers a huge disservice.

One of the things we do here is, you know, every time a photo set is done and ready to go to a client we have at least two people do a quality control check on it. And if a coach sees it going out and is like hey, like this doesn’t look right, they’ll say something, too. And at the end of the day the goal is to effectively tell a story. I had an example for myself when I did my first magazine publication shoot. I was super excited. I was like yeah, my work’s going to get published in a magazine. That’s great. It was an automotive magazine. And I spent eight hours on this shoot, went home, uploaded all the photos, had a peer of mine that has always been kind of a mentor to me. I sent him these photos on Facebook. I was like hey, what do you think of these? I just finished it. This is for my first magazine. And I was like hey, how do these look? And he told me that they looked like trash, just straight up. He’s like look, I’m going to be blunt with you. These are not good. You should – I wouldn’t publish this. And yeah, it stung, but at the end of the day I knew that the goal was to publish really good content. So I rescheduled with the owner. We shot the car again. And it turned out to be probably one of my favorite shoots I’ve ever done. So being able to remove yourself from feedback and criticism, remove your emotions from your work is just, it goes so far.

CAMERON YODER:
I would really encourage people in this space to seek out criticism, to seek out someone to prove your photos wrong because really your goal should be to provide the best photos possible for the price range that you’re comfortable with. And I don’t know, seek out criticism. Well, Dustin, what is one thing that you want to leave our audience with?

DUSTIN KESSLER:
I think at the end of the day the thing that I would like to leave most people with is you get what you pay for. Just because somebody has a nice, fancy camera doesn’t mean that their photos are going to be amazing. So do your homework before you buy. Make sure that who you’re buying from for your photos is worth the money that you’re comfortable spending, and don’t be afraid to spend a little bit more to get that quality.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, thank you so much for being on the show, Dustin. There’s a lot of valuable information here for a lot of people on photography in general, but also photography when it comes to Amazon specifically. So thank you, Dustin, for being here.

DUSTIN KESSLER:
No problem. I enjoyed it.

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 that will help take your Amazon business to the next level subscribe to the podcast and check us out on YouTube. I’ve been working on a series of product discovery walk-throughs that show you how to really leverage the tool. Just search for Viral Launch on YouTube. Go to our page and look for my face in one of those videos. And if you’re listening on iTunes, please leave us a review and let us know what you think of the show. And if you know another seller who’s feeling lost in the Amazon information war out there, send them our way. 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. And as always, if you want to be featured on the show, have an Amazon related question or an idea for an episode, feel absolutely free to leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

Video on Amazon Listings: An Experienced Seller’s Perspective (Follow the Data Ep. 16)

Video on Amazon Listings: An Experienced Seller’s Perspective (Follow the Data Ep. 16)

Join Amazon Seller Coach, Cameron, as he discusses the effects of video on Amazon listings with special guest Kyle Goguen of Pawstruck, an experienced Amazon seller. Kyle shares insights gained from testing out video on his own products, and together they speculate about the future of video on Amazon.

Listen on iTunes

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

Hey, guys, what’s up? We have Kyle with us today. Kyle has been a seller on Amazon for a little while. Kyle, can you just say hello and intro yourself a little bit?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Hey, everyone. Yeah, Kyle from Pawstruck.com. I’ve been selling on Amazon – I think it’s been two-and-a-half, three years now, and prior to that launched the company in 2014. We sell on our own website, obviously Amazon, eBay and a few other channels. But as of late we’ve been focusing a lot on Amazon.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Okay. So I actually – I always love asking people, sellers this when we bring them on and when I’m talking to them, but from your perspective how much has Amazon changed? How much has the Amazon game changed since when you first started?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, so you figure it’s only been a couple years, but things have changed drastically since I started. I would say in the beginning I didn’t really know what I was doing on Amazon, to say the least. And then it’s like as soon as you learn new strategies on how to launch products and promote products, it all seems to change, which I think is a good and bad thing. It definitely pays off for people who stay on top of the latest trends and strategies. Kind of sets yourself apart from the competition. So I like it, and overall I think we set ourselves up well for growth here in 2018 and in the future.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, that’s really good. And that actually kind of leads into something that we’re talking about today. So our topic today is all about video and video on Amazon. And this is something that’s – video on Amazon is something that’s super interesting that not too many people are talking about right now. It did get some buzz a little back when the beta was first announced and when people first found out about it, that Amazon was bringing video to sellers on Seller Central. But we’re focusing on video today, and Kyle has been a user of video on Amazon. He’s been – and correct me if I’m wrong, but you were part of the beta. I’m not actually quite sure how soon you were able to get in with video. How long have you had video on Amazon?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

I don’t remember the exact date, but it’s got to be – I would say over a year, at least. I was in the Amazon Exclusives program, and that’s how I initially got access to it through some contacts I made through that program. And since then I’ve actually left Exclusives, but I still have access to some of the tools, which include video.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Gotcha. But so baseline you’ve really had some decent time to see how to work with video on Amazon, see what it’s done for you, right?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, definitely.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Okay. So first question, first question for you, for all of our viewers; how – just generally speaking, how has video affected your listings?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Sure. So I guess the first thing I want to go through is all the places that we currently are using video, just to explain that for the listeners, and then I’ll let them know what I think it’s done for our sales and listings. So the first place we have it on a listing would be in the thumbnails. You’ll see it kind of right next to the photos. I’m sure everyone’s seen that before. It’s got a play button, and when you click on it it will play a video just in place of where the main image is. That’s one place. The second place we have it is about halfway down the page. You’ll see video under a related video short section. So we also use that. And the third place we upload video is on our Amazon storefront, which is fairly new, and we’ve got kind of a whole, almost like our own website within Amazon built out. And on each of those pages we’ve used video to show off our products in use. So on – I guess when you’re asking how has it affected our listing, it’s a tough question to answer.

 

CAMERON YODER:

I know, I know, I know.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, like most things on Amazon, they don’t give you a whole lot of data, which is too bad. You wish you had access to it, but it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to share it with the sellers.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So I can’t tell you how many people have viewed videos, how long they watch our videos or anything like that. And unfortunately when I did upload the videos, you know, we were making a lot of changes to our listings, so I wasn’t even really able to say like A/B test, you know, conversion rate before a video or post videos because we changed so much it really wouldn’t be a fair way of measuring success. So I basically just have to give you my gut feeling.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, yeah.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

And my gut tells me that it’s definitely helped. Our conversion rates based on my research and talking to other sellers are equal if not much higher than other sellers or people in my industry. So I definitely think it can’t hurt you. It can only help you if you do it the right way.

 

CAMERON YODER:

So these three locations for videos – so you said in the thumbnails and kind of halfway down the listings and then on your Amazon storefront. Is there one – are all of these videos in each of these places the same, or have you created unique content for each of them?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So for us we had our videos done kind of all in bulk, so product videos, for example, they would shoot just one single product video, and we would upload the same video in all the places. So we didn’t customize it necessarily, but you absolutely could, depending on your needs. You can – it’s not like they’re all connected together, I guess. You upload them separately, so they can have different versions if you felt like one was better.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Okay, so you basically have the ability to customize putting a unique video at the top in the thumbnails, for example, or like a unique video halfway down?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, absolutely. And my gut also tells me that the video at the top I would assume gets a lot more views than the one halfway down the page. It kind of gets lost in all the other product recommendations and reviews and everything down there. But since we have the ability to do it, we upload it there, too, and so more people can see the video.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Sure. And that seems consistent with the, I mean just photos in general and thumbnail photos and EBC all in kind of the same way. With your videos that you’ve implemented have you found any customers giving feedback, or have you gotten any direct feedback from customers that have bought your products or looked at your videos?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, all the time. So we definitely try to interact with our customers as much as possible. We send out automatic emails after every purchase and every delivery and shipment. We definitely get a lot of responses that reference our videos.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Interesting.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So we sell dog products, and so our videos show, you know, dogs chewing our products or using it. So a lot of times we’ll get comments about how adorable or cute the videos were, or how helpful they were, or maybe just a follow-up question, something that we didn’t clarify in the video. They’ll mention that they watched the video and they had a question about X, Y, and Z. We also see it in our reviews. A lot of times people will reference the videos on the listings for whatever reason. So we definitely know people are watching them. We don’t know how many.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Do you think – right, unfortunately. Do you think there’s a little bit of a wow factor when it comes to videos on listings because it’s still – honestly it’s beginning to get standardized kind of, but it’s still pretty new? Do you think people still have that wow factor when they watch videos?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, I would think so. I would think it’s definitely a way to set yourself apart from your competitors and other listings if you have video and it’s well done and they don’t. That’s a great way to set yourself apart, especially if you have a really high priced product, or something really technical, or one like ours that requires a high level of trust to purchase. I think video can be a way of kind of earning that trust or really showing people why they should trust you to spend that kind of money on a product because sometimes photos don’t do a product justice.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Or people don’t want to take the time to read a description to understand how it works or what it does. So our products are pretty simple. We don’t do any how-to videos, but I could definitely see where a how-to video would be helpful for a technical product in setting yourself apart.

 

CAMERON YODER:

That’s good. So technically speaking, I mean again you’ve had experience in setting up videos with your listings. Is it easy to do? Is it just easy to upload like an MP4 into Amazon and just like oh, there it is straight into my listing, or is it kind of complicated?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

It is pretty basic. Assuming that you have a normal video file and that your video is compliant with Amazon’s requirements – so definitely look into that. Like I’m sure you can’t – you know I couldn’t run videos saying like go shop on Pawstruck.com. You know, so you have to make sure your video actually complies with Amazon’s terms of services for videos. But assuming you do all the right things there it is just a matter of hitting the upload button and entering, you know, a title and so on. So it’s pretty basic.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Interesting. Well, that’s good to know. So as a whole – again, just generally speaking video is a little bit newer, and it was in beta. Again, it was in a beta program that you had to get accepted into, and it kind of got rolled out to people that were brand registered. And now it’s beginning to have more of a mass adoption with sellers that are brand registered. Do you think that video specifically is something that sellers should be putting their time and energy into right now?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, absolutely, especially if you have an off-Amazon presence in any way. If you’re running any sort of off-Amazon advertising campaigns, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, something like that, or you have your own website, it definitely makes sense because the money you invest in video is obviously going to help you on Amazon, but you can also repurpose a lot of those videos. So something I haven’t really mentioned yet, but from our videos we have dogs using our products, and we are able to take high res screenshots or screen captures from various frames. So we’re able to get photos of the dogs using the product. And we use those photos as our secondary images on the product. So it’s kind of serving as both a video and a way to generate really good, high-quality photos.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Interesting.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

And we’ve also had the company that we use to produce the videos make shorter versions that are used for advertisements. So you can repurpose the videos in a different way, maybe to optimize for Facebook ads, for example, or Instagram. So you can get a lot of use out of them, and that helps a little bit with that upfront cost that I’m sure you’ll have to pay.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Gotcha. So you talked a little bit about focusing off of Amazon. Have you found really good – I mean you’re able to – people generally are able to track attrition, I guess, or if people convert better outside of Amazon just because you can track, I don’t know, consumers a little bit better on something like Instagram or Facebook. Have you found really good conversions from using these videos on something like Facebook, or YouTube or Instagram?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So we use those videos on our ads, and they’ve been pretty successful, but I wouldn’t really be able to compare them to anything else we’ve done previously because these are the only videos we’ve had. But one thing I can do – maybe we can put it in the show notes or [somewhere 0:20:09.1] because I don’t know off the top of my head, but on our website we definitely saw a huge conversion boost once we added our videos to our product pages. So I can look that information up, and maybe we can throw that in the show notes what exactly happened because that we were able to A/B test, which was really great. And we have all the information, obviously, how many people are viewing it and all of that.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Gotcha. Okay, and so we talked briefly about this, but I think it’s something that people should know. It was – we mentioned it just a little before, but I want to reiterate that this video thing was available only to people in beta, like an invite basically. But now seemingly it is starting to get rolled out to everyone that is a part of the brand registry program. And so just for everyone that’s looking to get into video, it would be a good idea if you aren’t brand registered yet to just get brand registered. And brand registry involves a lot more outside of video. It involves a lot of different things. And potentially being brand registered just kind of opens the door for being able to be invited to things quicker or earlier than other people that aren’t brand registered. Seemingly Amazon takes preference to people that are brand registered. And I’m not sure if you could touch into that a little bit. Have you seen – in your time being brand registered have you seen early rollouts or just other things, including video, that have benefited you?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, so I was part of the beta rollout of brand registry 2.0 so I was able to get in there pretty early and talk to some of the people on Amazon’s brand registry team and give them feedback as they built out the program and everything, and it’s definitely an emphasis of Amazon moving forward. For brand owners they want people to be brand registered, and they’re going to continue to build out features that are specific to those in that program. So like you already mentioned, any seller that has the ability to be brand registered who is not brand registered at this point in time, I absolutely recommend getting registered even if you don’t plan on doing video soon or ever. It doesn’t really matter. There’s just so much that the program offers, and there’s going to be some feature at some point in time that you’re going to want that you won’t be able to get unless you’re in the program. And I have a lot of colleagues and friends who are Amazon sellers who some of which are unable to get brand registered, and it definitely hurts. And they have a lot more issues with counterfeiters and people who are hijacking their listings, and they can’t really do a lot from a protection standpoint. And a lot of those people were in the original brand registry program and just because of some changes aren’t able to get in 2.0 at this point in time, and they really wish they could.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, so taking a look at – talking a little bit about brand registry, or taking that even further, what do you think Amazon is going to do next for listings in general? And we’re talking about video, which was a pretty big deal, honestly, to add to your repertoire of things available on your listing. What do you think Amazon is going to do next?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Sure. So when talking about product listings in particular, I think the next thing they’re going to do is build in some sort of augmented reality option for listings, probably on mobile I would assume. And the reason I kind of bring that up is because every time I talk to, you know, family members or friends about shopping on Amazon the one thing they always bring up as a negative – basically the only thing they can bring up as a negative is that they wish sometimes they could go to the store because they want to touch and feel the product. And a lot of times it has to do with apparel specifically, which makes sense, and Amazon is doing a lot of things to combat that with their fast shipping and return policies and even video, right? So being able to see the product kind of in use really helps the customer understand what they’re buying. So I think if you’re able to work in some sort of augmented reality into a listing that could take it even a step further. So, for example, if you wanted to buy some T-shirt, you’re unsure how it looks. It looks on a model. It’s like well you don’t really know how it’s going to fit on you. Or it’s on a white background that’s really hard to tell, but with augmented reality they have the possibility of, you know, you basically turning the camera on yourself kind of like a selfie and the T-shirt or clothing being put onto your body to see what it’s actually going to look like when you receive it. So my guess is they’re going to do creative stuff like that. I think that’s coming to e-commerce in general. People are going to keep innovating, basically removing that barrier or that one hiccup that makes some people want to shop in-store versus online.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Sure. That makes sense to me. I mean there was an article put out not too long ago about how Amazon owns, I think it was about seven clothing brands on Amazon specifically and how Amazon is moving further or deeper into the fashion market. We also have that fashion camera. It’s a camera that helps you pick out clothes, basically. So seemingly I would totally agree with you. I think that’s an argument that people have for classic retail stores, right, is that you can go and you can touch and feel everything. And so for them to implement technology like that would be huge for the space. I could definitely see that happening. What does the inclusion of video tell you about what Amazon is moving towards with their overall website experience and aesthetic? You touched on this a little bit with the idea of that VR AR idea. But do you think that is going to carry through to their website as a whole?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, I think so. I think video is just kind of an indication that they want to really show customers what they’re buying before they’re buying it. And like I said before, like photo can only take you – photos can only take you so far. So I think they’re – I’m sure they’re going to add video all over the place, or some of these new technologies, even maybe into somehow in, you know, search results or somewhere else maybe. I think it’s something that they’re definitely focused on doing. You see like if you go through your Facebook feed these days it’s almost – to me, at least, it’s like 95% video is what people are sharing. So I think Amazon understands that. I mean I think that’s part of why they rolled out the related video shorts portion to listings. They’re trying to compete with YouTube influencers and product reviewers. They want that ecosystem on their own website. So I think they’re going to continue to encourage video and other types of content. I mean they’ve already done it with enhanced brand content. I think they’re going to allow brand owners to really build out their brand on Amazon.

 

So with the storefront and video content, enhanced brand content, really nice photos, and I even think on listings they’ll – right now you only see really big brands, but you see the brand name. Instead of it being text you see a logo there for some of the really big brands. My guess is that they’re going to roll that out to people who are brand registered, that that might be something they’re going to have for everyone because it seems to me that Amazon wants people to build out their brand on Amazon, and that’s something they can set them apart from Walmart, Jet, other places like that is all the sellers are taking the time to build out a brand presence on Amazon. They’re probably not doing that on other platforms. So they can kind of really separate themselves there.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Well, one final thing for you. And Kyle, I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your day just to be here and talking to us about video and what’s next potentially for Amazon when it comes to creatives and everything in between. For our listeners, what piece of advice, what one thing do you think that our listeners should focus on? We’re getting close to the new year right now, so what do you think that sellers should focus on at the beginning of next quarter, and what are you going to focus on at the beginning of the new year?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Okay, so the first one, first piece of advice I’d have is kind of a trick that I’ve been using that I forgot to mention earlier, so I’ll take this opportunity to mention it. So with video what we’ve also done is in our follow-up email sequences that go to customers, we let them know that they can click a link to go watch videos to learn more about the product that they purchased, and where we’re sending them is to a page on our Amazon storefront. So that is within terms of service since we’re sending them within Amazon’s own website. So it’s just a great way to get people to see your own videos if they haven’t already. It also gives the opportunity to cross-sell some other products within that video or maybe on the same page. And I think a really great use, which we don’t do because we don’t need to, but like I said with a technical product if you have a how-to video and you have it on your storefront and you send people there, you’re going to prevent all kinds of negative reviews, or returns or questions. You can send them there and explain exactly how a product should be used. That’s just going to be a great customer experience and help kind of your whole product overall. So I recommend doing that if you’ve got video already and aren’t doing that right now.

 

CAMERON YODER:

That’s good.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

And for I guess your second question was what we as a company are focusing on the beginning of next year. So the main thing we’re going to be doing is just really ramping up product development. So we’re going to be trying to launch between two and four new products every month and really kind of set up a system where we are constantly finding, launching and kind of adding products to our catalog in a very consistent way and successful way because right now we’ve kind of done it piecemeal as things come up. So I really want to get more focused on that and set up the systems that will allow us to kind of scale that process.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Sure. Well, hey, that’s good to hear, and that’s good advice. Kyle, you’ve been awesome. You’re in such a good spot, and you’ve had such great opportunity really to know video, number one, but get a lot of good and early experience with a lot of these things that honestly not a lot of sellers have had experience with. So thank you so much for sharing your own experiences with us and for giving your advice. It’s been awesome.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, of course. I’m happy to do it. Thanks for having me.

 

 

Be Thankful: How Positive Thinking Can Help You Grow Your Amazon Business (Follow the Data Ep. 9)

Follow the Data Episode 9: Be Thankful – How Positive Thinking Can Help You Grow Your Amazon Business

Taking a break to be thankful can feel like a waste of time. But studies show that positive thinking is a key component to individual success. Join Viral Launch CEO and co-host Cameron Yoder for a discussion on how positive thinking can help you cultivate a success mindset to grow your Amazon business.

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • Reason #1 to be thankful: Prime Day 2017 was huge with more than 60% growth over the previous year. Can you image what 2018 is going to be like? Check out our summary of Prime Day Stats to get a better idea of just how huge this day was.
  • Reason #2 to be thankful: Prime membership is becoming more and more popular with estimates that over 60% of American households have a subscription
  • Reason #3 to be thankful: Amazon is still growing. With stocks soaring, there’s a chance that Amazon will become a trillion dollar company sooner than originally predicted.
  • Listen to Barbara Fredrickson explain her broaden and build theory and the research behind the powerful impact of positive emotions.
  • Check out this article from Entrepreneur about how a positive attitude can influence your success.
  • Want to be on the show? We’re working on an episode that features our listeners! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.

Podcast Transcript

CASEY GAUSS:
Did you know that positive thinking can broaden your mindset and increase your ability to generate ideas?

CAMERON YODER:
Taking a break to be thankful can feel like a waste of time. But practicing positive thinking might be the most powerful tool at your disposal as an Amazon seller. I’m Cameron Yoder.

CASEY GAUSS:
And I’m Casey Gauss, 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 25,000 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.

CAMERON YODER:
This Thanksgiving we’re bringing you a special edition episode about the role that positive thinking and thankfulness can play in your Amazon business. Whether you’re just beginning your Amazon journey or already have a serious operation on your hands, there’s a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

CASEY GAUSS:
We’re talking about what it means to be thankful, the science behind positive thinking and how staying positive and being thankful for what you have can help your Amazon business.

CAMERON YODER:
Casey, I’m actually really excited about this episode just because it’s so unique. It’s so different. We’re talking about how positivity relates to success as an Amazon seller, and not just as an Amazon seller, but success as a person in general, right?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, and for those of you who don’t know Cam, he’s probably one of the most positive people.

CAMERON YODER:
Life is good, man. Life is good. So we’re talking about what it means to be thankful, and a definition – and this isn’t like the, the definition of what it means to be thankful because I think there are many definitions. But what does it mean to be thankful? Thankful, being thankful is the ability to recognize the full worth of something and be grateful for it. So, Casey, what are you thankful for?

CASEY GAUSS:
Dude, I’d like to think of myself as a person with a lot of gratitude, so you know, I just have an insane amount to be thankful for. Everything from my family, you know, having an amazing wife, having, you know, kind of the company of your dreams at the age of 24. Like I don’t think that ever in life I cannot be thankful for everything that has happened to date. And so, you know, I just think that we have an amazing team. Everybody is just working on all cylinders so well. Yeah, you know, I am thankful for Amazon. I am thankful for the current state of the economy to allow us to be where we’re at. I mean, I could just go on and on. But yeah, I guess that pretty much summarizes it. What about you, Cam? What are you thankful for?

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah. No, I mean like you said before, I’m generally just a more positive person. I didn’t used to be that way, but I don’t know, I guess I quickly came to realize that life is too short to really get hung up on the differences or hung up on just stuff in general, and so I’m super thankful just for – I’m 22, and the opportunity just to be here and doing this literally right now is, it’s just awesome. And just meeting people, I’ve been able to go to a lot of conferences over the past couple months to meet a lot of Amazon sellers and just people in general. That’s been an amazing experience. I’m just thankful for, I don’t know, this opportunity and every single opportunity that comes every single day.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah. So, what do Amazon sellers have to be thankful for this year? You know, I think there are so many things, obviously.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s a lot. It’s a lot.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, kind of like the top list that we want to talk about, Prime Day 2017 was absolutely insane, the biggest sales day in Amazon history in one day.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s huge.

CASEY GAUSS:
Brand Registry, 2.0, helping sellers to protect, you know, their listings, as well as just getting a leg up on those that are not in brand registry with enhanced brand content, early reviewer program, headline search ads, you know, and I think it’s just going to continue to compound. But thank you, Amazon, for giving us these new features, and we’d love to see more.

CAMERON YODER:
Another stat, there were – or 62% of American households have a Prime subscription. And this is from 2017. That’s – that’s a lot of households. That’s more than half.

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh yeah, and you know, it’s just so awesome because that means that’s that many more people that are going to come and buy your Amazon products. And that’s that much larger of a market that you can sell to.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, that Prime badge, that FBA man, that’s huge. It’s huge. Amazon is also, it’s growing at an astounding rate. So a couple weeks ago Amazon’s stock surged about 13% because their growth is outpacing predictions.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, it’s just crazy. And you know, for the longest time everyone was saying, you know, maybe 2020, 2021, Amazon will be, will represent 50% of e-commerce sales. But it’s looking like that – they could cross that milestone, you know, next year, which again, just means more opportunity to sell more products and just grow your wealth, grow your business, leverage that growth to then go build a business off Amazon. I mean there’s so many opportunities here, and I think that we all kind of just need to be thankful for the work that Amazon is putting in because that helps make our businesses so much more valuable.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right. Then there’s also, oh man, huge, huge piece of news that everyone was talking about, speculating, still speculating about, but Amazon’s expansion into the acquisition of Whole Foods and the potential or possibility of one day – of people getting their products into a brick-and-mortar store as a result of this is insane.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, and so even if we are not able to get, you know, third-party products into Whole Foods, I mean it just means more Amazon customers, I’m assuming more Prime subscriptions that are using Amazon in –

CAMERON YODER:
More growth, more growth.

CASEY GAUSS:
– yeah, in additional ways. And so it’s just incredible. There’s so many positive things going on in Amazon and, you know, we’re all benefiting from it.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s really easy to get bogged down by the specifics of everything you do as an Amazon seller. And really all this news for Amazon really, I don’t know, it just helps keep a vibe of positivity going up, and it shows that this past year in 2017 Amazon has come a long way even though they were huge before that. But it also just shows that they’re on a pretty good path moving forward into 2018.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
So okay, now we talked about what Amazon sellers have to look at as just positivity for Amazon in 2017, but we’re going to break down now kind of the science behind the effect of positive thinking and really just kind of thankfulness in general. So I was going to break it down a little bit to give you some insight into what positivity means for you as an Amazon seller. Barbara Fredrickson has a theory called the broaden and build theory. Now the theory is this. The theory is that negative emotions can cause you to narrow your mindset and your scope of attention in a fight, flight or freeze response to feelings of anger or anxiety. So just to kind of go over that again, basically negative emotions cause your mindset to narrow. And kind of the antithesis of this is that a positive mindset really opens up your mind to newer possibilities.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so if you remember back to us talking about kind of, you know, this ever elusive silver bullet or sellers getting focused in on, you know, what are these hacks, and I think that maybe this pertains to this specifically, right, so like –

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
– you know, when I’m in fight or flight I’m just looking for that one little piece of saving grace that is going to take my business, you know, to the moon and back. And you know, what we’d like to think is, or according to the data, and we’ll get into it a bit more, you know, if you’re focused on positivity you’ll be able to take that step back, think of the bigger picture and really kind of disseminate what does it take to build a successful business. And that is not these little hacks. Again, it’s doing everything really well. So kind of just a cool way to tie in some of this awesome data around, you know, positive thinking and success and relate that back to Amazon.

CAMERON YODER:
Exactly. Like the negative mindset is going to create more opportunity for sellers to kind of try and reach and grab at things that aren’t necessarily going to help just because seemingly it’s the best thing that’s in front of them, again, that fight or flight method. So basically negativity really causes people to react, or can cause people to react in a manner that they don’t really think about what they’re doing before they do it. But going back to positivity, so positivity or thankfulness can cause you, the theory states, to broaden your perspective and increase your attention so that you see a wider range of perceived possibilities. So this more open mindset really enables positive thinkers to discover creative solutions, build new skills and ultimately be more successful than negative thinkers just because they’re broadening their mindset. So instead of being so – so I would describe the silver bullet mentality as more of, at least, a narrow-minded approach to business.

CASEY GAUSS:
For sure. And you know, a lot of people say that, you know, what’s the most valuable asset to your business? And a lot of the time it’s you, and people forget that, you know? And so yeah, I just think that this is very applicable.

CAMERON YODER:
Being narrow-minded is relatable to the silver bullet mentality, while positivity is related to learning more or widening your gaze and just learning and building new skills. To add onto this further, there was a study done that was conducted basically to support this theory. In this study each student watched a film that evoked a series of emotions. So there were five films that were showed. Each student watched a single film. The emotions that each film was supposed to – were supposed to convey were amusement, contentment as positive traits, neutrality as kind of the middle line, and then anger or anxiety as the negative traits. So each student watched these films. And then after the film the students were asked to fill out a questionnaire that asked them to list all of the things they wanted to do in that moment. So they watched these emotional, these films that evoked emotion, right, and then they were asked to write down what they wanted to do in that moment.

Now there were 20 blank lines for these participants to fill in. So interestingly enough, the students who watched the films that elicited amusement and contentment, so the more positive traits, came up with more action items on their questionnaire. So more things that they wanted to do in that moment, more. And the other characteristics, the ones that watched the more negative films that evoked a negative emotion did not come up with as many items as the people that had watch the positive films.

And then – after the films – they were shown a visual picture, a visual representation of shapes, okay, so just picture a bunch– you’re handed a piece of paper and on it are a bunch of shapes. And you get to look at it for a little bit, for a small period of time. That paper was taken away, and they were given basically another paper, and they were asked to identify the shapes that were similar to the ones they had seen before. So in this specific study the people, the students that had watched the negative emotional films remembered the smallest visual components of the shapes that made up the image that they had seen at first, and the positive thinkers remembered the overarching theme, or the overall form of the configurations but not necessarily the smaller shapes. The conclusion was at the end that thinking positively tends to help you keep a global or big-picture perspective.

CASEY GAUSS:
So next thing I kind of want to relate it to you, your Amazon business and how positive thinking can help you to be more successful. So I think the biggest one is just that, you know, Amazon is so dynamic, and things are changing so frequently, and the people that have success are the people that are really willing to be, you know, adaptable and to kind of fit whatever needs to happen. You know they’re not focused on the past. And so, you know, employing positive thinking allows you to be very nimble and say okay, here’s this new challenge. Now let’s take what we’ve done in the past, our knowledge and our expertise in the team that we have, if you have a team, and let’s apply that to this new landscape moving forward versus, you know, negative thinking would be so focused on, you know, this sucks, it’s not going to be as easy to have success. You know, I wish things were the old way versus, again, the positive thinking is you’re rolling with the punches. And that’s exactly what you have to be doing in order to, you know, be successful on Amazon because that is inevitable. Things are going to change. So yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
You’re also – so you’re also developing – as an Amazon seller you’re developing a lot of new skills as time goes on. And I want to read this quote from the study before, just because it’s, I don’t know, I think it speaks to Amazon sellers in general. And the quote is, “Researchers have often noticed a compounding effect or an upward spiral that occurs with happy people. They’re happy, so they develop new skills. Those skills lead to new success, which results in more happiness, and the process repeats itself.” So it’s compounding happiness on skill basically, like you are, by having an air or a mindset of positivity you are increasing her ability to develop these new skills by being an Amazon seller, which being an Amazon seller you’ve already developed so many skills, like team leadership even is just one skill that has resulted for a lot of people from Amazon, or different selling methods, or business in general. And there are so many more skills to develop by selling on Amazon. Maintaining that positive mindset is going to help you develop those skills further.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, and you know obviously as a fellow business owner there’s a million things that are going wrong. There’s always going to be fires, not just related to Amazon making changes, someone that you hire doesn’t work out, or you know, oh, your manufacturer is giving you issues, or you know, there’s a million things that can go wrong. And dwelling on those things or, you know, turning very negative or even turning that negativity against yourself, I know that’s very easy to do, you know, that’s just not going to help you to have success. And so always be positive about the future. At least what helps me is I’m always so excited about what is going to come or, you know, the bigger picture of Viral Launch and what we’re trying to achieve. And that really helps you to, you know, go through the kind of valleys or those tough times.

CAMERON YODER:
I definitely want to encourage you to focus on big pictures. So a big picture mentality, for example, would be hey, it’s going to be okay. We have tomorrow to wake up to. If something goes wrong, that’s okay. You have tomorrow. You have next week. You have next month. This Amazon game is a marathon. And it’s not a sprint. So you have all of this time in front of you to allow you to not have to get stressed out and sucked into unproductive pursuits that are just going to cause more stress. So stay committed to the big picture, whether that’s hitting the million-dollar mark or making your first sale. Basically, basically there are a lot of different things that you can focus on, but one thing that you have control of is your mindset. And if you choose to focus on your shortcomings and entertain ideas of failure, then that might be what you live up to. But if you entertain ideas of positivity, you reap what you sow.

CASEY GAUSS:
That’s all we have for this week. Thank you so much for joining us. We’ll be off next week over the holidays, and we encourage you to take a break yourself. Spend some time with the people you love, be thankful for what you have and what you’ve been able to accomplish so far. Also it’s just nice to, you know, take a step back, breathe, read a little bit, challenge yourself and just think of the bigger picture because that is ultimately the roadmap that you need to set to help you achieve success.

CAMERON YODER:
Yo, eat some delicious food. If you’re listening to us and you’re international I say go buy a turkey, you know, get in on this Thanksgiving thing. Go buy turkey, you know, make some good mashed potatoes. It’s going to be a good time. You never know. That moment of contentment could really make the difference in success or failure of your business.

CASEY GAUSS:
Thanks again for tuning in. Don’t forget to leave a review. Please, we all know how difficult it is to get reviews on Amazon.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s so hard.

CASEY GAUSS:
The same is true for podcasts. Guys, we need you. I’m just messing, but it would be awesome. We also kind of, you know, just love to hear what people have to say. So if you want to be featured on the show leave us a voicemail at 317-721-6590. We’d love to hear from you.

CAMERON YODER:
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

The ROI Metric: Identify the Best Products to Sell on Amazon

“The ROI Metric: Identify the Best Products to Sell on Amazon” is an excerpt from Viral Launch’s Ultimate Guide to Sourcing Private Label Gold Mines ebook. Download the full ebook at the bottom of this post.

The Key Metric to ROI: ROI Ratio

Finding the best products to sell on Amazon includes identifying and sourcing high ROI product markets.

Generally, the largest barrier to achieving sales potential in a given market is relative review quantity. We have overwhelming data showing us the relation of organic sales to relative review quantity. For example, let’s say that the majority of listings on page 1 for search “xyz” have over 1,000 reviews, but one listing has only 130 reviews. Relative to the rest of the listings, 130 reviews is quite few.  

Based on what we have observed, the product with 130 reviews will struggle to sell at a similar volume compared to it’s competitors with ample social proof at 1,000+ reviews. Review quantity is a major determinant considering all else is approximately equal (price, review rating, etc.). There are certainly exceptions, but this seems to essentially be the rule. This has been observed nearly daily in our experience helping newer products achieve keyword ranking among more mature listings.

While there are certainly ways to supplement a high review quantity to drive a relatively high volume of sales with other forms of social proof (ex. Best Seller badge, Amazon’s Choice badge, superior aesthetics, etc.), reviews are generally the product market’s “economic moat”. Overcoming competitors’ economic moat (reviews), is a function of time multiplied by your review rate. The faster you are able to achieve reviews, the quicker you will be able to overcome that competitive moat. This translates to: as a product achieves a relatively similar review quantity to its competitors, organic sales volume will increase.

For this reason, we identify the market’s comparative review threshold to be the amount of “investment” necessary to reach a market’s sales potential.

 

ROI Ratio = Monthly Sales Potential ÷ Review Quantity

Example of high ROI Ratio: 1000 units/month / 100 reviews = ROI Ratio of 10!

Example of low/bad ROI Ratio: 1000 units/month / 1000 reviews = ROI Ratio of 1

We generally suggest looking for product markets where the average ratio is somewhere above 2-3, as these are typically some of the best products to sell on Amazon. Conversely, stay away from markets where that ratio is less than 1. The higher the ROI Ratio, the more likely it is a good market to get into (it is still important to analyze the rest of the market metrics).

 

An Example of Sales to Review Ratio (AKA the ROI Ratio)

Imagine the average top seller in a market was driving 1,000 sales per month with an average review quantity of 45. The sales to review ratio would be (1000 / 45 =) 22! That is incredible. Driving just 45 reviews is a very simple feat (depending on the product as some products naturally are harder to obtain reviews for). So the amount of investment, time and money spent achieving just 45 reviews, is very low considering the sales potential of ~1,000 sales per month. We would consider this a very favorable market to get into – a great product to sell on Amazon.

Conversely, here is an example of a product market where the ROI Ratio (sales/review ratio) is approximately 1 or less. The amount of investment (time and money) needed to obtain a competitive number of reviews (1,000) in order to reach the sales potential (~1,000 units/month) is far too high for our liking. There are obvious exceptions: maybe you have the money to bully your way to the top, perhaps you have a dramatically superior product (very RARELY is this a viable excuse), maybe you are okay with a low sales volume for this product as it’s a natural extension of your brand, among others.

 

The Psychology of Review Quantity

Here is a brief rundown of our assumptions into the customer psychology of this phenomenon. Review quantity stands as the most evident form of popularity to the consumer among the products shown in the search results (while Amazon provides BSR to provide an indicator of popularity, a simple survey of Amazon buyers will quickly reveal this is not a well known metric nor is it shown in the search results). Which product do you think has sold more units?

As consumers we want a “safe bet” when it comes to making a purchase. We want to be sure that whichever widget we purchase will completely satisfy our needs and will not break within an unreasonable time. Consumers also fall subject to the bandwagon effect in which they buy the item because it is “popular”, which in turn, increases its popularity. “Many others are purchasing/not purchasing this widget for a reason, so I will take the safe bet and follow suit.”

Download the Complete Guide

Did you enjoy discovering the key metric to identifying the best products to sell on Amazon? To get other golden nuggets on sourcing your next home run, download the Ultimate Guide to Sourcing Private Label Gold Mines.

Contents include:

  • Crucial concepts
  • Product data vs. market data
  • Interpreting and analyzing market data
  • The key metric to ROI
  • Plotting your course for success

And more…

Fill out the form below to receive the guide and start sourcing gold mines:

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The ROI Metric: Identify the Best Products to Sell on Amazon

Related:

Generate Amazon Product Ideas: 3 Creative Methods for Sellers

Understanding the Amazon Best Sellers Rank (BSR) – The Definitive Guide

Product Visibility: The Importance of Categories in Amazon’s Search Results

Now more than ever, it is extremely important to have every single aspect of your listing in prime condition: stunning photos, optimized copy, beautiful product labeling, competitive reviews, etc. But there is one simple thing that some sellers are overlooking that has cost some sellers serious amounts of money in lost sales. It’s extremely important and a fairly quick fix: Product Category.

I know, that shiny Best Seller Badge is highly sought after, and it is relatively easy to come by with some obscure, irrelevant sub-categories. If you’re selling Vitamin C Serum and place it into the a smaller unrelated category, you won’t have to sell nearly as many units to get a Best Seller Badge as you would if you categorized it correctly into Skin Care. Loophole right? Unfortunately for sellers, no.

The Importance of Product Category

It’s crucial that you set your category correctly, and I’ll explain why. When searching “vitamin c serum” on Amazon, even when searching under “All Departments”, you’ll notice that just under the search bar, Amazon forces the search into a specific category. In this instance, I’m seeing just over 5300 results for: Beauty & Personal Care : Skin Care : “vitamin c serum”

Amazon positions itself in a way that is going to best benefit a shopper. If I’m a shopper searching for a “vitamin c serum,” Amazon shows me only what is relevant to the product that I’m searching for. Through Amazon’s algorithm, this means that only results categorized down to the subcategory “Skin Care” are going to be shown. And this makes total sense. Why would I be looking for anything outside of a Skin Care with a search for “vitamin c serum?”

As a shopper, I do have the option to choose “Show results instead in ‘All Departments,’” but I cannot imagine that many shoppers are doing so. As an Amazon seller, you know your product, your keywords, your listing, and your competition inside and out. Buyers, on the other hand, are trusting that Amazon is showing the best products for what they’re looking for. Having said that, it’s unlikely that a shopper would click “All Departments,” especially if they’re able to find what they’re looking for on page one. (Note: Mobile Amazon automatically shows results for All Departments)

These forced search results make it extremely important that your product is categorized correctly. Yes, you may have a Best Seller Badge through mis-categorizing your product. But that doesn’t matter if your product isn’t even showing up when a shopper searches for the biggest keyword associated with your product! If you put your product in some obscure category hoping to trick shoppers into thinking that you’re a top seller for your category, Amazon is onto you, and they aren’t having it. Shoppers will be searching for what you’re selling, but your product will be hidden by Amazon’s algorithms.

How Placing Your Product in The Wrong Category Causes A Loss In Sales

Here at Viral Launch, we want to see you be as successful as possible with your Private Label products. Among other things, it is a must to correctly categorize your product. This is even more important while you’re running a promotion because all of those giveaway sales are being attributed to the given search term in the context of the category the product falls under. If your sales are not being attributed to the proper category, you simply won’t show up when the average customer runs a search.  Make sure that your product is in the right category before running a launch. Switching it afterward means it’s already too late as the sales have already attributed keyword ranking power to the given keyword within the wrong category.

When choosing a keyword to target with a Viral Launch promotion, be sure that the keyword’s search results line up with your product category. If not, change your category, or make sure you’ve chosen a keyword that lines up with your product. You can place your item into a more specific category than the forced search result, just make sure that it’s in the most specific category of search results shown for that keyword search.

Big Takeaway: Categorize your product correctly, and your customers will be able to find and buy your product! If you don’t, no matter how hard you push keyword ranking, you’ll find your product ranking in the wrong category and will see very few sales!

Hopefully this tip helps you to understand why product category is so important and how it can have a tremendous effect on your visibility. We love to see you succeed as we navigate the Amazon together. Happy selling!

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