In light of the recent discussions over the future of RA [see recent blog post by Cynthia Stine, “Is Arbitrage Dead?“], I thought I would share some thoughts . For those of you who may not know much about me, I have been selling on Amazon full time for a little over 4 years. During that time I have sold close to $3 million, 99% from RA. My business hasn’t really grown as I sold my first million in 18 months and have averaged around $600k a year. As those with me from the beginning know, I have diversified across RA going from Health and Beauty, to Grocery, then toys and now Clothing and Shoes. This has been my way to adjust to the adversities I have encountered. Others have grown their business and many have moved into Wholesale, Liquidation and Private Label. I have written a couple of books and started many others. My latest book will cover my experience from start to finish as I anticipate my voluntary extinction at the end of this year.
I drafted up a chart to explain how I feel about the different modalities of sourcing for Amazon and offer it up here for the Scanner Monkey tribe. The chart is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
Basically in a nutshell, Retail Arbitrage/Thrifting are the equivalent level of Freshman year in college. A necessary component.
For me I am kind of like a black and white photography professor. I teach you to get proper lighting with F-stops and how to pick the right angle, developing film in a dark room etc. I leave the digital and advanced photography to others. Does that mean that if you are going to be a digital photographer or work in animation or another form of videography that you shouldn’t take Introduction to Photography. No, I think it is very important, just as I think it is important for a Neuro Surgeon to have taken Anatomy in lower levels of their education.
Are there photographers who still do black and white photography and develop their own film? Yes, and many are very successful, sought after and very wealthy. However, the trend is leaning towards other mediums and sadly so seems to be the case with Amazon.
“So John, where does that leave us?” For me, business as usual. I am trying to grow my business a little and have involved family in that endeavor. Will I stop sourcing RA because of the possibility that they will not accept receipts from retail stores. Not at this time. Do I see this as another shot fired across the bow? Most definitely. Do I recommend RA as a way to start a business selling on Amazon? Yes! To me it is definitely the right path. What you learn, the product knowledge you gain, will only make you more prepared to be successful at the other levels.
Ok T-rex, like you I am a hard charging RA ground pounder who is selling over $300k a year and just quit my job, what should I do? That, of course, is up to your particular circumstances but as Cynthia’s blog post reads, Amazon ‘may’ take steps that ‘if’ you get inauthentic claims, you will not be able to use retail receipts to defend yourself. What is new? Amazon has been unreasonable in the past and will be so in the future. I have said on numerous occasions that selling on Amazon is basically gambling. To me, a new dealer has just sat down at the table and there are signs he/she may have marked the deck. Complaining to management won’t help, he is management. Do I run crying into the night? Did I when they suspended me two years ago? No, I buckle down, pay attention and try to play by the new rules.
So in summary, RA as a method of sourcing for FBA, may be going by the wayside. Makes no sense to me, but hey, Amazon is a self-serving entity and they will do what they will do. Many are fearful. Don’t be, but be cautious. If you were planning on opening a warehouse next month and hiring five people to do RA for Q4, you may want to reconsider. Growth at this time, may not be the best use of your money. Notice I said ‘may’. If I receive an e-mail or an official policy notification from Amazon that leads me to believe they don’t want my stuff I will slowly move in to other modalities. If I get suspended or see many others get suspended because of Amazon’s new policy I will focus on leaving Amazon totally. Any company that bites the hand of the person that is feeding it which is exactly what would be happening, does not deserve my food.
I am not fearful of new developments, I am cautious. To me the real concern should be for those who are selling non-exclusive wholesale. We have seen how profits have diminished when supply outpaces demand. If large RA sellers start putting their sourcing budget in to wholesale, I personally think that will diminish the returns in that arena. As for Private Label, sourcing from China is like playing Roulette with a .38 revolver. In the past you had one bullet out of five. If Trump is elected, you may see different importation regulations that put a hiatus on that endeavor. (Second Bullet) Also isn’t the whole reason for the discussion counterfeits ? where do they come from? (Third Bullet) Did John just say that! Creating local, American made Private Label items to me would be the best solution at this time.
Once again, this is all opinion and of course may differ from yours. I offer it simply as someone who has seen the ups and downs of business. I wish everyone a most prosperous Q4!
This week, Scanner Monkey member, Pam D, amazed us all when she shared that she had totaled her car and had gone sourcing on her BIKE!
She then amazed us all by posting a picture of her sourcing trip. After expressing our happiness that she was safe and sound and our condolences about her car we were amazed by her incredible commitment and dedication to her business and improving her life.
She simply replied,
I asked Pam a few questions about her background and business situation.
She has been selling on Amazon for 2 years after selling on eBay. She sources mostly via retail arbitrage with some online arbitrage as well. She sells “very part time” as she is “lucky enough to have a full time job that I love, designing lights for concerts, dance, theater, and corporate events”. She sells about $3K – $5k per month. She does it for the “fun and the thrills” and she loves the “side benefits” such as no longer having any debt. She has also saved for retirement, and she is buying a new (used) car to replace her totaled one, which she is able to pay cash for. She plans to do some remodeling on her house in the next year which she also will pay cash for. Her side hustle is both joyful and profitable.
She loves being a part of the Scanner Monkey tribe! “I love the camaraderie within the tribe! It seems like there’s less negativity within the group, and more people willing to help if someone needs some answers.
She also hangs out with her poodles, Bocelli and Willoughby and loves to camp and fish. Her favorite food is frozen blueberries with milk and coconut syrup.
We are so proud to have her as one of our Scanner Monkeys! Thanks Pam!
If you’d like to join Scanner Monkey, the most positive and helpful organization for Amazon sellers around, please click here.
In the next few days and weeks we will hear a lot of the “sky is falling” from many that do not have a horse in this race. They will be quick to point out all the negatives and possible worst case scenarios that reinforces their fearful decision not to trade overseas.
The truth is those who have only one option are the greatest risk takers of all. Staying only in the US Amazon market creates an ever-closing cycle of competitive demise that forces you to take less margin for more work. Change or movement is the only way to survive even in this safe marketplace. Information will be the true weapon in this battle. International Amazon marketplaces have fewer sellers with less experience. Accessing a synergistic hub such as Scanner Monkey, will allow us to harness US experience and drive it into the European Market.
As a seller in the UK and European Amazon marketplaces, we love the fact that many will hold off becoming competitors because of the “concern” and perceived high hurdles. We will continue to leverage our strengths and have increases in sales and margins across multiple platforms. If one market closes, we move to another. Currency inverts, we ship the other direction.
Light, nimble traders with low asset investments will reap sizable rewards as they always do in these marketplaces. FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) is the perfect leverage point with minimal overhead costs except a little paperwork and inventory exposure of 30-60 days.
What are we going to do?
Rather than give advice, I am going to talk about our strategy.
Our goal is to maximize our footprint and options with as little investment as possible while maintaining solid margins. Our goal is to be ahead of the mob as this drama unfolds.
Register for the VAT and establish accounts with prep and pack companies in Germany. Using our International Arbitrage Course staff accountant, the cost will be a little time and gives us the ability to ship into Germany and use FBA to sell products in under 4-5 days.
Research registration for the VAT and set up accounts with prep and pack companies in each of the other three Amazon marketplace countries outside of the UK and Germany (France, Spain and Italy).
Register for the VAT in Ireland since they are the likely candidate for the “NEW” UK for Amazon to hit the EU. With Amazon’s commitment to MCI and Pan EU, this is a likely place for the EU growth to happen. Cost is only the time to register and file 0 returns.
Continue to increase products in both the UK and EU marketplaces.
Monitor margins through re-pricers and continue to sell daily in to the European markets.
Be part of a mastermind group of like minded EU Amazon FBA sellers to pool information and solutions. Like any journey into the wilderness, there is strength in a small dedicated group.
Work on creating a footprint in other developing Amazon marketplaces such as Japan.
Change is inevitable. Those with timely information and the courage to act will be the ones to.
Contact Steve via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about his course, International Arbitrage.
Keep up to date about Amazon UK, Europe and more in our FREE Facebook group, Scanner Monkey UK.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION…a request from a service provider
I consider myself very lucky to be associated with E-commerce leaders such as Chris Green, Duane Malek, Cordelia Blake, John Groleau, Andy Slamans, Sam Cohen, Jason T Smith, John Lawson, Cynthia Stine, Nate McAlister…and so many more.
I am sure that most of you would agree that these reputable FBA community leaders are extremely generous with their time and efforts. They go above and beyond when providing value and make the FBA world a better place for all sellers. Many of them spend a great deal of time researching ways to help you run your business more efficiently and add dollars to your bottom line. In return they receive a fair amount of revenue for their products and services, AND sometimes they get kudos from satisfied customers.
However, one of the most disappointing things I have seen is when someone leaves really bad feedback OR even accuses the service provider of being unethical in a public forum without giving them the opportunity to rectify the situation privately. I’m not trying to stifle freedom of speech here, but I would like to offer alternatives to address any issues that you, as a customer, may have with a product or service.
When contemplating criticism of someone’s product or service in a public forum, I would politely request that you consider doing the following instead…or at least beforehand:
1) Reach out to the service provider and give them the opportunity to address your grievances and see if they have any solutions for you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Chances are that they may not even be aware of an issue with a product or service. Even with thorough beta testing there can still be kinks that need to be worked out after a product is released.
2) Adjust your expectations to mirror the real world. Example: if you’ve purchased an online sourcing or BOLO list from a reputable provider you still shouldn’t expect that EVERY single item will be a grand slam. I don’t care how good the list is (and I’m including my CyberMonkeyDeals.com list too), that is rarely the case. The best career batting average in baseball is .366…and that is equivalent to approximately 1 base hit per 3 times at bat. Secondly, don’t base your expectations on only one or two days of use. Give the product / service /extension some time to show favorable results before writing it off as an inferior product. I always tell new subscribers to evaluate Scanner Monkey for 30 days before deciding whether or not it is not for them….and that is with a 60 day money back guarantee (we’ll get to that in #10).
3) Think about what you want to accomplish when providing feedback. Is it a major bug in the software that needs to be fixed, OR is the product not as advertised? Clearly explain the situation with the provider along with how you expect them to address it. A simple “your product stinks” will not help them help you.
4) If the product doesn’t live up to your expectations, is there additional training available to help you get better results? Sometimes it’s a simple matter of watching a few YouTube tutorials to help you get the most out of a product. Most of the time the providers will include demo videos on their website or on YouTube to help you get the most out of their software.
5) Consider the track record and reputation of the provider. Do they have a history of providing valuable resources and tools? If so, chances are they will continue to do so moving forward. I can’t imagine an E-commerce leader jeopardizing their reputation in order to make $__ /unit on an extension that doesn’t work well as well as advertised.
6) CONSTRUCTIVE feedback can be very helpful when offered in the spirit of assisting the provider on making improvements to the product. Personally, we have made several improvements to Scanner Monkey and Cyber Monkey Deals based upon constructive feedback offered to us privately or in a survey. A good way to offer constructive feedback would be to use terms like: “I really liked ____, but to improve you might ____”. Or, “have you considered ______?”. If you don’t make it personal…then the service provider shouldn’t take it personally and will be more receptive to spending time making adjustments to enhance the product.
7) How will your criticism make YOU look in a public forum? If you are just “flaming” someone or their service it may come across as sour grapes. It might even look like you have a personal vendetta against that provider. Plus, if you do this repeatedly in multiple forums, you may find that people will not take your feedback seriously, and you may be labeled as a chronic complainer. If you feel compelled to discuss issues you have with a product, then see #6 for ways to provide CONSTRUCTIVE feedback.
8) Make sure you are reaching out to the RIGHT person when registering a complaint about a product. If it’s a widely distributed product or app that hundreds of users have access to, then their customer service department is a good place to start. IF they cannot resolve your issues then take your issue to the top brass. If it’s an extension or service that is relatively small scale and is being marketed by the individual then reach out directly to them to see if they can assist you with your issue.
9) Some people have told me “Jay, I lodge my complaints in a public forum because that is the best way to get the attention of the service provider”. It may be quicker, but it is NOT the best way to get the provider to work with you on resolving your issues with the product or service. Customer service should always be the goal of the provider, but it can be difficult to provide good customer service if the customer turns it into an adversarial situation (and the provider should not do this either). Complaining about someone’s product in a public forum should be a last resort AFTER you have filed a formal complaint via PM, email, or even a phone call.
10) Lastly, if you’ve done your due diligence and still feel like you have not gotten your money’s worth, then you should definitely ASK FOR A REFUND. All reputable product and service providers should offer a money back guarantee AND they should stand behind it…no questions asked.
I would like to ask one more favor. If you LIKE a service or product please leave a testimonial, even if it is in the form of a private message to the service provider. Why? A) Because it lets the product creator know that they are on the right track and the time and effort that went into the product was worth it. B) When you leave good feedback you are making it easier for others to make the decision on whether or not to purchase the product.
Service providers are fully aware that they can’t possibly please EVERYONE, and they have systems and guarantees in place to address those individuals that are unsatisfied with their products. However, it’s a two-way street, and it’s appreciated when the customer gives them the opportunity to make things right instead of posting their grievances in a public forum. Think about it….whenever you got a bad grade on a test in school, did you want the teacher announcing it to the rest of the class?
On behalf of FBA service providers everywhere, we thank you for considering these options to arrive at a mutually beneficial solution for everyone involved.
Don’t send FB ads directly to Amazon!! Although Amazon loves receiving traffic from outside sources, a surge of traffic to your listings from outside platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest or Google, it may not be the best thing for your listing.
Traffic that is brought into Amazon, in most cases won’t have the same conversion as someone who is browsing on Amazon looking for a product like yours.
Driving in this extra traffic will generate more sessions but those extra sessions can bring down your conversion rate as well, if in fact your product isn’t now converting at the same level as an organic search by an Amazon customer.
A simple trick is to drive your Facebook, Pinterest or Google ad traffic to a simple one page website, also known as a landing page, where you inform your customer of your product. Use this page as an opportunity to really paint the picture as to why they MUST have it AND make sure to always drop in an irresistible offer that they just can’t pass up. We typically offer a limited time percentage off coupon code that they can use on Amazon right away.
Now, when the customer clicks the ad to cart or buy now button on your website, it will redirect them to your Amazon listing and they can follow through with their purchase. This creates fewer sessions but allows for better conversions, which can in turn boost your Best Seller Rank (BSR) and make you more money.
Xander is extremely passionate about helping sellers and brands bring their visions to fruition. He truly believes that the more love you put into something, the more successful it is. He coaches his clients on how to paint the picture for their customers by leveraging page content, Amazon tools, and outside digital marketing strategies to promote revenue growth. AMZsessions is a boutique agency focusing on Amazon brand management and consulting. With the unique ability to blend Amazon knowledge and digital marketing expertise they provide their clients with strategies to reach new levels of success. Their client list includes individual sellers and small companies to multi-million dollar brands.
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