Category Archives: Exercises

How to Provide Box Level Details on Amazon FBA Shipments

box-content-info-blogIf you’ve been reading your seller emails from Amazon, you know that starting November 1, 2016, FBA sellers will be required to provide box level details of the contents of their shipments to FBA warehouses. Failing to provide those details will incur a fee for your shipments of 15 cents per item. Additionally, Amazon has stated that shipments without box contents provided might experience a slower check-in time than shipments providing the box level details.

The thought of adding an extra step to the FBA shipment process isn’t super appealing to most Amazon sellers – the fewer the steps the better, right? But I (Stephen) have added box level details to my shipments for the past month now, and I can tell you it’s not as bad as you might have heard.

sC_b001h9nxvg-boxpileReally, it’s in your best interest to start NOW learning how to add the details and practicing with shipments of various sizes. In the long run, spending 5-10 extra minutes per shipment to add the box level details will definitely save you money and potentially save you time: definitely the money from the fees for not providing the details and potentially the time of your shipment being delayed during check-in because you didn’t provide the details.

There are five ways you can handle adding the box level details to your shipment:

  1. Only ship one box at a time – no need to provide extra details.
  2. Ship multiple boxes, but only one SKU per box – no need to provide extra details.
  3. Ship 25 SKUs or less in multiple boxes, and you can provide details through the web-based form on Seller Central.
  4. Ship more than 25 SKUs in multiple boxes, and you can provide details through an Excel spreadsheet uploaded to Seller Central.
  5. Use a third-party listing software to provide details.

I’m not exaggerating when I say providing box contents will add only 5-10 minutes to packing your shipment. It really isn’t a long, time-consuming process. So far, I’ve been listing my shipments in Inventory Lab and then finishing out the shipment process (including providing box level details) in Seller Central. In the very near future I will try out Inventory Lab’s new box level detail process and report back on my thoughts on it.

For a tutorial of how to use the #3 and #4 methods above, I’ve made the following screen capture video walking you through the process.

As you can see in the video, the steps for filling out the forms are rather straightforward. To assist in the process of knowing which items I’ve packed in which boxes, I always print out my form so that I can check off the items on paper as I’m packing; then I transfer my check marks to the online form or Excel sheet once the boxes are packed.

money-fees-add-up-fastIf you decide that providing the box content details is too annoying or time-consuming, you do have the option to skip this step in the process, but you will incur a fee of 15 cents per item in that shipment. This may seem like a small fee, but be careful because those charges can add up quickly. Let me show you how.

I recently had a 92-item shipment of more than 25 SKUs, so the fees to skip the box level details for that shipment would be $13.80. I timed myself as I provided the box contents for the shipment through Excel, and it only added 6 minutes to my processing time. If you do the math, $13.80 in fees versus 6 minutes of my time means that I would have been paying Amazon $138/hour to allow me to skip that step. It’s worth it to me to just spend the extra 6 minutes and keep that $13.80 in fees to spend on more inventory to sell on Amazon.

As with so many other changes that happen over time in selling on Amazon, there will be a day in the not-so-distant future where adding box content details is ingrained in our minds as just one more step in the process, not as a new time-sucking step. Ultimately, providing box level details should theoretically help us as sellers have an easier time reconciling issues with lost inventory from shipments during the check-in process, which makes the entire process worth it, in my mind.

To read for yourself the Amazon guidelines about providing box level details, click here.

Have you been using the web form or Excel sheet to provide box level details on your Amazon FBA shipments? Do you have any advice to add on this topic? Please let us hear from you in the comments!

How to Read & Understand CamelCamelCamel Graphs

CCC TutorialHave you ever looked at a CamelCamelCamel graph and thought, “Are you sure those are prices and sales ranks? It looks more like the results of a lie detector test.”

If so, this blog post should help you get a basic understanding of what is involved in reading a CamelCamelCamel price or sales rank history graph while you’re sourcing for your Amazon FBA business. Toward the end of this blog post I’ll show you a video walking through how to understand these graphs directly on the CamelCamelCamel website.

You know we talk about CCC all the time on this blog, but that’s because we just don’t source without using this valuable website. We believe you shouldn’t make buying decisions for your Amazon FBA inventory based solely on today’s sales rank and pricing alone; you really need to make decisions based on the historical data.

Let’s start with the price history graph because that’s what comes up first when you search for a product on CamelCamelCamel.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 3.47.11 PM

On the left of the graph you’ll see the range of prices for which this item has been offered on Amazon. Along the bottom of the graph is a range of dates.

On the right side of the graph is a sliding bar where you can adjust the date range visible on the graph to 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or all data available.

You can also adjust the type of pricing information shown in the graph by selecting the price for Amazon (green), 3rd Party New (blue), or 3rd Party Used (red).

Next let’s look at a sales rank graph. You can toggle back and forth between sales rank and pricing history on the tabs above the graph.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 3.50.21 PM

With sales rank, you will find the dates are still located along the bottom of the graph. Now, however, you will find a range of sales ranks along the left side of the graph, with the higher sales rank at the bottom and lower sales rank at the top. Again, you can adjust the sliding bar on the right to show you different date ranges on the sales rank graph.

One handy use of the CamelCamelCamel sales rank graph is to count the sales for a product during a certain period of time. You can tell if a sale has occurred by finding a sharp rise on the sales rank graph, which indicates a sharp drop in the sales rank. When the sales rank drops, it means a sale has occurred; a lower sales rank means more sales.

You can practice counting sales on a sales rank graph that we’ve included here. As you read across the graph from left to right, any time the line has a sharp uptick, that means at least one sale has occurred. If the line rises even more sharply, there were possibly two or more sales.

Go ahead and look at the graph and count how many sales you see.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 3.49.16 PM

How many sales did you get?

We count 36 or 37 sales. There’s no way to know exactly how many sales occurred, but this is our educated guess based on this particular sales rank graph.

If you would like to see a video with a short walk-through of the above information in action on the CamelCamelCamel website (including why we think there were around 36 or 37 sales from the above graph), be sure to check out this CamelCamelCamel Tutorial on our YouTube channel. Also be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel to get notifications when we post new videos (usually 1 or 2 times a week).

I want to encourage you today if you’re making sourcing decisions without using historical sales rank and pricing data from CamelCamelCamel — there is a better way to buy Amazon FBA inventory! You can make smarter sourcing decisions. Your business will hugely benefit if you take the time to learn how to use CamelCamelCamel.

Book & DesktopThis blog post is just scratching the surface on what I can teach you about CamelCamelCamel. To find out everything there is to know about using  CamelCamelCamel to make smart sourcing decisions, be sure to check out our brand new course, The Reseller’s Guide to How to Keepa Camel: Using Amazon Sales History to Make Smart Sourcing Decisions. This course is a combo ebook and video course where I walk you through everything you need to know to make sense of both CamelCamelCamel and Keepa in ways you’ve never thought of.

How about you? Do you use CamelCamelCamel? What is your favorite thing about Camel? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

5 Simple Strategies to Take the Next Step with Your 2016 Amazon FBA Goals

Are you like me when it comes to starting the new year off?

I love new beginnings, love fresh starts, love setting goals and starting over new. Every year we have the opportunity to make it our best year yet.

smart-person-2Hopefully by this time you’ve made some SMARTER goals for your business and for yourself personally. We hope you take this opportunity to dream big, have fun, and set some tremendous goals. If you haven’t seen our post about setting goals for the year, we encourage you to check it out and see how you can set SMARTER goals for yourself and your business in 2016:

  • S – Specific – The better you know your objective, the easier it will be to attain it.
  • M – Measurable – Can the results be measured and compared to the goal?
  • A – Actionable – Can you take action steps to meet this goal?
  • R – Realistic – Are you both willing AND able to meet your goal?
  • T – Time bound – When do you want to accomplish this goal?
  • E – Exciting – Do the goals get you excited about your future?
  • R – Relevant – Do these goals match up with the season of life you are in?

Now that you’ve set your 2016 goals (seriously, stop right now and set some goals if you haven’t already), we’re going to take those goals to the next level. Here are 5 simple strategies for taking your goals to the next level for your Amazon FBA business this year:

1. Write down your goals.

penpad2Often we find ourselves thinking about or talking to other people about our goals, without actually putting pen to paper and writing down a record of our goals. For some reason, however, the physical action of moving a goal from our brain and our mouth down to a piece of paper has an effect on whether we achieve the goal. There’s just something in the process of writing it down that causes people to achieve their goals more often.

2. Break down your goals into smaller goals.

kenya_2808How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break down your huge goals into bite-sized pieces so you can keep your forward momentum.

For example, if your goal is to double your sales by the end of the year, then figure out the halfway point and make that a smaller goal for your business. If you made $50k in sales last year and want to double it this year to $100k, go into your account in Seller Central and figure out which day in the previous year you hit $25k in sales. Set a smaller goal for yourself to hit $50k by that date this year.

Another example: You can set smaller goals for your Amazon FBA education. If you set the goal to finish the Proven Wholesale Course by February, you could set smaller goals that will help you complete the course on time. Look at the modules, see how many there are, then figure out when you should finish each of the modules in order to reach your February goal.

3. Put your goals on your calendar.

If-it-doesn-t-get-scheduled-It-will-never-get-doneOnce you know what your bite-sized goals are, write your deadlines on your calendar or put them in your calendar app. Having the deadlines on your calendar means you will see them regularly and will keep your goals fresh in your mind.

Even more important than putting those deadlines on the calendar, though, is scheduling time to work on your goals. Make an appointment with yourself to work on achieving your goals. You make time for the things in life that are a priority. If your goals are a priority, you will set aside time where no one can interrupt you as you make progress on your goals. You’re much more likely to actually do something if it’s scheduled in your calendar.

4. Find accountability for working on your goals.

AccountabilityWe all need someone to walk with us in life as we make progress towards our goals. I’m not talking about just posting your goals on Facebook for all your “friends” to see. That’s not true accountability. No one is going to come back in a month and check on that post and see how you’re doing.

Find a specific person who has experience in the area of your goal who you can talk to regularly and who will call you out when needed — someone who will ask you honestly about your progress. You don’t have to tell one person all your goals — that could get overwhelming for your accountability partner. But maybe you could tell your spouse one goal, tell a friend in the Amazon business another one, tell your sister another one. And with all of these people, make sure you’re giving, not just taking in the relationship. Accountability works best when it’s mutual, not a one-way street.

5. Review your goals regularly.

shutterstock_117743374-review-600pxStephen and I set ten really big goals for 2016, three personal goals and seven business goals. We will review these goals throughout the year, the same way we did last year. Towards the end of each month we have a budget meeting to go over our family finances, and we also review our goals at the same time. We remind ourselves of our motivations for reaching those goals, look at our progress, decide if they’re still relevant (in 2015, we completely deleted one goal by August because it no longer applied to our life situation; for another 2015 goal, we reached it in July instead of December!), and figure out the next step to take to keep moving forward.

For some people, a weekly review is good, for others quarterly, but for us a monthly review works best. Again, it’s crucial to put this review time on the calendar, or it’s too easy to forget to do it. We challenge you today to put a reminder on your phone or in your calendar for a monthly review of your goals for the next 12 months.

403a88a5d63b40347827bce7e74afd12If you follow the steps above, you’re much more likely to accomplish your goals in the time you set for yourself than if you just hope and wish that you’ll achieve them. Dreams are good, but we don’t want you to just live your life on dreams. We want you to develop plans that will help your dreams become reality. Some of you have some amazing long-term goals for your FBA business (like paying off your mortgage or other debt, being able to stay home with your kids, finding freedom from your corporate job). Working towards your 2016 goals will also help you achieve your long-term goals and achieve them faster.

Please leave a comment below and let us know how you’ll use these 5 strategies for making progress on your 2016 goals. What is your next action step? Did you put a reminder on your phone for your regular goal review? Did you schedule a time to work on your goals this week? Let us know!

 

Overcoming Your Fear of Going Deep on Inventory Items

Going Deep“Should I go deep on this item?”
“How deep should I go on this item?”
“What does it mean to ‘go deep’ on an item?”

These are all questions we get on a regular basis, whether in blog comments, in Facebook groups, or on Periscope. One of the universal fears of being an online seller is going too deep on an item and having it bust.

If you were to summarize the risk involved with being an Amazon FBA seller in a nutshell, it would come down to this: knowing how much money to invest in which items.

I have some good news and bad news about the fear we’re covering today in our blog series. Which news do you want first? Never mind, let’s get the bad news out of the way first…

We can’t make a perfect decision every time. We all make mistakes. And sometimes we learn best through trial and error. Even when it comes to deciding how deep to go on an item.

risk_reductionThe good news is really great news, though. We have the ability to refine your decision-making process and reduce the risk of going deeper than we should. Notice I said reduce, not eliminate. There will always be variables out of our control and ways that we can’t predict future sales. But if we focus on the factors we do know and we can control, then we can increase the likelihood of making profitable decisions concerning how much inventory to buy.

As we’re handling our fear today of going deep on inventory items, here’s a set of questions to ask ourselves in the buying process:

#1 How much capital do I have to invest?

CDKVGS1WIAERLcvThis first question may seem too basic, but you would be surprised how many people don’t know their numbers in their business. It’s impossible, however, to make solid buying decisions if you aren’t aware of 1) how much money you have available to invest and 2) how much you have tied up already in inventory. Once you know those numbers, you can look at the buy cost of the item you’re considering and come up with a good idea of how much money you’re willing to tie up in this new inventory.

Also, look at the percentage of your inventory that will be tied up in this investment. Even if something looks to be a sure deal, it’s super risky to have too great a percentage of your total inventory tied up in one product.

#2 What is the sales rank of the item on Amazon? Better questions: What is the sales rank history? What is the current sales velocity?

salesrank-camelchart-locale-usasin-b0011457neforce-1zero-0w-725h-440legend-1ilt-1tp-allfo-0lang-en2014-12-0903_37_29Yes, look at the rank of the item and where it falls in the top-selling items in its Amazon category, absolutely. But you have to do your due diligence to follow through and see if today’s sales rank is a fluke (i.e. a spike from a recent sale in an otherwise slow-selling item) or if it’s the typical rank. Check out the item on camelcamelcamel.com and keepa.com to see how it usually fares compared to today’s rank.

Another important factor to consider is the time of year that you’ll be selling this item. Sales velocity during Q4 can make a 100,000-ranked toy a different bet than in, say, July. If you buy deep in this item now, will you be able to sell it quickly? Or will you need to be patient to sell out over a longer period of time?

#3 How many sellers are on this item?

competitionYou need to know and consider your competition. Looking at the number of sellers and the sales velocity, how likely is it that you will lose profit margin on this item if other sellers drop their prices and you try to stay competitive? Along with the number of sellers, you should also consider how much your competition has in stock (see this blog post to learn how to see your competition’s amount of stock).

For example, a while back we had an item that we were selling and replenishing at a regular pace for several weeks, and suddenly we had an opportunity to buy it in a greater quantity at a lower price. At first this seemed like a great opportunity for us, but after a few calculations based on the number of items we’d been selling per day and the amount of competitors’ stock at the same price, we decided against making a larger purchase. The trend we saw in the numbers indicated that the price was going down faster than our sales would be able to keep up. We sold out of the item a couple of weeks later, and when I checked on this item today it was priced 30% lower than when we were selling it. We made the right decision.

#4 What is the buy cost of the item and the expected sale price?

Will it cost $5 to buy one of this item? $20? $50? $100? Let’s say the ROI is equal, 100% for all these items. If I buy 20 of an item at $5, it takes the same amount of financial investment as buying 1 of a $100 item. The higher my buy cost, the fewer number of items I’ll be able to buy — and the more risk involved in selling that one item if the selling price falls out from underneath me. Now, there is less time and fewer resources invested in prepping and shipping 1 item than in 20, so that’s a consideration also.

I’m not trying to say that you should only buy $5 items or only buy $100 items. I’m saying you should consider all these factors, and that “going deep” can mean only 1 item if it’s a $100 item.

#5 What is my source for this item?

targetstoreIs this a retail or online source at full price that anybody and everybody can find? Will other people be able to stack coupons, cash back, or other discounts to get a better ROI than me, meaning it’s possible that I might have to sacrifice profit margin to stay competitively priced?

Or is this a clearance or discontinued item at a unique location that other people can’t find? If so, it’s less likely that my competition will increase, and I have a better shot at selling at the price I want. Also, I can consider whether this is an item I can buy a few of (whether that’s 1, 2, 5, or 10 depends on your answers to all of the above questions and more) to test out and come back for more if needed. Here you’ll need to consider the distance you’ll have to travel to pick up the items on a return trip, or whether it will sell out at that location before you have time to test.

When it comes down to it, there’s no tried-and-true formula to guarantee that you’ll always know exactly how deep to go on any one particular item of inventory. We all have stories about “the one that got away” (the item we wish we’d gone deeper on, but now we can’t find it again), as well as stories of items that we wouldn’t touch again with a 10-foot pole. Hindsight is 20/20. But we can make smart sourcing decisions if we ask ourselves the right questions.

Are we leaving out any factors that you consider before going deep on an item? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your input!

Overcoming Your Fear of Negotiating a Better Deal

Fear of Negotiating
Have you ever found yourself frustrated after you go into a store, find a lot of items with great sales ranks, only to find the clearance or sale prices are just not low enough to make it worth reselling? Or maybe you’ve been at a garage sale, and the seller has their items priced way too high. If only you could get an additional 50% off… things would be much better. You might already know that asking for an additional percentage off could dramatically increase your return on investment (ROI) on the items you want to buy, but the fear of negotiating is holding you (and your business) back.

Both store managers and those who run garage sales have one goal in mind. They want to sell stuff. Now, the methods they use for achieving that goal differ in some aspects, but overall, they want to sell items without thinking they are losing money. For the rest of this post, I’ll be referring to the person you are negotiating with as the manager.

Before we focus on teaching you some negotiating skills, let’s first talk through the most common fears that are stopping you from negotiating a deal, the most likely worst case scenario, and the truth that will help you overcome your fears.

maxresdefaultFEAR: I’m afraid they will say no.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: They might say no and I will feel rejected.
TRUTH: They are not rejecting you; they are rejecting your offer. I’ve had many store managers tell me that they wish they could sell me more of their clearance items, but simply can’t because their store is out of mark-down money (money that each store gets to use in lowering prices of items they need to sell faster). It’s nothing personal; it’s just how things work sometimes.

What_to_doFEAR: I’m afraid they will ask me questions I’m not ready to answer.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: They might ask you why you want to buy so much or another question related to why you are wanting the deal.
TRUTH: These questions can easily be answered by telling the truth. If you don’t know the answer, just tell them you don’t know. If they ask why you want to buy, just tell them you have an online store and want more inventory. Or just tell them you are an Amazon reseller. Most managers are just asking out of curiosity, not as a factor for giving you the discount.

FEAR: I’m afraid the manager will give me a counter-offer.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: You might offer 50% off, and the manager counters with 20% off.
TRUTH: The best response to this counter-offer is to tell the manager that you would be able to accept his/her offer, but would not be able to buy as many of the items at that percentage off. If the manager doesn’t budge, then you’ll need to research if that deal is still good. I know it will take some time, but you would have to tell the manager that you would need to think about it and get back to him. Then you would need to go through and see what items are worth reselling at the new percentage off.

yes_logoFEAR: I’m afraid the manager will actually say yes.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Um… The manager says yes.
TRUTH: Be sure you are ready to follow through with the purchase. One time I offered to the manager that I would take every single Lego on the clearance aisle if he gave me 50% off the clearance price. At that time I saw about 40 Lego boxes, but as I continued down the aisle I found an additional 50 Lego boxes. I started to fear that we might not have the capital or even space in the car to follow through with this deal. It was a lesson learned that we need to completely think through how we would pay for and process all of the items in the deal if it becomes a successful negotiation.

Ok, now that we’ve addressed these fears, let me give you some good negotiating skills that will help you get to a “yes” much faster than if you didn’t use them.

  1. Be friendly and approachable – The manager is more likely to give a good deal to someone they like. When you first approach a store manager, introduce yourself and give them a firm handshake and a smile.
  2. winwinPresent your offer as how it will benefit them – It’s always good to try and present the deal as a win-win situation. Let them know how you’d love to help clear off the shelf, or that you will help get these slow moving items out of the store. Find a way to make this a win for them.
  3. Ask the manager what discount % they would be comfortable with – One time I was going to ask for 50% off, but when I asked the manager what she could do, she offered me 75% off. Deal!
  4. If you get a no, don’t stop there – Keep talking to the manager and ask questions. Many times, “no” is not the end of the story. Sometimes I’ll find out that next month might be a better time to ask. Other times I find out that I’m talking to the assistant manager, when I really need to be talking to the main manager.
  5. If you get a no, thank them for their time and remain friendly – You’ll never know when they’ll be able to help you out sometime in the future. At one store, I got a “no” 4 times before I finally got a “yes.”
  6. If you get a yes, thank them and be a good customer – Follow through and buy all of the items you said you would. I’ve had managers tell me before that some people offer to clear the shelf, but end up leaving half of the items. Don’t be like that. If you do buy up a lot, help clean up the rest of the shelf so that the manager sees how awesome you are.
  7. No matter what, always leave your contact information – Over the years, I’ve developed relationships with managers who actually call or text me when they have deals I might be interested in. If you follow the above advice, then they will remember you, and sometimes reach out to you with a great deal!

images-2Remember, you’ll probably hear no more than yes, but the time that you spend negotiating toward a yes with a store manager will make all of the times you get a no worth it. The more you ask for a deal, the more often you’ll get a deal… and it helps ease the fears and anxiety you may face when talking with a manager.

Have you ever asked a manager or garage sale seller for a deal? How did it go? Did you have to overcome any fears not listed above? What negotiating skills did you use to work out a good deal? I’d love hear from you in the comments below.

How To Find Which Items are Out of Stock on Amazon

It really happens. Amazon, from time to time, goes completely out of stock on items that sell often. Not only does Amazon go out of stock, but sometimes the 3rd party sellers also go out of stock. When nobody is in stock for a product, Amazon usually hides that product page from customer search results. Amazon is all about providing the best customer experience, so they don’t want customers to find product pages of items that are sold out (sold out product = unhappy customer).

But what if you, as a seller, need to find an item on Amazon, but it’s hidden because no one is currently selling it? Also, what if you wanted to find out which items are sold out on Amazon so you can go source those items yourself and meet the demand (for a pretty penny, of course)? How do you find the items on Amazon that are out of stock?

Here’s how to do it:

  1. On Amazon.com, enter in the search bar the item you are looking for (Note: this works on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or the full Amazon site on your smart phone’s browser app).
  2. Scroll through the first few pages of results to see if you can find your item.
  3. If you can’t find it, scroll up to the top of the page and pick a category to narrow your search results. Pick the most likely category.
  4. After you pick a category, a new search button will appear on the left column. Near the bottom of the “Show Results For” section, you can click the button for “Include Out of Stock.”
  5. Now you can scroll though the results again and see the items that are both in and out of stock. The out of stock items will not have a price listed with the image. You might find what you are looking for.

91cjwABNIVL._SL1500_Let’s run this tutorial through with a real life example. Imagine you are out at a thrift store and find a brand new Masters of the Universe Castle Grayskull. You scan the barcode on your smart phone, but get no results. You try a keyword search on the Amazon app, but you still get nothing. Here’s what to do next:

  1. Open the browser app on your smart phone and go to Amazon.com. If it shows you a mobile version of Amazon, be sure to click on “Full site.” In the Amazon search bar, type: “Castle Grayskull” 
  2. Scroll through the first few pages of results to see if you can find your item.
  3. If you can’t find it, scroll up to the top of the page and pick a category to narrow your search results. For this item, the category will be Toys & Games. 
  4. Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.20.56 AMAfter you pick a category, a new search button will appear on the left
    column. Near the bottom of the “Show Results For” section, you can click the button for “Include Out of Stock.”
  5. Now you can scroll though the results again and see the items that are both in and out of stock. Remember, the out of stock items will not have a price listed with the image. 
  6. This is what your search results look like at the bottom of the first page:

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 5.43.57 PM

You found it! Now you can do some CamelCamelCamel research and see if this item is something worth selling.

Here’s a tip: If an item has been out of stock for a long time, then obviously the rank of that item will be very high (or zero), but don’t let that stop you from considering selling it. It may have sold well in the past, and if it’s a toy, it might sell come Q4. Remember this blog post on why I bought a toy ranked over 1 million? That toy sold very quickly. Rank is not always an indicator of sales velocity.

Another tip on discovering if an item will sell quickly is to look at the Amazon product reviews. If people have posted multiple recent reviews, then it should sell fairly quickly. 

IEBay_logo.svgf CamelCamelCamel does not contain enough data for you to make an informed buying or pricing decision and you still need help getting more information, then another tip is to look on eBay. You can use the Advanced Search link on eBay to see what buyers are paying for that item. Basically, do as much research as you can to make a smart sourcing decision. 

If you do all this searching and don’t see the item you are looking for, then you could potentially have a very high priced item on your hands. You can either create an Amazon product page for that board game or consider selling it on eBay. If you want to create a product page on Amazon, then here are a few resources that can 116_1409831933help you create and optimize it for quick sales:

  1. The Beginners Guide to Creating Professional Amazon Listings
  2. Amazon Advantage: How to Create Product Listings That Sell

BONUS TIP – If you found an item so rare that both Amazon and eBay are not
selling it, then here is a tip that might make you a lot of profit. If you are patient and don’t need to make a quick return on this item, then I would price it at least
four times what I assume I’d actually be able to sell it for. Since you are
the only person offering this item, you could possibly command a huge price. If, after a month or so, you don’t get a sale, then I’d start to lower the price by about $25 a month until it amazon12-1finally sells. Remember, if you only have one left of an item in stock, Amazon puts that information on the sales page, so it’s very likely that someone will want to pay a high price for this very rare item.

Now it’s your turn. See if you can find this exact Lion Pillow Pet on Amazon following my instructions above. Let me know in the comments if you were able to find it. 

Note: This toy is currently ranked 162,000 in Toys & Games so it might not be sold out for long! 

Spring Cleaning for a Profitable FBA Business

spring cleaning

It’s Spring! This is the perfect time of year to do a little Spring cleaning of your inventory.

Let me ask you a question. How often do you look at your inventory at Amazon? For most sellers, we don’t take a look all that often. Sure, we might look at our inventory levels, but how often do we really look at each item in our inventory? Here are a few “Spring Cleaning” ideas:

1. Reprice your really old items to sell as soon as possible. 
2. Remove or destroy older items that will never sell.
3. Remove or destroy older items that are no longer profitable. 
4. Delete your old inactive inventory items. 

Inventory Seller Central 1Before I break all these down and explain why I make these suggestions, let me tell you how I’m able to sort my inventory and see what items I’ve had at a FBA warehouse the longest. Log in to Seller Central and click on the Inventory tab. The default settings will show you the newest items that you’re selling via FBA. To sort from the oldest to newest, just click on the little triangle under the “Date Opened” text. This will show you the items you’ve been selling the longest. When you are making your “Spring Cleaning” decisions, be sure to ignore any items that you constantly replenish. 

Ok, now that you know how to sort your inventory to see what items you’ve been selling on Amazon the longest, let’s break down why you should clean up your inactive inventory. 

1. Reprice your really old items to sell as soon as possible. 

price-tag-267x300Many Amazon sellers look at the price of their items only one time: when they originally price them. As we all know, our items are never perfectly priced. Competition comes in from other sellers who seem to always lower the price. Not only that, but new products are added to the Amazon catalog every day, and so not only do you have competition with other sellers, but your inventory item has competition from other like items. 

It’s always a good idea to take a look at the items that have been in your inventory the longest, and then price these items to sell quickly. Maybe that Atkins cookbook was priced perfectly at $14.99 back in January of 2014, but today it looks like it’s selling for about $5.99. It looks like it’s time to reprice it at around $5.99. You’ve had that item in stock long enough, and based on CamelCamelCamel data, it doesn’t look like you’ll get your $14.99 price again. Reprice that book, get some capital back, and reinvest it in items that will bring back a good ROI much faster.  

For more reading on repricing, check out my blog posts on how to manually reprice and my top 6 repricing strategies

Spring Cleaning Just Ahead Green Road Sign and Clouds2. Remove or destroy older items that will never sell.

Go back again and take a look at your oldest inventory items. Unfortunately, some of these items might never ever sell. I say “might” because you never know, but there are a few things you can look at to see that the probability of certain items selling again is less than .01%. Here are items to potentially remove from your inventory:

A. Items that no longer have a sales rank. 

That cassette tape of ZZTop’s Greatest Hits might have had a sales rank in 2014 when you first bought it, but now it no longer registers a rank. If Amazon doesn’t even give it a sales rank, then it has not sold in a long, long, LONG time*. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.22.55 AM copyB. Items that have a ridiculously high sales rank

There comes a point where it’s time to stop waiting for an item to sell. You’ve had the buy box for months and the item never sells. Maybe it’s an office product that was ranked 9,000 when you bought it at Goodwill, but now it’s ranked 1 million. Yes, there are over 5 million items in the whole Office Products category, but that’s still an incredibly high rank. Unless I’m the only seller for this item and there are no other product pages for this item, then I’m going to have it removed. Always check CamelCamelCamel for sales rank history, but sometimes it’s just best to let go of the items with crazy high sales ranks. 

*A note about sales rank: Amazon does not assign a sales rank to some electronic items, even though they might be selling often. No one is really sure why this is, but it happens. The best way to see if an electronic item has sold lately is to check the product reviews. If it’s still getting recent reviews, then it’s probably still selling. To read more of my thoughts on sales ranks in the Electronics category, click here

3. Remove or destroy older items that are no longer profitable. 

Maybe when you purchased that hardback novel, it was selling for $11.99 on Amazon. But now the best prices from both FBA and MF (merchant fulfilled) are all at $3.99. Even if you sell the book at $3.99, you still won’t make a profit. You might even lose money if you sell it… so what do you do? Wait for the hundreds of other sellers to sell out at $3.99 and hope the price returns to $11.99? No. It’s time to let it go, create a removal order, and move on. 

Note: Amazon is currently offering free removal orders until April 30 2016, so now is the absolute best time to create a removal order to either destroy or return an item from your inventory.

00_lead_image_delete_key4. Delete your old inactive inventory items. 

Go through your inactive inventory and delete anything that’s over 6 months to a year old. These are items you once had in stock, but have not had in stock for a very, very long time. The only reason you would need to keep these items is if you plan on getting them back in stock. 

The best reason to delete old inactive inventory items is to protect yourself as a seller. At random times, Amazon will declare a particular item or brand as restricted. There are too many reasons to list why Amazon would suddenly restrict an item that it once sold hundreds of, but they do this often with specific items and brands. If Amazon sees too many of these listings in your active or even your inactive inventory, they could potentially shut down your Amazon seller account. I’ve heard on several occasions of Amazon sellers who had their account shut down because they had 4-5 items in their inactive inventory that were now restricted. It took the sellers months (not to mention a lot of pain and agony) to get their accounts reinstated. While this is an extreme situation that would only happen to a small amount of people, it’s still not worth risking your Amazon account. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.13.18 PMDeleting your inactive inventory also means you will get fewer “ASIN Change Notification” emails from Amazon. You might remember from this blog post that in order to protect your business, it’s very important to take the right actions each time you get an ASIN Change Notification email from Amazon. What you don’t want to do is waste time dealing with ASIN notifications about items you no longer have in stock and don’t plan on selling again. Even if your inventory item is listed as “inactive,” you will still get an ASIN Change Notification from Amazon. Deleting the old inventory items that have been inactive for quite some time will reduce the amount of ASIN Change Notifications and will free you up to spend your time in more profitable ways. 

I hope these Spring Cleaning ideas help you clean up your inventory so that you can spend more time and money on items that are profitable! Any other Spring Cleaning ideas? If so, feel free to share them in the comment section below. 

How to Run “End of the Year” Inventory & Sales Reports for Tax Purposes

year-end-reportsI admit the topic of “end of year reports” is not all that exciting, but it’s very necessary… in fact, if you don’t do this right it could have some negative impacts on your business.

No matter if you sell on Amazon as a serious income stream or as an occasional hobby, you’re still required to report your income to the IRS. It’s important to know that there are several reports you should be sure to send to your CPA (or whoever is doing your taxes).

Before we go any further I want you to know that I am not a tax specialist or giving you any tax advice. I highly recommend hiring a CPA who is knowledgable of online sales and all the tax implications. Today, I’m only showing you how to get the reports that you need to add to all of your other 2016 tax documents.

dec-31-calendarOk, there is one report that you MUST run on December 31st (or at the very latest, early in the morning on January 1st). This report will let you know how much inventory you have still stored at Amazon at the end of the year. The reason you need to run this report on December 31st is because, as far as I know, Amazon does not currently have an easy-to-use report that tells you what inventory you had in their FBA warehouses on specific dates in the past. The only way to get an accurate printout of the inventory you are rolling over into 2016 is to run this report on December 31st or early on January 1st.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.09.38 PMTo pull this report, follow these simple steps:

  1. Log in to Seller Central.
  2. Hover your pointer over “Reports,” and then select “Fulfillment.”
  3. Under Inventory, click on “Amazon Fulfilled Inventory” on the left side of your screen. you might have to click “Show more” to find it.
  4. Click on the “Request Download” button.
  5. The report status column will state that this report is “In Progress” until it’s completed.
  6. Once the report is completed (usually a minute later), a “Download” button will appear. Press it.
  7. Your report is now downloaded to your computer as a .txt file. Open up the file.
  8. Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.11.07 AMThe text is hard to read, so select all the text (Control A for PC users or Command A for Mac users).
  9. Open up an Excel type spreadsheet and paste the text you just copied. The data will now be more organized.
  10. Save the file with a name like “2016 Amazon Year End Inventory.”

Note: Do not print this document out. If I would have printed my document out, it would have used 784 pages. That’s because the document also contains all of the items in your inventory that are sold out and are at zero quantity. If you rarely (or never) delete any of your MSKUs that you no longer use (because you’re sold out and don’t plan on selling again), then you may have a file even longer than mine. So don’t print the file, but do save it and email it to your CPA (or whoever is doing your taxes).

Other reports on the same Reports/Fulfillment page that your CPA would probably like to see are the following:

 – Monthly Inventory History – Found under Reports, then Fulfillment, then Show More, then Monthly Inventory History. Click on the Download tab and run this report for the full year (choose “last 12 months” for the report time period) and it will show you a monthly breakdown of what you sold each month.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.08.03 PM– Received Inventory – Found under Reports, then Fulfillment, then Show More, then Received Inventory. Click on the Download tab and run this report choosing “last 12 months” as your time period. This shows what inventory items Amazon received from you this year.

Note: As with the “Year End Inventory” report, be sure to move the report over to a spreadsheet program (like Excel or Google Sheets) so that it’s easier for you or your CPA to read.

When you run these reports, don’t forget to choose “last 365 days” or “last 12 months”  for your report dates. You want the reports for the whole year, not just the current month.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.04.28 AMYour CPA would also like to see a report of your sales, fees, and income from Amazon. The way to find and run this report is a little different than above, so here is how you do it:

  1. Log in to Seller Central.
  2. Hover your mouse over “Reports,” and then select “Payment.”
  3. Click on the “Date Range Reports” tab.
  4. Click on the “Generate Report” button.
  5. Select Report Type: Summary
  6. Select Date Range: Custom
  7. Enter in the date range you want. For tax purposes enter “01/01/2016 – 12/31/2016”
  8. Click “Generate” to get the report started.
  9. Once the report is ready, it will be available to download.

Note: If you are running this report before December 31st, then the report will not be ready to download until January 2nd. Set a reminder somewhere to come back and download the report on January 2nd. If you are running this report after January 2nd, then it should be ready to download in a few minutes.

Get all of these reports to your CPA ASAP. You really don’t want to be late on getting the tax process started. Again, if you don’t have a CPA, I highly recommend getting one as soon as possible. It’s costly, but you want to be sure your numbers are right, and you want a professional to do the work that would eat up way too much of your time if you did it yourself.

Of course, these aren’t the only numbers you’ll need to give to your CPA. They will also need to know your cost of goods (you logged your receipts, right?) and any other business-related expenses that will deduct from your sales numbers.

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Make 2017 your Best Amazon Sales Year Ever! 

Imagine knowing exactly what to expect in your Amazon FBA business every month of the year.

Imagine what it would feel like knowing you were not missing out on any of the opportunities that will come your way in 2017.

Imagine working on your Amazon business knowing exactly what your priorities are, what you need to avoid, and what you need to accomplish during each month to make progress toward making 2017 your best sales year ever.

On January 10, the price of this book will be going up permanently. Find out more about The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business today. The package includes a 200-page ebook, monthly live webinars, and 4 special bonuses.

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If you liked this post and found it helpful, scroll back up to the top and subscribe to the blog. I’ll update you about once a week with helpful tips on how you can make a full-time income with FBA.

Ok, 2016 is almost over. What other things are you doing during the last week of the year in order to prepare for 2017? I’d love to hear what you’re up to this week!

How to Find the Number of Items in Each Amazon Category (plus a freebie!)

it_photo_107887One of the most frequent questions I get in my inbox from Amazon sellers like you is this one:

How can I find out how many items are in an Amazon category?

Before I show you my quick and easy process that I use to find out how many items are in a particular Amazon category, I want to talk about why it’s important to know this information.

IMG_2322When you’re out sourcing for profitable products to sell on Amazon, you’re probably looking at two main pieces of information: the item’s ROI and its sales rank. Sure, there are other factors that go into whether or not you decide to buy something to sell on Amazon, but those are usually the main two numbers you consider.

The first number we usually look at is the potential ROI of the product. We want to make sure we are going to make money selling this item on Amazon. Not only do we want to make a profit, but we also want to make sure we have some wiggle room in case the price of the item goes down.

The second number we usually look at is the sales rank. This is the number that gives us a glimpse into the potential speed of the item selling. The lower the sales rank number is, the faster it should sell. There are so many different things to think about when looking at sales rank, but most people agree that an item with a sales rank consistently in the top 5% of its category is a potential fast flip. This is not always the case, but for most items and categories, it is.

So, one really smart sourcing tip is to learn the sales ranks of each category and what sales rank numbers are in the top 5% of said category. How do we do this? With simple math.

Number of items in category x .05 = Top 5% of that category.

Ok, here is the simple way I find out how many products Amazon has in their individual categories:

1. Go to Amazon.com and choose the category you want to know about. 
2. Type the minus or dash symbol immediately followed by a few random letters (yes, really). 
3. Click on “Go” or just do a hard return on your keyboard. 
4. The results will show you how many items are in that category currently. 

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 10.09.37 AM

Using this method, I’ll show you how I found out how many items are in the Toys and Games category.

1. I went to Amazon and chose the Toys and Games category
2. I typed in “-flksjhdflkjsh” (without quotes) in the search bar.  
3. I clicked on “Go.”
4. The results showed me that there are currently 2,609,918 items in the Toys and Games category. 
 

Keep reading, because I have a free download that will save you tons of time… But first, a few more thoughts about Amazon product pages and sales rank.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.20.56 AM The little trick above will only show you the number of items in a particular category that Amazon currently has in stock. If you wanted to include the out of stock items in this equation, you would simply need to scroll down and check “Include Out of Stock” and you will then get the numbers of every item in the Amazon catalog for that category. I don’t suggest this because some of the items that are “out of stock” have been out of stock for years and don’t need to be included in your overall search. In fact, if you include the out of stock items when looking at the Toys & Games category, the number of items in the catalog jumps from 2.6 million to over 5.1 million.

Amazon both adds and subtracts items to their catalog daily, so it’s probably a good idea to check back from time to time to make sure your numbers are up to date. You don’t need to check back daily, but I would suggest looking at the numbers about once a quarter.

The trick above also works with some of the sub categories. Say you want to find out how many games there are in the toy category. All you’d need to do is the “-jgojfojf” search for Toys, and then click on the sub category of Games on the left side column. By searching today, you would find that there are currently 329,630 games. This might be some good information to know, but if you’re using a scouting app like Profit Bandit, the app usually only returns the sale rank for the main categories.

Different categories have their own personalities. From my experience, in some categories, the top 5% is a good number to aim for, while in other categories, an item near the 5% mark might still take a long time to sell. Other categories I think it’s ok to expand to the top 10%… but you only begin to know this over time as you see what sells quickly and what takes a longer time than expected. And don’t be afraid of long tail items (items that take a long time to sell, but bring back a return well worth the wait).

salesrank-camelchart-locale-usasin-b0011457neforce-1zero-0w-725h-440legend-1ilt-1tp-allfo-0lang-en2014-12-0903_37_29Sales ranks are fluid… they change many times a day. When you see a sales rank, you’re seeing a snapshot of the popularity at that moment. A book might have a sales rank of 4 million one day, and then the day after it sells, the rank could jump all the way to 600,000. That’s a huge leap, but one that happens daily. For more of my tips on sales ranks, be sure to check out these blog posts.

FREEBIE!!

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.20.05 AMOk, so now that you know how to find out how many items are in each of Amazon’s product categories, and you know the formula for finding which items are in the top 5%, what if I just gave you a free download that gives you all this info for free? Sound good? I’ll go a step even further… if you click the image to the right, you can have a FREE PDF emailed to you that contains every main Amazon category broken up into the top 10%, 5%, and top 1%. The data on the PDF is updated every 2 months, so it’s the most accurate data around. All you need to do is click the button below and in a few minutes, you’ll get your PDF download for free.

Click To Get Your FREE Amazon Sales Rank PDF

After you grab your free PDF, then it’s your turn… Go to Amazon, pick a random category, and use my little trick above.  I’d love if you’d comment below how many products are currently in that category. Ready? Set… Go!

Top 5 things you NEED to do when you get an ASIN Change Notification

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.13.18 PMEver since I started selling on Amazon, I would randomly get emails notifying me that some ASINs I am selling were recently updated. For my first few months of selling on Amazon, I just ignored these emails and thought I had better things to do. I assumed innocently that these ASIN changes were probably just improvements to the product page, and that I didn’t need to investigate. Boy, was I naive and wrong. I quickly learned that there are many profitable action points that I need to do every time I get one of these emails.

Most of the time when an ASIN is updated, it means that someone is trying to improve the ASIN’s product page listing information. Maybe some good keywords were added, or the item had some additional information added that would help increase sales. I would say that 95% of the time, this is true, but the other 5% of the time, the changes actually hurt the item page and could also hurt you as a seller. Whether the changes come from a malicious and deceitful Amazon seller or just a newbie that doesn’t know any better, these changes must be checked in order to protect you, your seller metrics, and your bottom line. I’ll explain more of this below as I give you the top 5 things I check every time I get an ASIN change notification email from Amazon.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 3.43.01 PM1. Product Title – I think I’ve seen it all… I’ve seen product titles that were one word long and some that were paragraphs long. I’ve seen them contain spelling mistakes and written in other languages. I’ve seen product titles that tried to contain HTML and others that were not even talking about the item that was pictured. The product title is one of the most important pieces of information that Amazon uses to help buyers find what they want (especially the first 3 words of the title). So it’s vital that the updated title be accurate, spelled correctly, and contain a few additional keywords.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.27.30 AM2. Product Description – Unfortunately, some people don’t know what they are talking about and really make a mess of the product descriptions. I’ve had an item in my inventory where someone added to the description that it was a 4-pack, when in reality it was one toy that contained 4 parts to the toy. This is not a 4-pack. A 4-pack is when there are 4 copies of the same item. To make things even worse, sometimes some sellers actually do change a product from being one item to being a multi-pack. This change could really be bad if you start selling an item that is a 1-pack, but then someone else updates it to a 6-pack. You could have a really upset buyer leave nasty feedback for you if they only receive one item when they are expecting a 6-pack.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.20.52 AMOther sellers sometimes are doing mass updates and accidentally cut and paste info from one item and paste it on the wrong item. I’ve also seen when someone puts an external link in a product description to buy that item on another website. These external links are against Amazon’s rules! Not only that, but they are taking sales away from you.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.25.17 AMLike I said, some people who are trying to update the product pages are newbies. Most new Amazon sellers are coming over from eBay and assume that if they need to state something specific about their particular item, they need to update the product page, when in reality they just need to make note of what they want shared in their condition notes.

3. Product Type – Most of these updates are in reference to category changes within the Amazon catalog. Again, it’s so important that each item be placed in the correct category. Some Amazon sellers will try to sneak certain items in the wrong category because they are gated in the correct category. For example, someone might not be approved to sell in clothing (a gated category that requires approval to sell), so they try to change the category to toys, books, or another category that they are already approved to sell in.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.53.28 PMOn the other hand, some people try to game the system by getting products changed to be in gated categories. For example, if one seller is approved to sell in shoes, then maybe they’ll try to get that toy to be moved to the shoe category, so that there will be fewer sellers approved to be the competition for that item. It’s sneaky and wrong, but people do it. Ultimately, you want these items to be in the correct category. When an item is in the right category, then it’s more easily found by buyers who are searching for it.

4. Product Key Words – Some Amazon sellers have thought that adding unrelated key words would boost their product in the search rankings. Unfortunately, this not what you want. You want the item to have the best key words that actually relate to the item. Some people even add lines to the product description that could get that item completely removed from Amazon. I once saw a grocery item that had the keyword “e-cigs” added, and those are not even allowed to be sold on Amazon.

71NGQMCh2QL._SL1500_5. Shipping Weight – Most of the time, the updated shipping weights come from Amazon themselves, but other times they are changed by a seller who sells merchant fulfilled items from home. The higher the shipping weight is, the more money they can make from shipping costs. For example: If Amazon thinks it should cost $6.00 to ship a one pound item, but the item actually only weights 8 ounces, then the merchant fulfilled shipper gets $6.00 to mail something that should only cost them $3.00. How does this effect an FBA seller? If someone is not a Prime buyer and buys your item, then it’s possible that they could be overpaying for shipping and therefore become an unhappy customer who is ready to leave you negative feedback.

Note: To check on your inventory items, simply follow the link in the ASIN Change Notification email that states: “Click here to vote to disagree with the decision to make the ASIN detail page changes below.”

When you click on this link, Amazon will take you to a page telling you what items are being updated, what the new details are, and what the previous details were. You then have the option to disagree with the update. If you agree with the changes, all you need to do is scroll down and click “Nothing to disagree.” On the other hand, if you do disagree, then you can click “disagree” on the items you think do not need to be updated. You then have the option to express why you disagree. Remember to keep your response short, as to not confuse the Amazon worker who is responding to all of these ASIN change disagreement notifications. After you explain your reason for disagreeing, you can then scroll down and click “Submit Votes.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.44.57 PM

It can be somewhat time consuming to check on each of these items one by one to verify that the changes are accurate, but in the end it will be worth it to protect your seller metrics and ultimately your bottom line.

If you notice something is incorrect or just flat out wrong, then vote “Disagree” and tell Amazon what you think the correct details of that product should be.

Some of you may have turned this notification off in your Seller Central preferences. If you want to protect your inventory and bottom line, I suggest turning the notifications back on.

price-tag-267x300BONUS TIP – When ASINs are updated, it often means that someone new is selling the item and that you now have additional competition. It’s likely that they are updating the ASIN because they have multiple copies of that product in stock. When the ASIN is updated, it’s probably a good idea to go and check your competition and make sure your item is priced competitively. For more on repricing your inventory, click here.

So how about you? What crazy ASIN updates have you seen? Do you have any additional tips on how to make the most of the ASIN Change Notification emails? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.