Category Archives: Sourcing

Improve the Customer Experience: Think Like an Amazon Customer

One thing Amazon wants to be known for is having the most customer-centric online marketplace in the world. Amazon truly takes “the customer is always right” to the extreme – just look at their super lenient return policy if you need an example. They want happy customers. Customers who will come back again and again. Customers who trust Amazon. Customers who leave raving reviews. Customers who tell all their friends how much they love Amazon.

Amazon wants the customer experience on their website to be the best in the world.

And that’s a phrase you as an Amazon FBA seller should remember and ingrain into your psyche: the customer experience. If you can begin to focus on how you as a seller can contribute to the customer experience on Amazon, you can begin to increase your profits and decrease your returns as an FBA seller.

The easiest way to make this mindset shift is to think like an Amazon customer. Shift away from always thinking like an Amazon seller…shift toward thinking like an Amazon customer.

Shift away from thinking only about your bottom line as a seller…shift toward thinking about how the customer will react when they open your product after their delivery arrives.

One tendency many of us resellers have developed over time is frugality. We are always on the lookout for a good deal, and we’re willing to overlook some minor flaws in order to save a few bucks. When customers go to Amazon, however, to purchase new items, they are looking for good deals but not at the expense of quality. They don’t want to receive an item with dinged up packaging or crushed corners. They want their merchandise to arrive in pristine, gift-quality condition.

As resellers, we absolutely cannot send in inventory to FBA warehouses that will cause customers to lose trust in Amazon or have an unpleasant customer experience. We must look for ways to positively impact the customer experience by providing quality merchandise. And when we give customers a great experience, it can increase our profits by giving us more sales, more product reviews, and more positive feedback.

Here’s how your contribution to the customer experience can increase your profits:

  • Thinking like an Amazon customer opens your eyes to see more items to source. Too often when we’re sourcing we pass up quality inventory because we think, “No one would ever buy that!” But if you’re thinking like an Amazon customer, your mind is open to the possibility that even the oddest item could be something customers are searching for. Scan everything (we use the Scoutify app), and don’t just disqualify items because you personally would never be interested in buying them. Pay attention to sales ranks and sales rank history, and you’ll begin to learn trends in what Amazon customers are buying.
  • Thinking like an Amazon customer helps you find higher ROI items. ROI is return on investment – and in general we as Amazon sellers want to get the biggest ROI possible. As you’re scanning items and keeping an open mind about what customers are looking for, you can start finding items that other sellers would overlook, but that have great ROI potential! Often we make assumptions that items aren’t worth anything, but when we do the work of 1) thinking like a customer on the search for these types of items, 2) scanning anything that fits the description of what an Amazon customer would be looking for, and 3) paying attention to sales rank and how it works in different categories, then we can start finding items that stand out and have higher ROI than if we just follow what every other seller is doing and chase after the latest BOLO.

Now let’s look at the other side of this coin of thinking like an Amazon customer. Here’s how you can begin to decrease your return rate:

  • Think like an Amazon customer while you’re sourcing. When you’re sourcing for inventory, the biggest way you can positively impact your return rate is to stop sourcing borderline items. It may be a hard habit to break, but for the sake of your seller account, I highly recommend you not buy items that are at all questionable as to their condition – and that includes packaging. No more dinged tins, crushed corners, broken plastic, or missing shoebox lids. The reseller thinks, “They’re just going to throw the box away. What difference does it make?” But the customer thinks, “What’s the deal? Why is this packaging all messed up? Is something wrong with the item also? Guess I should return it.” While you’re standing there in the clearance aisle sourcing, stop looking at the dollar signs on your scanning app for a moment and think about how your customer would feel opening an Amazon box and finding this particular item. Would they be pleased with their purchase? Or would they be disappointed because of how it’s presented? There are plenty of high quality inventory finds out there for you to source, so if you think the customer will be disappointed at all with the item in your hand, put that item down and keep moving down the aisle. Your return rate will thank you.
  • Think like an Amazon customer while you’re listing. When you’re listing your items for sale on Amazon, always round down on the condition. You’re not going to be making it out of the store with borderline items anymore, right? But sometimes inventory items make it home with you and you find out too late that there’s a defect in the packaging or something else about the item that makes it not in new condition. In these cases, always round down on the condition. Do not list them as new. List them as like new or very good.

Think like an Amazon customer. If someone buys a book in like new or very good condition, but they open it up and see that it’s way better than they imagined, they’re going to be pleased (and possibly leave you positive seller feedback). On the other hand, if they order a new book but open it up to find it has shelf wear of any kind, that book might be on the fast track to your return pile (and your seller feedback might take a hit). Always round down on the condition, not up.

It’s not worth it to make 5 extra dollars on a sale but risk the return or the impact on your seller account – it’s not even worth it to make $50 extra! Amazon sellers must stop putting their bottom line ahead of the customer experience.

It may seem counterintuitive to think like an Amazon customer, but really, try it! Next time you’re out sourcing or back at the computer listing, start thinking about your products and how a customer would respond to these products if they receive them in an Amazon shipment. It may sound crazy, but thinking this way will begin to increase your profits and decrease your returns.

Have you found some ways to think like an Amazon customer? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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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 this year. 

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 this year your best sales year ever.

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.

How to Increase Your Amazon FBA ASP (Average Selling Price)

Today’s post is a follow-up to the previous article we posted about why you should consider trying to raise your ASP, or average selling price. If you haven’t read that first article yet, you might want to refer to it before diving into this one.

For a quick review, your ASP is the average amount of money you make in sales per item you sell on Amazon. Raising your ASP has some great benefits to add to your Amazon FBA business.

But HOW do you go about raising your ASP?

It might seem easier said than done, but the reality is you can take a few steps to impact your ASP and give your Amazon FBA profits a boost. Here are our suggestions for increasing your ASP:

1. Set a minimum selling price parameter.

A while back, we made the decision in our Amazon FBA business to stop sourcing items that are selling for under $10-$12 on Amazon. Even if we could make 100% ROI on an item that is selling for $8 or $9, we decided to stop sourcing those items and focus our sourcing on higher priced items. When we eliminated the low-priced items from our sourcing strategy, we had more money to focus on buying higher-priced items – partly because we could add up the saved sourcing money to go towards higher-priced items and partly because we were saving money in fees and prep costs when we raised our ASP and lowered our overall number of units sold.

The $10-$12 range is what we chose for our minimum, but for other people that amount might be different. This type of minimum sales price might affect a lot of booksellers or others who (like us in years past) are dependent on high volumes of low-priced toy sales. Overall, though, we have found that eliminating those super low-priced items from our inventory has been the biggest practical step towards raising our ASP.

2. Consider selling bundles or multi-packs.

Multi-packs are multiples of the same item for sale on Amazon. Bundles are a group of items with a similar use or theme for sale on Amazon.

If you follow the Amazon guidelines, you can create your own bundles for sale and increase your ASP per unit sold over the ASP if you sold all of those individual items from your bundle separately instead. If you’re interested in learning more about selling bundles on Amazon, I recommend The Book of Bundles.

For multi-packs, you can no longer create a multi-pack if it doesn’t already exist on Amazon, but you can list a multi-pack of items if it’s already available in the Amazon catalog. Like bundles, multi-packs offer a great way to raise your ASP per unit sold over the ASP if you sold each of those items from your multi-pack separately instead.

Once again, you also save money in fees if you sell items in a bundle or multi-pack instead of individually. For example, if you sell 5 individual units of a $10 grocery item, you would make $50 in sales, but you would have to pay 5 sets of FBA fees. If you sold it as a multi-pack of 5 for $50, you would still make $50 in sales, but you would only have one round of FBA fees to worry about.

3. Source higher-priced items.

It might seem obvious, but sometimes we need to get back to the basics of the topic we’re trying to learn – if you want to raise your ASP, you need to have higher-priced items in your inventory. You can’t sell high-priced items if you don’t have high-priced items available for Amazon customers to buy.

The easiest way we found for selling higher-priced items in our FBA business was to add shoes to our inventory. Our ASP in the Shoes category is about $70, and our overall ASP across all categories combined has risen to $47 now that shoes are a main staple in our Amazon inventory.

When we talk to other sellers about adding shoes to their Amazon inventory, we often get asked, “Isn’t Shoes a restricted category? Isn’t it hard to get ungated?” And the answer is YES Shoes is a gated category, but NO it’s not hard to get ungated in Shoes right now. If you want more info about how to get ungated in the Shoes category, you can click here to download our free guide for the shoe approval process. If you want to read more on our blog about selling shoes on Amazon, you can click here for the blog series.

Shoes aren’t the only higher-priced items you can source. Other sellers like to sell electronics to raise their ASP. Some sellers go with high-priced toys to raise their ASP. Whichever category you like to focus on, there are ways to start sourcing higher-priced items as a step towards raising your overall ASP.

Those are the top 3 ways that we have impacted our ASP and raised it to a point where we’ve seen an increase in our disbursements and a significant boost in our Amazon FBA business. Do you have any other tips or tricks you would add to this list? Please leave us a comment below!

Why You Should Consider Raising Your ASP (Average Selling Price)

Did you see that we recently released a PDF of Amazon acronyms you can print out and refer to in your FBA business? If not, you can grab a copy of the acronym list here as a handy reference.

One of the acronyms at the top of that list is ASP: average selling price. Over the next couple of blog posts, we’re going to discuss ASP and how it impacts your business.

Your ASP is the average amount of money you make in sales per item you sell on Amazon. ASP is calculated by dividing the dollar amount of sales by the number of items sold. To find your ASP, follow these steps:

  • Log in to Seller Central.
  • Hover over Reports.
  • Click on Business Reports.
  • Check out your Sales Snapshot – your ASP is the amount listed for “Avg. sales/order item.”

Why is it important for you to know your ASP and why is it important to increase your ASP?

I really believe that an Amazon FBA business needs a higher ASP in order to make it long-term in this business. If selling on Amazon is a business for you and not a hobby, you want to make sure you’re getting paid like a business would pay you. One way to increase your ability to pay yourself out of your business is to increase your ASP.

Sure, there are plenty of people who are able to make good money on Amazon with a lower ASP, for example book sellers or sellers in other categories that depend on high volume at low prices. Depending on your business model, you can really make a lot of money at high volume and low prices. But along with that type of business model also comes more work because you’re having to find and sell more items in order to make that volume. That type of business model also might require more outsourcing if you want to scale even larger, more sourcers to find your inventory, more listers and preppers, etc. I’m not saying this isn’t a viable business model; I’m saying that selling at a low ASP comes with a price.

In my experience, my business has seen more growth when I have focused on finding items to resell at a higher ASP, rather than trying to increase my volume on low ASP items. I’ll share with you a few reasons why I believe this has been the case:

1. You can save a lot of money on FBA fees when you raise your ASP.

Let’s think about an example using two FBA sellers, Bob and Sally. Bob typically sells lower priced items on Amazon. Today so far he has sold 10 items at $10 each, so he’s made $100 in sales. Sally, on the other hand, has sold one item today, but it was priced at $100. Both sellers have the same dollar amount in sales, but their FBA fees are taken out of those sales differently. Sally only has the one sale, so she only has to take care of the referral and FBA pick & pack fees for just the one item ordered. Meanwhile, Bob has to pay the referral and FBA pick & pack fees 10 times for 10 items. All those fees on low priced items add up over time.

In the end, Sally’s $100 of sales allows her to take home about $80 of profit. Bob’s $100 of sales leads to closer to $60 of profit. If you increase your ASP, you reduce your fees and increase your profit.

2. You can save a lot of time, money, and effort on prepping and shipping items when you raise your ASP.

Think about Bob and Sally again. With Sally’s one $100 item, she only had to expend the time, money, and effort to put one FBA label on her item, put one poly bag on her item, and pack that one item in her FBA shipment. But Bob with his $10 items…he (or someone he has hired) has to put on 10 FBA labels, seal 10 poly bags, and pack 10 items for shipment to get that $100 in sales. All of those costs add up over time, and you can save money and increase profits by reducing the amount of prep work required in your business. Increasing your ASP is a great way to reduce your necessary prep work.

3. You can give yourself more wiggle room for price fluctuations when you raise your ASP.

Back to Bob and Sally…

For sellers like Bob who have items priced mostly in the $10-$15 range, if the going price of their items begins to drop, they don’t have much room to lower their price and stay competitive without losing all their profit. If they lower the price even a couple of dollars, it drastically changes their return on investment (ROI). But if Sally’s $100 item lowers in price by $1, $2, or even $5-$10, she still has wiggle room to lower her price and stay competitive, without sacrificing her ROI.

Note: In general I don’t recommend always lowering your price whenever your competition does, which can start a race to the bottom. But in those instances where for some reason you need to keep your price competitive, having that wiggle room to lower your price without sacrificing profit and ROI is a nice feature of increasing your ASP.

4. You can increase your Amazon disbursements if you raise your ASP.

When you have fewer fees removed from your FBA sales and you sell more items with higher ASP, the natural result will be higher disbursements from Amazon. More profits, more money to reinvest in your business, and more money to take out of your business in the form of income for yourself and your family. That’s the progress we personally have seen over the past few years – the number of items we have sold via FBA has decreased each year, but our ASP has increased, and as a result our Amazon disbursements have increased.

Like I said earlier, some business models work very well by selling a high volume of items at a lower ASP. But for the amount of time, effort, and money that I want to invest in my business, I have found that sourcing and selling higher ASP items has given my business tremendous growth. My goal is to continue making a full-time income with only part-time hours through Amazon FBA, and increasing my ASP has been a vital component of achieving that goal each year.

Here’s one strategy I suggest for anyone who might struggle with having enough money in their sourcing budget to make it from one Amazon disbursement to the next: Start setting aside a portion of your budget solely dedicated to higher ASP items. Make sure you are gradually working at finding items that will increase your sales without increasing your work. In my next blog post, I’ll go into more detail about how to raise your ASP and start getting more bang for your buck with your sourcing budget, time, efforts, and energy.

Keep an eye out for that next blog post soon, but in the meantime we would love to hear from you in the comments. Have you had success increasing your ASP over time? Are you actively trying to increase your ASP? Or is your business model built on lower ASP items?

Beginner Lessons For Selling Shoes on Amazon FBA

When it comes to sourcing and selling shoes on Amazon, some of the hardest lessons are learned during the early stages of adding shoes to your Amazon business model.

Many of you know that Rebecca and I are a team when it comes to our Amazon FBA business. While I mainly focus on retail arbitrage and wholesale sourcing, she is the specialist when it comes to online arbitrage… and specifically sourcing and selling shoes.

Since my last interview video with Rebecca was so well received, I decided to sit down with her and record another Q&A  interview video with her. Rebecca has such a wealth of knowledge about sourcing and selling shoes and you’ll learn a lot in this video.

In the video below, you’ll learn:

  • How our very first experiment with sourcing and selling shoes went (spoiler: it didn’t go so well)
  • What we learned from that experiment
  • How we almost decided to give up selling shoes – and why we’re so glad we didn’t quit.
  • The biggest thing we wish we knew when we started selling shoes
  • The mindset shift you need to be successful with selling shoes
  • The biggest difference between sourcing items like books/toys and sourcing shoes
  • How to overcome not being able to see sales rank history of shoes
  • Which is better? Going wide or going deep when sourcing shoes?
  • How to find confidence in sourcing shoes
  • How customer returns of shoes are not as bad as returns from other categories (despite what other people might say).

Enjoy! Leave us a comment below the video if you have a specific shoe question and we’ll see about addressing that in a future video.

If you like the shirts we’re wearing in the video above, you can get them right here on Amazon.

Want to learn more? Rebecca and I recently hosted a FREE webinar all about how to get started with selling shoes on Amazon and added it to our YouTube channel. Just follow the link above to see the webinar in its entirety.

Selling Shoes on Amazon FBA – Should You Do It?

Many of you know that Rebecca and I are a team when it comes to our Amazon FBA business. While I mainly focus on retail arbitrage and wholesale sourcing, she is the specialist when it comes to online arbitrage… and specifically sourcing and selling shoes on Amazon.

Since Rebecca has such a wealth of knowledge about sourcing and selling shoes, I decided to sit down with her and record a Q&A interview video focused on the biggest lessons we learned when we first started selling shoes on Amazon.

In the video below, you’ll learn:

  • Why we added shoes to our Amazon business model
  • How adding shoes impacted our Amazon FBA business
  • How shoes helped our ASP increase substantially
  • What the competition is like in the Shoes category
  • Why brand restrictions in shoes don’t have to be a problem for FBA sellers
  • How selling shoes has changed our lives
  • Why we choose to source shoes via OA instead of RA
  • How sales ranks of shoes are different than most other categories
  • … and more!

Enjoy! Leave us a comment below the video if you have a specific shoe question and we’ll see about addressing that in a future blog post or video.

Want to learn more? Rebecca and I recently hosted a FREE webinar all about how to get started with selling shoes on Amazon and added it to our YouTube channel. Just follow the link above to see the webinar in its entirety.

The Biggest Mistakes I Made With My First Wholesale Order

About 6 months ago, my very first wholesale order was delivered to my house… Of course, I had to take a picture. We worked as fast as we could to prep and send this huge wholesale order to Amazon. As soon as our wholesale shipment arrived at Amazon, we started to see some sales… but then things started to go terribly wrong. Sales started to slow and prices began to tank.

To make a long story short, I ended up actually losing money on my first wholesale order. Sure, I was able to get almost all of the capital back, but overall it was a massive failure.

If you know me, then you know that I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy, and I was able to turn this epic failure into a learning experience. Since mistakes were made, I thought I’d share with you the 6 biggest mistakes I made in my first wholesale order (and the last mistake was the biggest) so that you can set yourself up for successful future wholesale orders.

1. Ordered too many items

When ordering products from wholesalers, the items you buy usually come in cases, so buying only one of an item is usually not a possibility. I knew I was going to need to buy multiples, but I must have had my head in the clouds because I bought way too many items.  I honestly should have known better.

Any time you try something new, it’s usually best not to jump headfirst into the deep end… but instead to wade in slowly until you get used to the water. In my first wholesale order, I went way too deep and ended up with plenty of inventory that took forever to sell. Some of them I may even be paying long-term storage fees for soon.

2. Spent too much money

I mean, waaaaaaaaaay too much money. When you’re dealing with a wholesale supplier, they’ll usually have what is called a Minimum Opening Order amount. Different wholesalers will have different minimum amounts that they’ll need for your first order. They have these so the wholesale supplier knows that the buyer is a serious buyer and will be worth the time and energy to work with.

For my first wholesale purchase, the Minimum Opening Order was around $350, but I think I got caught up in the excitement and totally blew past that minimum. I ended up tying up a lot of my sourcing capital that could have gone to my retail or online arbitrage sourcing.

When you make your first wholesale order, be sure to not go too far above the minimum. Not only do you not want to use too much of your sourcing capital on a method you’re not yet confident in, but you’ll also want to make sure the items you order meet your expectations. Once you find success in your opening wholesale order, then you can go back and get more.

3. Ordered time-sensitive goods

I ordered items that were focused around a specific season, and for the wholesale order to be successful, I needed these items to sell quickly. It turned out they didn’t all sell in time and when the season passed, I had to drastically lower my prices in order to get the sales and to avoid any additional monthly or upcoming long-term storage fees.

It’s probably best to order items that should sell well all year long when it comes to your first wholesale order. I ended up putting all of my eggs into one basket hoping that all these items would sell by the end of that season, and I ended up paying for it.

4. Didn’t Negotiate

I’ve negotiated deals to get a better price most of my life. I can do it at garage sales, thrift stores, and at retail stores with store managers. Most of the time I’ll say, “If I buy all these items, will you give me a discount since I’m buying so many?” Most of the time I can get a small percentage off of the overall total. That one question has saved me thousands of dollars… but for some reason, I just never thought about it with this order.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand trying to negotiate a better deal on the first order isn’t always the best way to introduce yourself to a supplier, but remember mistake number 1 and 2 from above? I ordered way too many items and spent way too much money. If I was ordering the minimum, I would not have asked for a discount, but since my first order was a great deal higher, I think I could have negotiated a better deal.

5. Made faulty assumptions

I made two very incorrect assumptions that cost me both time and money. My first assumption was assuming that my shipping was going to be free. I guess with all of my online purchases in the past, I assumed an order this big would qualify me for free shipping. I had no basis for this assumption, and when I saw the final shipping costs, it ended up eating into the profits I had calculated.

I also assumed that the items I was buying would not come poly-bagged. My first wholesale order had many items that were going to need poly-bagging in order to send to Amazon. I ordered a ton of poly-bags and suffocation warning labels so that when the items arrived, I could bag them up and ship them to Amazon quickly. As it turned out, the items were sent already poly-bagged and had a printed suffocation warning label on them. So now, I have what seems to be a lifetime supply of poly-bags in my office.

When you are making your first order, don’t be afraid (or too proud) to ask your supplier questions. Even if you think the questions are elementary, go ahead and ask so you are able to make knowledgable decisions.

6. Didn’t realize difference between a manufacturer and a distributor

This ended up being my biggest mistake. If I could have known this and applied that knowledge to my wholesale sourcing strategy, then most of the other mistakes from above could have been avoided.

When you purchase from a manufacturer, you’re buying directly from the maker of the product. You’ll be able to buy your inventory with the highest possible discounts. You might have to go a little deeper when buying from a manufacturer, but knowing you’re getting the best deals usually outweighs how deep you might have to go.

On the other hand, when you purchase form a wholesale distributor, you’re working with a middle-man who needs to take his cut of the profits. The distributor buys directly from the manufacturer and then marks up the inventory so that he can make a profit. Then the distributor offers up these wholesale items to us with smaller minimum orders than the manufacturer requires.

As you may have guessed by now, my first wholesale order was purchased from a distributor. When I got my huge wholesale order processed and sent to Amazon, I immediately began to see some sales come in, but after a short time the competition started to come in (who probably got their inventory from the manufacturer at better prices) and the prices tanked quickly.

In the end, I was able to recoup almost all of my capital back from that first wholesale order. I know some people will think that it was a waste of time and money, but I don’t see it that way at all. While the order ended up not meeting my expectations, it did provide many valuable lessons. I have taken these lessons and applied them to future orders and have seen great success.

Aside from my first wholesale order, I simply love sourcing and creating wholesale orders.
I’ve found some great companies to work with and have reordered many items over and over again. I’m most thankful to my wholesale mentors Dan and Eric from The Wholesale Formula. After taking three different courses on selling wholesale items on Amazon and not finding the success I was looking for, finally the teachings from The Wholesale Formula just plain worked!

Right now, the the free video series from The Wholesale Formula is closed, but it will open again sometime in the near future. If you want to be notified when the free video series opens again, be sure to click here and join the notification list.

 

Do you have any worries about making a wholesale order mistake? Have you ever placed a wholesale order before? Did you make any mistakes? What did you learn from your mistakes? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

How to Find Profitable Wholesale Accounts For Amazon FBA

In my previous blog post I gave you my top 9 reasons why you should consider adding wholesale sourcing to your Amazon FBA business. You may have read that post and started thinking, “Great, Stephen, I’m convinced. I definitely want to try out wholesale sourcing, make my business more streamlined, and protect my seller account. Now where do I find profitable wholesale suppliers?

That type of question is where we end up any time we want to make a change in our business. “OK, I see my sticking points, and I’m ready to press on to get beyond them. But how do I take that next step?

With finding wholesale suppliers, your possibilities are really only limited by your creativity. Ultimately, you want to find unique wholesale accounts where you can develop a great business relationship with your supplier and provide an awesome product to Amazon customers.

Let’s discuss the top four ways you can make that connection and find profitable wholesale accounts:

1. Trade Shows

All throughout the year you can find a trade show going on in areas all across the U.S. (Or in other countries! Don’t limit yourself geographically) and in all niches of products. Think trade shows for toys, bridal products, baby items, kitchen gadgets, home and garden, crafts, you name it.

Beyond those niche trade shows, you can also find larger trade shows and markets where you can find products across all categories presented in one show. The biggest trade show out there is called ASD, and it happens in Las Vegas every March and August.

If you live in a big city, chances are there are trade shows and markets happening nearby throughout the year. I recommend doing a Google search for trade shows in your town or somewhere you can travel to, and check out what’s coming up in the months ahead. Most of these types of shows are free to enter, and you can walk around the exhibits, talk with the exhibitors, and see what types of products are available at the different booths.

One thing you should keep in mind is that two different types of exhibitors set up booths at trade shows: manufacturers and distributors. A manufacturer would be a direct connection to the source of the product, without any middle man. If you get a wholesale account with a manufacturer, you will likely need to make purchases in larger amounts, but you will get a better price per unit. With a distributor, you are usually dealing with a middle man. You can make smaller purchases, but you will pay more per unit.

2. Trade Show Websites

Even if you can’t attend a particular trade show, you can benefit from signing up for the show and doing research on the exhibitors. On the trade show website you can get access to the vendor list and their contact info, which you can then use to call or email for more information on the products they offer.

Whether you attend in person or make contact through the trade show website, it’s all about making connections with the vendors, asking good questions, and developing a relationship that could lead to a mutually beneficial arrangement. You will need to have a resale certificate to open a wholesale account once you have made that connection, so be sure you have your certificate on hand before starting the process to open an account.

If you are interested in more details about how to maximize the opportunities on trade show websites, check out the book Trade Show No Show by Jim Peterson and Jim Cockrum.

3. Product Packaging

This may seem overly simplistic, but finding wholesale sources really doesn’t have to be that complicated!

Pretty much every product you can imagine is going to have the manufacturer’s name and contact info printed right on the product’s packaging. If you can only find the name or part of the contact info, use Google to find the rest of the info, and you’re one step closer to making contact and finding out how to open a wholesale account.

If you have an awesome retail find that you would love to sell more of, check out the product packaging for that contact info and see if you could start buying that product at wholesale prices.

One strategy you can use to get an edge on your competition is to think of products that are made locally to your town or area. What is your area known for? Food products can be especially profitable, if there’s a local favorite that can’t be found in other parts of the country. Find these types of products on your local shelves, get the manufacturer’s info off the packaging, and start making contact.

4. Amazon Best Sellers

Again, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated to find great ideas for wholesale sources. You can research the popular items in your favorite category by checking out the Top 100 sellers and looking up their manufacturer’s info online.

To make it even easier, we have created a quick link, fulltimefba.com/bestsellers, to take you right to the Amazon best sellers page, where you can drill down from the main Amazon categories. Once you find a product you are interested in researching, click to go to the product page, and you should see the name of the manufacturer listed below the product title. You can then do a Google search for their contact info and start the process of opening a wholesale account.

Note: I do not recommend opening wholesale accounts with companies when Amazon is selling the product. Even if you think you can get a great wholesale price, Amazon is likely getting an even greater volume discount, and it’s too hard to compete. You should also check out the sales history on CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to see if Amazon is out of stock now, but might have been on the listing in the past. There are plenty of other products out there, so move on to ones where Amazon isn’t currently on the listing or doesn’t seem like they’ll come back in stock in the future.

There you have it, my top 4 ways to find products where you can open a wholesale account. The key to getting those accounts is to just make contact. Get the door open, start a conversation, ask for a catalog, ask what you need to do to apply for an account – it really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Last week, I shared with you a free video that showed you how to find amazing wholesale opportunities with a strategy unlike what anyone else is teaching. Well, today I have another free video about wholesale.

In today’s free wholesale training video, my buddies Dan and Eric will show you:

– How to recognize awesome potential wholesale products
– How to avoid purchasing bad wholesale products and wasting $100’s or even $1000’s
– How one good account could make you $1000 per month (and how to find accounts like that)
– The top 3 factors for great wholesale products to sell on Amazon
– The free tool you can use to make better wholesale decisions
– Why the number of Amazon competitors is a meaningless number (and what number you really should be focusing on instead)
– And so much more!

To access today’s free video right now, all you need to do is click here.

Remember, these free videos are only going to be accessible for a limited time, so you need to click here and watch today.

Do you have other tried-and-true places you like to look for profitable wholesale sources? If you would like to add to my list, we would love to hear from you in the comments!

Top 10 Tips For Finishing Strong in 2016

finishing-strong-2016First off, if you can see this… thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read today’s blog post. I know Q4 is crazy busy, and I hope my blog posts can help you take action t0 save time and increase your profits.

As we all know, the holiday selling season is in full bloom, and I hope you’ve been able to stock the Amazon warehouses with as much quality inventory as you possibly can. It seems pretty obvious to say, but you can’t sell a lot of items if you don’t have a lot of items in stock. To help you continue to make this month your best selling month ever, here are my top ten tips for finishing strong in 2016:

christmas-lights1. Reprice holiday related items. It’s crunch time. Log into Seller Central and check all of your holiday related items in your inventory. Do a keyword search for words like “holiday” and “Christmas” and make sure that all of your holiday items are competitively priced. While some of these seasonal items actually sell throughout the year, there might still be some in stock that you need to reprice. As always, double check with CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to see what prices and sales you could possibly expect. If you have multiples of higher ranked holiday items, it’s probably a good time to lower your prices to get the sale. You don’t want to hold on to these items another full year… especially with long term stores fees coming up in February.

2. The week before Christmas is a Prime spending frenzy! For items sold through FBA, hold on to your prices that you think will sell for Christmas. It’s not rare to see an item going for $15 on December 14th to be selling for $25 on December 19th. This is especially true for items where you’re the only FBA seller or one of a few FBA sellers. On the other hand, if the competition for sales is fierce, you might want to lower your price just a little to sell out before the newbie Amazon sellers freak out and lower their prices too far.

returns.jpg3. Be prepared for an increase in returns. Naturally, with an increase in sales, there is also an increase in returns. Don’t let this make you anxious or worried. It’s a natural part of selling. As you might already know, Amazon automatically refunds the FBA customer the full purchase price when the buyer requests to return an item. If the buyer fails to return the item to Amazon, then Amazon is supposed to automatically reimburse you for the item after 45 days have passed, but many times Amazon “forgets” and needs to be reminded. For more about how to make sure returned items are actually returned to Amazon, check out this popular blog post.

feedback4. Be prepared for an increase in negative and/or positive feedback. If you’re keeping to best business practices, then you’ll most likely get lots of new positive (4 or 5) feedback, but you’ll also get the occasional negative (1 or 2) or neutral (3) feedback score. If the feedback is actually about the FBA process (“my item came 2 days late”) or a product review (“this coffee maker is hard to use”), then it’s up to you to do whatever you can to get the feedback removed. Your feedback score is a huge aspect of your seller metrics. The better seller metrics you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to earn the buy box for your products. To read more about how I handle feedback issues (and how I keep a 100% feedback score), then check out this blog post.

5. Look at sales ranks differently. As you already know, the sales velocity in December shoots through the roof! This should make you look at sales rank differently than during the rest of the year. Here is an example: A toy with a sales rank of 10,000 in July might sell 25 times a week… while a toy with a rank of 10,000 in December might sell 50 times a day. This is important to know when you are out sourcing for inventory. Know that after Christmas and into January, many of these sales ranks will start to return to their normal patterns (slower sales), and it’s up to you to recalibrate your mind to what you need to expect when you’re out sourcing. Again, look at CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to see what prices and sales velocity to expect in January.

targetstore6. Be careful with sale prices at retail chain stores. Retail stores are realizing that they need to do whatever it takes to sell their stuff as soon as possible. Often, this means some outrageous clearance sales. But be careful, the items you’re finding clearanced at large national chains might be the same items hundreds of other resellers are finding. You don’t want to be slow moving on these sales. If you decide to buy, you need to get those items to Amazon as fast as possible… and I wouldn’t recommend going too deep. It’s possible that Amazon is about to be flooded with these items from other resellers sourcing at the same sales in their town. Buy fast, prep fast, and ship fast so it can sell fast.

7. Profit from selling items Merchant Fulfilled. We all love selling via FBA, but this week still provides a nice money making opportunity if you are willing to do a little more work. Selling via Merchant Fulfilled can still bring about some nice profits this week for items that buyers need to buy today. The best items to sell MF are those that both Amazon and FBA sellers have sold out of, are backordered, ones that are “Currently Unavailable” on their Amazon product page, and ones with a low rank that you don’t want to risk the extra time it takes to travel to a fulfillment center.

amazon_gift_card8. Keep sourcing for post-Christmas buyers. On the days after Christmas and well into January, many people have brand new Amazon gift cards burning a hole in their pockets. They head on over to Amazon and look for items to spend these gift cards on, and you want to be sure you have what they want waiting for them. Not only do gift card buyers show up, but so do the people who didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas. They know what they want, and since they didn’t get it, they decide to give themselves the gift they really want. Again, you want to be sure you have what they want when they go shopping for themselves.

list-of-updated-after-christmas-sales-20099. Buy Christmas-themed items at huge discounts. The week before, and right after Christmas, all of the Christmas related items go on sale at drastically reduced prices. This is a great time for you to stock up for your Amazon inventory. Like I’ve said before, seasonal items sell both in and out of season. I’ve seen Christmas ornaments sell in May, candy canes sell in March, and holiday DVDs sell in August. The stuff sells year round, but especially in July as people have “Christmas in July” parties. So, now might be a good time to buy holiday decor at 75% – 90% off. Again (I might be sounding like a broken record by now), check CamelCamelCamel and Keepa to see what prices and sales velocity to expect throughout the year.

10. Look towards the new year. Why am I talking about the new year in December? I honestly believe that if you wait until the first of January to start thinking about the new year, then you’re already behind in the game and are at a disadvantage. Imagine someone showing up for a marathon without doing any training beforehand. The runner would most likely quit before they even pass the 5 mile marker. Don’t be that guy. When January 1 arrives, we all begin a 365 day marathon, and I want to be sure you are ready for the journey. One great way is to grab my book, The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business. This resource will help you know exactly what to do and what to avoid for each month of the year.

How about you? What strategies are you implementing to finish strong in 2016? I’d love to hear your ideas, so comment below.

 

Monitoring Prices on Your Replenishables – StockUp Review

stock-up-titleOne of the most frustrating aspects of selling on Amazon is when your competition comes in and begins to lower the prices of an item that you were once consistently selling. When an amazing source of profit seems to dry up, we often decide to sell out as fast as we can so we can reinvest that capital into inventory that will bring profits much faster. Usually once the price of a formerly profitable item has “tanked,” we don’t think about that item again.

But what if we’re missing something? What if the price goes back up? How would we even know?

Do we ever actually go back and see if the price has recovered? Usually the answer to that question is “no.”

search-computerFor a long time I searched and searched to see if there was a tool out there that would track the prices of items on Amazon and would automatically notify me when those items reached a certain higher price point, but never found one. I love using Keepa and CamelCamelCamel, but those services only notify you automatically when the prices of items on Amazon fall to a desired price point. I  just couldn’t find an easy way to keep track of prices when they go back up.

Sure, I could probably create a spreadsheet with a list of ASINs I wanted to track, then then copy and paste the ASIN in Amazon to see if the price has recovered. I could try to remember to do that once a week or once a month… but honestly, I don’t have time for that. I needed a tool to do everything for me.

online_toolsSince there was no tool, I decided to reach out to my buddy Christopher Grant who has created some awesome tools like revROI (an easy tool to maximize your cash back on OA purchases) and BrickSeek (if an item is sold out online, this tool will show you where you can buy it locally based on your ZIP Code). I told Christopher about my frustrations and my idea for a new tool and he said he thought he could make it happen. After a few months of working with developers and beta-testing, and the StockUp tool is ready!

StockUp – the only tool that will automatically notify you when the price of an item goes back up to the price you want.

stock-upWith StockUp, all you have to do is go to the Amazon product page for the item you want to track, click on the StockUp extension, put in your name and email address (don’t worry, we aren’t keeping these for later), then choose a price, any price. The StockUp tool will then check Keepa for you once an hour and if the price goes up to the level you choose, then StockUp will send you an email to notify you. There will even be a link you can click on to take you to the Amazon product page so you can double check and make sure the price really has recovered. Then, all you need to do is go and buy it again from your source. So easy! I’ll show you a video in a moment, but here’s what it looks like:

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-1-49-11-pm

StockUp is a Google Chrome extension that you easily install into your Chrome browser. If you don’t use Chrome, the web browser is a free download and super easy to use. In fact, I formerly used Safari for my online browser, but have since moved to Chrome as it’s so much more user friendly (as well as all the amazing extensions you can install).

To see StockUp in action, check out this video where I walk you through just how easy it is.

Save today with coupon code!

Here’s the deal… right now, StockUp is available at a one time fee for a lifetime of use. Plus, if you use the coupon code SMOTHERMAN then you can save $8 off the price of the extension. Right now, we’re working on adding a texting notification as well, but that’s still in the planning stages… once the texting capabilities are in place, we’ll definitely be raising the prices on the extension. In fact, the StockUp extension might end up going to a monthly fee as we continue to add more features… so now is the best time to get this tool.

Can you imagine how awesome it will be when the price of one your replenishable items comes back up and you can add it back to your inventory again? Talk about easy sourcing!

 

Selling Shoes through Amazon FBA: Buying Decisions

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty details of sourcing shoes for FBA, shall we?

As I (Rebecca) mentioned in a previous post of this series, I personally don’t source for shoes using retail arbitrage (RA). I tried it and came up dry. I use 100% online arbitrage (OA) for my shoe sourcing strategy. The gist of this post, however, will cover topics that apply no matter what type of strategy you use for sourcing. I won’t get into details of what types of stores to find shoes in, what brands to look for, what styles to look for, and so on. Instead, I’m going to talk about some fundamental issues related to sourcing shoes that you can apply to your own personal sourcing strategy, whether you prefer RA, OA, wholesale, or something else.

shoe-experimentOur Initial Two-Week Shoe Experiment

After we got approved to sell in the shoe category, we decided to spend a two-week period sourcing shoes through OA, track the resulting sales, calculate our return on investment (ROI) and profits, and then decide from there how we wanted to proceed with adding shoes to our overall FBA strategy.

Every day for two weeks, I diligently looked at the deals on my paid sourcing subscription list, spent my sourcing budget, and waited for the shoes to arrive at our doorstep. The shoes came in, we processed them, and we sent them to FBA and waited for the sales.

clock-147257_1280And waited. And waited. And waited.

I didn’t source any more shoes online for about five or six weeks after that, as I waited to see how our experiment turned out. The sales trickled in soooooooo sloooooooowwwwwwwwwly from those two weeks of sourcing. I was very discouraged that shoes I thought were a low rank at the time I bought them turned out to not sell for weeks and weeks and weeks. I questioned whether I should stop thinking about buying shoes and just stick to toys, books, or another category I already knew well.

Rather than completely giving up, I decided to learn more, ask a ton of questions, reach out to people who have experience in the category, and try again. It was a slow process, but here we are a year later – and shoes are consistently our second highest category in dollar amount of sales.

For the rest of this post, I want to give you several points of consideration for making buying decisions in the shoe category that will hopefully accelerate your learning process.

What I Wish I Had Known About Sourcing Shoes Before I Started

  1. capital-moneyShoes take a LOT of capital to buy.

Unlike categories such as books or toys, with shoes it’s not possible to take a small amount of capital, buy items at a ridiculously low price and high ROI, and turn a fast profit that you can reinvest within a short amount of time. Shoes can give you a great ROI and a fantastic average selling price (ASP), but the buy cost for one pair of shoes typically ranges from $20 upward. It’s not uncommon to spend $50 or more on one pair of shoes.

  1. iguana-1441439_1280Shoes are long tail items.

Not only does it take a large initial investment (relative to other categories) to start buying shoes, it takes a lot of patience. Shoes typically do not sell at the same velocity as toys, books, groceries, and other faster moving categories. Shoes aren’t typically something that you can replenish, either. You generally buy a style of shoe, send it in to FBA, and move on to finding the next pair of shoes.

I sank a bunch of money into shoes in our original two-week experiment and became frustrated and disappointed that I didn’t get my return on that investment as soon as I had hoped. I eventually did sell all the shoes from that two weeks, but it took as long as six months for some of those shoes to sell – and in some cases as long as nine months. Once they did sell, the high ASP was nice to eventually see in our disbursement, but if we had needed that money back any sooner than nine months, we would have been in trouble.

The key with getting a steady stream of high ASP sales from shoes is to give yourself several months to ramp up. It will take several months of sending in a steady stream of shoes, and then you have to wait for those high-priced shoe sales to start trickling in. If you continually source shoes and send them in on a regular basis, after a while you will see the fruits of your labor in the form of higher disbursements and higher ASP. Stephen is always saying that patience brings profits, and that is definitely the case in the shoe category.

One item of note: Because shoes are a long tail item, it is more strategic not to go deep in any one variation, but go wide and buy multiple variations of the same style instead. It’s much easier to sell out quickly of one pair in each of size 6, 7, 8, and 9 than to sell out of four pairs of size 8.

  1. Sales rank for shoes is much different to gauge than in other categories.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-5-30-37-pmEach shoe listing on Amazon can potentially have dozens of variations, depending on the number of colors and sizes available. When you look at the sales rank for a pair of shoes you want to source, you aren’t looking at the sales rank for that particular pair of shoes; you’re looking at the sales rank for all of those variations combined. If the Amazon product page says a pair of shoes is ranked #568 in the overall shoe category, you have no way to know which size and which color of those shoes are receiving the sales that give it that low rank.

To further complicate matters, CamelCamelCamel and Keepa do not show sales rank history for shoes. When I’m making sourcing decisions, I don’t even bother looking at Camel for shoes. Keepa, however, does provide crucial information about whether or not Amazon has ever been in stock on any variation of shoes, and it shows price history. I highly recommend becoming fluent in using Keepa for making shoe sourcing decisions (you can get started reading Keepa graphs with this blog post).

So how can we make smart sourcing decisions if we have no way to know the current sales rank or sales rank history for a variation of shoes?

Here are two ways I can limit my risk as far as shoe sales rank is concerned:

* I stick with buying shoes that have a low number of variations. I prefer to buy shoes with only a low number of color options, not 15 or 20 colors. I also prefer to source shoes that don’t have a narrow, regular, and wide variation for each size. Tons of colors and tons of size options means more variations, which means the overall sales rank becomes increasingly meaningless as far as each variation is concerned.

* I stick with buying neutral colors (black, white, gray, brown). The majority of people are going to buy neutral colored shoes, and I prefer to buy inventory that’s more of a sure bet. I don’t buy shoes in a crazy floral print or neon green, no matter how cute they are — unless the only options on a low ranking shoe are bright colors and no neutrals; then I’ll branch out.

  1. Every shoe seller likes to take a different approach.

shoeKeep in mind that I’m trying to give you some general principles for making shoe sourcing decisions. Every seller finds their own groove, and you have to figure out what approach you personally want to take.

Some sellers prefer to stick with common sizes and colors, while some sellers like to provide Amazon customers with the hard-to-find colors and sizes. Some sellers stay away from sourcing half sizes because they find they sell less than whole sizes, but other sellers swear by sourcing half sizes because they’re harder to find and therefore more lucrative.

Personally, I usually stick to sizes 9-12 for men, 6-10 for women (but if 5 or 11 in women’s is currently unavailable on Amazon, I will consider buying it). That’s a wider range than some sellers would recommend; many will only source women’s 7, 8, 9. Also, I tend to buy more half sizes for women, less for men.

  1. screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-7-11-11-pmLook at reviews to see popular color and size.

A work-around for making a shoe sourcing decision without sales rank history is to read the reviews. Within the Amazon reviews for any verified Amazon purchase, you can see what size and color the customer bought. It’s fairly safe to assume that colors with more reviews are receiving more sales. You can also read the reviews and look at the “fit as expected” percentage to see if shoes tend to run small, large, or as expected. You can assume that shoes with a high percentage of “runs small” or “runs large” are likely to have a higher rate of return, which is a risk you might not be willing to take with your sourcing budget.

  1. shoes-high-heelsLook at the average price of shoes across all variations, not just at the price of the variation you’re considering sourcing.

This might be the biggest lesson I wish I had known before I started sourcing shoes. It’s possible that one random person will be willing to pay 3x for a blue leopard print shoe in women’s size 11.5 – but it’s not likely. It’s less risky to source shoes you can price competitively with other variations of the same size or color, rather than keeping your fingers crossed that someone will pay way above the average price listed on Amazon for your particular variation.

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Shoes aren’t for everyone selling on Amazon. The learning curve can be steeper than with other categories, shoes require a lot of capital, and the wait for sales can seem like an eternity. Even if you read every word I say above and every word in every Facebook group about shoes, it still takes trial-and-error to learn the category through your own experience. Everyone will have different results, and everyone will find different areas where they excel and prefer to source. What works for me might not work across the board.

shoesBut if you’re willing to commit the time and money…and some more time…and then a little more time to learning the category, the profits are worth it. We’ve spent the past year ramping up our shoe inventory and now have a continual stream of high-priced sales from shoes on a daily basis.

Have you found success selling shoes through Amazon FBA? Is there anything you would add to my above list of points to consider when sourcing shoes? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

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Our hope for this series on selling shoes is that we’re able to help you make informed decisions about whether the category is right for you and to help you find success in sourcing and prepping shoes.

If you’re ready to step up your game with selling shoes on Amazon, check out our course,The Reseller’s Guide to Selling Shoes: Kick up Your Profits with New Shoes via Amazon FBA. It’s a combination ebook (100+ pages) and video course (over 4.5 hours of no-fluff content) that will help you avoid all the mistakes we made and get your shoe selling off on the right foot.