Many of us got our start on Amazon selling books or toys. For most of us, at some point after we get our feet wet selling via FBA, the idea comes into our minds to expand beyond those entry-level categories. We hear over and over about the new hot Amazon category of the month that’s guaranteed to cause your profits to explode, and we start to wonder…should I try selling in that category? Will it be worth my time? Are the profits in that category really all that great? Is there inventory available for me to purchase? Will I be able to find good deals for resale?
Those are all valid questions and ones we’ve considered at great length for our own FBA business. Some of those questions lead into another fear we’ll be mentioning in a later post in this series, FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Not every shiny new category that’s currently all the rage is worth pursuing with everything you’ve got, but there are definitely great benefits to branching out to try new categories:
- It’s a good idea not to keep all your eggs in one basket/category. Diversifying your inventory can mean adding greater seasonal profits to your business as well as a nice stream of slow-but-steady profits throughout the year, depending on the category.
- You never know until you try something whether or not you will succeed at it. If you’re only selling toys but decide to test out a few kitchen items, you may discover a profitable niche that you absolutely love.
- Items for resale are available everywhere, everywhere, and if you pass something by because it’s in an unfamiliar category, well, you’re passing up money. You’re in this business to make money, aren’t you?
So what is it that’s holding you back from branching out into new categories? You know the old adage about how the best way to conquer your fears is to confront them? That’s so very true for me (Rebecca) with these fears about new categories. I look back now and realize how big my fear seemed at the time (big enough to keep us from moving forward in that aspect of our business), but how manageable it all seems now, from the other side of it.
I want to share with you three fears that I personally have dealt with over the past couple of years, along with the corresponding truths that are so evident to me now.
Fear of the Grocery and Beauty Categories – I’m afraid of products with expiration dates. I don’t want to get in trouble for selling an expired product to someone.
Truth – Amazon won’t let you sell someone an expired product, so this fear of mine was completely groundless. When items with an expiration date are checked into the FBA warehouses, the workers note the expiration date (which we have clearly labeled on the product during prep), so that the item can be automatically pulled from active inventory and disposed of by Amazon 50 days before expiration (see Amazon guidelines here).
Now, what I learned later is that I should be more concerned about keeping track of my upcoming expiration dates either so that I make sure my inventory sells before the time frame when Amazon disposes of it, or so that I can create a removal order before Amazon disposes of it. This initially required my setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of expiration dates; we are now monitoring these dates with reminders in our listing program. Expiration dates are completely manageable, and if I had let this fear continue to paralyze me, we would have missed out on a lot of profits over the past couple of years.
Fear of the Clothing and Shoes Categories – I’m afraid of making a bad buying decision with all the variations available. Size, color, so many unknowns. The price and sales rank history on camelcamelcamel.com just isn’t there like it is in other categories, and my scanning apps aren’t working the same way with these items. I’m afraid this is too much for me to learn.
Truth – There’s no way around it, categories with variations are just downright intimidating. But just as with anything else in this business, making good buying decisions on items with variations is a skill that can be learned.
One way to acquire this skill is through education. Read everything you can about selling in these categories. There are ebooks, courses, and guides available for purchase on this topic, but there are also plenty of free resources out there.
A great method for educating yourself is through Facebook groups. Now, I don’t mean go out and join a bunch of groups and post, “Hi, I want to know about selling shoes, please tell me everything there is to know” until someone answers your question. A better, more efficient approach would be to use the search feature within Facebook groups. Type in search terms like shoes, shoe sizes, shoe ranks, etc, and read all the older posts related to the topic you want to learn. You would be amazed at how many people have already asked the very question you want to ask, and you’re likely to learn a ton of great info by reading through the comments.
The other main way to learn how to make good buying decisions with clothing and shoes, I’m sorry to say, is by trial and error. Good old experimentation. We all want to learn without having to pay any type of cost, but sometimes the best way to learn is by making mistakes. Sometimes you really can’t know what your buying parameters should be for a new category until you just test the waters by making some purchases and seeing how they do when you send them in to the FBA warehouse.
Fear of Gated Categories – Getting ungated is hard. Flat files. Ewww.
Truth – Getting ungated is easier now than ever. Especially during periods of automatic approvals (is that still going on?). But even if you are required to submit photos, flat files, or invoices for category approval, there are ways to make the process simpler.
We were grandfathered into the grocery and beauty categories, but we did have to apply for clothing and shoes. For the shoe category, we used the category assistance service offered by The Selling Family. They helped us with every step of the process, responded quickly to emails when Amazon asked us for corrections, and provided all the files we needed to submit. With their service we were ungated in shoes within 48 hours.
For the clothing category, we chose a different route. This time we used the instructional videos from a “do it yourself” category approval course (which is still in beta testing) to go through the ungating process on our own. The videos were very thorough, covering every aspect of filling in the flat files and editing our photos. Again, we were ungated in the clothing category within 48 hours of starting the process with this course. [We’ll update this blog post once this “do it yourself” category approval course is officially released.]
If you’re literate in Excel and really good at following instructions, you could do it the old-fashioned way and complete the process on your own without any assistance. It will take you more time this way, so really the decision comes down to whether you want to spend the time to do it yourself or spend the money to have someone help you.
So there you have it. Our three biggest fears about branching out into new Amazon categories. Shining a light on those fears shows them to be needless — they are surmountable with a little thought and effort.
We’d love to hear from you about your greatest success stories in overcoming your fears of new categories — or the biggest fear you’re facing now that you want some encouragement for. Let us hear from you in the comments!