MY SECRET RECIPE FOR SUCCESSFUL PRODUCT LAUNCH ON AMAZON
Four months ago, while munching on my pepperoni pizza and listening to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, I had a lightbulb moment when I suddenly came up with a brilliant idea for a unique product; I don’t know if it was the spicy pepperoni or Bob Marley’s melodious voice assuring me that ‘every lil thing’s gonna be alright’ that shifted my brain into that innovative line of thought. Two months from my ‘aha’ moment, I sold my first product and that night I rewarded myself with a vinyl pressing machine and a record collection of Bob Marley’s biggest hits – and of course a large pizza.
Starting a business from scratch was just as daunting to me as it must be to you, my beloved reader. Nobody wants to invest a ton of money doing something that they have no experience in.
Do I have a business degree?
No. Am I college drop-out who later turned into a rich entrepreneur with his billion dollar idea? (although I did find myself frantically looking at Steve Job’s ‘seven rules of success’ to find ideas for my business) Also no. What I did have, to help me make my first successful sale, was the power of internet.
And you, my dear reader, have that power too, and if you’re reading this article right now before thinking of starting your own business, you are indeed, using your powers wisely.
I had so many questions in my mind; Where do I start? How do I turn this idea of a product into reality? How much money do I need for this startup? How do I find suppliers, where do I sell, HOW do I sell? Argh. My rule of thumb for finding answers to any question in life is to ask.
Yes, don’t sit there like an idiot – ask Google!
It may not have a solution for your failed miserable love life, but what it it does have, is answers to all your entrepreneurial queries; which is what I did – I researched, I asked around, I looked at similar stories from people who had started businesses from scratch; there are several people out there who launched their products in the market and are willing to share their experiences – just like I am doing right now – and there are crucial lessons to be learned about what they did right and where they went wrong.
So now that I have assured you that a lay person like yourself can become a successful entrepreneur (and hopefully you trust my opinion on that), it is time to get into the know-how. Yes folks, now it is time to roll up your sleeves, pull out the big guns and get the ball rolling.
Um, I don’t know what I just said but believe me, I am excited to take you on this journey of enlightenment where I transform you from a lazy-ass ramen eater to a real time hustler and a go-getter.
Now you must be thinking, ‘but I don’t have thousands of dollars to invest in starting my own business’; well, that’s exactly what I thought initially when I decided to start selling my products.
I did not have enough capital to buy the inventory, set up a business, invest in creating a website and marketing my products. Although having your own stable business that provides a stable income is great, not everyone can afford it.
‘Surely, there must be other ways that I can climb the ladder of success quickly with little startup capital and business experience,’ I thought to myself. I did a little research on the matter and found a perfect way to launch my product without having to invest a big chunk of money and lie in bed awake every night in fear of losing it.
What is this amazing formula to quick success in the world of merchandising, you ask? I have one word for you: e-commerce; and what comes to mind when you think of e-commerce market?
You guessed it right. Amazon. Lo’ and behold the power of the biggest online selling platform on this planet where thousands of retailers, wholesalers and customers engage in buying and selling activities everyday; and you can be one of them.
Amazon truly is the most cost-effective solution for all the newbie entrepreneurs out there who have limited amount of cash to invest in their business. That is how I started out; by doing hours of research I found out that Amazon was the best medium through which I could launch my product with minimal marketing costs and shipping hassles.
But although Amazon does make the process of selling products easier, it does not mean that you just sit back and expect things to take care of themselves. Starting and maintaining a business requires hard work, attention to detail, ability to take risks, long term planning and finding solutions to everyday business problems. It is important that you prepared for the worst-case scenarios and have a plan to get out of them.
- What do you do if your product doesn’t sell?
- Can you lower the price enough to dispose off all your inventory without making a loss?
- What do you do when your sales spike and you run out of inventory?
- How do you plan ahead of time to make sure that you do have enough inventory present at all times?
Theses are the questions that you need to ask yourself before you start a business. Planning and research is crucial before you start your business on Amazon which is why I have created this comprehensive guide for conducting an in-depth market analysis and finding out the best strategies
What are you selling?
The important question: What are you selling?
Is it something creative and innovative that no one has ever heard of before or is it something that you personally find interesting or easy to make (and sell)? Whatever the answer to that question is, you need to find out if there is sufficient demand for that product; you don’t want to end up having to give away your precious creations as wedding gifts to cousins you don’t even like, just because nobody wants to buy them.
You can either be a puppy dog seller who follows wherever the demand goes, sees the trends in the market and or you can be the puppet master who lures the demand towards himself with creative ideas and inventive products, whatever your strategy may be, make sure that it has to do with demand and what the customers want.
Ask anyone who has done business on Amazon and they will tell you how choosing the right product can determine the success of your business and this is where most people go wrong.
You see, Amazon is unlike any retail store where a handful of manufacturers of products belonging to the same niche compete to have their product picked off of the shelf.
It is a huge marketplace where thousands of merchants and sellers offering services belonging to one niche category are competing to win the prestigious Buy Box. So unless your product has something unique to offer that other sellers in the market don’t, it’s time to reconsider your strategy.
What are you selling for?
Are you selling to make a profit? You better be. Because human beings are inherently selfish and capitalistic in nature, there is no point in doing something that does not benefit you in some way; there will be other opportunities to save kids in Africa, but this is your moment – your golden opportunity to make some good money and you know what they say about opportunities – ‘seize it by the beard, for it is bald behind.’ I will explain later how you can find the right pricing strategy to make a decent profit.
Finding the winning product
No longer do commercial household goods such as pans, spatulas and oven mats seem like viable product choices for sellers since these saturated niches offer very little opportunity to run a profitable business. These are the low hanging fruits in the ecommerce market that have already been picked which means that it’s time to dig a little deeper to find opportunities that are yet to be taken; this process requires a quite a bit of market analysis and research but thankfully there are several tools out there which will do the job for you.
The night I had my ‘aha’ moment, I was super-stoked that I had stumbled upon an idea that was pretty unique and unheard of, but just to be sure that there wasn’t already something similar out there in the market, I had to do some research.
This is pretty much a no brainer. All I did was to go on the Amazon website and type in the keyword for the niche product that I was planning to sell. This is not only a good way to see the competition in the niche market that you are trying to enter, but also to see if there is existing demand on Amazon for the product.
A rule of thumb for finding out which product is currently in demand is by looking at the number of reviews for a certain product. In a particular niche, a product with 500 or more reviews can be considered popular or ‘in-demand’ but consequently, these niches are extremely mature and competitive, and breaking into such markets can be a daunting task.
On the other hand, there are products which are completely out of the box and unconventional which have very little competition and less demand compared to the popular commercial products. These are the literally the gold mines in the world of ecommerce and relatively easy to get sales and recognition. I say make the best of the situation where there is little to no competition for your product before the other seller get a whiff of your success and start following suit.
Keyword search can be made even simpler by a free tool called the Sales Estimator, offered by Jungle Scout on their website. With this tool you can simply type in the keyword for the product that you are interested in finding information about and Jungle Scout uses the stats from the Bestseller Ranks on Amazon to give certain useful information to its users including the number of units sold in that niche category which can help the sellers determine the demand for that product and decide whether or not it is a good idea to enter that particular market.
This is one of the handiest tools I have come across in my selling career. I say screw the Amazing Selling Machine which costs more than $4000 when there are relatively cheaper tools out there that can get the job done for you at a lesser cost.
Jungle Scout is a market analysis and research program founded by Greg Mercer. This product database tool helps sellers find out which products they should choose to sell on Amazon. This tool gathers data on products based on their revenues and reviews, which is crucial information in determining which products are profitable and which ones are not. It also reveals other things about the product such as the number of units sold for the specific product and FBA fees associated with it; it does that by using an algorithm that analyzes different data points based on the Bestseller Ranks on Amazon.
Offer competitive prices on popular products
After a complete assessment of the market, hopefully you have gained some insight on the market trends and products that are selling well in a niche category. If you choose to sell a product in a mature market that already has a lot of demand and competition, you need a clever strategy to break into it, and the easiest way to do this is to offer the product that other competitors are offering, but at a lower price. Sure, this will affect your overall revenue and maybe you will not make any profit in the beginning but this strategy will ensure maximum conversions and will help you climb the Bestseller Rank quickly.
Remember that if you sell a popular product at a competitive price, you sell more units and make more revenue and the faster you earn your revenue, the quicker you can reinvest that capital in buying more inventory and make up for the lost profit by selling more volume.
Make a difference
When there are hundreds of sellers offering the same product that you have decided to sell, then why should the customers choose to buy from you? You need to think creatively when entering a saturated market. If there are 20 sellers on Amazon selling blue yoga mats, you need to start selling pink ones – in other words bring something new to the market; have a product differentiation strategy that sets your product apart from the rest. Like Steve Jobs said, ‘Why join the navy when you can be a pirate?’
Guidelines for choosing a winning product
- Minimize the cost, maximize the profit – Choose a product that costs less to manufacture than it does to sell. Don’t forget – your main goal as a seller is maximize the profit.
- Stay away from dangerous products – Amazon values its customers greatly you as a seller are liable for your customers’ safety. Which is why it is best to avoid selling sharp or hazardous objects that pose a threat to the customers and carry extra liability for you as a seller.
- Keep it light – One of the most important things to consider about the product you’re selling is it’s weight. Heavier goods will carry higher shipping and FBA fees and take more time to be shipped to the warehouses.
- Make sure it’s legal – Unless you want to get banned from Amazon and sued by a big multi-million dollar company, make sure that the design and logo for your product is free of any copyrights or patents. Stay on the safe side and check with the U.S patent office to see which items have a patent or have already been licensed; also make sure that that your product is manufactured by an authorized supplier.
More helpful tools…
Splitly, an A/B testing software which enables the sellers to run split tests for their product listings and pull out stats on the total revenue generated by their product and find ways to optimize their prices and product listings to generate maximum profit and conversions.
Review Kick is an amazon review platform which assists the sellers in gaining honest reviews by giving away coupons and discounts. This platform hosts more than fifty thousand Amazon users and is a completely legal and safe way to launch your product with various promotions. This software also lets you track and keep record of every review and gives the seller full control over their promotion, enabling them to start or pause the promotion with a single click and customize it to their liking.
How much are you selling for?
The selling price for your product will be the most crucial factor is generating profits and you want to choose it wisely.
- See what your competitor is charging – you want to do a little bit of research on what the market price for your product is – and you want to beat them at their own game, which means you offer the same product at a lower price
- Mind your profit – Competitive prices are great for customer acquisition but you don’t want to run your business into ruins. I know, I know – it seems like I keep contradicting myself by telling you to charge less on one hand, and maximize profit on the other. When I started selling on Amazon, customer acquisition was my number one goal and the only way to achieve it was to offer competitive prices, coupon and discounts. Maximizing profit, on the other hand, was my main goal in the long run. Once I ascended the Bestseller Ranks, I slowly increased the price of my product to match that of my competitor and consequently, make more profit.
- Set a profit margin – My rule of thumb for all the newbies out there is to set the profit margin of one-third of the cost of making the product. This includes not only the manufacturing cost but also the shipping costs and the FBA fees. You can use Amazon’s FBA calculator to find out the FBA fees for selling your product. You need to enter the Amazon Standard Identification Number in the calculator for the product to get the exact number – the bigger the product, the greater the FBA fees associated with it.
Set your time frame
It took me 2 months from my moment of inspiration over the spicy pepperoni to make my first sale on Amazon; and that’s a realistic time frame that anyone who wants to enter this business should be looking at.
Why did it take me so long? Shipping – it’s a real bitch. Let me tell you how shipping your product from the factory to the Amazon warehouses works. You look through a number of reliable suppliers in China and find the ones that can manufacture your product for a cheaper cost. From the time you give your order to the manufacturer to the time your shipment arrives in the warehouses can be anywhere between 4-6 weeks.
This estimate need not be true for every shipment. For example if you sell a lightweight product that can easily be shipped through air, your order can arrive within a few days. For rest of us unlucky sellers, we have to wait for weeks for our heavy shipment to arrive in the warehouses through ocean freight.
Ocean freight is every seller’s go-to shipping method who prefers to save shipping costs than save time – it’s an unfair trade-off that will have you waiting for ages to make your first sale.
Get your shipment right
So, you’ve selected the perfect product to sell, found a reliable supplier to manufacture it for you and are ready to ship it to the warehouses – but wait, it’s not over yet! You must be cautious of the FBA regulations before shipping and make sure to inspect the products meet the FBA standard. You can check out details on FBA guidelines on Amazon’s official website.
Once your shipment reaches Amazon FBA, you can heave a sigh of relief and let Amazon take care of the rest. Every time a customer orders your product, Amazon collects the payment directly from them and deducts the standard shipping charges for delivering the product to the customers and transfers the remaining amount to the seller’s account. Amazon also handles returns and exchanges directly saving the seller a lot of time and money and provides free shipping on small and lightweight products.
Don’t run out of stock!
Don’t do it! Watch your sales like a hawk, determine how many units are selling per day and how much inventory you have left in the warehouses. Do the math accordingly to find out how many days your inventory will last before you run out of stock and order another shipment accordingly.
Running out of stock is the worst mistake you can make in peak season. The minute you stockout, your competitors will take a huge dump on your parade and steal your customers. People are not going to wait around for you to replenish your inventory; they will choose someone else to buy from. The more your competitors sell, the higher they climb up the Bestseller Ranks and this is nothing but bad news for your business.
Only once in my merchandising career on Amazon did I run out of stock. It was bad planning and forecasting on my behalf and it really hurt my ranking in the product niche category. I only had a few units left in my inventory and the next shipment was due to arrive in two weeks which meant that I would be out of business for half a month.
At that time I could do nothing to hurry up the shipping process so played a smart move that reduced the impact of stockout on my business. I sold the remaining units at a discount in return for reviews. These reviews helped me stay at a decent ranking until the next shipment arrived and resumed normal business again.
Let me know in the comments if you found that useful!
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