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2017 Seller Summit in Florida recap & trip report (got to meet the President of Nepal)

Hey folks,

So I just finished speaking at (and listen to other speakers) at the Sellerssummit in Florida, Fort Lauderdale. 

I was invited to speak about importing from China or to be more exact how to find the right supplier in China. 

Steve Chou, the host of the mywifequitherjob.com podcast and organizer of the event had invited me to speak and while it would be such a long trip I decided to go because I knew I’d learn a ton and meet amazing people. 

Before I get into the key takeaways from the Sellerssummit for me I wanted to share a few impressions with you from a personal side. 

This was a long trip for me – I took off on a Saturday morning and arrived on Sunday evening +12hours time difference so in total the trip was over 36 hours. 

That is also because I stopped in Sri Lanka to hang out in Colombo for a few hours before heading to Abu Dhabi, New York and finally Miami. 

Why was this such a long trip? Well to be honest with you I prefer laying flat and since I don’t want to pay for business class I used a lot of miles. 

Why do I fly business class? Not many people know this but I am extremely scared of flying and being in cramped spaces. 

When I mean extremely scared I mean the slightest turbulence or bump in flight would send my heart rate to 180bpm for half an hour. 

This “fear” all began in 2005 when I flew from Hong Kong to Germany and my plane had to land for an emergency landing in Kathmandu, Nepal because of severe turbulence. 

Since then I hate (or am scared) of flying and sitting in business class, having more space (I am also quite tall – 6’2) relaxes me and somewhat eases my fear. 

You would think that flying at least twice a month for the past 12 years would get me over that fear but it doesn’t. 

So anyway, I was prepared to take a long trip as long as I can relax. And some people might think flying business class is crazy expensive when it’s actually not. 

If you look long enough in advance, make use of mileage and credit card programs you spend less in business as in economy. I usually pay less or the same for my ticket than those in economy. 

So I ended up spending over 120,000 miles but only 260$ in taxes and fees for my return trip flight. Which also meant I had to hop onto 4 different planes to get to Miami. 

Call me crazy but I’d do that every time as opposed to a direct 14 hour flight in a cramped space. 

So anyway, I left Bangkok on Saturday morning on a 3 hour flight to Srilanka and was checking out a few sites in Colombo sine my stopover was 10 hours. 

I had quite a surprise at the start of the trip when I learned that the President of Nepal was sitting one row in front of me. There was tight security on the plane but I was able to shake the hand of the President of Nepal 🙂 

The president of Nepal

I just wasn’t allowed to take any photo with her so I snapped a few from my seat. 

I went to the Galle Face hotel in Colombo after I landed in Sri Lanka and was having lunch there, working a bit and enjoying the view from the terrace of the hotel. 

Arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Tuk Tuk’s everywhere

The Galle Face hotel in Colombo

My flight was bound to leave at 10PM so I made my way to the airport around 7, worked a bit more and chilled before boarding the flight to Abu Dhabi. 

I boarded the 4 hour flight and slept the entire way. I then had a 4 hour layover and transit in Abu Dhabi before boarding for my flight to JFK. This was a 14 hour flight and I was really glad (& excited) because for this flight Etihad uses their A380 plane. 

I did meticioulus research before booking this flight and made sure that I get to try their “business class studio” again which is by far the best business class in the skies.

Lots of space for the 14 hour flight.

Their A380 even has a bar in the middle of the plane. 

The bar on the A380 to New York

So I took a few snaps, had some wine and slept for the next 7.5 hours. I think I’ve never slept that long on a plane. 

Looking “fresh” after 7.5 hours of sleep 😀 (not)

Arrived in New York JFK on Sunday early morning and made my way to the another terminal for my final flight to Miami. I didn’t do much in Miami for my days there as I was mostly working in the hotel and walking around in the area. 

I had a webinar with Augustas Klygys on how to build a brand (which you can find here: http://augustaskligys.com/how-to-build-a-true-brand/), podcast interview and lots of emails to conquer before the conference. 

On Wednesday I made my way to Fort Lauderdale which is about a 50 minute drive from Miami and checked into the hotel to chill for a day before the conference started. 

Arriving in Fort Lauderdale

The line up for the summit looked like this: 

As you can see these are some of the biggest guys in the industry. Among them: Steve Chou, Greg Mercer from Junglescout, Scott Voelker from the Amazing Seller, Jeff Cohen from Sellerlabs, Bernie Thompson, Michael Jackness, Brian Johnson from PPC Scope and yours truly 🙂

Collecting my badge for the conference.

And we are getting started!

Steve Chou talking about how he runs his eCommerce store.

Create give aways or games like Steve Chou does with this “wheel spin” to collect email addresses.

Super important – the 4 pillars of a successful online store.

I am off to a good start 🙂

Scott Voelker is talking about how to launch your product in 2017

Just finished my speech and answering some questions.

Heading for dinner with Franz from Sellics (Marketplace Analytics) & Mike

Last session (ask me anything) and it’s a wrap!

With Greg from Junglescout and Carla at the networking event.

I definitely wanted to hear some of the other speakers and tried to sit in on as many sessions as I could. After the 3 day event I wanted to sum up my key-takeaways for you:

1) It is not too late

I am sure you hear it’s overcrowded, difficult to launch a product and stand out from the crowd. But that’s not the case if you have the right strategy. The potential of the market is so huge that there’s space for everyone. 

And the best part is that all the tools that you need (that many of us sellers didn’t have years ago) are available on the market. If you are looking to find a product, exact ranking, sales volume of a product you want to sell then use JUNGLESCOUT. If you want in-depth profit analysis, inventory management, keyword ranking optimization use SELLICS. If you want to research trends go use GOOGLE TRENDS. If you want to find product ideas outside of tools use one of my favourite sites KADAZA.

If you’re unsure with the process in China check out my blog. If you need launch strategies check out Scott’s podcast and recent launch strategies (https://privatelabelclassroom.com/product-launch-list-building-replay) There’s so much more out there that helps you grow or start your business. 

2) There are tons of other product launch strategies out there

Whether you are just launching your first product or your 10th product. You don’t need to worry about “can’t use reviewers anymore”. There are lots of strategies that actually work better than anything else. 

Just 3 months ago I tested a new launch strategy which admittedly takes time and effort but now I don’t have any PPC costs anymore. All my traffic to my listings is organic. Most importantly build a mailing list. With a mailing list you can kick start the launch of your new product – every time. You can also run give aways on your Facebook, Instagram or own website. The strategies are endless.

3) eCommerce is only growing and growing

Jeff Bezos is now the second richest man in the world and I think that says it all. eCommerce’s share in all of the retail business is only 8% at this moment. Imagine the growth potential. 

If you are concerned that the market is overcrowded don’t worry. There’s space for everyone. Perhaps not the 50th French Press but if you have a unique product and service proposition you too can make it in this market. 

4) Finding a product is not as important as actually pulling the trigger

I’ve seen it over and over again. People find a product which in my opinion is pretty good and then just before placing the order to the supplier they find excuses after excuses why the product all of a sudden isn’t a winner anymore. 

Granted, you need to do your research into numbers, demographics and market demand but you can overanalyze everything. As Scott Voelker says – Just take action! 

5) Amazon is working hard on getting Chinese factories onto their marketplace

You need to up your game and customer service. More and more Chinese sellers are coming to the marketplaces and Amazon is helping them. See the video here at around 2.27minutes: https://importdojo.com/importdojo-brand-evolution-branching-out-into-other-sales-channels-part-four-of-the-puzzle/

Amazon wants to offer the best prices to their customers and they do so by bringing in the actual manufacturers. However we have one definite advantage – customer service and unique product or service proposition. Two years ago I said “dont’ worry for now” over here: https://importdojo.com/chinese-sellers-on-amazon-dont-worry-for-now/ But now is the time to really step up your game. Here’s a breakdown again on how you can compete with the manufacturers:

  • Improve your product quality based on reviews
  • Pay a little more for better quality and regulations-compliant products
  • Develop your own products and packagings and make them exclusive for you on Amazon
  • Build or grow your brand with cross product selling and larger assortments
  • Build or grow your audience (Facebook, mailing lists etc.) and be ahead of the Chinese competition
  • Build relationships with suppliers for the long term and become one of their largest customers so that they don’t have to sell on Amazon themselves

6) Building an eCommerce business and brand is not complicated. It just takes time

Many of the speakers at the conference started where you are today. Today they run 7-9 figures eCommerce businesses. When you asked them how they did it they all answer in the same way. 

Step by step and it just takes time. You just have to focus on building a brand and diversifying as much as possible. Not just sell products on Amazon but also branch out into other channels.  

7) Social Media & Influencer marketing will be the No.1 traffic source to come (already is in my opinion)

There were a couple of speeches on how powerful Social Media and Influencer Marketing is. PPC and general paid advertisement is great but expensive. 

If you start your social media platforms now or continue to grow them you’ll have a launch tool that works every time. 

8) Outsource & automate as much as possible. 

I sat in the talk of Bill D’Ambrossio and I was baffled by how much you can automate and focus on the one thing you should be doing – devise your companies future and strategies. 

A year ago I was doing pretty much all of my tasks myself. I just couldn’t let go of some tasks and I thought only I can do them. I was wrong. I now have several VA’s and permanent employees that handle my daily tasks. And I can focus on the most important part of the business – working on things that make money. 

9) Retargeting – don’t miss out on your customers

I realized I am missing out so much on customers that visit my store and listings. With Facebook or retargeting tools you can now easily retarget your customers. 85% of first time visitors don’t buy from you. The majority never returns. 

But with re-targeting you can catch a lot of customers. It’s not just Facebook retargeting with lookalike custom audiences but also catching emails of visiting customers to your own website. Have a pop up window with some give aways or a coupon code or anything that lets you catch the visitors emails. These are essential things you should be doing (including me). 

Wrapping up

The best part for me personally was the last day when all the speakers got together in a private room and discussed their wins & struggles. 

Everyone of us had 15 minutes to speak and share their tricks and strategies as well as ask for advice. 

I was sitting amongst people that do 8 to 9 figures a year (working on mine :)) and was getting advice from top level people in the industry! This was the best Mastermind I’ve ever been to. 

Obviously I had to share some of my secrets as well and I think people were surprised by a product launch strategy that I developed in the last 3 months (which I will soon reveal).  

Getting and sharing advice with the big guys 🙂

If you are interested in the speeches given at the Summit here’s a link to a virtual pass. The recordings will be up in a few days:

http://sellerssummit.com/members2017/virtual-pass/?ap_id=importdojo

I hope this gave you a bit of insight from my trip, what the trends in the Amazon world are and what’s to come 🙂 

I got back two days ago to Asia and I am currently fighting a massive jet lag. On top of that I am heading to a conference in Berlin, Germany tonight (http://amzcon.de/). If you are around say hi 🙂

Let me know what you think in the comment section. 

We got this! All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel 

Acounting VAT

Selling Online and Expanding into Europe – Here’s What You Need To Know About VAT

This is a guest post by Claire Taylor from SimplyVAT.com. I met her last month in Hong Kong & Shenzhen at conferences around selling online and AmazonFBA. When she told me that she works for SimplyVAT I knew I had to have her on as a guest on my blog with a piece about VAT in Europe and how to handle the VAT as an international (or local) seller.

So without further ado, here is Claire’s blog post:

With 71% of shoppers believing they will get a better deal online than in stores, it is no surprise that the global ecommerce industry has developed at a breakneck pace – worldwide B2C ecommerce sales amounted to more than £18 trillion in 2016.

Cross border sales are expected to account for 20% of these sales in 2017, giving online retailers a huge opportunity to increase profits by tapping into overseas markets. You no longer need to conquer your local market before you contemplate world domination; you can operate a successful global business straight away. This new global reach means many issues can catch out the unwary retailer – both new and the more established.

 

Your international VAT obligations

Online retailers need to understand which international VAT laws will be relevant to your business. Just because your business is online, normal societal rules of taxation still govern it. In this blog, we provide you with:

  • What do you need to think about?
  • What exactly are the different VAT rules and regulations?
  • What do you need to do to ensure you are VAT compliant?
  • And what happens if you don’t comply?

What is Value Added Tax (VAT)

Value Added Tax (VAT) is the preferred transactional tax model in the EU and is equivalent of the USA sales tax. It differs from sales tax though as it is applied every time value is added– from the raw material supplier, to the manufacturer to the wholesaler and retailer and finally to the end consumer.

Governments get revenue every step of the supply chain. It is not supposed to be a burden on businesses, who, once VAT registered, can offset any VAT collected on sales against any VAT incurred on expenditure – including import VAT. The burden rests with the final consumer, and it is for this reason, the EU tax authorities are focusing on catching non-compliant online retailers – the VAT charged on sales to private consumers is revenue the tax authority gets to keep.

 

What Are the EU VAT Rules That Affect Online Retailers?

How you choose to distribute your goods to your customers will have VAT implications for you as the seller. Here we explain which issues affect you:

  1. Import VAT is applied at the first port of entry into the EU – local import VAT will be charged on the cost value of the goods you are importing, for example, in the UK the import VAT is at 20%.

 

If you are not VAT registered, your customer is usually left to pay the import charges before they can receive delivery of the goods. This is not really the best customer experience.

 

 

If you have an EU EORI (Economic Operator Registration Identification) number (issued by the EU customs authorities) and are VAT registered, you will account for the import VAT:

 

  • You charge the customer the VAT when they buy the goods from your online store so there are no unpleasant surprises for them on delivery. This is paid over to the tax authority on the VAT return.

 

  • The import VAT charged is refunded to you via the local VAT return.

 

  1. Using Fulfilment Centres in the European Union

 

  • Wherever your stock is held, whether it be an Amazon fulfilment centre or another third party warehouse – as a non-resident of that country – you now have an obligation to VAT register there. There are no thresholds to exceed.
  • If your stock is in fulfilment centres in several EU countries, you will require VAT registrations in each of the countries where your stock is held.

 

  1. The EU VAT Distance Selling Rules

 

Once you are VAT registered in one EU country, sales delivered from that country to local private customers or customers in other EU countries are governed by the EU VAT distance selling rules. These rules state that local VAT is charged on any sales to any consumers within Europe until the set distance selling thresholds are exceeded in any one country.

 

The Distance Selling rules do give you a chance to test the European markets without the heavy cost of compliance.

 

  1. Monitoring Your Sales

 

  • When calculating whether you have exceeded the threshold, make sure you add sales from EACH channel you sell on – all sales go towards the distance selling thresholds.

 

  1. Also include the shipping amount in the calculation.

If you are selling medium to high value goods, it won’t take much for you to breach the threshold in many of the EU countries.

  1. Other Reporting Obligations

 

  • EC Sales Lists

 

When stock is sold, or transferred between EU countries, there is additional reporting obligation to file an EC Sales List. For example, if stock is moved from the UK warehouse to a German warehouse, this will need to be reported on an EC Sales List as well as the UK VAT return. This is particularly relevant when using Amazon’s Pan-EU service as stock is moved, by Amazon, on your behalf between 7 different EU countries. (Also note using Amazon’s Pan-EU service triggers VAT registrations in those 7 countries – Germany, France, Italy, Spain, UK, Czech Republic and Poland).

 

  • Intrastat Declarations

 

Intrastat Declarations are statistical reports that are obligatory once set intrastate thresholds are exceeded in each EU country. There are thresholds for both ‘dispatches’ and ‘arrivals’. See below table:

Intrastat Reporting Thresholds

Country

Currency

Arrivals

Dispatches

Austria

EUR

750,000

750,000

Belgium

EUR

1,500,000

1,000,000

Bulgaria

BGN

410,000

240,000

Croatia

HRK

1,800,000

900,000

Cyprus

EUR

100,000

55,000

Czech Republic

CZK

8,000,000

8,000,000

Denmark

DKK

6,000,000

4,700,000

Estonia

EUR

200,000

130,000

Finland

EUR

550,000

500,000

France

EUR

460,000

More than 460,000: detailed Intrastat; Less than 460,000: simplified Intrastat

Germany

EUR

800,000

500,000

Greece

EUR

150,000

90,000

Hungary

HUF

100,000,000

100,000,000

Ireland

EUR

500,000

635,000

Italy

EUR

More than 50,000: monthly Intrastat (EC Purchase listing); Less than 50,000: quarterly Intrastat (EC Purchase listing)

More than 50,000: monthly Intrastat (EC Sales listing); Less than 50,000: quarterly Intrastat (EC Sales listing)

Latvia

EUR

180,000

130,000

Lithuania

EUR

280,000

200,000

Luxembourg

EUR

200,000

150,000

Malta

EUR

700

700

Netherlands

EUR

1,000,000

1,200,000

Poland

PLN

3,000,000

1,500,000

Portugal

EUR

350,000

250,000

Romania

RON

500,000

900,000

Slovak Republic

EUR

200,000

400,000

Slovenia

EUR

120,000

200,000

Spain

EUR

400,000

400,000

Sweden

SEK

9,000,000

4,500,000

UK

GBP

1,500,000

250,000

The information produced is for general guidelines only. More specific information, please contact info@simplyvat.com

The information is correct at the 1st January 2017

 

You will need to monitor sales (dispatches), for example, from the UK to any EU countries, once these ‘dispatches’ reach £250,000, intrastat declarations will need to be filed.

 

  1. Fiscal Representation – as non-EU company, some EU countries require a non-EU business to have Fiscal Representation. A Fiscal Representative is jointly and severely liable for the VAT owed, and because of this risk, there are additional fees associated which can include a bank guarantee. An option for non-EU companies, to avoid these costs, is to set up an EU company. If an EU company is established there will, however, be other reporting requirements such as a Confirmation Statement and Annual Accounts, however, it is a matter of doing the sums and calculating whether these costs will outweigh the cost of fiscal representation in the countries you will have VAT compliance exposure.

 

Countries such as France, Italy and Poland, amongst many others, require non-EU companies to have a Fiscal Representative in place.

 

  1. Penalties and Fines for Non-VAT Compliance

 

Ignorance of the VAT rules is no defence. Not accounting for VAT properly or not reporting it at all can cost you your business.

 

The tax authorities are becoming much more proactive in hunting down non-compliant online sellers as, I mentioned previously, the tax authorities get to keep the VAT revenue collected from online sales.

 

Recently, the marketplace – Amazon.de – was approached by the German tax authority to provide seller data, and they had to hand it over. At Amazon.fr, Amazon are now obliged to issue each seller with sales through Amazon.fr, with an Annual Summary detailing their sales and potential VAT exposure there; and in the UK, from committed lobbying by UK sellers to close the competition gap from non-compliant, non-EU sellers, the UK tax authority has issued new rules to make the marketplaces and fulfilment centres responsible for their client’s compliance. HMRC now has the power to make Amazon close your store down within 30 days if you are not VAT compliant.

 

Once caught, the tax authorities will issue penalties and interest charges for late or non-compliance. Is it worth the worry, not to comply?

 

Don’t let VAT be a barrier to your European expansion plans

Our advice is to plan ahead. Add the cost of VAT compliance to your cashflow along with other staples such as web-hosting or accountancy fees. Understanding the cost of entering a foreign market will ensure your international business will thrive!

It can sound daunting, we understand you don’t have the luxury of a tax department to make sure you are staying ahead of the game, but please don’t be put off by the VAT rules, we are here to help and at www.simplyvat.com we understand the struggles of an entrepreneur.

  • We provide an expert, friendly and customer focused service
  • We can ensure you are VAT compliant across Europe and elsewhere where local laws are applicable such as Canada.
  • We can give you the right country-specific VAT compliance information to make sure your invoices are correct.
  • We can make your VAT compliance experience as painless as possible through our new online VAT compliance platform.
  • We can get you VAT registered, obtain an EORI number for you; prepare and submit your VAT return, and, if necessary, file your EC Sales Lists and intrastat declarations on time.
  • We monitor your distance sales from your multi-channel locations to ensure you stay compliant.

At http://www.SimplyVAT.com We Are Here To Help…. You Sleep At Night..

 

If you want to know more, please email heretohelp@simplyvat.com or laura.vanstone@simplyvat.com to discuss how we can help you with your international expansion plans.