How to increase traffic to your Amazon listings

This is a guest post written by Dave Barry, which outlines a number of ways you can get more traffic to your listings on Amazon. Dave is an Amazon Seller and also a co-founder of AMZEurope.com. AMZ Europe specializes in listing optimization for Amazon UK & US and Amazon EU (Germany, France, Italy & Spain).

INTRODUCTION

Poorly performing products on Amazon arise due to:

  1. A lack of traffic – not enough people are clicking on your listing; and / or
  2. Low conversion – not enough visitors are buying your product.

In this post, we’ll focus on issue #1.

A lot of effort goes into listing a product on Amazon, including product research, negotiating with suppliers, logistics, photography, keyword research and copywriting. As such, when your product is not being seen by enough potential customers, it can be enormously frustrating.

Does your product have low or declining traffic?

To answer this, you need to determine the number of people that are visiting your listing.

You can find the number of views a particular listing is receiving in seller central:

  • Under the “Reports” menu, click, “Business Reports”
  • On the left side of this page, under subheading “By ASIN”, click on “Detail Page Sales and Traffic”
    • You will then be presented with a table of data for each of your ASINs
    • Find the relevant ASIN (you may need to scroll down) – column “Page View” will display the traffic or number of views your product listing has received
    • In the top right of the screen, you can adjust the period for which you want to see the data

If it’s a product that you have been selling for a while, check the traffic over the past 6-12 months.

A significant drop off in traffic or a steady decline indicates a problem and your focus should be on addressing this, using the tactics we’ll discuss in this article.

However, beware of the seasonality of some products when performing your analysis. Seasonal products are in higher demand at a certain time of the year and thus, will receive more traffic during this period.

For example, if you’re selling board shorts, you can expect a reduction in traffic in the months following the summer. You can check the seasonality of a product by inserting its main keyword into Google Trends.

Launched a new product that’s getting very little traffic?

This is common at the start and likely due to limited sales history and low number of product reviews (people tend to buy products that have a larger number of positive reviews) relative to your competition. Follow the tips in this post to increase the number of visitors to your new product.

Is your listing being suppressed by Amazon?

Before we discuss the methods that will help increase the traffic to your listings on Amazon, we must quickly check if your listing is being suppressed

What does this mean?

In simple terms, it refers to when Amazon lowers the ranking / limits the visibility of your listing – leading to a reduction in traffic and sales. It arises when some part(s) of your listing is not compliant with Amazon’s rules.

Is my listing being suppressed?

Here’s how to check in seller central.

Under the “Inventory” menu, click, “Manage Inventory”:

  • If you have suppressed listings, you will see “Suppressed” in the top navigation pane
    • To solve this and restore your listings to normality, you’ll usually need to provide some additional information or make an adjustment to your listing e.g. reduce the number of characters to your title.
  • If you do not have any suppressed listings, you will not see the “Suppressed” option in your navigation pane.

Here is a more detailed overview of listing suppression from Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200898450

BOOSTING YOUR TRAFFIC

1 – Improve Your Main Image

When a customer searches for a product like yours on Amazon, what is one of the first things they see?

Your main image.

To get more clicks and increase your traffic, you’ll need to have a top quality main image that stands out amongst your competitors.

Amazon has specific rules for your main image, which you should abide by to avoid potential suppression of your listing. In summary, your main image should be on a pure white background and your product should fill 85% or more of the image – while these are rules, following them will also better showcase your product.

Here are some other ways to improve your main image:

  • Hire a professional product photographer – in a competitive niche, this can help you get more clicks
  • Ensure it is high resolution – 1,000 px minimum in height or width
  • Present your product at a different angle than your competitors
  • Feature any extras or bonuses provided with your offering e.g. a carry bag or user guide
  • If you have high quality packaging, include this in your main image

Torn between two potential main images? Perform a split test to confirm which one will generate more traffic.

Split Testing (also referred to as “A/B Testing”) is done to find out what works best in your listings, and will ultimately generate more profit over the long term. In simple terms, it involves deriving two options / variants (main images in this case) and determining which one provides better results.

Use option 1 as your main image for 7 days. Then, change to option 2 for the following 7 days.

You can then compare the traffic and performance of your listing with these 2 main images. The image which provides more traffic and sales is the one to use for your listing going forward.

The 2 week time period above is used as a guideline – you can do longer if you wish, although I would not recommend a shorter test period. The more data and clicks you compile, the more confident you can be in the results provided.

Software like CashCowPro and Splitly can help you automate the split testing processing.

2 – Evaluate Your Pricing Strategy

Pricing is another key variable in determining whether a potential customer clicks on your listing or those of your competitors.

Finding the sweet spot can be difficult. Price too high and you’ll prevent customers from clicking on your listing. Even pricing too low can reduce traffic, as it may suggest you’re selling a low quality product and turn off some buyers.

However, if you’re not getting enough traffic, here is my advice on pricing.

To start, review the pricing of the top sellers in your niche – it’s fair to assume they have tested and determined an optimal price that attracts customers and sales.

Go to Amazon and check the price range of the top 3 to 5 sellers in your niche.

If you’re significantly above this range, you might well be pricing your offering too high.

If your product is new (with very few reviews) or in decline, an effective way of getting more clicks is to lower your sales price. This should increase traffic and sales, and in turn improve your ranking on Amazon.

Once you have restored your listing to a healthy level of traffic and sales, you can then consider a price increase.

Be careful not to price too low. I made this mistake on a listing myself. Traffic and sales on one of my products were in decline, so I wanted to offer a larger discount to customers to regain my ranking and sales.

I lowered my sales price to $8.99. However, this actually had a negative effect on conversion and sales!

My product had become an add-on item on Amazon. If your product is listed as an add-on item, it can only be purchased by customers that check out with a shopping cart of $25 or more.

Lowering your price is definitely a tactic that works to grow traffic.

However, it’s important to note that competing on price may work temporarily, but there’s nothing to stop a competitor pricing lower than you. Downward price pressure like this erodes your profit margin.

To avoid this, ensure your product offers some unique value / features compared to your competitors. This will help you succeed amongst the sprawling forest of generic private label products being sold on Amazon.

3 – Run A Lightning Deal

What is a lightning deal?

It is a promotional offering, where you provide a special discount for your product and Amazon features it on its Deals page for several hours.

This is almost guaranteed to provide a large influx of traffic and along with it, sales!

It’s an excellent way to revive a slow moving product listing.

However, not all products are eligible for lighting deals.

To check if your product(s) are eligible, go to seller central. Under “Inventory”, click “Lightning Deals”. The lightning deals that you can opt to run (if any) will be listed under “Recommendations” at the bottom of the page.

If the product you are seeking to boost is not eligible for a lightning deal, check back a week later as this page is updated on a weekly basis.

4 – Find New Keywords

The keywords included in your listing have a major impact on the traffic your listings receive.

Your product will not appear in Amazon’s search results if a customer uses a keyword that is not in your listing or search terms (also known as “back-end keywords”).

As such, by failing to include just one high-volume keyword that’s relevant to your product, you’ll be missing out on a significant amount of traffic.

To ensure all important keywords are identified and included in our listing, we must perform comprehensive keyword research.

With Amazon recently reducing search terms to a maximum of 250 characters, it’s more important than ever to identify and target the right keywords.

Tips when doing keyword research:

  • Experience with keyword research is preferable, including familiarity with tools and software that can provide data and automation to enhance the process;
  • Keyword research should be done by someone with (a) comprehensive vocabulary and (b) understanding of your product / niche, to ensure all important keywords (high volume and relevant) are identified; and
  • Understand the difference between keyword research for Google and Amazon. People search on Google for information, services and products, while searches on Amazon are just for products – prioritize keywords that have buyer intent, over more informational keyword phrases.

In summary, investing time in keyword research is essential as it has a major impact on the quantity and quality of traffic directed to your listing.


Don’t have the time or knowledge to perform comprehensive keyword research?

Hire us! Our listing optimization services features detailed keyword research, along with copywriting for Amazon US & UK, and localization (a mix of copywriting and translation) for Amazon EU (Germany, France, Italy & Spain).


As part of our listing optimization services, we also optimize your product title to get more clicks / traffic, which we’ll cover next.

5 – Optimize Your Product Title

Along with your main image and pricing, your product’s title is the other key variable displayed in search.

These 3 factors provide the first impression of your product to customers. The better they are, relative to your competition, the more traffic you’ll get.

We have covered main image and pricing already, so now let’s talk about improving your product title.

The first goal of an Amazon Product Title is to capture the attention of buyers. We do this by placing the most important keywords at the start of your title. If buyers don’t see keywords relevant to their needs, they likely won’t click on your product. This is also important because mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) display fewer characters of your title – almost 60% of Amazon customers report that their primary way to purchase products on Amazon is on their smartphone or tablet.  

Titles must be written in a compelling way too, encouraging customers to click on your product, instead of your competitors’ offerings.

It’s important to note that product titles in most categories are limited to 200 characters (including spaces). To maximize space and feature as many important keywords as possible, your title should not comprise grammatically perfect / full sentences – it should be a mix of keywords and copywriting.

For example, let’s assume we are selling a wallet made from high quality leather. In a full sentence, we would write, “the product is made from premium leather”. For an Amazon Title, the phrase “Premium Leather” is better – we don’t waste too many characters, but emphasize the important feature we want to.

You can derive a new title for your product using these tips.

However, it’s important to verify that it actually improves the performance of your listing.

Run a split test to check if the new title gets more clicks than your original title.

Next up, we’ll talk about advertising. While this is a paid method to increase your traffic, it is certainly an effective one.

6 – Advertise on Amazon

There are 2 ways to advertise your products on Amazon:

Sponsored Products for promoting / advertising individual listings.

Headline Search Ads – available to brand registered owners, with 3 or more product listings.

Low traffic and not advertising your listings on Amazon?

Get started with sponsored products. It’s easy to do and will drive traffic to your listing. Amazon offers a $50 credit to those starting out oo.

If you are advertising on Amazon, but still have low traffic, there are a few things you can do to get more traffic from advertising:

  • Increase your bids on keywords – this will improve your ad placement and help you get more clicks
  • Increase your daily budget – this will increase the number of clicks you can get from advertising in a particular day. Do this if you are regularly spending / reaching your daily budget / limit set on Amazon.
  • Perform keyword research to identify new keywords to target in your advertising campaigns

BONUS TRAFFIC TIPS FOR AMAZON EUROPE

For those selling on Amazon Europe (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), here are some other ways to increase your traffic.

A – Enable FBA Export

FBA Export allows sellers to choose which European countries their products can be shipped to.

If your listing’s export settings in Seller Central (pictured below) is set to “Disabled” or “9 Countries”, you are missing out on traffic from many countries in Europe.

Update to “26 countries” and open up your listing to traffic and sales from a number of other European countries. Note that sellers are not charged additional fees for FBA Export orders – as you can see below, there are “no additional fees for FBA Export orders on Amazon”.

 

B – Keyword Research & Amazon Europe

If English is your first language and you’re selling on non-English speaking marketplaces (Germany, France, Italy & Spain), make sure your keyword research is done by a native speaker.

A comprehensive vocabulary is key to ensure the best keywords for your listing are found, and included in your title and search terms – both key to generating traffic.

Also, a native speaker will also ensure that only keywords relevant to your product are included in your listing and search terms – non-relevant keywords will lead to traffic from customers not specifically searching for a product like yours, and likely hurt your conversion rate. Also, targeting non-relevant keywords is technically forbidden by Amazon.

You may be tempted to save money and just translate your English keywords. But this is not recommended. Without doing the “research” part, you will fail to identify keywords and limit the potential traffic to your listing. Furthermore, direct translation of keyword phrases (two or more words) from English into another language will often produce a phrase that has a totally different meaning than intended.

C – Product Titles for Amazon Europe

As we learned in section 5 above,a good Amazon Product Title captures the attention of buyers by including the right keywords and being written in an appealing way.

The best way to ensure this for the non-English speaking marketplaces (Amazon Germany, France, Italy and Spain) is to hire a native speaker to write and optimize your listings for Amazon EU.

A poorly written or translated title (like the example below) will reduce your credibility in the eyes of your potential customers and is certain to hurt your traffic and sales.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope you liked this post and use the tips provided to increase your traffic on Amazon!

If you’re looking for help with new listings or to boost your current listings, check out our listing optimization offerings for Amazon US / UK and Amazon EU (Germany, France, Italy & Spain). Designed to increase your traffic and sales on Amazon!

We have also created a listing optimization blueprint – it’s a checklist you can work through to improve your listings. It’s based on what we’ve learned from optimizing hundreds of listings to date and I’m sure it will provide you with a few helpful tips – download it for free here! www.amzeurope.com/amazon-listing-optimization-checklist

Before signing off, I’d like to say a special thanks Manuel. There is a lot of excellent content on his website, and it’s a real pleasure to have my post featured here.

If you have any questions for me, you can get in touch directly through AMZEurope.com or comment below. Please share this post if you like it too!

Why you ALWAYS need inspections in China and Europe trip report

A little more than 2 weeks ago I came back from my Europe “vacation” which was not really a vacation but more work because I was constantly on some calls or working on other stuff.

It was quiet around me but I was not sleeping but rather working on many projects. Some of them I wanted to share today. Before that I also wanted to share some moments of my 7800 kilometer trip (4800 miles) in Europe before I start with today’s blog post which is about factory inspections in China. 

What else can you expect in this blog post? 

  1. I launched a new product (the best day & dry pack 2018) 🙂
  2. I ordered more products to ramp up my second brand Mandarin-Gear
  3. I launched a new case study on brand building and social media (all for free)

But more on that later. So without further ado, here are some impressions from my Europe trip:

Before I left to Europe I spoke to Thai Amazon sellers about Brand Building. Fun!

We left to Europe on 29th of July. Most people who know from my previous posts about my fear of flying. Also explained here. So I treated myself to lying flat again.

We landed in Vienna (Austria) pretty late that night and had a long breakfast the next morning with an amazing view

Perfect setting for a Sunday morning.

We then headed to my Mum’s place near Salzburg and would you know there was a village festival. Which was pretty empty for what it was 🙂

Stayed for a few days there and then headed for a hike in the Tyrolean mountains near my friends place. I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures with my newest product that I launched 2 weeks ago. 

Pretty proud of this item and I even use it myself (or ask my wife to stand in for photos) 🙂

We then made our way to Sweden and stopped in Hamburg in between to meet up with Gil from Privatelabeljourney.de and his lovely wife.

We finally arrived after a 16 hour drive to my private sanctuary. Had to chill for a few minutes to let it all sink in.

On the very next day we went looking for mushrooms in the forest.

There you go 🙂

Enjoying a sunset.

And we are off fishing!

I M ON A BOAT

Preparing for my speech in Innsbruck (Austria) 2 weeks from now.

In between goofing around and relaxing.

Or eating Swedish food.

Our first catch!

And more mushrooms!

…and mushrooms….

 

On the last few days we had friends from Thailand visiting

A few days later we were in Venice, Italy. Another 18 hour drive.

Venice

Venice

From there we headed to Budapest, Hungary (another 8 hour drive) for one of my best friends wedding.

Including a bachelor night. No details here 🙂

Meeting friends from Hong Kong in Budapest

The wedding was set in a beautiful castle outside of Budapest.

And there’s the freshly married couple

We went to lake Balaton (Europe’s largest fresh water lake) and Vienna for a few days after that.

Eventually bringing me to the last leg of my trip. I was speaking to becoming and existing Amazon sellers about niche selection and why innovation in product development matters.

Amazing crowd and excellent event!

And Vienna again on the last night before flying home.

 

So that was that, my 6 weeks in Europe. A lot more moments that I wanted to share but I don’t want to bore you and get into today’s topic:

why you ALWAYS need inspections in China.

So when I got home to Asia I had an inspection on my 7th re-order of the French Press case study product I did a year ago. 

I’ve always preached how important inspections are and I do them every time. Even with suppliers I work with for a long time.

It really doesn’t matter how well you know your supplier and how often they plead not to do inspections. You hear something along this line: “don’t worry my friend – always good quality, no need to inspect”. Have you heard that phrase? I’ve heard it a million times and I ALWAYS do inspections anyway.

So this was an inspection with my “famous” French Press and before I received the report the supplier told me many times that we don’t need an inspection… Even on the day before I received the report the supplier messaged me (because he was obviously in the factory during the inspection) that I should release the shipment, there are just a few scratches, nothing to worry about and I should go ahead and send him the payment….

Never trust your supplier. I am not talking about the sales representative of the factory. I am talking about the factory workers, the QA manager on duty and down the hierarchy. They might have a bad day or the factory manager decides to rush an order (remember many factories are being closed right now so I attribute these issues to that).

Have an inspection, evaluate the problems and release shipments if these are minor mistakes. I often release shipments even if the inspection is “fail” when there are minor issues. However in critical cases, demand re-work & re-inspections until its fixed. Otherwise the supplier doesn’t see his money. Another good point to never pay more than 30% downpayment.

To see what I mean when I say critical issues here are some images from the inspection:

Always view inspections from a customers point of view. Would you accept these type of issues? 

The supplier just switched screws that were cheaper without my approval!

And there were many other issues. So what do you do in these kind of situations? First of all you need to have an agreement in place when you place the order. I usually have three terms that I include in my contract and 95% of suppliers will agree to that:

  1. Re-inspection and re-work at suppliers cost if the inspection has major and critical issues
  2. Replace returned units from customers higher than 6-8% (depends on product). This usually means those 6-8% are free units on my next order.
  3. Penalty fees for late delivery. Say 10 days after agreed delivery date 0.5% of total order value. 15 days – 0.75% and so on.

Most suppliers will agree to these terms. The point is you negotiate this when you place the order and before you transfer any money. These things happen can happen to all of us and you always need to have a safety net (inspection).

So what happened in my case? The supplier asked me if it would be ok to send pictures only without a re-inspection… no way. How would I know if he just takes photos of items that were in perfect condition anyway and not re-work?

So I asked them to acknowledge our agreement of paying for re-work and re-inspection in case of serious issues. And that’s what happened. The supplier has since re-worked everything and the re-inspection was a few days ago, this time with very minor issues and I released the shipment.

The moral of the story here is really to have a safety net and don’t let the supplier talk you into easy solutions (for him). Because your business will suffer in the end. Granted this was the first time the supplier screwed up but that just makes my point. You never know what is going on on the day of production and it might not even be your sales representative fault. HAVE INSPECTIONS they start from 100$. 

So what else happened? 

  1. I launched a new product that I developed over the last 6 months. If you’re into hiking and outdoors, feel free to check it out 🙂

2) I launched a new website a few weeks ago called eCommercebutlers to help people on brand building, social media and decided to do a new case study on brand building (all for free). 

I will be documenting my entire journey on growing and further building my brand with videos on where one of my brands (Mandarin-Gear) is right now and how I intend to launch all my products in the future via social media and email lists only. 

My goal is to show that it is inexpensive to build a brand but it can be done (while I admit it takes time). 

The entire case study is free to watch so please head over to below link and sign up for updates if you are interested in watching my progress:

https://www.ecommercebutlers.com/brand-building-case-study/

Ps.: We also have a FREE Product Launch Checklist for you when signing up to our newsletter. 

I’ll also have a group where I’ll share updates and where we can discuss strategies over here: 

https://web.facebook.com/groups/124707288184753/

I aim to release a new video every week to show my progress.

I’d be happy to have you join me on this journey 🙂

That’s it for today, long overdue and long blog post. Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed it, please share 🙂

All the best,

Manuel

What’s new on ImportDojo?

Hey guys,

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and this is due to a holiday I took in Europe. Currently I am sitting in Budapest, Hungary writing this up. It’ll be another week until I am back in Hong Kong but I thought I’d give you a brief update on what I was up to.

Ecommercebutlers

I’ve launched a new page a few weeks ago called eCommercebutlers.com

The goal of this site is to help people build brands online. We’ll be regularly posting free content to help you build your eCommerce brand.

I’ve also moved the Sourcing Operation of ImportDojo to this site. So if you need help sourcing from professionals please check it out. As many of you know I’ve had a sourcing operation for quite a while now in Hong Kong which helps people find manufactures in China as well as handle the whole order follow up with factories for many eCommerce sellers.

Junglescout Million Dollar Case Study

Last week I was in a webinar with Greg Mercer & Kym from Junglescout to help with their Million Dollar Case Study. Currently they are in a supplier outreach phase and asked me for help and giving directions when sourcing in China. It was a little over an hour and we had a great chat.  If you are curios how I choose suppliers and what background checks I do before placing an order you can check out the whole webinar here:

The Million Dollar Case Study: Europe – Session #4: Find A Manufacturer In China

 

This also made me think of a few things in terms of supplier communications so I wanted to write up a few more notes and this brings me to today’s blog post:

Why Chinese suppliers never (or only partly) answer questions I asked? 

I’d like to give you a bit of an overview why Chinese suppliers don’t or might not reply to questions. 

1) Unprofessional inquiry

Since I am also a supplier based in Hong Kong I get inquiries from overseas clients on my products sometimes. You wouldn’t believe the level of un-professionalism I get sometimes.

Here’s an email from a inquriy I received a couple months back:

“Hi,

Please quote your products.

thank you”

And thats it. There is no name, no introduction, no details to which products are to be quoted, no quantity no final market etc. 

I usually delete these emails right away simply because I feel the buyer isn’t serious enough to buy from me. If he is, he would put in more time to send me a professional introduction what he does, what he intends to buy from me, what certification he might need, the market he is selling to and other details. Just as I, no supplier will take you serious with this kind of inquiry. 

Here’s how an email could look like:

Hi …,

My name is ….. and I am the ….(Manager/President/Buyer etc.) of …. Limited/Inc.

We are a (fill in your company’s business, e.g., Importer/Buying Office/Whole seller/Online shop) and are operating in (fill in your

country). You can also check out our website under: www. …..

I am writing to you today to inquire about the product I saw on your website/catalogue/exhibition.

The model number is….

Could you please give me the following information: (You can fill in the details in the attached quotation format or send me your quotation in the first step.)

Unit price based on …. Pieces

Minimum Order Quantity

Available certification (CE, RoHS, FCC, GS, etc.)

Production lead time

Available colors

Payment terms

I would then evaluate and get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks and best regards,

 In 95% of all cases you should get a more serious reply from a supplier. 

2) Unstructured inquiry

Some buyers don’t structure their initial inquiry well. Or they put important questions at the end of an email which can be easily overseen.

As an example looking at above email inquiry:

….Payment terms

I would then evaluate and get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks and best regards,

Oh, also we need to know what is the colors you can provide? 

The last sentence can be easily missed. So make sure that your inquiry has either bullet points, numbered paragraphs or other forms of structure. 

If you want you can also make important points BOLD. 

3) Too much work from other customers – ask again and again until you receive answers. 

Sometimes suppliers are simply overworked. I’m sure you’ve seen it, they even reply emails and work on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Usually 1 sales representative had 20 or more customers that he he/she needs to handle at the same time. And just like in any business they prioritize bigger customers first. 

Keep in mind that “we” Amazon/eCommerce sellers are mostly small fish if we order 500 or 1,000 units. Most retailers or wholesalers order 5,000 units upwards. 

You can imagine who gets priority. So suppliers tend to pay less attention to us smaller buyers and generally oversee some parts of your questions. 

4) Low potential client

supplier doesnt really care if you place an order and will treat your business with little seriousness. 

5) Supplier simply isn’t interested in your business – walk away

Chinese are very afraid of loosing face. So instead of telling you that they aren’t interested in your business they treat you with very little priority. 

Sometimes they don’t need any additional business at all. Maybe because they have too many clients or as previously mentioned don’t see your potential as compared to the workload.

Imagine you are a supplier and you have several clients who place orders every month more than 50,000USD. Easy work, setup processes with the existing clients and not much work. Then you have a client who has x amount of modifications, high standards and very little purchase order quantity. 

One could argue that you could become such a client if the supplier puts more effort in your first orders and your orders will grow in time. However these days factories have a lot of pressure filling production. Rising raw material prices, labour costs and expensive machinery to automate manufacturing. So obvioulsy you’ll go for clients who are easy, place larger orders, make you more profits and can fill your production capacity. 

Generally there’s to say that many new Amazon sellers have the impression that the factories are waiting for their orders and welcome every client with open arms. That is not the case. 

In our business to stay ahead of the competition you need to be unique, set yourself apart from the competition and most likely you don’t want to risk too much capital with new products. 

That also means that on top of our high requirements towards factories we don’t give them “big” business in the beginning. 

Key to a great supplier realtionship is to communicate your needs in the beginning and weed out those suppliers who aren’t really interested in your business or only reply half of your questions.

Imagine how difficult it will be down the road if you are having problems before even placing an order. Move on to the next supplier. 

Having said all that, there are great suppliers out there and even if I sometimes don’t get all my questions answered I can generally say most suppliers are willing to cooperate on many levels and ARE interested in my business. 

Don’t try to squeeze out every cent in your negotiation because what is it worth if you get a cheap price but poor quality and a supplier who’ll dissapear if you have problems. 

Treat your suppliers with respect – I’ve had great success with my strategy when building relationships with my suppliers. Live and let live. 

That’s it for today. Let me know if you have any questions. Simply comment below 

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

Why Amazon Germany is a desirable market and how your customer support becomes an idea machine

Hey folks,

This blog post is from a friend of mine who I met twice in Germany already. Her name is Nadine and last year she set out to create the only Amazon customer support based in Germany for your expanding eCommerce business. The site is called ENIDA – check it out!

Whether you are selling in the UK, IT, ES, FR, the US or in Germany, Enida takes care of your customers and has your best interest at heart. Their focus is on delivering stellar service so your customers will recommend your brand to other potential customers (friends & family).

And the best thing: Due to their internal “replacement” system you no longer have to worry about filling in for your staff on the weekend or during holidays. Enida has got you covered.

Onto today’s blog post: 

 

Why Amazon Germany is a desirable market and how your customer support becomes an idea machine

An ode to customer support

First off, let’s talk about customer support and its perceived image around the world. I admit it is not the sexiest job in the world but it can be very, very beneficial for your eCommerce business.

For most business owners customer support is the last thing they think about. It is solely something they have to do once customers notice the company. Funnily enough, most business owners hire customer support last. It’s a huge  pain. It only wastes money. Sadly though, the majority ignore the potential benefits you get when you focus on what your customers have to say.

Here’s a big welcome to the business owners who run eCommerce businesses and want to explore how customer support can open doors for new possibilities. 

In the following paragraphs, we are going to look at a general perspective on customer support and then move deeper into European and German customer support along the way. Let’s get started in finding out out what your customers want and what they would potentially buy.

Start to listen and build a customer FAQ

There has been no function more important for the growth of a company than its support. I know, you think that is a myth. But I can assure you it’s not. Working closely with customers pays off, especially when you empower your support staff allowing them to make decisions, set up an FAQ and thereby cut their customer interaction in half. When your support staff pays attention, you know what will sell and what won’t. And if you treat your customers right, you can send out a newsletter and even ask them, whether they would rather buy the new product in blue or orange – or purple?

If your product often requires an additional explanation, let your staff make a list with frequent problems and questions. You can then design a product inlay that will enable the customers to help themselves. After all, the best support is no support.

Therefore: use your support team to better understand your customers problems, which features of the product could be improved upon and how the process could run more smoothly. Based on this information you can raise the customer experience to the next level.

So: the more customers have a great experience and don’t require a contacting support, the happier they will be.

Now let’s move on to the next question.

Is European customer support any different from the rest of the world?

The simple answer is yes. We are quite spoiled here in Europe – especially in Germany and the UK. And since I am running a German customer support agency, that also covers English speaking customers, I am going to focus on the German market now. 

Germans, as you may have already heard, are always on time. Therefore, we like things to be done quickly and precisely. Also we can find it rather rude if you don’t speak our language and try to get by with Google Translate. 

So, in a nutshell: we are picky. We want to be treated like VIPs. But Germans also love consuming: out of around 80.5 million Germans, 44 million own an Amazon account and use it on a regular basis! Over 50%! Therefore, the European (German) market is not something you should just ignore. Like one seller said during a recent podcast I was in: “If you are not selling in Germany yet, you’re an idiot.”

Exactly. 

Herewith I want to help you get a better understanding of the German customers – after all this is my area of expertise. So in the following section, I will answer some common questions that sellers ask me on a regular basis.

Can’t I just use google translate?

No and if you do: stop it immediately. I know you might think that it’s not a big deal, but if you don’t speak a second language, you have no idea how bad the translation actually is. If you are serious about selling in Germany, if you want to build up your brand and make a lasting impression: get a German native speaker and add it to your support team. Especially Germans are very picky about this. As I have pointed out, over 50% of the German population is using Amazon and they expect you to speak their language. This also includes your listings.

Can I just use any German freelancer?

In theory, you could. But I advise you to at least know one German person who can look over their work. Why? Because Germans also make silly mistakes and typos can happen as well. If you pay for it, you better get flawless German. Get what I am saying? At Enida we have regular quality checks to make sure everyone is doing their job properly.

Can my listings just be in English?

Don’t do that. Seriously, don’t. Grab some money and get a good German copywriter or a translator to take care of your listing. After all, 44 million Germans browse and they compare. If you look at a product on Amazon in Spanish (because the Mexican seller didn’t bother to translate it) or a listing in broken English, would you think the product is a high quality product? Go figure.

Obviously, there are several translation services out there. Go get one that will help you optimize the listing even AFTER you have paid money for your PPC campaigns. For this reason, Enida runs their own translation service to help you get the best out of your listing: Enida Translations

Reach out to us and we will help you asap!

In the meanwhile, these are the main questions I get asked by foreign sellers. If you have any more, just send us a message at hello@enida.de and we will answer them swiftly.

Now: are you ready to tackle the German market?

Germany, as the second largest Amazon marketplace after the US, is the heart of the European Amazon battlefield. It might all sound complicated to you now, but once you have set up your system, it will run as smoothly as your current Amazon business. Therefore, we suggest starting with Germany and the UK and then expanding to all other European marketplaces.

If you are unsure whether you are ready for the German market, head over to Enida, click on the “English” button and sign up for our “6 Must Knows before you get into the German market!” Or, just click here to sign up and download the PDF.

After all, half of Germany’s population is waiting for you and with good product listings and hands on native customer support, there is far less to worry about. Obviously, there are also European taxes to consider but I won’t get into that for now. Because we know the right people to help you out there too. 

In case you are interested in Enida or Enida Translations, please make sure to mention “importdojo” – this will get you a discount.

Bis bald! Cheers!

Nadine

Founder Enida

www.enida.de

What is going on in China right now – Part 2

In November last year I shared a blog post from the sourcing and manufacturing side in China. There were shortages on packaging material and many price increases across all suppliers in China.

To read about this blog post check it out here: https://importdojo.com/what-is-going-on-in-china-right-now/

Today me and my partners in our Sourcing Company (https://importdojo.com/sourcing/) wanted to give you an update on the market situation in China.

The world is changing. In the past 6 months we have been through ups and downs of currency, raw material and labour cost fluctuation. Also the political landscape does not prove to be as stable and solid as it was considered to be in the end of 2016. With the US taking a turn away from China the economies in Asia are looking at a changed customer landscape and an insecure future.

This newsletter will help you gain a bit more insight in what is happening on this side of the world.

What is going on in Asia?

As we enter Q2 2017, global demand for goods produced in low cost sourcing destination looked positive, with growing exporters such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, India and Indonesia all seeing big growth in exports and foreign investment. Some shifting of exports and trade allegiance was evident due to the U.S./Trump policy. It is very important to note, that alternatives to China are quickly developing in countries like Vietnam, India, Bangladesh and Thailand. These countries are taking a fair share of what is rightfully theirs. Especially the economic growth and the growth in export from Vietnam is remarkable, with a 15% increase compared to the last years first quarter.

So the small countries are on the fast lane while good old China keeps doing, what they do best. And let us be realistic, there is still no feasible alternative to China in terms of infrastructure, automation and efficiency.

It is also remarkable to see that based on China National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, the average monthly wage of migrant workers (who tend to work in China’s manufacturing sector) increased by 6.6% to 3,275 yuan in 2016, which is almost comparable to the average income of an eastern European worker in countries like Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary. 

What about the money?

Well, not much to say here. Since the USD/CNY exchange rate adjusted to its new level, the Euro zone is suffering whereas the USD zone is happily jumping around about their favourable purchasing prices.

The lush movement in the currency gave a bit of stability to the trading environment and is not expected to change unless the US politics dramatically change the course of the country.

Now what is going on with the raw materials? If production volume in China is going down then we probably have good cards to buy cheap raw material because the government wants to drive the economy.

Unfortunately the answer to that is a clear NO. Some analysts are predicting that oil prices will increase by up to 20% by late 2017, with ongoing conflict in the Middle-East and attempts by OPEC countries to limit supply. Natural fibers such as cotton and wool have trended up, reflecting stronger consumer demand and healthier global economic conditions.

Natural rubber prices increased through Q1, steadying off into Q2 as Asian buyers slowed down on purchasing. Prices are expected to increase, through 2017 based on expectations of a global economic recovery and a reduction in supply from rubber major producers. Metal prices will follow this trend. Cotton prices were strong through Q1 and into Q2, a trend which some analysts do not expect to continue through 2017. According to the International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC), cotton stock-piles will reduce due to solid production, growth in global consumption and demand for exports.

Fine wool prices followed a similar trend to cotton, breaking a 29 year high in March, based on demand for better quality wool from Chinese mills. Unlike cotton or synthetic fibers, wool only comprises 1.5% of global fiber consumption and as a premium product, the price is really an indicator of consumer demand.

China is not a department store

On a last note I wanted to share some of our findings over the course of working with private label sellers. Many private label sellers believe that when they purchase something in China, the factories are just waiting for them to place a 500 pieces order with many changes, packaging requirements, additional features AND the lowest price.

Unfortunately this is not the case. China is not a department store where you can simply walk in and purchase something within a day and expect it to be delivered within 2 weeks. There is a lot to it. Supplier relationships, years of doing business together, production lead times, raw material purchase, packaging print and much more.

While some factories do adapt to the new eCommerce world with smaller quantities, many factories actually still have 90% of their turnover coming from large retailers, importers or wholesalers. We as Amazon/eCommerce sellers are small fish for most factories and while the trend is going into eCommerce rather than actual retail there is still a long way to go.

So you can’t expect to get the same price, priority handling or delivery time as a Walmart or HomeDepot. These guys buy hundreds of thousands of units per month, therefore they get the best price and are put in front of the production queue. Often you don’t have a chance against these retailers if they are also selling on Amazon. So the only way you can distinguish yourself is trough customer service, packaging and additional services.

I’ve also noticed that buyers are expecting drastic price decreases like 30-40% if they increase the order quantity say from 1,000 to 2,000 units. This is very unlikely unless you increase from 1,000 to 40,000 or 50,000 units. Price decreases when doubling the quantity usually results in 3% to maximum 6%. Most factories are laid out to produce 10-30,000 units of a single product in a day. Yes, believe me 🙂 So when a buyer comes with a 500 unit order it is certainly appreciated but it means that they have to squeeze in your order somewhere, negotiate low raw material purchase with their sub supplier etc. which is more of a hassle than profit for them.

Don’t try to squeeze every little cent out of a product when you negotiate. Let them have their profits so that they can continue to run their factory. Because what is it worth if you get the lowest price but then the supplier goes bankrupt or doesn’t help you in case you are facing quality problems. Live and let live.

Having said all that, with the right approach towards a supplier you can get your way around things. There are many suppliers who specialise on small order quantities or eCommerce sellers in general. Speak to your supplier in your initial inquiry if he is willing to work on your MOQ, prices etc. If you have the feeling they are hesitant move on to the next supplier. There’s nothing worse than making a deposit of 30% on your order and the supplier afterwards struggles to keep the prices or delivery terms and eventually not really motivated to produce according to your requirements.

Update on Import Dojo Sourcing Service

If you need help sourcing you are in the right place. We have recently celebrated our 1,000th customer and are growing together with the demand for know how and for the need of „eyes on the ground“. Our placed orders have generated a turnover of around 1.4 Mio USD with a steady customer base of around 250 customers. Together with this growth we could see that there is the need to adjust our service and pricing structure slightly.

With our 6 person strong sourcing team based in Hong Kong we want to provide the best possible service to our customers and we believe that the adjustment of our conditions and how our service is put together will help our customers be more effective, more cost efficient and more successful.

With our new concept we have less variety and are more focused on your needs. We are introducing the quick and easy Basic Sourcing for 99 USD, which delivers a quick supplier offer for an item within 5 – 7 working days to evaluate if your project is workable. In addition to that we have decided to provide at least 3 offers and supplier contacts with the standard sourcing request.

We have also decreased our photography prices by 25% and we can deliver 2 reference sourcing results if you decided to do sourcing and development with us for your price comparison and back up.

What is actually changing?

  1. Introducing our BASIC sourcing request for 99 USD – Delivering one supplier offer and their contact in 5-7 working days for quick reference.
  2. Extending service of STANDARD sourcing request starting from 169 USD – Delivering three supplier offers and their contact in 7-9 working days to you for a well established project base. 

Our service starts at 169 USD for one item, 299 USD for two items and additional 100 USD for every additional item. We are reducing complexity and increasing efficiency.

Decreasing photography costs

Reducing white background shots from 69 USD per picture to 49 USD per picture since we want to provide this service as a roundup for our customers.

We also adjust our full service pricing and keep splitting it to reorders and new orders. All other services will remain the same as before.

For those who believe our previous pricing is a better fit for them, you can still come to us and place your orders until 31/7/2017 with the coupon code #lastcall. If you present this in your email or in the flat-rate submission, we will be happy to handle your order with our old price logic even if we believe our new one is more beneficial to you. Please remember that all coupon codes are only applicable on flat rates. 

As always, it is a pleasure serving you and we are looking forward to the second half of 2017!

All the best,

Manuel & ImportDojo Sourcing team

How to deal with price increases from Chinese suppliers

Today I wanted to share a blog post to hopefully help you and teach you how to deal with price increases from Chinese suppliers.

Read until the end – we have a giveaway on ImportDojo in the value of 997US$!!! But before that, let’s get into today’s blog post.

So you received an email from your supplier that prices have to be increased because the Chinese Yuan (RMB) is being appreciated, his labor costs have risen or some other reason.

Never accept any price increase blindly. Let’s first analyze the situation:

  • Has he increased the price within the last year? If yes, how often?
  • Has he stated on his last quotation the validity of the price?
  • What are the reasons he wants to increase prices?

Here are common reasons for price increases:

  • Labor costs need to be increased
  • Raw material costs have increased
  • Chinese Renminbi (YUAN) has appreciated against the USD
  • Purchase of machinery to upgrade the factory

Lets go through them one by one and see how you could avoid the increase or find an acceptable solution between the both of you. I also want to give you background on each so that you can understand these reasons.

Labor costs need to be increased:

When I moved to Hong Kong in 2005 the average salary of a worker was around 250USD per month. Yes, that’s right, per month!! Nowadays a worker in the production line can get up to 1000USD or sometimes more. Some of the workers earn more than the staff in the office. Factories need to pay a high salary to workers because it’s so difficult to find them.

Yes, China has over 1.3 billion people but not everyone wants to stand in a workshop or production line doing rudimentary work. Education has improved a great deal since the early 2000’s and people want to work in offices rather than on production lines. So factories have to reach out to far provinces to hire workers. Costs automatically rise in that process. I have been told that some factories rent a bus and drive to far away provinces actively hiring workers to bring them back to the factory that same day on the bus.

What can you do in that case? Honestly not much. But if a supplier keeps increasing prices because of labor costs you might want to look for another supplier who has more machinery or automated processes that require less workmanship. This can actually be more expensive (because of the investment for machinery) but you should have more stability on prices in the future.

Raw material costs have increased:

This requires a little research but if a supplier uses this reason for price increases you can quickly find out if he is lying.

Go onto websites like the following and research the price index on your product’s main material:

http://www.meps.co.uk/raw%20material%20index.html

http://www.indexmundi.com/

Unfortunately, there is not much free information on the Internet; you have to pay for most services if you want real accurate data. You can also check out your local stock or commodity market online and see if you can get free data. Once you find your product’s raw material price check the development over the last few months or even years.

Compare it with the orders that you made to your supplier at the specific price drops or increases. If for example you ordered your item before at a lower raw material price than now, you can use this information to negotiate with your supplier.

I often find that suppliers use this excuse of raw material price to increase their profit margin. When you have data that backs that the raw material price has perhaps even decreased since your last purchase, let the supplier know and share the link or information that you found. Demand the same or an even lower price than what you are paying now.

If raw material really has increased then you might want to check by how much. If the supplier’s price increase does not match the actual raw material price increase, let him know and demand a lower price increase.

Chinese Renminbi (YUAN /RMB) has appreciated against the USD

The Chinese Yuan has risen over 60% since its revaluation in 2005 (when it was pegged against the USD). It has been undervalued for a long time but that has changed since the economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping. Since China opened to the rest of the world and became the world’s factory the Yuan has risen a great deal.

Many factories increase prices once the Yuan gets appreciated against the USD.

If the Yuan gets appreciated against the USD it is usually in the news and you should hear about it. You can also check official USD/RMB exchange rates to verify this claim.

Not much you can do here either, except perhaps asking for one more order with the last price before you accept the new price.

Purchase of machinery to upgrade the factory

This usually doesn’t happen very often, but when the factory claims there is machinery to buy to upgrade the factory it’s actually a good thing for you. It will lower the labor costs over time and you should have a stable price for a while. Ask your supplier to explain the type of machinery he is buying and how you can benefit from it in the future. Let him give you a guarantee or confirmation that this will benefit your price in the future.

Advanced negotiation

Validity of prices

Always ask your supplier to give you a validity of the quoted price. A common time frame should be 90 days, sometimes more sometimes less. In any case, ask your supplier for a validity of 180 days (6 months). It might take you a long time to decide to order this product for various reasons.

If you get back to the supplier after a while and you haven’t confirmed validity he might increase the price. That can put you in a difficult spot if you gave the quoted price to your customer. You might have to re-offer to your customer and that’s never good.

Big retailers usually have 1 year or even longer terms with suppliers. They can do that because the suppliers know that the quantities will be large and retailers often take a long time to decide because of their decision chain/process.

How to avoid or battle a price increase:

Short term:

  • Insist on the last order price for this order. Tell him you are about to give him a re-order.
  • Look into raw material price sheets. There are free sources on the Internet. You don’t even need to be updated all the time, but simply look at a price curve of the main material of your product for the last few months.

Has the price dropped or risen significantly? Did the supplier claim that the “xxxy” material has sharply risen? Check it out before you trust him.

Long term:

  • Put measurements in place such as contracts or buying terms to which the supplier has to agree before you do business. Set up your own buying terms with, for example, a minimum validity of prices in all offers.
  • Ask for bonus payments or agreements. If you know that you will be reordering from this factory, make a written agreement that you will receive a discount of a certain percentage from the next order based on your previous year.

Bonus payments:

It is getting more common to agree on bonus payments these days. It works the same way as back home with your local supplier. You agree on certain delivery terms, merchandising payment, back-payments and bonuses if a certain turnover is reached per year.

This usually only works with suppliers that you already work with. But you can certainly try it on any supplier. Even if you get a few hundred USD discount or bonus payment it’s definitely worth it!

You could set the following simple bonus payments with your supplier:

Turnover Goal 2017: xxxxx USD

If reached, bonus payment of 5% (for example) to be discounted from the next order.

For every xxxx USD above this amount a further 1% (for example) to a maximum of X% applies.

Send this agreement to your supplier. You can obviously work out a more detailed agreement but this is a simple illustration on how it could look. In any case I am sure there is some bonus or discount that can be arranged on future orders. 

The best option would be a direct bank transfer of the bonus at the year’s end but most suppliers will only agree on a discount deducted from any future order.

Other ways:

How to negotiate a good price with a low order quantity:

It is quite common that the supplier will send you a price based on a certain order quantity. Say 10USD for a quantity of 1,000 pieces. Sometimes suppliers will give you 2-3 different prices for different quantities. If you are planning to order an item, you should have a general idea of how to negotiate when you ask your supplier for a quote. 

DOUBLE (2,000) or even TRIPLE (3,000) this expected order quantity when asking for a price. It’s a tactic I use to see what the price range can be. If I actually order this item later at the quoted price but I am below the requested MOQ of the supplier I will pledge with the supplier to keep the price so that we can get started.

I will also mention that it will be a trial order and if everything goes well I will order the initial MOQ that the price was based on.

Perhaps the supplier will not give you the price based on your 1,000 pieces but he will give you the price based on 2,000 pieces to show his support.

This works in most cases. A supplier always will want to support you because they need to feed their factories with orders, even if they t make less profit, just to keep production running and to be cost effective.

Ask for a mixed calculation:

Say you buy 4 items from the same supplier and there is one item out of your assortment that is really price sensitive but the other 3 items are not.

Ask your supplier to keep the price on the price sensitive item the same (or decreased) and allow him to increase the other items at the same time (up to the maximum of the original price increase).

This way you can still offer the price sensitive item at the same price to your customers and lose only a little bit of profit on your higher margin items.

Advanced raw material purchase:

Many suppliers like to increase the price on your re-order. Let him know that you have an order coming up and that he should purchase raw material now at the lowest prices and that you want to have a better price than the previous order. He may want a written order confirmation for that so that he can purchase raw material on your behalf. Other suppliers offer on hand (or not)

If you have other suppliers’ offers on hand that are cheaper than the same item from your current supplier then tell your supplier and demand at least the same price. If you don’t have another offer on hand you could also pretend that you have an offer that is (say 10%) cheaper. Some suppliers may ask who it is from or if they can see it, but you don’t necessarily have to send it to him.

If you do have an offer from another supplier I would actually send it to my current supplier and ask him to lower the price.

How I got 7 suppliers to pay my buyer 100,000USD in bonus payments 

I had a buyer for Christmas items flying in from Austria pre-order season. We arranged to meet up with 9 suppliers over 2 days in our office in Hong Kong. I asked the suppliers to come in and meet with us to discuss the upcoming orders and next season items. The suppliers were happy to come and meet us because we usually would place orders in excess of 100,000USD to each of them per year.

We started off each meeting the same way. We told them we would be selecting new items and then we would tell the supplier how happy we were with the previous season and that we wanted to enlarge business this year. This got them in a happy mood. We selected a few new items to add to the assortment with each supplier. Eventually my buyer sat back and I started to talk about newly introduced bonus payments to each supplier. 

We wanted 10% of the last year’s order amount in bonus payments to be deducted from the next order. I also prepared an agreement to fix the payments right there and then with the supplier’s signature. We sat a long time with each supplier explaining the difficult economic situation, the EUR/USD exchange rate and how this all made it difficult for the buyer to succeed in his business. 

We needed the supplier’s support, there and then or else there might not be any increased orders. (You can always use other reasons, such as economic situations in your country, etc.) Two suppliers wouldn’t pay anything but we ended the 2 days of negotiation with over 100,000USD in bonus payments (some suppliers had orders of over 300,000USD from us). This was a lot more than we expected. 

How did I do that?

Initially the suppliers were reluctant. Since I wasn’t the actual buyer but the product manager it sure was a good thing the buyer was there. This way the supplier saw the buyer and had no way of wriggling himself out easily. Chinese do not want to lose face in front of their customers. They often promise the “best prices / best services,” etc., and it was time to prove they meant what they said. If you continually insist on a bonus and financial support they will eventually give in, because they want your future business and they don’t want to upset you.

In your case, since you will be the buyer, you see the importance of coming to China to negotiate your deals. A negotiation like this is highly unlikely to succeed via a phone call or an email. You don’t need to have an office here. You can hold meetings and negotiations in your hotel or at the factory. 

Even if your quantities or order value are not as big as the example above you still have an edge. Even the smallest discounts on your next orders could cover the airfare ticket you bought to get to China. Not to mention the suppliers you met on other days to source for new ideas. It will definitely be worth it.

Before you go into a negotiation with a supplier, plan ahead with a clear strategy similar to the one described above.

I do hope that this blog post helped you in some ways to get leverage when negotiating with your suppliers.

If you enjoyed the blog post, please share or comment below 🙂

IMPORTDOJO GIVEAWAY VALUED AT 997$!!

Now, before I let you off, we are currently running a Prime Deal giveaway here at ImportDojo. You have the chance to win 1 lifetime membership worth over 997US$! For more information click on the link below and sign up 🙂

https://importdojo.lpages.co/import-dojo-giveaway/

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

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 

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.

Is Amazon FBA still feasible?

We are giving away our eBook on how to build a brand titled “From Zero to Hero” Building (over 123 pages). If you ask yourself why we do that please read until the end 🙂

Every so often I get an email from a reader if this business model (Amazon FBA) is still worth it. Or if you can honestly make money selling on Amazon on in eCommerce for that matter…. 

Well, it is very likely that I don’t know you and your capabilites and dedication to work. If a friend asks me that same question and I’ve known him for years I can tell right away if he is going to make it or not.

It all depends on a person, his skills and his work ethic. But don’t be fooled by so many “gurus” out there telling you that you can make 10,000 within 4 weeks. That’s just lying to you to get to your hard earned cash.

So I can’t answer a complete stranger if he is going to make it . Yes of course you can make it but it takes time, efforts and money to build. 

The other day there was a newsletter on how many sellers after a year are still actively selling. The numbers were quite surprising. 

I don’t have the link anymore but I think only 30% are still in the game after a year. 10% of those actually make money. So it depends a lot on your dedication, product selection & general attitude towards “making it”. 

On top of that Amazon is constantly changing their TOS and making it more difficult for the “little guy” to suceed. 

Just a few days ago they have closed down the brand registry program. See the screenshot here:

From what I hear they will open the program again in early May and will then only accept sellers who have a trademark registered. 

Rumours are that if you have been accepted into brand registry before this change you will be “grandfathered” in. Meaning you should be ok. But this is just speculation, I couldn’t confirm this. 

More and more Chinese sellers are coming to Amazon and they most likely all have a trademark on their brand. 

So if you are just starting out and want to test a product and this business model it will be difficult to protect your “brand”.

We will have to wait and see what Amazon will do in May when they release the news on whats happening. 

Hence my constant appeal to my readers to build a brand.

But to answer your question in general, is Amazon FBA still feasible – YES absolutely. Even I was sceptical 3 years ago and you know what? It turns out, as long as you have a long term strategy, unique and innovative products or ONE rockstar product to carry your brand you will make money and stand out of the crowd.  

And building your brand does not stop on Amazon. What I really want to drive to you is that you need to branch out into as many sales channels as possible. Yes selling on Amazon will be essential but not the only thing you should do. It is a great way to kickstart your brand BUT and It has never been easier to build a brand.

Yes, it takes a very long time but building your brand is creating true and lasting value that you own. This independence is crucial and the best time to have started this would have been last year… the second best time is now.

Two weeks ago I released a new course on brand building which has been received very well and if you are just starting out and as a thank you for being my loyal reader I’d like to give you our Brand Building eBook (From Zero to Hero) which we just released for free!

If you aren’t registered on my site yet for a free membership please do so now: https://importdojo.com/pricing/  

Just click on the link and choose “Free Membership” – IT’s 100% free!

Go check it out and download it. I would also love to have your feedback on this eBook. 

Ps.: If you are an existing ImportDojo member, you will find this eBook in your Members Area 🙂 

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel