I invited some of the smartest brains in the industry to join me for a conversation about:
- COVID-19 and it’s impact on 2020 and beyond
- The frenzy to buy Amazon FBA companies
- Amazon rules, policies and all the things that can go right and wrong with the biggest platform around
- Opportunities for growth in ecommerce, especially on Amazon
The panel includes:
- Yael Cabilly (Cabilly & Co and Fortunet)
- Michal Baumwald Oron (Fortunet)
- Rachel Johnson Greer (Cascadia Seller Solutions)
- Cynthia Stine (eGrowth Partners)
- Melissa Simonson (Empowery Ecommerce Collective)
- Carina McLeod (eCommerce Nurse)
- Leah McHugh (Seller Performance Solutions and ecommerceChris)
- Becky Trowbridge (eComEngine)
Watch the replay
Read the Transcript
Hi everybody, and thanks for joining us for a special Monday webinar on International Women’s Day. I’ve got a star-studded cast of characters who are all well-versed in different segments of e-commerce. I am Liz. I am the e-commerce marketing manager at Teikametrics. I also do a whole lot of webinars. So you guys see me real often. We’re really glad that you were able to join us today.
First of all, a couple of housekeeping things. We are recording this session. It will be emailed to each registrant. So don’t worry about that. It’s usually a question I get like 16 people asking, “Is this being recorded?” So yes, it’s being recorded. Also, any relevant links or resources that are mentioned, we’ll make sure to include in the recap. And if you’ve got questions, there’s a question section in the GoToWebinar panel. Just submit your questions there. We’ll try to weave in some questions as we’re talking. This is a casual conversation. We’re all just sort of here and we’re here to talk about the things that we told you about in the email, and probably more, and yeah, so feel free to ask questions. And whatever questions we don’t get to during the actual content, we’ll save some time at the end. We might go a little over an hour, we might not. It just depends on how long you guys want to hang out with us.
So, without further ado, let’s introduce our presenters today. So, I didn’t think to put everybody in alphabetical order, so I’m just going to announce them as I see them on the screen. I don’t know how you guys are seeing it, but we’ve got Becky Trowbridge from eComEngine. She’s head of content there, she’s an expert on product reviews and seller reputation, and all sorts of stuff. We’ve got Cynthia Stine, who is the founder of eGrowth Partners. She is a multi-published author and is just about to release a book called Dirty Seller Tricks. We did a little webinar about that not too long ago, but that’s coming soon, and it has stuff that will absolutely curl your toes and tingle your spine and make you just a little bit sick, but it’s helpful stuff to know. We’ve got Leah McHugh, who is part of ecommerceChris and also a co-host of the Seller Performance Solutions Podcast. We’ll be linking to that, and I said it right, didn’t I, Leah?
Leah McHugh (00:02:23):
Yes you did. Good job.
Yay. It’s a relatively new podcast. It’s full of great information on how to not get yourself in trouble on Amazon. So I highly recommend that you subscribe to that. We have Michal Baumwald Oron, who along with Yael Cabilly are part of Fortunet, a company that they founded to help people get ready to sell their Amazon businesses in a smart way that is compliant, that is most profitable to them. It is a great service that they’re providing because a lot of people have been messing up big time during this extreme frenzy to buy Amazon businesses. They’re both also attorneys in their own right, support Amazon sellers, and you probably know them already.
We’ve got Rachel Johnson who is the founder of Cascadia Seller Solutions. She knows everything about product compliance, but she’s also diving deep into Amazon’s new ways that you can advertise your products in your business. So that’s super exciting, but she’s got a depth of knowledge that just transcends anything I know. And then Carina McLeod is a former Amazonian and she is the founder of eCommerce Nurse and Vendor Society. So Carina is well versed in third party sales, third party businesses, but also understands the one piece side of things. She has a full service agency, and I just love everybody here. Melissa Simonson, she’ll be joining us directly, but these are some of my best friends in the industry, and I’m so excited for us all to talk today. So again, if you have questions, put them in the question section of GoToWebinar. Without further ado, because I’ve been yammering for five minutes, let’s start.
So 2020, huh? So about a year ago, COVID-19 really hit hard, right? And we’ve been in a global pandemic for a year now, but it has been an unprecedented time for e-commerce. I asked everybody to get one big thing about COVID-19, what 2020 was like, what Q4 was like, what the beginning of Q1 has been like, the changes to e-commerce. And so I’m just going to ask everybody about their one big thing and then we can kind of take it from there. So Carina, what’s your one big takeaway from the craziness that has happened the last 365 days or so?
Carina McLeod (00:04:43):
Oh wow. Yeah. Many things. But the one thing is to have a backup plan, have a contingency. A lot of businesses found themselves a quarter that only had, for example, one channel that they were selling through. And for example, when Amazon closed the doors on FBA, that put a lot of businesses at risk. And so it’s always not just relying on one channel, it’s about looking into having more than just the one. So definitely that. So if you’re an FBA seller looking into Seller Fulfilled Prime, or just being able to fulfill orders yourselves, if you’re a vendor possibly looking into a hybrid and being a seller as well, that’s definitely one big call-out for 2020.
I agree completely. How about Becky? You’re up next.
Becky Trowbridge (00:05:34):
Sure. I think one of the biggest things that I took away is just learning from what’s available to you using the data at hand to make decisions in real time. I think a lot of times we all want to have kind of a perfect decision with a lot of really good details lining up why we made that decision. But sometimes, like Carina mentioned, the FBA, FBM, a lot of sellers had to switch channels very suddenly last year due to COVID. And just that ability to be flexible and to do what you can with what you have, I think is one of the biggest takeaways for me.
Leah McHugh (00:06:14):
Yeah. So when I get asked this question, I always come at it I think from a sort of skewed angle, because I tend to deal with sellers who are having problems. So I always say that the biggest and most important thing is due diligence in whatever it is that you’re doing, whether it’s selling your business, buying a business, starting to sell a new product, even hiring somebody. You need to do due diligence because ultimately if you’re a business and you’re the one that’s on the hook when things go wrong, so you need to know what is happening, who’s working for you, what it is that you should be doing before you get started. Otherwise, it’s going to be a fairly short-term strategy whether you like it or not.
That’s a very, very good point. Cynthia.
Cynthia Stine (00:07:00):
Well, besides the resilience that everyone has mentioned, because boy, did sellers have to be resilient last year, and at the speed of light. I also was just struck by just too much bad behavior there was on this platform. I think the pressure really pushed Amazon, pushed sellers, and we saw a lot of bad behavior. And so if you, like today, linked accounts was one of our biggest issues when it comes to suspension, and those are almost always due to sellers doing things wrong, whether they had a transaction and then did it wrong, or just how they set themselves up on the platform or their former lives. It’s very complicated. And I think what we learned in this last year, helping so many sellers in very complicated situations, is the need to be prepared and to think through and not just do things. And so last year was a year where people were just doing things because we were all flying by the seat of our pants, and it caused a lot of problems. So that was kind of my takeaway for the year.
Melissa has joined us. Melissa, say hi to everybody.
Melissa Simonson (00:08:24):
Yael Cabilly (00:08:24):
Now we’re truly Brady Bunch style. And I’m Alice, I guess, at least to me, I’m in the middle for me. I don’t know how it works for everybody else. But Melissa is the figureheads spokesperson for Empowery eCommerce Cooperative. It’s a nonprofit devoted to advocating sellers. It’s a great organization. And she had back-to-back meetings today. So Melissa, we’re kind of doing our one big thing that was our takeaway from this whole COVID situation. So think about that and I’ll get everybody else and I’ll come back to you at the end.
Melissa Simonson (00:09:10):
Okay. Sounds great.
All right. Cool. So, Rachel.
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:09:14):
I think the biggest thing for me was kind of stress testing supply chains. I found it really interesting how people were thinking a lot about what they could do and about their own process if FBA didn’t work. And then a lot of people didn’t think of that either, but even if you did have a 3PL lined up and so on, I had multiple clients where they’re like, “Yeah, so this top selling product that you just asked me about, well, they just closed the ports in Italy again. So I can’t get anything shipped out and I don’t know when I’m going to get them shipped out. So I guess that one we’ll just have to do something with later.” Or if the person was producing in California multiple times, there were shutdowns in California where everyone was like, “Well, I can’t really hire anyone new because I don’t feel comfortable hiring anyone new and putting my existing employees at risk. So we’re going to reduce production by 20%.”
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:10:00):
So just a lot of challenges with supply chain last year, where it’s not just your own business that’s a challenge. It’s not just that Amazon struggled. It’s that your own suppliers are struggling. So one of the things we used to do at Amazon is do multi-supplier strategies for pretty much anything that was a critical product. So making sure that we could source from multiple locations, if we could source from multiple countries, we tried to, but just kind of trying to stress test your supply chain. Like how can you make it to where one supplier isn’t going to wreck your business.
That’s great. And absolutely right on. I talked to so many brands that were having just enormous issues. Like, “Everything’s stuck in the middle of the ocean. We can’t get to it.” Yael, how about you? You’ve got a unique legal perspective on things, so I’m interested-
Yael Cabilly (00:10:47):
Right. Can you hear me?
Yael Cabilly (00:10:49):
Okay. I’m always concerned. So, I see both exits and legal. So my take on this year after this crazy year of exits, which Michal is probably going to talk about, I think that the legal part, and especially the IP part, is becoming more and more important. A buyer will never buy a brand that’s not registered as a trademark, and a buyer won’t buy a brand that’s infringing a patent. So while in the past it was your own business for yourself, today a lot of brands are building it to sell, and these become more important: compliance, trademarks, IP.
Yael Cabilly (00:11:34):
I also see an interesting move to kind of innovation and protection. So while in the past most of the sellers took a product that already existed and changed it a little and then sold it, now I see some innovation and then IP. I mean, if you create a product that’s unique, you want to protect it, you want to have patents, and closing that with exits, when you speak to buyers, one of the things they say is that IP raises the valuation of your business. So I’m seeing a move there, more and more products, more innovative, and towards a sale or not towards a sale, but for yourself and seeing more enforcement.
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:12:27):
Yeah. I think that I may have some internet connection issues just towards this nice events. So I hope that you hear me well?
Yael Cabilly (00:12:41):
Yeah, we do.
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:12:42):
Okay. So I think that this COVID year emphasized that consolidation among Amazon sellers is something that is a real solid phenomena. The amount of money that is spread into the market for that purpose is huge. It is estimated by $3 billion just from mid 2020. So I think that during this year, any Amazon seller has acknowledged of visibility to sell the business. There are various opportunities to sell an Amazon business, different many potential buyers. So it is clear that the business can be sold. There is a lot of demand for essential business staff, and there is a lot to know around what to do in order to make sure that you get the best result out of this transaction. I believe that we’ll speak about it further down the road.
Yeah, I think that that’s going to flow nicely. Melissa, what’s your one big thing?
Melissa Simonson (00:13:59):
I think that a lot of people noticed last year, if you had any loose ends, then those really got caught up in the machinery last year. So I think that that kind of plays into what Yael and Michal were saying. Having the patents, or the trademarks, or copyrights, doing things the proper way, having everything fully in compliance, is I think much more important, especially if you are building to sell.
Melissa Simonson (00:14:26):
But then I think of some of the sellers that I talked to last year, I had one who she did everything the right way. She was so on it. She was thinking ahead, she went with us to China to source a product. While she was there, she got things done with the seller, she had a prototype, she sent it off to be built. And when she got back, she didn’t have too long to wait before she actually had stuff shipping into Amazon. So she did things right. She was preparing for a specific holiday. She did lightening deals and supported her whole launch for this product. And then we had COVID and Amazon canceled Easter. So her product was dead from the start.
Melissa Simonson (00:15:06):
And so I think my point here is, even if you’re doing everything the right way, even if you have all of your T’s crossed and your I’s dotted, things can happen that throw things totally out of whack. And so if you don’t have things fully in compliance, if you don’t have liability insurance, if you don’t have all kinds of stuff that could go wrong, then that is the one thing that will tip your business over the side, because you have to also factor in the craziness of the whole world. So I think compliance is my big takeaway, that you really need to have all your ducks in a row and make sure that you’re building a business. This is not just a product that you’re tossing up online to sell. You’re running a business. You need to start the way you want to finish.
Excellent. It was also striking to me, despite the hiccups early in COVID, that I saw some shocking success, right? I mean, I saw certain brands that … And it wasn’t just masks or hand sanitizer brands, because I think that this whole thing has accelerated e-commerce by at least five years. People who never shopped online before are shopping online. So once people were able to ship more into FBA, I think it presented an amazing growth opportunity. I’ve had a couple of brands ask me like, “Why am I doing so well?” And I’m like, “Well, nobody’s going anywhere. They’re ordering everything off of Amazon. So yay for you. Boo for the rest of us who sit alone in our homes and only interact with people on a screen.”
But yeah, I think there’s been a tremendous growth opportunity. And I think that that’s one of the reasons that, watch this transition you all, one of the reasons why there’s this frenzy to buy FBA businesses, because all of a sudden there’s more awareness, right? And that’s something that I’ve been advocating for for years, and years, and years, which is if the consumer world and the financial world all kind of understood the behind the scenes, people behind the curtain, third party seller world, then people would be, first of all, brand aware, which is something I fight for every day, but they’d also be very, very interested in, because how fascinating is it and how lucrative can it be?
So let’s talk a little bit about that, because … Well, and we’re not going to spend a lot of time on the aggregators, the roll-ups, the frenzy to buy FBA businesses, because I am doing a webinar with these ladies from Fortunet in April. And I’ll tease that out and send you guys the link before we end today, but let’s talk a little bit about is this the peak, is this the top? Are there going to be more aggregators? Do you see it waning? Do you see it growing? What implications do you think that it’s going to have on the industry? Just tell us everything real quick though. [inaudible 00:18:07].
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:18:07):
Yeah. So, first of all, it all starts with the basic. The basic is that Amazon FBA created many successful businesses. And when we’re talking about successful businesses, we mean profitable and growing businesses. And when we talk about many, so there are dozen of thousands of such businesses, or even more, but starting from a certain size. So there is a growing industry, highly successful, and very scattered, very diversified. With that, looking forward, it is obvious that the e-commerce has not penetrated fully into the markets. So the e-commerce itself will keep on penetrating, and Amazon is leading this trend. Taking all of this, it is obvious that the opportunity is huge.
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:19:11):
On the other side, we see financial people, different entrepreneurs that come with deep pockets. And instead of building a brand one by one, they can just roll up as many brands as they want with all the money that they have, then manage them all together and create a much larger business that enjoy the economy of scale. And with that, they can develop a differentiated technology and other business differentiators. So this changes maybe the dynamic of the competition in the market, because if before these enormous trend, the single Amazon seller would have competed with other sellers like himself sitting at home with the pajamas and managing their businesses.
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:20:12):
Then today, such highly skillful sellers, this is a highly skillful community, they find themselves competing with more and more large companies, sophisticated, that actually … So this became an elephant path. So where single people were dominating the fields, this became the elephant path and we can see they’re giants that are playing in the same playground.
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:20:45):
If this trend will continue, we believe that it will, for up to a certain time, but it will. We see, first of all, it will because there is still at least $3 million at the moment under each end counting. So each day more and more money is still directed into these markets for that purpose. So we believe that these should, at least this amount of money and more should be deployed, and therefore the trend will continue. It is not risk-free, maybe we may see here and there an aggregator that doesn’t succeed, that may give a demonstration of how things look when they go wrong. But altogether, there is no reason to think that this will stop in the foreseeable future.
It’s so interesting too, because what each of us do is try to help a brand be more successful on Amazon, right? That’s what we’re all into doing. And ultimately that can either be into carrying on a successful business into perpetuity, but it very well could lead to, “Hey, I’m going to sell this business, and maybe I’ll start my next one, or maybe I’ll retire and go sit on a beach with a drink with an umbrella in it.” But Cynthia, I think you and I were talking, and you said that they’re like … Just like everything else with Amazon, there’s a way to do this wrong too. And I think probably a bunch of us can speak to that, but what are you seeing?
Cynthia Stine (00:22:30):
Yes. So, there’s the Amazon way, and then there’s the way that sellers want to do it. And so I do a lot of consulting on this with people who are either in the middle of a transaction, or they just completed a transaction, or they’re going through one. And what they’re wondering is, “Okay. What do I have to tell Amazon? What does Amazon need to know, and when do they need to know it? Or do they need to know it?” And I will say that part of what we’re seeing I think so many linked accounts, is because people have been doing these transactions improperly. In other words, they’ve not been telling Amazon that they did it, and that there’s now a new owner and things like that. And so things get entangled really quickly.
Cynthia Stine (00:23:22):
And the problem is you can’t go back to Amazon and say, “Oh, hey, wait, that was the previous owner,” or, “Oh no, we bought this company X amount of time ago.” And they’re like, “You didn’t tell us.” And so that is probably one of the trickiest things. And in a reasonable way I consult on it, so often also is that each buyer and seller situation is different. But when you are in a situation like Michal was talking about, where you have someone who’s planning on doing roll-ups, that’s their business model, they definitely need to do it right, because otherwise you will have the biggest, hairiest mess you have ever seen. And I know because I’ve had to unwind somebody’s big, hairy messes. So, that’s one thing.
Cynthia Stine (00:24:18):
And when you’re planning, you want to sell your business, and you’re thinking, “Okay. I need to trademark my intellectual property. I need to harden my supply line,” you’re thinking all the things you need to do, and it’s also useful to think ahead about how to transition the business to the new owner and what you’re going to tell Amazon about it, because it could really matter. And you may think, “Oh, well, I’ve sold my business. It’s their problem now.” Well, that’s not really true either. Because again, if you really do want to go off and start another business, for example, and count on Amazon again, you definitely need to do it the Amazon way, because otherwise you won’t be able to do it. And it’s just these things that people just need to think through early that will save them a lot of pain down the road.
Yeah. Well, doing things the Amazon way is always like … But I mean, sometimes hard to understand how to do it the Amazon way, because a lot of times there’s not documentation. And so I kind of want to hear from Leah, and Rachel, and Carina, and Melissa, and Becky, in kind of that order in terms of like, what are you hearing? Do you have people asking a lot of questions about this? Do you see a lot of businesses gearing up to sell. Leah, why don’t you go?
Leah McHugh (00:25:46):
Yeah. We’ve actually been working with all sides of it. So we’ve been working with some of the aggregators to help them do due diligence before they buy accounts. We’ve also been working with sellers to kind of clear up any issues before it gets sold. And I think what’s really striking to me is that the aggregators don’t necessarily have any Amazon experience, or even e-commerce experience. And I think, like Cynthia was saying, if you were planning on selling this business and starting another one, you’re potentially associating yourself with somebody who may not be running that account in the best way. So again, it’s not just a one-way due diligence street. If you’re selling your account, it’s also important to know about who it is that you’re selling to and what exactly they’re planning on doing with that account. Or again, you could just end up in this mess where you’re now related to 100 bad accounts and your account can now go down again as well.
Totally, totally. And I think that’s the beauty of Fortunet too, because it’s sort of a matchmaking service as well as due diligence and helping get … So you both have vetted the people that you would recommend, and you help businesses get ready, and you do business analysis and all that kind of stuff. Melissa, in your community, are you seeing a lot of people that are gearing up to sell, or are you seeing people that are like, “I need to scale in order to sell,” or are they too married to their own business and they’re thinking they’ll never going to do that?
Melissa Simonson (00:27:19):
I think after this past year, I think a lot of sellers experienced quite a bit of growth. If they had a great product, there were a lot of actual growth last year. So, there’s many of our sellers who are looking to sell that we’ve been giving them different options. For Empowery, we give them a brokerage option, we give them an aggregator option, and we make sure that they meet several of each type of service provider, because it’s so personal. When you’re selling your business, you really need to have a good personality match as well with the people that you’re working with.
Melissa Simonson (00:27:55):
So we see a lot of people are wanting to sell. Several people I know are trying to scale up a little bit more and might use half or more of this year to continue on with their growth. But also, we have a ton of new aggregators who are reaching out to us for partnerships. And so it’s amazing to see how popular this business has become. It’s become a big thing. There’s a lot of people that are starting to do a very similar type of service.
Becky, are you getting a lot of people that are really trying to amp up the amount of product reviews they’re getting on listings, because they’re trying to scale? Are you hearing that a lot from your customers?
Becky Trowbridge (00:28:39):
Yeah, some. I think another thing is seller feedback. I think a lot of times people kind of ignore seller feedback unless they’re having an issue, but as they’re thinking about selling their businesses or thinking about scaling, it becomes really essential to have all of those metrics really top of the list. So, we’re definitely seeing an increase in people asking for product reviews and monitoring their reviews, paying more attention to their competition, making sure that they’re as competitive as possible in their category, or what product they’re selling.
Yeah, seller feedback is just like the forgotten thing, but it can impact your order defect rate, and if your order defect rate gets to a certain point, you just lose your account altogether. So you can’t very well sell it if you don’t have it anymore. It’s really suspended. So Carina, what are you hearing? Carina is based in the UK, but she works with sellers all over the world. Are you getting people that are like, “I’m ready now,” or, “Can you help me get ready? Can you help me fix this listing?” What are you hearing?
Carina McLeod (00:29:48):
We’re finding actually more businesses that we work with are either using Amazon as a launch pad for their brand, with the idea that they want to expand. So it’s not about scaling up in order to solely focus on selling the business. It’s more about, “Okay. I’m going to use Amazon as a platform to create that awareness, grow a brand, that then enables me to open up doors to bricks and mortar.” So we’re seeing a lot of that these days with brands, as in Amazon is that phase one, is it worth, to get into the … And this is either getting into just bricks and mortar, or it might be an international brand wanting to hit the UK market, for example.
Carina McLeod (00:30:30):
We’re also seeing the reverse of that. So we’re seeing that’s when there’s these more established brands that are then realizing from last year 2020 with COVID that they probably should have thought about their Amazon strategy or online strategy earlier. And so there’s a lot of these bricks and mortar brands now that are realizing that they need to up their game in the online world. So that’s typically what we’re finding. There are businesses out there, of course, that are looking with the ultimate objective to sell. But we’re definitely finding that a lot of brands that we speak with is more about how do I create awareness, not only on Amazon, but how do I really strengthen my brand across the market as a whole.
Awesome. And Rachel, how about you? I know that you’ve worked a lot with product compliance, but you’ve also been diving into ways to promote your product on Amazon. Are you having a lot of people saying, “Hey, create me an awesome live so that I can get this business sold right away. Are you looking more at people who are just trying to grow their business?”
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:31:34):
That’s actually the first thing that I ask people that we’re working with, is like, what is your goal? What is your goal in the next year or two? What’s your goal in three to five years? Because if they tell me, “Oh, my goal is to exit,” then the strategy for how to maximize the value for your exit is completely different than if your goal is take-home pay, right? So the way that you structure your business, the way that you source things, the risks you might take or not take are dependent on whether or not you’re planning on selling or that that might be an exit for you.
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:32:02):
Versus if you are like, “No, I want to build a business. And then I’ve got a younger family member that I think that this would be great for, and I want them to work in it.” It’s a very different kind of approach to how you run your business, and how much time you take to do things, and whether or not it’s a long-term partnership.
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:32:18):
Just in the last year, probably about half dozen of our clients sold their businesses. And so it’s been a pretty significant churn. And then he’ll call here before like, “I hadn’t even thought about selling the business, but I was contacted by,” insert number of people here who contacted them, and they’re like, “This offer was pretty good. So I decided to go for it.” And they hadn’t been intending to sell. They just finally got something that came in and they were like, “All right. I guess I’m going to do it.” So sometimes even if there was no intention to go for it, we’ve been seeing people just like, “The money’s too good. I’m out.” Maybe they’re going for that my time on the beach.
Yeah. Offer you can’t refuse, right? We have a couple of questions related to this. Did I miss anybody for this? I don’t think I missed anybody.
Yael Cabilly (00:33:01):
I just wanted to add something.
Yael Cabilly (00:33:04):
Yeah, no. I just wanted to say one of the things we’re asked a lot is what to do if you have … If you’re going to sell at the end of the year, which is what we see a lot, what are you going to do during that year? And so a lot of sellers, sometimes we speak with sellers, say, “I have a year, I think I’m going to grow a Shopify so that I have another channel, so that I’ll have a higher valuation.” But then some of the sellers succeed, but many of them, since they’ve never done it, they don’t necessarily succeed in that. So I think that it really depends on how much time you have. If you’re going to sell it in six months and you’re very good at Amazon and launching new brands, then do that.
Yael Cabilly (00:33:48):
We’re saying, do what you do best. If you have six months, I don’t know if I would go to a different direction of something completely new. If you’re very good at going to different markets on Amazon, then do that. If you’re very good at growing the current brand, do that. So that’s a mistake that we see sometimes going through directions in a very, very short period of time to try to maximize the sale. Maximizing the sale is getting the business the best that it can be. And so you know how to do that.
That’s awesome. We do have a couple of questions. You all be patient because I am going to say this to the end, because I promised myself, we were only going to spend just a little bit of time on this, but it’s such a hot topic. And I think that it impacts every single one of us in terms of … I mean, obviously we help with advertising, and if you want to increase your sales, you’ve got to advertise. So, we’re all hearing it. It’s completely permeated the industry and every single corner of the industry. But we are doing a webinar about it soon. So, I’ll put out the link as soon as I stop yammering at it again. And I’m going to cue up the next set of topics, which is one of my favorite things to talk about. And it’s because of Leah, it’s because of my work with a lot of you.
Becky and I have geeked out on a whole lot, but that is Amazon’s rules. Cynthia talked about selling your business the Amazon way. Many of you worked at Amazon at one point. There are a lot of rules, and there are a lot of policies that Amazon has. Some of them are well-communicated, some of them are not. So let’s talk a little bit about that. Cynthia, I don’t want you to give us any spoilers, but you mentioned before your big thing about the 2020 COVID whole time was the bad behavior that you were seeing. And you’ve got this book, Dirty Seller Tricks coming out. So I think it’s cool to maybe start off the compliance section with a great example of one of these bad actors and the things that they’ve done. And then we can sort of go into everybody’s little specialties. But it’s always horrifying, but very interesting to hear. So give us a top two bad behavior so that we can all just be shocked and horrified. Shocking more by us.
Cynthia Stine (00:36:26):
Shocking off. Yeah. Just some of the things that we’re seeing … Well, first of all, I’m going to step back and say that a lot of people believe that these dirty tricks are coming from China, and it is true that there are a lot of Chinese sellers who know these tricks and are using them. Absolutely. But they are universal. We find bad actors in every country. And it’s also, what’s concerning to me is how much more commonly accepted it’s becoming, people that are like, “Well, I have to. I have to be …” We call them shady swirls in our company. “I have to be a shady swirl because everybody else is.”
Cynthia Stine (00:37:15):
And so that to me is a really disturbing trend. Because people are doing things, like they’re trying to take down competitors’ listings. And they have a whole bag of tricks for doing that. They might do everything from change out pictures, or other things that would upset the buyers. Like we had one guy who woke up one day and all his listings, the images had been replaced with hardcore porn. And I mean, ugly, hardcore porn, this was no Playboy model. And so buyers were really upset and they were complaining to Amazon. My client was absolutely just devastated by it. So that was one. And they kept doing it too. So every time we got it fixed, a few hours later, it was back. We eventually unraveled that, but there are things like that.
Cynthia Stine (00:38:16):
And then there’s fake reviews, which is a ton of stuff going on around reviews, where people are maybe leaving reviews on the competitors, but they’re doing it cleverly, right? It’s not obvious, but it’s them. They’re leaving reviews on someone else’s listings to try and take down that listing. We see a ton of that.
Cynthia Stine (00:38:39):
And oh gosh, there’s also those sellers who may have multiple accounts. And so they use the account to play what I call the shell game. And so they’ll have one account that’s the bad account, the bad actor account that does all the bad activity. And then they have the hero account, which is the one where they’re selling their product through. So when you go and look at these listings on Amazon as a buyer, you have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. And so you’d go to buy yourself, I don’t know, a blender, and they all kind of look alike, you may be thinking. What you may not be realizing is they actually are alike. That the first five listings that you see are actually all the same company under different names, but it literally is the same damn product at different prices. There’s just things like that.
Cynthia Stine (00:39:37):
But what gets me and what the book comes from, my heartedness is, when I see real damage, malicious behavior, seller on seller. And what was interesting about 2020 also in this area is that sellers are starting to fight back. So they’re getting a lot more [inaudible 00:40:02]. I know I’ve been called to be an expert witness in several of them. And there’s been just a lot more of just, “Hey, you can’t get away with this.” But also with 2020, Amazon had a lot going on to say the least. And so they were more or less not paying attention either, and they weren’t policing their own platform as well as they could have. [inaudible 00:40:30] me saying that.
I think that’s kind of a common thread too. I kind of want to back up to product reviews, because that’s a personal … I love that topic, but I think that when there’s product review bad actor activity going on, then the honest sellers are tempted to fight back in ways that aren’t compliant with Amazon policy. And I think I’d like to hear from Becky and Leah on that specifically, because we’ve all three worked together on those types of issues. But Becky, are you getting questions from people on like, “I need more product reviews. I need to find out creative ways. And I don’t necessarily care if they’re compliant.” So if you could speak to that.
And Leah, then if you could speak to are you seeing an increase in reviews abuse cases that you guys are getting approached with. And then Yael, if you could talk a little bit about the … So this is, to you guys that are watching at home, Yael, for you to talk a little bit about, what kind of lawsuits are you seeing? Are people fighting back? Rachel, I’d like you to talk a little bit about, I know that it’s not your favorite, it’s second, but are you seeing product compliance issues? Carina, what are you hearing from your folks? And Melissa, as an advocacy organization, what are the biggest pain points in terms of Amazon policy that you’re seeing?
So to recap, let’s go to Becky. And are you having people saying like, “Look, I want to pay these guys that said that they can give me 100 reviews on my listing within three days?” Are you getting those kinds of questions? Because I know that when I worked with you guys, I got those kinds of questions a lot, and I of course would say, “No, no, no, don’t stoop to that level.” But is there an increase in that because there’s been an increase in bad actor activity?
Becky Trowbridge (00:42:24):
There’s definitely an increase in interest in reviews overall I think because of a lot of the bad actor activity. I think also the removal of review commenting, I know this is a drum a lot of us have been beating for a while, but I think for brands, that’s just really bad, especially from a compliance standpoint, to not be able to speak to a review that might be false or putting bad information out there about how to use your product. But I think the last webinar you and I did, Liz, I had a couple of people that reached out and said, “Hey, I’m getting all these upvotes on bad reviews, negative reviews, that I have responded to elsewhere, but I no longer have a way to respond to that review directly. Amazon removed my comment, and that’s now my top review, is this negative review that has 150 upvotes. What do I do?”
Becky Trowbridge (00:43:14):
And I think it puts sellers in a really bad position because it’s like, “Well, the best thing I can tell you is to try to get as many more reviews as you can to offset that bad review.” But I could see where that could put sellers in a really weird corner, especially if they are preparing to sell their business. You know, “Hey, what can I do to get rid of these upvotes? What can I do? I see competitors that have a review and the next day it has 100 upvotes on their positive review. How did that happen?” So we’re definitely seeing a lot of chatter about that. And actually, my colleague, Ellen, is working on an article about that right now because we have a lot of questions too. So, trying to get to the bottom of it.
We’ll link to that. And since we can, Leah, are you seeing an increase in reviews abuse cases or is there another common suspension thing going on that is not that?
Leah McHugh (00:44:05):
I mean, we’ve been seeing a lot of reviews of these cases for years now. I wouldn’t say there’s a huge uptake in that one kind necessarily. I think what’s most surprising to me with that is that people are still doing it. A lot of it seems to have actually gone full circle where they used to be getting a little bit more creative and using Facebook chatbots to try to get around the rules. And now they’re just going back to just incentivizing reviews directly, which is absolutely against terms of service, but it seems like a lot of people have maybe forgotten that. In terms of abusing each other, I think there are actually easier ways that sellers have learned to take out a competitor besides reviews, and a lot faster ways. So we’re seeing-
Like Cynthia’s porn client. I mean, [inaudible 00:44:56].
Leah McHugh (00:44:56):
Yeah, or putting hidden keywords that make it look like your product is a pesticide, or make it look like your product is a prescription only drug. One we saw the other day, which I actually was sort of impressed by the cleverness of, they made the parent of a product an app, and apps are only purchasable on the mobile site. So then none of the child products were purchasable on the regular website. So we’re seeing-
You almost don’t want to tell, because then somebody else is going to do it and it’s going to become a big wildfire.
Leah McHugh (00:45:25):
Right. I’ve actually been keeping that one to myself for a while now, but we’ve seen it enough times that I think it’s out there.
Cynthia Stine (00:45:29):
It’s out there, don’t worry.
Leah McHugh (00:45:34):
Yeah. So I mean, there’s people who are still doing the review [inaudible 00:45:38]-
Yael Cabilly (00:45:38):
There’s a book on-
Leah McHugh (00:45:38):
… but we’re seeing a lot more complex ways of attacking each other. And also the other side of that is people are getting suspended because their competitors are reporting them for things that they are actually doing incorrect. And so that’s something we often have a conversation with, “Is this Amazon who noticed this or did somebody report me?” And it doesn’t really matter. You’re still doing it wrong. So we can’t appeal and say, “Somebody reported me.” We have to appeal and say, “Yes, we were doing this wrong and we’re now going to fix it.”
Well, it’s like you got to make sure your room is clean before you can point out the mess that your sister made on the floor because [inaudible 00:46:18]-
Leah McHugh (00:46:18):
Yeah, or somebody points out that your room is dirty. It doesn’t make your room less dirty.
True. So on the legal front, are you seeing sellers fighting back against … Like are they filing lawsuits against competitors that are attacking them? I mean, I think that it’s-
Yael Cabilly (00:46:36):
Yeah. They’re filing lawsuits, and on the legal side too, there are false complaints and tricks like that. What we’ve seen in the last year, and we’re trying to speak with Amazon about that, everybody’s trying, is the, going back to IP, filing complaints. We see clients filing complaints against others, especially for trademarks and copyrights. So you get a complaint for infringing a copyright. You have no idea what’s the work, what it’s based on, just says copyright. It’s extremely easy to do it. I try not to publish it and advertise it so much. But Amazon kind of trust you. You filed a complaint, you declare that it’s infringing, and they’re removing.
Yael Cabilly (00:47:28):
We’ve had clients that have been removed for trademark infringement. And when we saw the complaint, the trademark number was their trademark. So someone just used their trademark number and said, “I’m the owner. So I’m filing,” and they removed the listing using their trademarks. So when we appealed and wrote a letter to Amazon, we explained, “So, I can remove Nike, right? Using Nike’s trademark like that?” That’s what we’re seeing in the last year I say, and I think that Amazon has to change something, and otherwise it’s going to get worse and worse.
Melissa, what are you hearing from your community in terms of like, are they getting dinged for things that they didn’t know they were doing wrong? Are they getting attacked by competitors? What’s going on in your space?
Melissa Simonson (00:48:16):
I don’t know that it’s any more than usual. I think there’s always some of that, and especially some of them already had things in their listing that have changed a little bit microbial. There’s certain things, antibacterial, things that didn’t used to be as big of a factor. And when that change came through, people I think are sometimes slow to react to Amazon’s changes and Amazon will help you react faster. Sorry. Say it again.
Cynthia Stine (00:48:44):
Oh no, I’m sorry. I was laughing. I’m sorry.
Melissa Simonson (00:48:52):
Melissa Simonson (00:48:55):
Certainly Amazon will give you the kick in the butt you need sometimes to get your wheels moving. But I think, again, that’s why it’s so important that we stick together. There’s going to be enough of us attacking each other in different places. There’s going to be Amazon not necessarily working in our favor. There’s hijackers and a lot of problems that can face us. I think it’s much more important than to have the ability to come together and have a voice where we can then reach out. My main takeaway from all of this remains the same, is that we try and bring everyone together to have one voice so that we can advocate on your behalf.
That’s awesome. And that’s exactly, I think as a community of service and software providers, that’s our job, to protect, and to promote, and to make things easier because it’s not easy to navigate the Amazon marketplace. We do have some questions. I think we’re probably going to end up going a little bit over an hour. We still have a lot of people that are engaged, but I want to hear from Carina and Rachel on this, and Michal, if you’ve got something that you want to contribute, but I do want to spend a couple of minutes talking about opportunities for growth as well. So let’s kind of hit the compliance stuff quickly and then move on to that. And then hopefully we can talk about some of these really awesome questions that are coming in. So stick around everybody. We might go like 10 minutes over. So that means we have about 20 minutes left. Carina or Rachel, who wants to go first?
Carina McLeod (00:50:27):
Cool. So on the compliance, was it you want to keep talking on the compliance or?
Do you have anything that you’re seeing big time that is [inaudible 00:50:38]?
Carina McLeod (00:50:38):
Yeah. Well, from our side, it’s this whole thing of, “Well, such and such is doing it. Why do we have to do it the Amazon way?” That’s always the conversation that we’re having with clients. Because as an agency, we will only work the Amazon way. And that’s why we’re always very clear, “This is the way you do it. Maybe such and such is doing it, but does it mean that you have to do it?” And we always talk about longevity of a brand and these short-term wins versus long-term wins, but sometimes that makes those conversations difficult because brands say, “Well, we’re interested in working with you, tell us what your review strategy is.” So it’s like putting these inserts in all the packages and everything, and all these incentivizing reviews. And it’s like, “Well, there isn’t really a review strategy.” Not the Amazon way. It doesn’t work like that. And that’s what I would say is what we’re finding a lot, is trying to explain why you shouldn’t basically do it not the Amazon way.
Right. And it’s good because that’s how we need to educate people. It can be awfully frustrating to watch bad actors succeed and beat you, and then not be able to do anything to retaliate that’s immediately satisfying. There’s no instant gratification when it comes to fighting that. Rachel, what are you seeing?
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:52:10):
Yeah. So what I’m seeing is what I’ve been hoping to see for years. So that’s nice. So finally, Amazon is actually requiring product compliance documents. Now, the difficulty with that is they’re doing it in a somewhat interesting order. And what they’re doing is they’re requiring it to be submitted via upload so that they can have a bot review it. So that’s a little bit of a sad part. They’re trying to do this in bulk, which is fine, because they’ve got so many products, instead of talking to sellers and making sure the sellers are compliant. Instead, they decided that the correct way to do this is to look at every single item with a little bot scanner.
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:52:48):
So we’ll have clients where 4,000 of their items are taken down overnight and they’re like, “What?” And then they’ll submit the same type of CPC or children’s products certificate. Eventually, people are going to be asked for their GCCs, general certificate of conformity. So make sure you and your clients are ready. But for the CPC, they’ll get rejected because you had an extra tab somewhere and you didn’t realize it, and the automated tool doesn’t know how to deal with that.
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:53:13):
So that part can be pretty annoying. When everything is perfectly fine, you’ve gotten all the paperwork in order, you’re one of the good guys, and they’re like, “No. No soup for you.” That’s pretty annoying. But on the positive side, those who stick with it, and those who work through the process of getting the lab created COAs, the certificates of analysis, that are being required in supplements and skincare, those who make sure that they have the correct CPC, the children’s product certificate, or the GCCs, if you have all your ducks in a row, if you have all your paperwork in a row, it’s finally going to make it harder and more expensive for all those people who are doing the things that you guys have been talking about. Right?
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:53:47):
If you have to get a third party produced COA for every single item for each brand that you sell, then it’s not going to be so easy to sell four or five different brands of the same item. If you have to make sure that your product is safety tested and you have four different blenders, now you have a $1,500 test for four different blenders. So it definitely increases the cost of doing business this way and forces people to start doing things the right way, which is what I’ve been saying for a while. So it’s making me happy that Amazon’s finally enforcing this stuff.
Well, and it’s a start. So hopefully it’ll get better. [inaudible 00:54:23]-
Rachel Johnson Greer (00:54:23):
Yeah. I’m not so sure if I believe it will get better, but people will get better at dealing with it.
We have to believe, right? We have to believe that Amazon’s just grown so much and they’ll get it all figured out. And all of a sudden they’ll start really helping out the third party sellers. Let’s talk a little bit … Michal, did you want to say anything about compliance and bad actors?
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:54:45):
Yeah. Just to add, from the exit, and I’m the representative of the exit staff here, so from this perspective, I can say that non-compliance, it creates and increase the risk level of the business. That’s the problem. And in this sense, it damages the value of the assets, which is the business. If business incurs a high degree of risk, it means that the buyer that buys it cannot rely upon its good standing and continuation over time for 100%. So this is something, it doesn’t mean that only the Pope can sell it, use Amazon business, only saints. It’s obvious it’s here and there. Amazon sellers can try to be a bit creative and do stuff. But bottom line, if you cross some line, then a business can become really dangerous and this lowers the value.
Michal Baumwald Oron (00:55:55):
One more thing that I want to comment on this, that it is very important to be transparent with your buyers. First of all, with your consultant, when you start the process, because you want your consultant to be aware of any low lights that are related to your business in order to be prepared ahead of things. And then the deal itself, a buyer should know what he buys. So you should expose and disclose everything, including the naughty actions that you took to promote your business. So, that’s about that.
That’s excellent advice. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about growth. So there are a lot of opportunities for growth. We have a lot of people, we do have some questions. It’s not a ton of questions, but everybody still looks engaged, so hang in with us. If you’ve got questions, submit them. If we don’t get to them during the live, then we’ll try to get them answered in the recap that I always write. That always takes me more days than I’m supposed to. Also, I forgot to mention that we’re live tweeting this. So you can go follow, take a metrics on Twitter, and look at the tweets. And that probably has a pretty good, because Sarah is doing it and she rocks. And Melissa has to jump in the hour. So you go first, Melissa, what is the greatest opportunity for growth and what is your key growth strategy nugget that you want to throw out before you have to jump?
Melissa Simonson (00:57:26):
Wow. On the spot. Okay. Let’s see.
Melissa Simonson (00:57:31):
No pressure. No, I mean, I think this is a fantastic topic, and I wish I could stay and listen to everybody’s answers, because growth right now is astronomical. The possibilities are crazy. It feels like in the … Back in the day with Amazon when you could really, like your trajectory for growth was out of this world, except now we also have the rules and the regulations and more of the stuff going on and more competition than we did back then. But what’s crazy is the people and the different types of products that are experiencing growth right now, where … I worked with a brand last year that they had just been storing product. It was just on the shelf. They were like, “We’re just going to have to call this a loss. It’s like 30 grand. What are you going to do?” And then last year COVID hit, and then all of a sudden flying off the shelves, they have to get more, and it’s madness.
Melissa Simonson (00:58:30):
So I think one thing to keep in mind is for people who are worrying about getting into it, don’t worry. There’s plenty of time. Again, we’re still in the, I would say maybe we’re at toddler stage of Amazon and online selling and stuff like that. I think that the possibilities here are really endless for the sellers who are currently going. I think it is possible within 12 or 18 months to, for an experienced seller, to develop and sell a brand. So just think about what that means. I mean, especially with the aggregators out there right now. So I would say, think about what you want, focus on your why, your personal why, and go for that. The rest, you can just fit the pieces together and make it work.
I love that. Thank you so much.
Melissa Simonson (00:59:22):
Thank you guys.
We’ll be linking to Melissa’s organization in the recap to follow them. Think about joining up because it’s a great organization. Melissa, thank you so much. Now we’re going to get unBrady Bunchified, but that’s okay. So everybody say bye to Melissa. We’re going to go a little bit longer. So key nugget of growth. Becky, not only does eComEngine work with seller reputation, but also inventory management. What are you seeing with your customers in terms of how they’re growing? Is it international expansion that’s the big thing? What do you see is the biggest opportunity for growth right now?
Becky Trowbridge (01:00:08):
We really think international expansion has a lot of opportunity. We’ve added several marketplaces to RestockPro, which is our inventory management software.
It’s in Germany now.
Becky Trowbridge (01:00:17):
We’re getting ready to add Poland for feedback five. We’re really excited to be able to support sellers all over the world. And we see a lot of brands that are able to take what they have that’s successful in one marketplace and then test it in a new marketplace. And we work with Carina a lot. She has great advice and has provided her wisdom to our sellers for years, and we really appreciate her insight. But definitely that international expansion is a really good opportunity for growth for a successful brand.
Becky Trowbridge (01:00:47):
And I think it probably plays into the aggregator side too. Sorry. I don’t know from the legal standpoint how that works, if a brand is selling in multiple marketplaces, but I would imagine that people that are looking to buy businesses are interested in those that have already gotten some recognition in multiple marketplaces.
I was talking to Ryan Cramer from PingPong and somebody asked, “When is it the right time to expand internationally?” And he was like, “If you haven’t done it already, you’re late.” It’s like, “It was time a long time ago.” So Carina, since you got mentioned, during standup in marketing, we say popcorn, popcorn over … I don’t know what it means. I mean, I know what popcorn is, but he just kind of popcorned you. So, do you feel like international expansion is the biggest opportunity for growth right now? Or do you feel like there’s something else that’s the thing?
Carina McLeod (01:01:42):
Yeah, I think there were a couple of opportunities, international expansion, definitely one of them. Unfortunately, Brexit has slightly been a bit of a pain point for many businesses and delayed things and so forth. We’re getting stuck into the UK. We’re just putting that real divide between the EU and the UK from a European fulfillment network perspective. But from international expansion is definitely a great way to basically expand your customer reach, and Amazon makes that really easy for sellers.
Carina McLeod (01:02:19):
I think another real golden opportunity that I would mention as well is video. I think video is really becoming something really key. We can see with sponsored brands, advertising has gone into video, and really you’re seeing some players, but it’s about getting that competitive edge. What we see, and we always do in the UK, is Amazon in the US are more advanced. Sellers are more advanced in the US. We always say, “Use the US as a benchmark, and you can see everything.” And so video is still really complete infancy within the UK and Europe. And it’s definitely an area that just catches the customer’s attention. It’s going to be something that’s going to continue to grow. So jump into it at an early stage for sure, whilst your competitors aren’t, it’s going to give you that extra edge.
That’s a great, great tip. And that was kind of a popcorn over to Rachel.
Carina McLeod (01:03:19):
Yeah, popcorn it is.
Rachel Johnson Greer (01:03:24):
So the thing that I thought was super interesting about last year, just in terms of changing people’s attitudes about e-commerce and how they interact with online sales channels, is actually QR codes. I think most of us have had that experience of going to a restaurant in the middle of COVID and you don’t get a paper menu anymore. You get a little laminated thing on a stick that has a QR code on it. And pretty much everyone figured out within a month or two, that their phone already had that app, and you just have to open it. And then it goes to the URL. And most people didn’t even realize that their phone even had that, or what it was for, or what it did. And so now basically COVID has trained an entire generation of people who had no idea what QR codes were, what they were for, what they would do. And now you can actually put those onto an insert, onto a package, and do something with it.
Rachel Johnson Greer (01:04:14):
Now, the biggest problem that I’ve seen with the QR code funnels is that most people keep using them to get reviews. And that is a very bad, stupid idea. Don’t do that. The thing that we use the QR codes for is to try to increase followers on Amazon. So some of you may be able to see this on some of the brands that you work with, but there’s now follow buttons on your posts, on your storefront, and when you go live through Amazon Lives. So you can get people to follow you in a variety of ways. If you don’t have a big social following where you can get people to go over and follow you on your Amazon site, then you’ve got to find other ways to be able to follow you. And it’s really the only way that I have seen any way that Amazon allows you to connect with your customers on Amazon directly.
Rachel Johnson Greer (01:04:56):
So with a live event, if someone follows you, as soon as you go live, it actually sends a push notification to your phone. And I don’t know the last time you’ve gotten one of those from Facebook, but I haven’t gotten one in a while. So actually having a notification that takes over your phone is pretty awesome, is the reason why a lot of the political people moved away from Facebook and to text messaging whenever they got people to sign up and donate, is because then it goes straight to your phone, it takes over the phone, it pops up.
Rachel Johnson Greer (01:05:23):
So one of the things that we’ve been doing is trying to get people who buy our client’s product to then go on and follow the brand so that when we have new items or we have discounts, or we’re trying to push an item, or we have too many of a particular color, and it was just a bad purchase, that we can then offer that one at a discount during the live. It sends a notification to all their followers, people who are already likely to be interested in their product. And now you can reach out directly to consumers, which you couldn’t before on Amazon. That was the big no-no, right? You can’t actually talk to people directly. So with one hand, they give with lives, the other hand, they take away with not being able to answer reviews, but there are some cool things this year, for sure.
That’s awesome. And we did a webinar about lives, posts, profiles, all that kind of stuff. But I don’t think that the QR codes were there yet. So that’s really, really a smart strategy that you guys can implement today. Leah, are you seeing people that are trying to grow in certain ways and that’s just not working out because they’re doing it wrong. Do you have people that are approaching you guys to say, “I need to grow in this particular way?” What do you think the biggest opportunities for growth, other than like, “Quit breaking the darn rules?”
Leah McHugh (01:06:43):
That’s a big one. I mean, Rachel was sort of talking to this as well. It’s a little bit the QR codes. You can mark it off of Amazon. I mean, you’re not going to push people away from Amazon, but you can definitely push people towards Amazon. And I think that’s often a underrated strategy. A lot of Amazon sellers get very tunnel vision in Amazon and you can … Facebook ads are still a highly profitable place to start, Instagram, Clubhouse. There are plenty of ways to get people interested in your product that has nothing to do with Amazon.
Leah McHugh (01:07:23):
But then once you get them to Amazon, you’re actually increasing your conversion rates rather than if you were just sending them to your website, because there’s already that level of trust. They know that if something goes wrong, Amazon is going to have their back, which you don’t necessarily know and you just get sent to a random Shopify store and you’re hoping it’s legit. So I think looking off of Amazon for marketing strategies is going to put you ahead of a lot of Amazon sellers who just don’t seem to think of it.
And I’m actually doing a advertising promotion outside of the Amazon box with Norm in a couple of weeks. So, tease that out too. Yael and Michal, you obviously are working with brands to help them determine if they’re ready to sell. If they do need to grow before they’re really going to get the very, very best thing, what is the first thing you tell them? Do you tell them to expand internationally? Do you tell them that they need to just increase their traffic, their conversions? What is your key … Either everybody needs to do this, or most of the people we’re working with have needed to do this first?
Yael Cabilly (01:08:32):
I’ll take that one. I wanted to say, I mean, in terms of expansion, it’s interesting because when you said earlier you should have done it already, I’m thinking on the exit side, not doing it is also an advantage. Think of the buyer, they’re buying businesses to grow them. They promise through their investors that they’ll grow the business at least by 40%. What’s the easiest way for a buyer to grow the business once they buy it, that’s just going to Europe, or going to Canada, or starting selling in Mexico. So if you do it on the one hand, you have more profit, more profit gets to multiple. At the end, it’s a higher exit. But on the other hand, doing everything doesn’t leave anything to the buyer. So that’s also an advantage. So don’t be panicked if you haven’t done that.
Yael Cabilly (01:09:25):
Going back to what I said earlier, focus on what you know, and most of the sellers know where they’re good and know how to grow their own business. A new market is great, but it can also be an advantage. Michal, you want to add something.
Michal Baumwald Oron (01:09:44):
Yeah. I want to add to this. First of all, I heard many practical and very smart tips that were provided here by all the smart ladies here. But I can add maybe from our perspective from meeting different brands when they considered to sell, to be sold, that actually each and every brand and business has its own growth potentia. It is smart for sure to look for what you can do. When you compare the value and the investments. So you should choose the most valuable investment that you can make. And by the way, whenever you start the process to prepare for sale earlier, then you can be advised and make those quick changes that can lead to major improvements.
Michal Baumwald Oron (01:10:44):
So just few examples, we met a seller that had two competing [inaudible 01:10:50] things, actually. One was low priced, and the other high priced, and actually they cannibalized one each other. So just by eliminate the low price product, the sales of the high price product grew a lot. So this is a quick and easy thing to do, and led to an improvement.
Michal Baumwald Oron (01:11:16):
Adding variation to a product that your direct competitor has, we want more variations, more and more occurrence. For example, it could be a quick step that one can take in order to grow the business very quickly. So this is also an example that we saw. Optimizing PPC of course to increase the profit, launching a new product to create an ongoing rolling growing plan going forward. So there are different steps that can be taken in order to generate growth. And we didn’t say that just go all over the place, cover the whole world at the shortest time possible would necessarily be the best thing to do, but sometimes it is recommended, of course.
Awesome. Awesome. Cynthia, what’s your nugget of gold for growth?
Cynthia Stine (01:12:16):
For growth. Well, we always say in our house that compliance is the foundation for growth, which is very boring, but it is true, that if you have your ducks in a row, if you’re doing things the Amazon way, you will actually be in a better position. And I have clients who argue this with me all the time, and I tell them, some of the largest and best performing companies on the platform are fully compliant and focused on compliance, because not only do they not want to get suspended, nobody wants to get suspended, but what you don’t realize until you get to that level is that there’s real benefits to being a favorite seller on Amazon. And it is a virtuous cycle that starts to perpetuate itself. So you get invited to new programs, you get to beta test some things.
Cynthia Stine (01:13:12):
If your standing is excellent with Amazon, something that might be a suspension for someone else is a warning for you, and things like that. There are a lot of real benefits to sellers. And if they follow the rules and they make it a priority. Because while most of my clients don’t intentionally want to break the rules, they often do simply because they’re not paying attention. And so I always advocate as a growth strategy, first get your foundation in place. And then you can take off like a rocket. And all of the programs that Amazon offers, whether you’re using their new social-media-like programs, or if you’re being allowed into a new category that you weren’t allowed into before, or even just getting help expanding overseas, all of these things are offered to their best sellers. And like I said, most sellers don’t even know about them because they don’t qualify.
Cynthia Stine (01:14:22):
And so that’d be my growth tip, is get those loose ends tied down, read the policies, make sure your business is set up to follow them. And not only will you be rewarded with fewer [inaudible 01:14:41] suspensions and account suspensions, but you’ll be rewarded by being invited to Amazon’s new programs and being the first one to discover something, or being invited to a new platform that they’re opening. They just opened the Netherlands, right? And stuff like that. That’s why you want to be compliant and to focus on it and spend, at least have somebody in your company spend time on it, because it will pay off in many ways.
That’s great, and I love that, and it’s not boring. I don’t think it’s boring at all. And I don’t think Leah thinks it’s boring either.
Leah McHugh (01:15:21):
I don’t Yael think it’s boring. I don’t think anybody thinks that’s boring. Let’s tackle a couple of questions. I know that we’re … We still have almost 200 people here. So let’s just do a couple of questions. Just an FYI folks, we’re not going to do any questions, and I’m sorry to the Fortunet, my friends, but let’s save those questions for the webinar. And I’m going to put the link to that webinar sign up in the chat. So if you have questions about getting ready to sell your business, I’m going to bring these questions to my webinar. It’s on the 8th of April at 10:00 AM Eastern, with Yael and Michal, and we’re going to dive deep into that topic. So we just barely touched on it today. Sign up for that webinar right now and get your questions ready, and I’ll bring the questions that you already had.
But we have a couple of questions about just getting better succeeding, pain points that people are having. So let’s talk about the buy box for a second. Can anybody answer questions about what affects buy box ownerships and any tips around what sellers can, cannot do, should or should not do in order to retain the buy box?
Rachel Johnson Greer (01:16:45):
I’ll take the brand side of that. We work with a lot of folks who have a distributor strategy, or a retail strategy, and aren’t trying to manage their buy box. And in some cases, we’ve actually just given up managing the buy box on Amazon. We just try to make sure that the item that they have in retail look nice, they’re well presented. There’s something that makes the brand feel happy if somebody lands on that page. But those aren’t the ones that we focus on for Amazon. We’ll make a four ounce version instead of the six ounce that’s in retail, or we’ll make a two pack. And then we have a special package for the two pack, and then take to anyone who tries to sell it. But basically do something where we can control 100% of the buy box, or at least more than 80% for those brands, because you can’t get ranking, you can’t get indexing with advertising if you don’t own a significant amount of the buy box.
Rachel Johnson Greer (01:17:34):
And sometimes you have to have that off Amazon strategy. You have to have those distributors or retail companies. So then you need to have a separate Amazon strategy to where you can compete with those other people who are just on Amazon who don’t have to worry about the buy box. So in terms of trying to take off other sellers, I don’t have very many good suggestions there because we have not been very successful with that. Amazon likes having all that selection. They like having offerings there. They like making it easy. And so we’ve basically just taken an approach of we need to have a dedicated Amazon strategy to where we can get a full buy box ownership.
Awesome. Leah, did you have a comment about that?
Leah McHugh (01:18:09):
I was just going to say that your performance metrics are taken into account by Amazon. So if you have bad metrics or high ODR, that’s going to reduce your chance of having the buy box, which again goes back to compliance and quality control and the boring things that we all don’t find boring.
And seller feedback, which everybody … It’s like the poor lost child of Amazon metrics, because everybody hears about product reviews, and now they care about inventory performance index, and it’s all this other more complicated, sexy stuff. And seller feedback is the foundation really of your seller reputation and your account standing, because if your seller feedback is awful, then it tanks your ODR and boom, you don’t have an account anymore.
And Becky, you said that you’re seeing more people caring about seller feedback in addition to product review. So it’s finally getting some attention again since 2008, because people just got all, “Ooh, product reviews. I need product reviews. I don’t care about seller feedback.” But yeah, sorry, I’m a little sarcastic about that. This is a great question. Given the race to the bottom in terms of dirty competitive tactics discussed here, and Amazon’s seeming apathy in addressing these sorts of abuses, do you hear your clients indicating that they have found Amazon not worth the trouble and they prefer to move to sales channels where they have more control, even if that means more work logistically? I guess a yes or no first.
Cynthia Stine (01:19:50):
Yes. Some. Yeah.
Yeah. And that’s a bummer, right? Because it’s the biggest global international marketplace. So yeah, I mean, you actually have people that are like, “You know what? Nevermind, I’m not going to sell on Amazon anymore.”
Cynthia Stine (01:20:15):
Yeah. I’ve had clients leave. They gave up the fight against the bad actors. They were tired that Amazon did not support them in trying to stop whatever it was, whether it was counterfeit, or whatever was going on. They just left. I mean, their sales had tanked, their reputation on Amazon was ruined, and Amazon didn’t seem to care, and they didn’t ask despite numerous reports and requests for help. And really the only thing Amazon will reliably respond to is a subpoena. And so if you’re not at the point where you’re doing a lawsuit or a TRO or something like that, it’s hard to get Amazon to pay attention. And there’s channels you go through and say that you report, and it’s just like it just goes into a black hole, and it’s really frustrating. Nothing happens to the bad actors.
Cynthia Stine (01:21:15):
And after you go down [inaudible 01:21:18] a couple of times, you think, “You know, I think I’ll start my own website. Or I get out of e-commerce altogether.” I mean, I’ve had clients do that. They went back to teaching or other … One guy got into politics, things like that. They just gave up, and that’s what makes me so angry about these dirty seller tricks. It’s they’re not harmless. They are destroying good sellers, good brands, and honest actors. And I just don’t see Amazon taking enough steps. So I get really upset about it. I don’t see them …
Cynthia Stine (01:22:00):
I know they care, for example, about counterfeit, and a few things like that. But when you report things to them, when you bring them mountains of evidence, and they still do nothing, it’s really heartbreaking.
Yeah. It really is. Anybody else have comments on that? And if you have people that are not getting out of e-commerce, but they’re exiting Amazon, what is their channel of choice? Is it their own website? Is it Walmart? Is it eBay? Because that’s making a come back.
Leah McHugh (01:22:33):
We’ve had a lot of people who are still going to be in the Amazon space, but they’re just not going to sell directly on Amazon. So if they’re a brand, they’re giving somebody else the distribution rights to Amazon, and that’s now their problem. I’ve been on a lot of calls where people cry. It’s not, I’m sure Cynthia has as well, it’s really difficult to hear. And unfortunately, it’s also Amazon. We have people whose listings just keep getting incorrectly taken down over and over again. And it has nothing to do with another seller, it’s just bad tools on Amazon’s side. And it’s every time Amazon’s like, “Oops, sorry,” but a couple of days to get that to actually get fixed over and over and over again can destroy your business. And so, yeah, we’ve spoken with a lot of people who think they want to get out of the Amazon space or just get out of selling directly and making that somebody else’s problem because they just can’t maintain a business that way.
Carina, how about you? Are you having people that are just like, “[inaudible 01:23:37] Amazon,” and if so, what channels are they looking at?
Carina McLeod (01:23:42):
It’s not just only sort of when it comes down to dealing with issues that have been mentioned where people are playing dirty. It’s also sometimes businesses, it’s down to profitability because there are … It’s that race to the bottom almost. You’re trying to introduce a premium product. Somebody then brings on something pretty similar, drops the price dramatically. Do you then try and compete with these sellers? And some businesses are then just sort of putting back and then investing more in building a website, just getting a website with Shopify and focusing on Instagram and focusing on Facebook, and driving ads to their stores. We’re seeing a lot of activity where, even myself as a customer, I see some products appear in Facebook, Instagram and think, “Wow, what are these?” They’re not even on Amazon. And some businesses are completely against going there.
Carina McLeod (01:24:45):
Now, of course, you’re losing out to a huge amount of customers on Amazon, but at the end of the day, is it then comes down to a question of, is it about revenue or is it about margin? Because sometimes some businesses end up generating more margin off of Amazon, maybe less revenue. So that’s what we’re seeing also.
That’s a great point. Well, listen, we are almost at an hour and a half, and that is longer than I meant to keep you. But when you have this many people in the same room, it’s kind of hard to keep it short. So, we do have some questions that didn’t get answered. Someone did say that they thought that Rachel should finish the webinar with a cheerful song on her guitar. So if she’s willing to do that, then she can lead us out that way. We’re going to be doing these pretty often, where we’re going to have great big panels. So we hope that you’ll join us.
I have so much gratitude for the brains in this room, for these people who have dedicated their lives and their careers to helping third party brands on Amazon. In some cases, first party brands on Amazon. But thank you so much to all of you. Thank you to those at home who have joined us. We will definitely be sending out this recording. We’ll try to answer some of your questions too. We’ll see you at the next one. And thanks so much everybody. Bye-bye.
Cynthia Stine (01:26:07):
Leah McHugh (01:26:08):
Carina McLeod (01:26:08):
Thank you. Bye.
Becky Trowbridge (01:26:08):